As we have established in our first three leadership lessons from Mr. Holland’s Opus, Glenn Holland’s dream was to become a great composer of music and, as the years of teaching continued to pile onto his resume, he didn’t give up. He believed composing a great opus would make him successful and bring him the approval of other human beings. And he simply wanted to plow through any adversity which came his way and tried to stop him from achieving his dream.
The biggest source of adversity came when Glenn and his wife, Iris, discovered their son, Cole, could not hear. Cole was diagnosed with a 90% hearing loss and options to educate him were limited. As Cole grew older, Iris became frustrated that she was not able to communicate with her son. She couldn’t understand what he needed or what he felt, and she couldn’t even tell him she loved him. When she broached the subject of a special school where Cole could learn sign language, Glenn’s first thought was how much the tuition for the school would cost.
Then, the adversity piled even higher for Glenn when he discovered if he and Iris wanted to communicate with Cole they would need to participate in an intensive school for three hours a day over an entire summer in order to learn sign language. Glenn saw each of these things as a burden which provided an obstacle to accomplishing what he set out to achieve with his vision.
Trying to Avoid the Pain
Mr. Holland continued to put forth his best effort and energy to teach music to the students of John F. Kennedy High School but failed to Rise Above the storms he faced with his son and use the opportunity to gain a new perspective. As Cole grew older, the rift between Glenn and his family grew wider. Iris wanted Glenn to make spending time with Cole more of a priority. He was always doing something extra outside of normal school hours for his students. Glenn said he was both a teacher and Cole’s father…but Iris told him he cared more about everyone else’s children than his own son.
Mr. Holland just wanted to charge through his storms and get them over with so he could focus on his passion. His dream was to be a great composer and his passion was helping his students love music. But, in his mind, since Cole was deaf he couldn’t be a part of either of those things. Cole’s disability not only presented obstacles to Glenn achieving his dreams but kept him from sharing his love and passion for music with his own son. So he continued to lose himself in teaching his students because it helped him avoid the pain he felt for not being able to share his great love for music with his son.
Eventually, the situation came to a head when Glenn came home from work upset at the news of John Lennon’s death. Cole, now a teenager, wanted his father to help him fix the old car he was working on, which was something he loved to do. Glenn was short with Cole because of his feelings and told him it would be a little bit before he could help him. Cole wanted help at the moment. Glenn told him about John Lennon’s death and ended the conversation by telling Cole he wouldn’t understand.
When Glenn went into the house, Cole stormed in after him. He told his dad just because he was deaf didn’t mean he was stupid and wasn’t aware who John Lennon was or what music was. Cole told his father he would know more about music if Glenn would take the time to teach him instead of disregarding him because he couldn’t hear. Music was important to Cole because it was important to his father. But Glenn had failed to include his son in the most important thing in his life.
An Inside-Out Perspective
This was the storm that transformed Glenn Holland from a buffalo into an eagle. Buffalo charge through storms because they want to minimize the storm’s impact on them. But eagles use the winds of a storm to push themselves higher and fly above the storm.
When we Rise Above our storms like the eagle, we give ourselves the chance to take on a new perspective, which can help us gain insight and wisdom. Many times, we need these storms to shake us up from our old ways of thinking so we can learn, grow, and change into a better version of ourselves. In turn, this can help us better serve others.
Now, what exactly is the higher perspective we can see from above our storms? The higher perspective is this: the only way we can write our own story is from the inside-out. Our feelings don’t come from circumstances and the world around us; they come from our thoughts and the way we look at the world.
This is how we will Overcome Obstacles. When we use our storms to fly higher and gain new wisdom, we take on a different perspective, we let our negative emotions pass, and then we can take action to get the positive results we want.
We can cheat to change people’s perception of us, but we can’t cheat excellence, and we can’t cheat integrity. In other words, we may be able to plagiarize our external story and the way the world sees us, but we can’t plagiarize our internal story. The only way to Rise Above our adversity is to respond by writing our own story with the intention of making a positive impact on others.
Use the Storms
Is there some adversity in your life you want to simply charge through because you think it is holding you back from your dream and pursuing your passion? Is there a higher perspective you can take by Rising Above the storm so you can learn, grow, and change into a better version of yourself?
We aren’t going to be able to avoid all the storms in our lives, but we can use every one of them to become a stronger leader who is better able to serve the people around us by writing our own stories.
Leadership Lessons from Mr. Holland’s Opus
Leadership Lesson #1: Providing Our Students with a Compass
Leadership Lesson #2: Showing Students How to Pursue Their Dreams