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9 Things JRR Tolkien Taught Me Over Three States

March 26, 2015

Fans of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings series will tell that nine is a pretty special number. It’s the number of the fellowship. Frodo, Sam, Merrie, Pippin, Gimli, Legolas, Gandalf, Aragorn and Borimir. It is also the number of rings made for the kings of men. Those nine became the Nazgul, or Dark Riders.

During my recent trip to Washington my brother gave me a gift. A dramatization of The Lord of the Rings on CD. They came in this cool wooden container. 


I started reading The Lord of the Rings when I was about 12 years old. I read it 4 or 5 times during high school. I remember playing The Lord of the Rings board games as a kid. And then of course we had the movies. I remember thinking that Peter Jackson, the director did as good a job as anyone could in telling that epic story. I really felt I knew this story. 

It’s thirteen hours from Olympia, WA to Pleasant Grove, UT, across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah. As I pulled out of Olympia on Monday under a beautifully drizzly day, I stuck disk one in the CD player and rediscovered a story and a place I had nearly forgotten about.

#1 Adventure Finds Us In The Most Unlikely Places

Frodo, of course heads off on his epic adventure one step ahead of the police. . I mean the black riders. Interestingly we know that had he chosen to stay, he’d have died, and it would be a very short story. It wasn’t until he’d made the decision to move that he realized the danger of inaction. 

Choose to be proactive rather than reactive.

#2 Friends Make All The Difference

Merrie and Pippen seem to join the adventure almost by accident. They don’t really add much to the beginning of the adventure. But, that’s why Frodo’s acceptance of their companionship is so important. He accepted them before he knew he was going to need them. 

Cultivate your friends and allies long before a crisis.

#3 Be Prepared To Slay Your Own Dragons

Okay, there are no dragons in Lord of The Rings. The last one was killed in the Hobbit. But, we watch the hobbits, ill-prepared as they are, strive to solve their own problems. They don’t go looking for Strider to help them. He has to convince them that they need him. 

Help will often appear at the hour it is most needed.

#4 When It’s Time For Action, the Time For Meetings Is Over

Ever notice that the meeting at Rivendale kind of drags on until Frodo says, “I’ll do it.” Yeah, don’t you wish you had more meetings like that? 

Make a decision and move on.

#5 Committees Tend To Increase The Scale Of Any Project

It was just four hobbits that brought the ring to Rivendale, but when the committee gets involved all of sudden they are vastly expanding the assigned resources. Sometimes It’s a good thing, but later in the story it’s back to just two hobbits taking the ring on to Mordor. 

More is not always better.

#6 People Are Going To Let You Down

If you, like Frodo are the guy ultimately responsible to get the results, there are going to be people like Boromir who commit to help you and then try to take over your project. 

Sometimes keeping your own counsel is the wisest action.

#7 Committees Often Outlast Their Original Purpose

After Sam and Frodo take the ring and slip away, the rest of the Fellowship still continue. They simply switch focus. A committee is really hard to kill. . .even with orc arrows.

Have an exit strategy for your project teams.

#8 It Is Often The Small Things That Matter Most

The big sweeping battles ultimately proved useless in stopping Sauron. It took having the right person with the right tools in the right place at the right time. That’s a lot of “rights.” 

Don’t neglect the small details.

#9 Finishing Is Often The Hardest Part

You probably don’t have to stand at the Crack Of Doom, but the last part of the project, the last rewrite of the report, creating the last two slides of the PowerPoint presentation; the ending is often the hardest part.

Have enough gas in the tank to get you across the finish line.

The story lasted until I hit the Utah border. Although switching CD’s at 90 mph can be a little bit tense, I appreciated the gift. 

Interestingly, the story lasted just over nine hours. And there were nine disks. 


Nine is pretty significant number in The Lord Of The Rings. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
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