You probably remember that Ewan McGregor played a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the second set of Stars Wars movies: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
What you may not remember (I didn’t) is that the first Star Wars movie was partially filmed on location in Tunisia. Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home was an actual underground home out in the North African desert.
So anyway, a few days ago, I’m watching the documentary “Long Way Down,” which is about Ewan McGregor’s and Charley Boorman’s epic motorcycle journey from Scotland to South Africa. Because the trip takes the guys through Tunisia, they stop at the location used for Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home, which is now a modest little tourist attraction.
And so here’s the really terribly weird thing that happens when McGregor visits the location: Nothing. Nothing happens. In other words, nobody notices the Jedi knight. Not one person.
Let me stop here and make sure you understand the oddity. You’re a big enough Star Wars fan that you’ve actually visited young Luke’s boyhood home on your trip to North Africa. But you don’t recognize the actor that plays young Obi-Wan in three of the Star Wars movies who happens to be loitering.
And the proprietor? His staff? People in the business of playing off of the “Star Wars” story? They don’t recognize it’s Obi-Wan either.
Before you say, “Well, it’s probably a thousand degrees in the sun and everybody’s thirsty,” note that because the guys are filming a documentary, they’re accompanied by a film crew with cameras.
At one point, Charley Boorman takes a picture of Ewan McGregor standing next to a giant Star Wars movie poster with Ewan McGregor in costume as a Jedi knight.
McGregor’s t-shirt has his name printed in giant letters across the back.
The documentary (which is fun to watch for a million other reasons anyway) is almost worth watching for the absurdity of this single scene at the Skywalker home; Star Wars fans wandering around the boyhood home of young Luke Skywalker, oblivious to the Jedi Knight being followed by a camera crew.
But beyond that, I wonder if three small business truisms don’t also fall out of the event.
Truism #1: We’re Probably Often Way Too Oblivious
The first truism? Maybe we’re often way too oblivious as we go about our daily business routines.
I’m regularly this same way, for the record. I’ve got email to check, phone calls to return, and the antivirus software is bugging me about signing up for another three-year license.
Only after I get this stuff done and, oh yeah, grab another cup of coffee, will I actually begin to do the stuff that I should be doing.
But you know what? I need to be (and maybe you need to be) way more attentive to the people, opportunities, and threats walking into and out of lives. Otherwise, I can (and probably you can) easily cross paths with a Jedi knight—and not even know it.
Truism #2: Outstanding Products and Services Fail to Launch
Here’s another truism that, I propose, drops out of this event: We (again, by “we” I mean you and me and probably most other small business owners) probably fairly assume that a killer idea or maneuver will in fact work.
I mean, sure, dumb ideas? Sloppy executions? Half-baked plans? We would expect those items to fail.
But something we’ve been really clever about, something amazing, something that’s really cool? Done deal, right? Open the champagne.
But what McGregor’s visit to the Skywalker home suggests is that sometimes even clever, amazing, really cool stuff fails.
You can be a famous actor visiting one of the sites your most rabid fans make a pilgrimage to, and people can miss the whole thing, miss the whole point.
Amazing. Mind-boggling. Totally unexpected.
Truism #3: Do We All Occasionally Get Giant Opportunities?
A final truism I want to propose for your consideration: Do we all (occasionally) get these windfall opportunities to just totally explode our business’s success or strength?
Just to make this point: I am not talking about the modestly-lucky break. Something that’s along the line of finding money in an old coat. No, I’m talking about an unbelievably-good, blow-your-mind lucky break.
Imagine, for example, that you are the small business owner running the little tourist attraction that is Luke Skywalker’s home. You’ve got a great asset, obviously. But you need to keep the attraction in the public’s eyes. Visibility produces visiting tourists. Those visitors buy admission tickets, stop in your Star Wars bar, and pick up souvenirs in the gift shop.
If this was your or my business, we could probably drum up all sorts of ways to gain more publicity and grow the visitor counts. But probably none of them would come close to the opportunity the actual owner missed by not (a) recognizing Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi and then not (b) snapping some photos and sharing the story with the media and travel guide publishers. One could get marketing mileage of that event for years.
But I wonder if many of us probably experience these same sorts of near misses and just don’t realize it.