Grand Admiral Thrawn: Learn to Manage Money Like a Tactical Genius

There are many articles online about financial lessons to learn from the Star Wars films. What makes this one different? Well, it’s the one article to rule them all (sorry, wrong franchise).

Today we're not going to be talking about tired Yoda or Luke quotes (sorry, gentleman); instead, we are going to visit the dark side of the force and the light side of finance and review what can be learned from the Galatic Empire's best tactical mind, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

I flashed the geek signal and reached out to my own Inferno Squad to bring you the wisdom of Thrawn! I gathered the best personal finance bloggers to share their favorite Thrawn quote and how you can use it to manage your money like a tactical genius.

Note, if you have not read Timothy Zhan’s excellent book Thrawn, below will contain some spoilers; go and pick up a copy and read it; I’m not going anywhere.

About Grand Admiral Thrawn

Thrawn first appeared in the expanded universe before Lucasfilm sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney.

The Thrawn trilogy is highly regarded as some of the best Star Wars books. After Disney took the helm of the Star Wars empire (pun intended), they decided to clean the slate of the old expanded universe.

The decision to scrap the Star Wars EU was controversial; however, the old EU was a bit of a mess as writers and creators were allowed to run amuck with little guidance for continuity. All of the old novels are now considered Star Wars Legends.

Disney set about creating a new canon with an enhanced focus on continuity. As Thrawn was a fan favorite, he was brought back into the fold on the hit cartoon Star Wars Rebels. Timothy Zhan wrote the original Thrawn trilogy and was tasked with writing a new book returning Thrawn to canon lore.

Thrawn had a powerful military mind. He achieved remarkable military victories over the rebels and consistently was two steps ahead of them. He rose to the position of Grand Admiral in the imperial navy in just a few years, an impressive feat for anyone but especially for a non-human like Thrawn.

Thrawn was a strategic mastermind and brilliant planner; he was renowned for seeing opportunities and patterns others couldn't.

It would surprise no one if he saved a significant portion of his imperil pay, and he routinely invested in highly appreciating art and antiques. He would have reached FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) well before it was time to collect imperial social security (spoiler alert) if he hadn't been sucked out to beyond by hyperspace jumping space whales. 

thrawn rebels blue
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Melissa Blevins 

“No battle plan can anticipate all contingences. There are always unexpected factors, including those stemming from the opponent’s initiative. A battle thus becomes a balance between plan and improvisation, between intellect and reflex, between error and correction.” -Thrawn

What happens if an asteroid hits your Tie Fighter or the new droid you purchased breaks down?

Life will throw some “Scum and villainy” in your direction. There’s no doubt about that. You can plan, budget, diversify, and still end up losing. What can you do if you go through a nasty divorce and it costs you most of your life savings? How will you recover if you lose your job?

Life isn’t only about planning for the future. It’s about being prepared but reacting and recovering from mistakes and mishaps. Of course, you should have an emergency fund and plan for the future, but by having a positive mindset and bouncing back in the face of danger, you can recover from the battles of life.

Dave, Financial Journeyman 

“No one is immune from failure. All have tasted the bitterness of defeat and disappointment. A warrior must not dwell on that failure, but must learn from it and continue on”. – Thrawn 

Failure is part of the process. The Rebel alliance experienced several shortcomings; even the Galatic Empire experience failure. However, the Death Star was blown up by rebel scum, and they rebuilt.

Even when we visualize ourselves not taking any chances and covering all of our bases, failure still occurs. No one likes to fail. It is a humbling experience. Most situations that fail are not a total loss. Many cases that appear to be complete failures are only short-term losses. The paradox of small failure is that it can become a long-term success for those who are wise enough to continue.

Learning from what did not go according to plan in the past becomes a guide for future success. Those who are destined for long-term success will embrace failure as a teacher. Even though it might be painful, that pain is an excellent motivator for change. Those who do not embrace this lesson will continue to fail in succession.

Failure occurs. Don’t dwell on it. Analyze it and identify where you made errors. Use those errors as the driving force for positive change.

thrawn rebels scaled
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Robert, Real Money Robert   

“One whose path has taken a new turn is often initially disorientated. But as time passes, and the path continues steadily in its new direction, there is a tendency to believe that it will remain so forever, with no further turns.” –Thrawn

Often in life, as well as in finances, things change. Our circumstances change, and all of this change affects our finances. These economic changes can leave us in confusion or panic and often lead to poor decisions.

As Grand Admiral Thrawn mentions, when these changes occur, we are left in a disoriented state. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe your Jedi Master just got sliced in half by Darth Maul. Whatever the turn in life you face, people tend to get complacent, thinking that things will remain steady.

However, this is not true. Things will continuously change, and we need to be prepared for these changes. This allows you to make sound financial decisions during those periods of change and help you stay focused on your financial journey until the next turn in life tries to throw you off. Life changes are just one of the many reasons it is essential to have an emergency fund saved.

ESI Money

“And when a mind is too deficient in understanding, the resulting gap is often filled with resentment.” – Grand Admiral Thrawn

Wow. Who knew that wisdom from another galaxy could be so appropriate for us?

It seems quite common for most American society to scoff at those who choose a lifestyle where financial freedom can be attained at 50, 40, or 30.

It's almost a given that when the masses hear of someone who has retired before 60, they start poking made-up holes in the story. Their list of excuses includes, but is not limited to, some of the following:

  • “This is a lie. It possibly can't be true.”
  • “Sure, I could do this if ___________ (fill in the blank, usually something like “make $200,000 a year).”
  • “I bet they received a big inheritance.”
  • “Who wants to scrimp and save that much? Sounds terrible to me.”
  • “This will never work. They will probably go bankrupt soon.”
  • “I like working too much to retire.”

And on and on.

