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Rudolph With Your Nose So Bright,
Won’t You Guide Us Through Our Crucibles Tonight?

Gary Schneeberger

December 14, 2020

Maybe you think of your favorite Christmas TV specials as inspiring, celebratory fare that set the tone for the season. That’s certainly true – but so is the fact that just about every Yuletide classic we tune in to this time of year features about as many crucible moments as it does presents under the tree.

Frosty the Snowman?  Well, the sun was hot that day and he melted. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town?  The Winter Warlock almost does Kris Kringle in. Even The Little Drummer Boy found himself without a gift that was fit to give a king – before he happened upon the idea of pa-rum-pa-pum-pumming for him.

But no Christmas special that has delighted us since our youth features quite the number of crucibles affecting quite so many characters as Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. The animated treat that premiered in 1964 is built around what would have been a monumental global crucible: the cancellation of Christmas. Santa thinks it might be necessary because the “storm of storms” – as our narrator, Sam the Snowman, tells us — hits the North Pole, aka Christmastown, just as Christmas Eve arrives. Santa fears the wind and snow (and the fog!) will make his annual round-the-world mission to give toys to all the good little girls and boys impossible.

But then … Rudolph’s “beak that blinks like a blinkin’ beacon” restores the hope and happiness of the world.

Getting there, though, proves anything but a bump-free ride. Not just for Rudolph, but for most of the other beloved characters who make the special so special. Each faces their own crucible moment or moments – and only after they learn the lessons of those crucibles are they able to ensure a holly, jolly Christmas.

Put the eggnog down for a moment and drink in these five principles of Crucible Leadership that help save the day – and the season – in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Applied to your crucibles, they’ll help you in ways that some might even say make you glow.

1. You can’t inherit a vision.

Rudolph’s dad, Donner, wants his son to follow in the family hoofsteps – hitch up like all the other reindeer and fly Santa’s sleigh. But the young buck’s shiny nose, which Donner tries to hide with a nosepiece and which prompts teasing and taunting from his schoolmates, leads him to a much different destiny. Similarly, Hermey, the misfit elf, is brow-beaten by his boss because he dreams of being a dentist. “You’re an elf!” the pointy-eared supervisor screams. “And elves make toys!” But Hermey refuses to let his vision die.

2. Authenticity is key to making your vision a reality.

Hermey and Rudolph both learn they can’t thrive if they hide who they truly are – whether it’s covering up their gift of a neon proboscis or their fascination with molars. Their passions and values can’t be squelched as summarily as Rudolph was banned from joining in any reindeer games. 

3. It takes a team to get where you want to go.

Rudolph and Hermey run away independently, but fortuitously meet each other as they’re fleeing Christmastown. They form an alliance first with each other because they’re fellow misfits, then with the plucky adventurer Yukon Cornelius, whose mentorship helps them survive the perils of the Abominable Snow Monster, aka, the Bumble, hot on their tails. They stood no chance, and neither did Christmas, if they didn’t join forces

4. Success alone is not a successful pursuit. You must pursue significance.

Yukon Cornelius spends his entire life prospecting for a bounty he never finds (Sam the Snowman thinks it’s silver and gold, but it turns out to be peppermint). Only after he achieves significance by helping Hermey and Rudolph and taming the Bumble does he “strike it rich.” And Hermey? He is allowed to open the North Pole’s first dental office.

5. Perseverance is the only way through your crucible.

The Misfit Toys – a choo-choo with square wheels on its caboose, a water pistol that shoots jelly, a cowboy who rides an ostrich — spend years isolated on the island named after them. But because of the shared vision of significance Rudolph and Hermey hatch, they are at show’s end distributed by Santa to children … so they can fulfill their destiny to be played with and Burl Ives can sing the title song for the rest of us.

What does this all add up to for Rudolph? As we often say at Crucible Leadership, living a life of significance leads to a legacy you can be proud to leave behind. And our red-nosed friend, as we all know by the song’s end, wound up going down in his-tor-eey.


  • Have you ever struggled with authenticity? What are the things you have a hard time revealing about yourself – and how has that impacted you?
  • Who’s on your team to help you move beyond your crucible? If you don’t have a team yet, who can you enlist to encourage and guide you on your journey?
  • How would you rate yourself when it comes to perseverance? What one step can you take today to demonstrate your commitment to keep moving forward?
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