What's in a Name? by Garry House
In 2004, during my fourth year of teaching the Sonic Dealer Academy (SDA), one of the dealership general managers in that class began calling me “Yoda.” Although the Star Wars franchise was by then more than 25 years old, the movie legends were still popular, and the eighteen members of that SDA class were obviously fans, because my new nickname caught on and stuck! When I answer the phone today, and I hear, “Hey, Yoda, how ya’ doin?”, I know that I’m listening to one of the more than 300 Sonic Automotive managers that I’ve trained over the years…and I chuckle to myself and still wonder with amazement why I should have been compared with the Grand Master of the Jedi Order. But I am very proud to sometimes share his name.
The only physical trait Yoda and I have in common is large, funny-looking ears. I sometimes feel like I’m older than dirt, but I’m a long way from Yoda’s age (reportedly 900 years old when he trained Luke Skywalker). I have five toes on each foot, while Yoda has either three, four, or five (depending on which film you’re watching). And I’m nearly three times taller than Yoda was, although that made little difference to him.
"Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is ‘the Force,’ and a powerful ally it is."
― Yoda, to Luke Skywalker
Fortunately I had seen George Lucas’ entire Star Wars movie series, but even so, I was a novice to the lore of galactic history. So following the SDA class when I acquired the nickname, I conducted some research. This is what I learned about Yoda, and this is why I am so very proud to sometimes share his name.
Yoda was one of the most renowned and powerful Jedi Masters. He was known for his legendary wisdom, mastery of “the Force,” and skills in light saber combat. In his centuries of service to the galaxy and “the Force,” Grand Master Yoda had a hand in the training of nearly all the Jedi in the Order. Though arguably the Order's greatest master of “the Force” and most skilled warrior, Yoda believed most firmly in the importance of instructing younger generations and never missed an opportunity to ensure his students learn from their experiences. At heart, the diminutive Jedi Master was a teacher. And he encouraged his students to be wary.
"When you look at the dark side, careful you must be…For the dark side looks back."
To his students, the elfin luminary Yoda could appear as either very strict or like a grandfatherly figure, testing them to mental and physical extremes one moment and showing warmth the next. Students often strongly disagreed with him at first, but gradually came to understand his attitudes.
"To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan (apprentice). Be a candle, or the night, Padawan: but choose!"
Among his colleagues on the Jedi High Council, he was known to have a penchant for mischief and practical jokes. To all of the young Jedi, he was the humble Yoda, who offered enlightened leadership and epitomized the ideals of the Jedi Order; as grandmaster of that august body, he was widely known as an astute instructor.
Though Yoda was, arguably, the most highly Force-attuned member of the Order, he was not flawless. Despite a body of evidence to the contrary, Yoda was largely a traditionalist in his belief that a Jedi who was seduced by the dark side of “the Force” would be forever condemned to walk in darkness. However, he originally believed that no Jedi was beyond redemption and forgiveness. His exile, the tyranny of the Empire, and the Great Jedi Purge embittered Yoda to the point where he lost all faith in the idea of redemption. Before his death, he warned Luke Skywalker, that "when a person falls to the dark side, their destiny would forever be dominated by darkness."
Master Yoda was able to foresee events with a great clarity. In addition, Master Yoda was capable of easily manipulating strong-willed individuals and could delve into the minds of others to decipher their thoughts with great precision. However, despite his great power and skill as a warrior, Yoda was known to strongly dislike combat in general, and was even a bit disdainful of the idea that "greatness" could be achieved through martial prowess.
Yoda's Signature Yoda's Crest
Not long ago, the gentleman who anointed me with the “Yoda” nickname shared the lectern with me at an NCM Institute class on Increasing Service Gross Profit. I asked him what it was about me that first struck him as “Yoda-like.”
“Well, Garry, it wasn’t your appearance or your skills with a light saber,” he joked. “And it wasn’t your experience and wisdom. I think it was late afternoon one day in SDA Session II (Fixed Operations) when you were trying to make a point to one of my brethren classmates, and he wasn’t ‘getting it.’ You were becoming impatient and frustrated, and I first thought your agitation was directed at him…but then I realized that it was self-directed. You were upset with yourself because you couldn’t seem to get through to him. And it was then that I recognized your greatest quality! It’s your passion for the car business and for doing business the right way! It’s your passion for habitually performing and flawlessly executing the best practices! That’s exactly what Yoda meant when he told Luke Skywalker, "No! Try not! Do, or do not! There is no try!”
And that’s why I am very proud to sometimes share the name “Yoda.”