“If you start out depressed, everything’s a pleasant surprise.” It’s a line I’ve heard dozens of times before but, as I sat on my couch last Friday night watching Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler’s thought provoking statement resonated with me. Perhaps not the ‘starting out depressed’ part but being open to whatever comes my way? Yes, that idea has merit.
Then I thought of what insights other classic movies like Say Anything would offer if I applied it to life and business.
I know what you’re thinking.
What the heck is this girl doing watching an old 80’s movie on a Friday night?
Don’t judge me. Lloyd Dobler was one of my favorite male movie characters from that era. The boom box over the head scene? Epic.
Anyway, back to my moment of clarity.
As I sat there eating my gelato (again, no judging), I realized there is a certain level of ignorance in youth. It isn’t until we age and experience different ‘real life’ situations that we notice the deeper meaning behind movies like ‘Say Anything’ and other classics of its kind.
Or maybe I just have way too much time on my hands. Either way, here are five movies that teach us good life and business lessons:
I wouldn’t be a true Jamaican if I didn’t put this movie as number one on my list. Even though the movie is only 1% factual (click here for the truth behind the movie), the story portrayed of the first Jamaican Bobsled Team teaches us the first lesson: Embrace Failure.
Four men who have never seen ice or know the first thing about bobsleds are tasked with the job of making it to the Olympics. They make it through hard work and determination. And then what happens? Everything goes wrong in a matter of seconds. Did they complain? Did they cry? No. They made sure everyone was okay, picked up their broken sled and walked over the finish line. They lost the race but won respect.
There will always be failures in business, particularly if you’re the owner. Decisions you make for your company that seemed a good idea on paper may fall apart in the execution phase. That’s okay.
Face your failure. Embrace it. Then move on. [Tweet that!]
And if you need motivation, here’s a little video to remind you how it’s done.
The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is the perfect example of what NOT to do when all seems lost. Princess Buttercup’s actions lead us to the second lesson: Find your courage.
The Princess remained assertive and strong throughout the movie- never backing down from the Dread Pirate Roberts, jumping off a boat into eel infested waters, and sacrificing her happiness for the life of Wesley’s when they are caught by Prince Humperdink. She was so sure Wesley would save her, even after Humperdink told her Wesley died.
But what does she do when Wesley doesn’t show up in time to stop the wedding? She attempts to kill herself with a dagger through the heart!
Take note, people.
Take a step back and evaluate the situation if the first attempt doesn’t work. Is there another way to achieve your goal? This ties into lesson number one of embracing failure. Do not commit suicide! Metaphorically speaking, that is.
Personally, I would have kicked Prince Humperdink where the sun don’t shine and ran out of there.
Sometimes, a girl’s gotta rescue herself. Any other option would be inconceivable!
Everyone loves The Goonies. Data with his crazy experiments. Chunk doing the truffle shuffle. Yet The Goonies embodies lesson number 3: Teamwork makes the dream work.
The plan that starts with four kids trying to save their town by finding a pirate ship with buried treasure quickly goes sideways when three other teens join in and, before you know it, they end up in an underground tunnel with no choice but to go forward.
So, what does this have to do with business?
There will be times in a business when everyone has different ideas of how to proceed on a project. A few may want to play it safe while others will want to try a more innovative approach. Or it could be a case of a business partner questioning whether to continue with the company or close up shop, asking questions that everyone struggles with at some point in their career.
Is it worth the cost? What if I don’t succeed? How can I make it when so much stands in the way of reaching my goal?
That’s when one person does, what I like to call, the ‘rally cry’. The speech that motivates others and reminds everyone why they joined the company in the first place. You may give yourself the rally cry to stay focused if you’re a solo entrepreneur. I know I do. It’s never as good as this one, though.
The Breakfast Club
This movie illustrates the fourth business lesson: Don’t judge a person at first glance.
It’s not a new concept and one we hear all the time, but do we understand it? We are a judgmental society. It’s in our nature to make instant judgments about someone from the first meeting. Oh sure, there are the Mother Teresa’s of the world who put us to shame but that kind of empathy takes practice. I’m not ashamed to admit I judge people from first glance all the time. Sometimes my instincts are correct and other times I am completely off base. Now I give everyone a chance to show their true colors.
Just imagine, you see a book in the store with a beautiful cover and pick it up. It’s in the category of books you’re used to so you buy it. Then you begin to read. Ten pages in you realize this story is nothing like what you thought it would be. Whether you choose to continue to read or not is completely up to you. The same concept applies to people in business and life. We all wear masks of what we think people want to see. Certain professions demand certain codes of dress and speech. We play the part to keep the status quo and get the position we want.
The Breakfast Club is the perfect example of what happens when that mask starts to break. You have the jock, the popular girl, the rebel, the geek, and the freak. Everyone perfectly placed in their own little category.Yet it’s when they sit down and tell their story you realize there is much more to them than meets the eye. The issues that push them into the roles they maintain are real: family pressure to succeed, pressure from friends to fit in, and domestic abuse. All issues no one would know about if they didn’t look beneath the surface.
Everyone has a story to tell.
It is one of Danny Devito’s best movies and personified the fifth lesson: We don’t always get what we want, but we always get what we need.
According to IMDb, Renaissance Man is about “A down-on-his-luck businessman who desperately takes the only job offered – a teacher in the U.S. Army. His mission: keep a ragtag bunch of underachieving misfits from flunking out of basic training. Be on alert as this unlikely new teacher and his underdog class unexpectedly inspire each other to be all they can be!”
The movie is so much more than that. It’s about life teaching you that what you want isn’t always what you need.
I’ll share a brief personal story. Five years ago, I lived in Atlanta, working 40-60 hours a week as a waitress to make ends meet. I stopped writing, I was stressed and drank almost every night to unwind. (There is a reason the restaurant industry has the highest rate of alcohol dependency among workers.) I wasn’t an alcoholic, by any means, and I’m not saying a glass of wine after work is a bad thing, but there is a limit to everything. Then something life changing happened.
I lost my job.
Shortly after, my mother needed back surgery and I was the only one able to move back to Tampa and care for her. The move forced me to slow down and take stock of my life. It forced me to ask the question we all address at one point in our lives.
Where do I go from here?
Thanks to unemployment benefits, I was able to finance the start of my writing business. I got a part-time job as a waitress when the benefits stopped and continued to build my business. Today, I’m making my way and proud to call myself an entrepreneur. I believe the move to Tampa was exactly what I needed.
We have to roll with the punches in life.
You never know where that decision may lead. Things may turn out better than you imagined. Don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate the work you accomplished and the people you’ve influenced along the way.
What movies impacted your life? Do you have a business lesson to add?
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