Life Not Wonderful? George’s 4Cs Secret Revealed.

There are movies I can watch a hundred times over and still not tire of the story it tells, the emotions I feel, or the life lessons it conveys. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is one of those films for me.

Traditionally, I watch it every year as I decorate our Christmas tree. While watching it this year, something hit me – the life lessons in this film resonate for me in both parts of my life.

In my personal life, I openly express my love for Christmas as millions around the world celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Set in 1945, the film concludes on Christmas Eve when you see the cumulative, positive effect of the importance of family, putting others’ needs ahead of yours, having courage to sacrifice for the greater good, and the acts of kindness seen throughout the story.

In my career as a speaker and coach, I teach my 4Cs Change Framework to emerging leaders to help them prosper in their careers and lives. If you’re looking to advance in your career and life, let’s talk!

The film beautifully shows my 4Cs Change Framework at work, albeit retrospectively, creating a wonderful life for George Bailey and the many people his life touches. This realization is the impetus for this blog, where I point out examples of my 4Cs Change Framework in play throughout the story in the film.

For quick reference, the 4Cs are:

  • Clarity – Know and stick to your goal.
  • Connection – Engage and involve others in pursuit of your goal.
  • Caring – Care about the impact you have on others.
  • Courage – Take the risk and do what’s right.

Have a look.

A Wonderful Life Has CLARITY

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with change in your company (or your life), more often than not, you can defeat that by doing one thing: getting clear on your goal.

Like George and Mary Bailey, the two main characters in the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” were. George and Mary had clarity. They knew what they wanted.

George wants to see the world, go to college, and build things – airfields, skyscrapers, bridges.

Mary wants to marry George and live in a big, charming but abandoned house in town.

🎯 Talk about CLARITY!

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Both characters work with friends and family CONNECTIONS to help them get what they want.

🤝 Both sacrifice their personal interests to CARE for others in their family and community.

🦁 Both have the COURAGE to take risks and do the right thing.

Mary realizes her goal midway through the film when she marries George, fixes the old house, and raises their 4 children.

George? Life throws him curve balls every 20 minutes!

🏦 After his father dies, George reluctantly takes over his family’s struggling business, Bailey Brothers Building & Loan.

🛫 He doesn’t travel the world.

🏫 He doesn’t go to college.

🏢 He doesn’t build skyscrapers.

Instead, he built a legacy for his family’s business and kept it afloat.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 He built a loving family.

🏡 He built Bailey Park, giving people a decent place to live and a better life.

🤝 He built a thriving community during WWII.

💖 He built lasting relationships with everyone in town that ultimately help George in his greatest time of need.

George built a wonderful life AS he pursued his goal.

Some may conclude that George is a failure, as he doesn’t really achieve his goal – clear as it was.

I take his Guardian Angel, Clarence’s, view which is, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”

There’s never been a sequel to this film. But, if I were writing the screenplay for one, it would be set 20 years later, and George would be designing the World Trade Center.

A wonderful life starts with CLARITY.

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you and your team make change work for you, let’s talk!

A Wonderful Life Through CONNECTION

The phrase “self-made millionaire” always gives me pause.

I mean, no one goes at it alone, really. You need connections, other people, to help you achieve your goal . . . and to survive. Like Mary Bailey did.

One important life lesson in this classic film is the power of connections.

Throughout the movie, George Bailey works tirelessly to keep the family business, Bailey Brothers Building & Loan, afloat.

His wife, Mary, manages the household.

But she also joins George as he does his work — dedicating homes to families to whom they have loaned money and engaging in lots of community activities.

It’s through listening to and caring for one another as a community that they develop strong bonds with just about everyone in town.

Mary knows how important those bonds are — the strength of which is tested in the film.

After seeing George act in an unusually harsh and angry way on Christmas Eve, Mary knows something is terribly wrong.

She finds out the Building & Loan is short $8,000 in its accounts – about $137,000 today – and that a warrant is out for George’s arrest!

Mary heroically engages the entire community to let them know George is in trouble.

Without hesitation, they put aside their own needs and donated thousands of dollars to help George out.

George and Mary built lasting relationships with everyone in town – connections that ultimately and literally save George’s life.

As I write this, I’m reminded of some people I haven’t connected with in a while. I plan to pull a “Mary Bailey” and make a few calls.  

Maybe you could, too.

Together we could brighten some spirits and maybe even save a life.

A wonderful life is lived with and through CONNECTION with others.

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you and your team make change work for you, let’s talk!

A Wonderful Life of CARING

Leaders make decisions every day – from strategy, staffing, budgets, and culture, to work environment and more. Some are tough ones.

