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Life Lessons from Ted Lasso

Understanding your past gives you access to the programming that runs you. With access, you can rewrite the code of your underlying operating system in a manner that is more likely to produce the results you want in life.



**Spoiler Alert: This post reveals some of the storyline from the current season of Ted Lasso. Hurry up and watch it before reading :).


On August 14, 2020, five months into the global pandemic, a gift appeared in the form of a television show based on a fictional character named Ted Lasso – an American football coach hired to coach FC Richmond, a struggling Premier League English football team. The show bucked the somewhat tired, conventional anti-hero trend of recent years and gave us a character who exudes kindness and unrelenting hope, perfectly captured by a prominent banner hanging inside the team’s locker room displaying one word – Believe. Viewers were instantly captivated, declaring Ted Lasso the prescription the world needed at exactly the right time – an antidote to the darkness and fear of the time. Just under a year following the conclusion of a virtually flawless first season, the show recently returned with a bold slogan – “Kindness Makes a Comeback.”


Season Two is in many ways a departure from the first. While it retains much of Ted’s sunny disposition, the show spends most of its time exploring the pasts and inner worlds of its diverse characters. Much time is spent exploring the darker underbelly of its main character. Moments of sadness, drinking, and panic attacks begin to show a more complex character hidden beneath the incessantly positive armor that Ted shows to the world. In the most recent tenth episode, Ted finally breaks, confessing to the team therapist that at age sixteen he discovered his father just moments after he had committed suicide. In a touching exchange, Ted expresses a mix of anger towards the father that “quit” on him and his mother and deep regret for missing the opportunity to let his father know how much he appreciated and loved him. We finally see that Ted’s commitment to always see the good in people derives from the unresolved trauma of his father’s death. He unconsciously vowed to never again miss the opportunity to help people discover the redeeming qualities buried deeply beneath the veneer of their oftentimes unseemly behavior. This explains his willingness to forgive the insufferable Jamie Tartt, for example, whose own experience with a dysfunctional father lies at the heart of his early estrangement from his teammates. It is Jamie’s coming to terms with this past that allows him to become the very best version of himself toward the end of season two.

America is a country that likes to put the past behind it and instead look forward. This tendency is baked into the nation’s frontier psyche, a product of the nineteenth century’s expansion westward. So it was a bit of a gamble by the show’s writers to spend its second season looking backward. I believe it was a risk worth taking. Exploring one’s past is a critical endeavor. It is an essential discipline on the path toward self-mastery. I devote an entire chapter to this in my book Master Your Code. I argue that you must master your past to avoid remaining a prisoner to it. This, I believe, is what the show is doing in its current season. Understanding your past gives you access to the programming that runs you. With access, you can rewrite the code of your underlying operating system in a manner that is more likely to produce the results you want in life. Indeed, in season two, we see Ted finally making the choice to take on the very real trauma of his past and decide to be the author of his life not merely a participant in it. I believe we all have a Ted Lasso story, perhaps not as dramatic, maybe more so. But what we all share equally is the ability to make the same choice that we see Ted making.

There are two episodes left in this season, and a final third season has been announced. If I had to guess, we will begin to see a more complex, nuanced version of each of the characters come to life. In particular, I expect a fuller version of Ted to emerge. One that moves from a parody of positivity to a more integrated human being capable of accessing a full range of emotions. And perhaps we will also see the team’s own redemption – a promotion back to the Premier League along with a historic title. Wouldn’t that be nice.


Tuesday Tips

  1. I highly recommend reading this excellently timed recent article, “The Difference between Hope and Optimism,” by Arthur Brooks.

  2. Here is an interesting New York Times opinion on the fluidity of gender pronouns and language itself.

  3. Shakespeare was a master of language. Here’s a line from Julius Caesar that I came across recently: “So every bondsman has in his own hand bears to the power to cancel his own captivity.”

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