The reason they are so jaded (or, as Grand Admiral Thrawn states above, “filled with resentment”) is that they are “deficient in understanding.” They don't know that there are quickly learned money principles that can make them wealthy. And even when they do have a bit of understanding, they often don't want to apply those to their lives because while the principles of becoming wealthy are easy to understand, they are difficult for most people to use (since they require self-control).

Instead, they become resentful of successful others and make excuses for themselves. Or worse yet, they want the results but don't want to do the work, and when nothing happens, they lash out.

So what should we do with these people? Send them to Abafar to mine rhydonium, of course!

Ok, perhaps that's a bit too drastic. Instead, we need to keep exposing them to the straightforward, basic concepts of personal finance that will hopefully one day apply.

thrawn tall rebels
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Steve Adcock

“Failure to act always brings consequences. But sometimes, those consequences can be turned to one’s advantage.” – Grand Admiral Thrawn

In my life, I've met a lot of “ideas” people. People with great ideas are the visionaries of our time. They think about things in a new and creative way and question the norm. They don't only accept things as they are, but they observe and ponder how things could be.

But, I have found very few of these people to be “doers.” Their strength lies in the ideas, not necessarily in the implementation. They think. The hypothesize. But when it comes to putting action behind their words, they tend to wait. Or drag their feet. We bury potential action under mountains of excuses that I begin to lose sight of what their hypothesis was!

If you are a business owner, scientist, or even a blogger, that inaction can be detrimental. Without action, ideas do not (and cannot) have an impact. But, that inaction can provide more time to refine the concept. To discover potential pitfalls. Develop backup plans in case of failure.

Inaction also allows “get your mind right” to dive into the implementation process with a solid understanding and purpose. Or with renewed energy and drive. Sometimes in life, timing is everything. Great ideas without great timing are not typically great successes.

But, ideas that come to life exactly when they mean the most turn into something magical. They make the most impact. They change the most significant number of lives.

It's *these ideas* that improve our lives the most.

FI Introvert

“Leadership is a role and a task that should never be aspired to lightly. Neither should loyalty be given without reason.” – Grand Admiral Thrawn

When it comes to the spoils of obtaining leadership positions, it’s easy for us to “imagine quite a bit” of compensation and authority. But we are wise to heed Thrawn’s warning that taking on a leadership role is a significant burden.

Sure, many of us aspire to be a CEO or owner of our own business. However, we usually leave out the heavy responsibilities of such roles, like the nights worrying about making payroll or the hours we may lose with our families. Looking into your employee's eyes when you have to make layoffs is a fate worse than explaining how you let the rebels escape to Emperor Palpatine.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t shy away from leadership roles. Some of us, especially introverts, would rather kiss a Wookie than “play the game.” But making small talk with our coworkers, attending social events, and presenting our ideas are just as crucial as producing excellent work. When it comes to leadership, people want to feel human at work, and taking care of social needs is an essential role of a leader.

When thinking about aspiring to a leadership position, it is better for the organization that you, a qualified and talented individual, play the game a bit to be a leader. Or do you want the whole organization to suffer under some nerf herder because you felt some small talk degraded your day?

I’m not saying you are The Chosen One, but you’re reading this blog trying to better yourself, so odds are you would make a pretty great leader. So do what it takes – even if you have to “play the game.” It will benefit everyone around you.

On loyalty, Thrawn is perhaps one of the Galactic Empire's only leaders to inspire such devotion based on his merits. Thrawn counsels us not to give out our loyalty blindly.

Many of us who tilt toward having rich inner experiences can build up entire relationships with a person we’ve only met a few times. We have to ensure that the person we are giving loyalty to has earned it through action and not merely our idealization of that person.

Does the well-polished financial advisor or insurance salesman deserve your loyalty because of some complicated product he has presented to you? Let’s look beyond the veneer and at the actual value before giving loyalty by turning over our hard-earned cash.

Should you be loyal to a boss or company when your true passion lies elsewhere? Yes, they provided a steady paycheck for many, but this is your life. We aren’t guaranteed any years. Our lives should not be lived in the service of financially enriching others.

Thrawn may support the Dark Side, but it's a big, imperfect galaxy. His wisdom is hard-earned. While we need to understand the burdens of leadership, we also have to understand the consequences of allowing less qualified people to ascend to those roles. And as we move through our life and career, we should inspire loyalty by example while practicing patience and prudence when dispensing our allegiance.

thrawn rebels thinking scaled
Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Wealth of Geeks

Thrawn joined the Imperial Navy as a penniless alien. He rose to prominence due to his hard work against a backdrop of bigotry towards non-humans. His management style was abundant; he knew how to help himself help others.

Thrawn achieved success based on his refined and developed skill through thought and training. He routinely isolated himself from contemplating and studying.

Thrawn took every opportunity to make his commanding officers and any imperial officer serving under him look good. He commanded respect from the crew and those watching his career unfold not from political connections or ”hokey religions” but the success built on hard work and sheer determination.

He Would have Rocked Diversification

While chasing a smuggler and working to thwart the Rebels, Thrawn learned of the Death Star. As a brilliant strategist, Thrawn warned the Emperor about being overly confident in Death Star. Thrawn felt a fleet of Star Destroyers would be more effective in serving the Galatic Empire's needs.

Investors often mimic emperor Palpatine's folly in being overly reliant on the might of the Death Star. Every year numerous people see their financial plans laid waste because the unthinkable or impossible happens. Thrawn new, a diverse fleet of ships was better able to handle both threats known and unknown. While we are not privy to Thrawn's investment holdings, it is easy to imagine he had a sizable emergency fund and was diversified over several asset classes.

More From Wealth of Geeks

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: Lucasfilm.


Your Money Geek | + posts

Michael launched Wealth of Geeks to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.