Sambalicious! Life Lessons From Rio

Jan 09, 2015 1 Min Read
Learn how the Movie Rio can Teach you Leadership

Most people will do spring cleaning, go for a medical check-up or even throw a party as part of their yearly ritual. But my yearly ritual revolves around watching cartoons. Yes, I’m a kid at heart and a fussy one too.

Not all cartoons amuse me but Rio is one of the few which has a solid story line combined with entertaining characters and musical elements, as well as little winks and innuendos for the adults too.

The story centres around Blu, a blue domesticated macaw who never learned to fly. As an extinct species, Blu has a mission to mate with the last female macaw and this sets him on a whirlwind adventure to Rio De Janeiro.

There are a few key takeaways that I thought were really good life lessons. Though these life lessons are nothing new, they are simple reminders which we need from time to time.

1. Every circumstance is an opportunity

Before he had learned how to soar, Blu was adopted by a girl named Linda who soon became his owner and best friend. Blu was raised in a comfortable environment and enjoyed the comfort of his cage.

Let’s just say he wasn’t exactly the ‘birdliest’ bird in the flock. In Rio De Janeiro, Blu eventually found the courage to learn how to fly and thwarted the smugglers who were hot on their trail.

It is a natural tendency for us to allow circumstances like family upbringing, people’s expectations and environmental factors to determine who we are as an individual.

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. Later he got rejected by a production house because he was told that a giant mouse on the screen would terrify women.

If Disney was a victim of his circumstances, I reckon Mickey Mouse wouldn’t exist today.

The way we choose to interpret our experiences determines the way we live our lives. As the saying goes, “When you can’t change the circumstances, change yourself.”

2. Embrace differences

Unexpectedly chained together, Blu and his fiercely independent, high flying female counterpart Jewel had to find a way to work together in order to escape from the smugglers.

In the midst of their adventures, Jewel needed to teach Blu to fly. Despite Blu not knowing how to, he used his own skills and knack for opening cage doors (due to his domesticated habitat in Minnesota).

By embracing their differences, both Blu and Jewel managed to escape and developed a loving relationship too.

I’m sure you notice that our fingers are not of an equal length or size. Imagine if all our fingers were the same; our hands wouldn’t be as flexible a tool anymore.

When holding spherical objects like an orange, our fingers curve around evenly, giving us a firm grip.

Similarly, each individual has to embrace the differences and complement each other’s shortcomings in order to build a strong relationship, be it in a family unit or an organisation.

On the surface, it may seem easier to work with people of similar styles, thinking and backgrounds but differences bring richness and dynamics to the relationship.

3. Live a life of adventure

Whisked from the comfort of their home in Minnesota, both Blu and Linda took a chance to make the trip to Rio, a place very much foreign to them.

Little did they know that they were embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, where they learned about friendship, love, courage and being open to life’s many wonders.

In the end, Blu learned that the secret of flying is not through the mind but through the heart.

More often than not, our lives are like a living adventure made up of opportunities and mistakes. As time passes, growing up has meant becoming disinterested and fatigued, well at least for some.

As for others, we are waiting for the right timing – again is there ever a perfect timing? If not now, then when?

To live an adventurous life, we do need to take the necessary risks and have the courage to step out from our comfort zone and, fingers crossed, hope that our decisions reap success.

It’s uncertain, it’s difficult but it’s exciting! When things are uncertain, rest assured that you can always follow your heart as Blu did.

Now go, do the things that you don’t normally do as, quoting Helen Keller:

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

4. Family and (real) friends are your anchor

More like companions than owner and pet, Blu and Linda share a wonderful friendship. However, the love that Blu has for Jewel is so deep that he even forsakes Linda’s protection and comfort to rescue her from the smugglers.

Along the way, Blu met good bird friends – Pedro, Nico and Rafael who risked their lives to help them.

Although initially excited to attend a Carnival, Rafael instead elected to go home to his wife and kids because they were more important to him. “I thought you loved Carnival,” a bird friend says. And Rafael responded:

“But I love my family much more.”

It is easy to find someone to walk with you in the good times but not always during the bad times.

Having family and friends who are willing to walk the extra mile with you during the bad times is hard to come by.

In times like these, everyone should have a friend or family member whom you have given permission to speak as honestly and lovingly as possible.

Find family or friends who set you up for success in a rightful way, give you positive yet realistic views and above all, people who go through the bad times with you. Simply because such people are precious and worth treasuring.

I do hope that the life lessons above are timely reminders for you as they are for me. Trust me, don’t think you are too old for cartoons.

In this start of the new year, Si Yan hopes you will still take time off to make some popcorn, snuggle on a couch and watch a cartoon or two – just to keep that inner child in you! Life is more fun that way. Send in your feedback to


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Tags: Movie Wisdom

Siyan started her career in a social enterprise, Leaderonomics and is a strong believer that a businesses can be both commercially driven as well as be community-centric. She is part of Leaderonomics campus movement and is pumped up about 'Making A Difference' (MAD).

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