Life lessons from the Looney Tunes (part 1)

In terms of popularity, Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird are probably the most well liked Looney Tunes characters. Which, if that’s you, that’s fine, no judgement, but for me, I like the misfits. Not the ones you could picture yourself having a beer with, but the ones you could picture across the bar drinking alone, pouring out their sorrows to the bartender. If I could just catch that fricken roadrunner.

If you run through the list of characters (and by the way, a guy by the name of Mel Blanc is the voice behind Bugs Bunny, Daffy, Sylvester, Tweety, Taz, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig and Yosemite Sam. Isn’t that kind of awesome?) they fall into four camps.

  1. Winners
  2. Losers
  3. A little too weird/crazy/creepy
  4. Oh come on, the guy’s trying

My fear is that by the time I have children, the Looney Tunes will have been deemed racist or sexist or too violent or not offering children good role models or giving children the idea they can fall off a cliff and survive or something else, so I want to get these blog posts out there a) while the Looney Tunes are still relatively mainstream and b) before Space Jam 2 starring LeBron James comes out, resulting in the entire city of Chicago boycotting the Looney Tunes.

The question I want to explore: What can each Looney Tunes character teach us about life?

Winners

In this camp you’ve got Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird and Roadrunner.

I struggled at first to find lessons here. Especially Tweety Bird and Roadrunner. Those two always ticked me off. They never lost. And it’d be one thing if they outsmarted their competition, the truth is their competition was just really bad. I dug deep, here’s all I could come up with:

Tweety Bird

Lesson: The Art of Subtle Instigation

Tweety Bird is the master of this. Using that sweet little voice and saying things like, “Awwww, puddy cat.” It’s enough to get under Sylvester’s skin, but subtle enough that everyone listening thinks Tweety is sweet and innocent and so when Sylvester lashes out, everyone sides with Tweety. Younger siblings, myself included, are the masters of this.

And it’s a good skill to have. Watch very carefully the next presidential debate, you’ll see several times when a candidate will Tweety Bird their answer to try and get an opponent to lose their cool. The candidate who loses their cool ends their career while the Tweety Birds move on to the next round.

Road Runner

Lesson: Just be really great at your thing

The Road Runner doesn’t outsmart my favorite character, Wile E, more on him next week, he simply outruns him. Over and over again. Lesson? Become really really fast.

What I mean by that, there are many times in life when we can spot favoritism. Be that in the office, the church, high school sports tryouts, whatever. There are unlimited chances to use that infamous phrase, “It’s all politics.” And sometimes it is, but instead of spending the energy on the frustration, try to pour all the energy into becoming great at whatever the thing is.

If you’re better than the starting quarterback but you are second string because the coach is friends with the starter’s parents or it’s the coach’s son or whatever, the reality can actually become kind of comfortable. It’s easier to be frustrated then try with every ounce of energy to become so much better that the coach has no choice but to change starters. And if they STILL won’t start you, then transfer somewhere else and now you are the “really great undervalued quarterback” not the “pretty good” transfer quarterback.

And here comes an extremely dramatic leap, but think about Jackie Robinson’s situation. There were zero African American baseball players in the MLB. He could have quit playing baseball, got a regular 9 to 5 job and been able to tell anyone who asked, “Hey, they don’t hire black baseball players so I quit.” And the thing is, he would have been 100 percent right. The politics weren’t imagined.

Instead, he became great and greatness can not be denied forever. As a result, now his jersey number is retired in every MLB stadium.

In 2015 there are still plenty of racial, gender, socioeconomic walls, anyone who says those 100 percent do not exist anymore is Tweety Birding you, don’t take the bait. But walls can be knocked down. Painfully slow sometimes, absolutely, but when they finally are knocked over it’s never the complaints that did it, it’s the example of someone being great.

Bugs Bunny 

Lesson: If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room

LinkedIn is a great place for networking, but it’s also the premier spot on the internet for those good ol motivational work quotes. I feel like that could be an entire job now. “So what do you do?” Oh I post motivational quotes on LinkedIn.

Two that I always see:

1) What if we invest in our people and they leave? Boss replies, “What if we don’t invest in our people and they stay?

2) If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room

What in the world was Bugs Bunny doing hanging out with these other Looney Tunes characters? He was significantly smarter than everyone in the ACME area code. The closest character in IQ was probably Foghorn Leghorn, a giant dog beating chicken.

Learning should never end. As fun as it may be to continually out duel Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam, eventually Bugs Bunny had to think, “I need a bigger challenge.” Whatever field we are in, we should seek out experts, find those who are at the top and learn from them.

Next week: More Looney Tunes. Moving on to the Loser category where all of my favorite characters live. Make sure to tune in.

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