Be Like Inigo Montoya

By: Joe Burton
Inigo Montoya holding a sword

According to the American Osteopathic Association, 72% of Americans feel lonely on a regular basis. In fact, ⅓ report feeling lonely at least once a week. Yet, most of us are surrounded by people (especially coworkers) constantly. Much of that loneliness may stem from being disconnected from the people we interact with constantly.

We can spend months, even years, with folks and feel like we don’t know what makes them tick. Over time, “professional” relationships that operate on the surface can feel inauthentic and even draining.

When is the last time you shared what motivates you with someone else? What if that became part of your conversation with colleagues and new people who you meet regularly?

In the movie, The Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin plays the character Inigo Montoya. As a child, the villainous “six-fingered man” kills Inigo’s father in a swordfight. The young boy dedicates his life to avenging his father’s death. During the film, he keeps practicing how he will introduce himself once he finally finds the six-fingered man. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Near the end of the movie, he finally meets the villain. During their sword fight, he keeps repeating this mantra. It’s a powerful scene. There’s no doubt what motivates him. Here’s someone who dedicated his life to becoming an expert swordfighter. He has a purpose and a mission. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I’m not suggesting that you go out and kill someone. But what if your co-workers really know what you stand for?

It’s good to share all that you are with the people in your life. Walt Whitman wrote, “I am larger, better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.”

The following is a short exercise you can do with anyone. Attendees find this exercise to be transformational. They move from trying to look good in surface level conversations to truly connecting. They move from concern about being judged to experiencing the power of being open and authentic.

Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

First, do a standard 10-second introduction to one another. What is your normal generic way of meeting someone new? If you’re like me, it may sound something like, “My company provides digital training for wellbeing and performance for large employers.” Snoozefest, with a little self-promoting purely related to my career.

Next, take three minutes to introduce yourself using the phrase, “If you really knew me, you’d know … ” Just like Inigo Montoya, keep repeating it time and again while you fill in the blank. An example for me might be, “If you really knew me, you’d know my life is dedicated to my wife and two sons. Family means everything to me. If you really knew me, you’d know I started a business to help people. I suffered from stress, chronic back pain, and insomnia for years. I harmed my health and wellbeing. If you really knew me, you’d know I’d do anything for my team. My success is due to them. If you really knew me, you’d know my biggest fear is failure. If you really knew you me, you’d know I grew up on welfare with a lot of shame at a young age. Learning mindfulness put that in my past.”

And so on. You’ll likely find out more in three minutes of truly connecting than you would in working together for years.

Treat this an opportunity to be authentic. In my experience, you’ll find the other person will do the same. We all crave true human connection. And when leaders truly connect with their team, the impact can be transformative.

Just imagine how this can transform relationships with office mates you’ve only kinda-known for years. If you’re married, I especially recommend doing this with your partner. The short exercise quite often ends with a hug from attendees who were complete strangers a few minutes earlier. That’s the power of authentic connection.

About the Author

Headshot of Joe Burton

Retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace

Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He’s an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He’s worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.

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