How to be as awesome as Aquaman (business lessons from the King of Atlantis)

Aquaman and Mera. Copyright: DC Comics

Aquaman will hit the big screen in the next couple of years, with Jason Momoa playing the aquatic superhero in Justice League and solo movies. He’s an awesome superhero, and a powerful, underrated one at that. The story of Aquaman and his heroic exploits is one of exemplary living, overcoming challenging obstacles, and juggling competing demands – in other words, he can offer some brilliant business lessons. Here’s what we can learn from the King of Atlantis.

Aquaman communicates well: with all sea life! His messages are clear, and his directives are easily understood by all ocean-bound creatures.

The lesson: be clear, direct, and honest in your communication and everyone will flock to follow you.

Aquaman does not listen to gossip: half the world might think he’s a useless fish talker who can’t handle a bit of dry land, but he’s confident in his abilities and fights the good fight.

The lesson: don’t let gossip undermine your self-confidence. Remind yourself every day that you’re the hero in your own story, and others will eventually cotton on to that fact, too!

Aquaman commands (and demands) respect: when Superman (in actuality, the Martian Manhunter in disguise) disrespected him, Aquaman didn’t hesitate to throw down with the most powerful man in the universe. Aquaman has even on occasion thrown down with the real Superman and near-omnipotent supervillains such as Darkseid. While sometimes outmatched, his self-confidence never wavers.

The lesson: be confident in your abilities and show respect to your colleagues – and in return, your colleagues will likely reciprocate. If you are being disrespected for no reason, challenge the other person’s attitude. Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding? If so, resolve the matter quickly rather than allowing disrespect to fester in people’s hearts.

Aquaman can handle pressure: there’s a lot of it on the ocean floor! His body is adapted to living in the depths of the ocean, which makes him one durable hombre. However, he had to develop this stamina with age.

The lesson: you’ll never be as tough as Aquaman without exposing yourself to high-pressure situations. Start with low-risk deadlines/projects to acclimatise yourself to pressure situations, then build up to bigger and more complex projects from. However, always know your limits and head to the surface if you need to lessen the pressure – do this by asking for help, breaking the project down into smaller pieces, or looking for flexibility in the deadline.

Aquaman is a team player: he is a founding member of the Justice League and one-time leader; he is also the leader of a secondary team known as The Others. He knows how to delegate, put the right people on the right task, and rely on his friends when the odds are stacked against him.

The lesson: While Aquaman has innate charisma and leadership aptitude, he also knows his role is as a team player. Like Aquaman, respect the strengths of those around you, regardless of whether you’re in a leadership role or a support role.

Aquaman is a responsible leader: as king of Atlantis, he balances his responsibility for his undersea kingdom with the needs of the surface world and his time as a superhero (either solo or with the Justice League or The Others). Sometimes these responsibilities can conflict, but Aquaman is not just a hero, he’s the epitome of a diplomatic king always thinking of his multiple roles.

The lesson: try to see beyond your project, job function, or area of expertise. Have empathy for others you work with, and always look for ways to work better with others. This will ease both your burdens and theirs.

Aquaman values family: when not saving the world, fighting supervillains, preserving the ocean, or ruling Atlantis, he spends whatever free time he has with his wife Mera and son Arthur Curry Jr. (aka Aquababy) and his extended family and close friends, which include Garth (aka Aqualad aka Tempest) and Tula (aka Aquagirl). They often tag along on his adventures.

The lesson: work is important, but work/life balance (or blend) is critical. Most people work to live, not the other way around, and having healthy relationships with family and friends is what ultimately keeps us fulfilled.

Aquaman knows how to overcome adversity: when he had his hand gnawed off by piranhas, he got on with the job and stuck a giant barb in the stump, later replacing it with an awesome harpoon, and later still, an even more awesome magical hand.

The lesson: sometimes life will throw up obstacles that will seem insurmountable, whether it’s a health issue or challenges at work. You could mope about your limitations, or like Aquaman, learn to adapt and perhaps even thrive, despite your challenges. It’s all about attitude!

Aquaman leads by example: whenever Atlantis is attacked, Aquaman is on the front line as an inspiration to his subjects.

The lesson: regardless of your role, always give everything you do your absolute best. Leadership is not about titles – it’s about what behaviours you demonstrate, day in and day out. Leadership is a mentality, and you can lead in any endeavour. Through leading by example, you will fast-track yourself to success.

Aquaman makes sacrifices: he knows how to work through the pain, whether it’s the death of his son, betrayal by his brother, Ocean Master, or the hardship of his people – Aquaman continues to make the right moral choices under adversity.

The lesson: be a moral (but non-judgmental) person. Know that sometimes, you’ll have to take a hit for the greater good, but in the end, you’ll always be a winner if you hold your head high. People can sometimes be vicious, and life is often not fair. Live your live as well as you can, and always adhere to your own path.

Like everyone, Aquaman has made enemies: Black Manta is Aquaman’s mortal enemy (for various reasons – the most recent being that a young Aquaman’s actions led to Black Manta’s father’s death … but only after Black Manta murdered Aquaman’s father!). Even with the best of intentions, Aquaman has created enemies. Aside from Black Manta, Aquaman’s brother Orm (Ocean Master) covets the throne of Atlantis; other enemies, such as Charybdis, Triton, and the Scavenger seek to pillage the riches of Atlantis or gain dominion over the seven seas. Always, Aquaman is there to stop their plans.

The lesson: you could have hundreds or even thousands of friends and friendly associates, but you will inevitably rub someone up the wrong way. You can’t please everyone, so concentrate on those relationships that are mutually supportive, such as those with family and close friends. Don’t be a douche, but similarly, harden yourself against the haters because there will always be people who see things very differently to you. Have confidence in yourself, regardless of how some others may see you.

When all else fails, Aquaman will toss a polar bear at his enemies: that’s right, a polar bear!

The lesson: don’t be a criminal – especially on or near the water! Aquaman will be watching, and his justice is swift and brutal.

By Shane Jiraiya Cummings

First published on LinkedIn, November 2014

All images copyright DC Comics.

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