😞 Staff reductions.

😧 Closing or moving an office.

🛑 Stopping a great project for lack of funding.

🙅‍♀️ Saying ‘no’ to a super idea.

In the competitive markets in which we work and operate, touch decisions are necessary. The changes that come with tough decisions can be difficult to deal with for those affected.

How you handle communicating and implementing those changes matters. Your company’s reputation, and your own, depends on it.

The question is, do you care enough?

If you care about the effect your decision has on others, you’ll have a better chance of maintaining or even enhancing your reputation as an employer or leader.

Take a staff reduction, for example.

Most people don’t want to hear that their job has been eliminated, and they probably won’t care why. What they do care about is how they are treated when it happens. One way to protect your reputation is to offer as much support, resources, and care as possible to those being let go. Treat them with dignity and respect, and they’re less likely to badmouth you or the company.

Remember . . .

People will forget what you said, they’ll forget what you did, but they’ll never forget how you make them feel.

Maya Angelou

Make them feel cared for.

🤝 Caring is helping others get what they want. Doing so helps you get what you want.

✋ Caring is giving more of yourself than expected. Doing so sets you apart from others.

🌞 Caring is doing something kind for someone for no reason. Doing so returns kindness to you ten-fold.

There are many examples of how George Bailey cared for others, putting their needs in front of his own. In fact, the whole film is based on acts of kindness he showed throughout his life that make his life a rich and wonderful one.

In contrast, there is not one example of anything Mr. Potter (whose first name I don’t think is ever mentioned, interestingly) ever cared about, or for, except himself.

He may be the richest man in town as measured by money, power, and property, but his life appears to be anything but wonderful. Hmmm.

Does caring about the impact you have on others matter to you and your reputation?

That depends on what kind of life you want to live – a wonderful one, or anything but.

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you and your team make change work for you, let’s talk!

A Wonderful Life Takes COURAGE

Think about this.

🏊‍♂️ Diving in an ice-covered pond to save your brother.

🗣 Calling out a bad mistake your boss made.

⚠ Warning the Board of what will happen if they make that decision.

💓 Ignoring your head and doing what your heart tells you.

🙏 Asking God for help.

These are acts of courage George Bailey takes throughout the story.

Courage is about taking smart risks. It’s about doing something to change the status quo.

You can be CLEAR about what you want, have great CONNECTIONS, and CARE about putting others’ needs ahead of your own.

None of that matters if you don’t do anything.

Nothing happens if nothing happens. If you don’t have the courage to act, your situation in life will not change.

At the end of the film, George is charged with a crime he did not commit. In desperation, he musters up the courage to do something he rarely does — pray to God for an answer.

Just then he sees a man jumps into a river. Instead of wallowing in his own sorrow, George jumps in to save him.

👓 The answer God sends is Clarence, a Guardian Angel, who gives George a great gift – a chance to see what life would be like if he had never been born.

Can you imagine what life would be like without you?

Imagine what your life would be like …

If you didn’t take the risks you took.

If you didn’t jump in to help someone.

If you didn’t make that call, drop that email, send that text, or speak up for what you believe.

If you didn’t say, “no” in that situation where everyone else said, “yes.”

If you didn’t step out of your comfort zone.

Courage builds character, experience, strength, resilience, and hope – it builds a wonderful life.

The film concludes on Christmas Eve, a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the impending birth of Jesus Christ.

I know of no better example of someone who had more courage than He, who gave His life to save us.

May you find the courage to enjoy every moment during the holidays – and all year long — with those you love, whether they are with you in person, miles away, or in your hearts in spirit.

To your prosperity!

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you and your team make change work for you, let’s talk!

About the Author:  Mary Lou Panzano

Mary Lou Panzano retired after 42 years in corporate America to pursue her purpose in life:  help people prosper, personally, professionally, and financially. As Founder and CEO (Chief Enlightenment Officer) of Panzano Enterprises, LLC, Mary Lou focuses on helping:

  • Professional communicators prosper. Whether it’s students studying communications, or junior-, mid-career, or senior communicators, Mary Lou provides coaching services to help them be even better at what they do.
  • Anyone looking to prosper in their lives. As a student of millionaires and leaders in their fields, Mary Lou shares how she applied principles of prosperity she learned to achieve millionaire status and a lifestyle of freedom, peace, and prosperity, with those looking to do the same.
  • Home-business owners prosper. Mary Lou offers home business opportunities and services such as leads, training, discount apps, and digital library systems that help businesses prosper.

Reach out to Mary Lou directly at [email protected].