[As featured in AMBA’s Ambition magazine]
Before COVID-19 Hollywood produced 365 films a year on average and Bollywood 1,000 films a year, not to mention Lollywood (the film industry of Pakistan), Nollywood (Nigeria), Trolleywood (Tesco’s straight-to-shelf film arm), and so on and so forth. The movie business is, then, big business. This business is generally regarded as an entertainment industry; however, as I will demonstrate in this article, films can also teach us valuable life lessons, including business lessons, and they can even change our behaviour in beneficial ways. All we have to do is be alert and open to these subtle influences. One may do this, for example, by: watching a film a second time, pausing to take notes; watching any extras/YouTube interviews with the cast and crew; Googling an idea that the film presents you with; reading the book the film is based on, if applicable; and/or taking the time to think about what you have just seen and heard and reflecting upon any inspiration that’s come to you as a result.
Lesson 1: The Pursuit of Happyness: How to achieve greater health and happiness through wealth acquisition “With employers increasingly asking for business graduates who possess a balance of hard and soft skills, innovative capabilities, and a mindset geared towards being more socially responsible…” (AMBA’s “History & Heritage” webpage), The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) is very apt as it based on a memoir of the same name by Christopher “Chris” Gardner, who is played well by Will Smith. Now, whether you’re a business graduate or not, I think you will appreciate Chris’ struggle as a working professional who believes that hard work pays off and who doesn’t just dream of success but who actually wakes up at 5.30am every day and works hard to achieve it. He has to work hard because he faces three major problems: money worries; the associated stress that comes with that; and the increased strain evident between him and his wife.
In short, the film shows us how Chris goes from lower-middle class to extreme poverty and finally to vast wealth. Practically, some of the ways he becomes so successful include: soft skills (e.g. Chris doesn’t talk about his intelligence, flexibility, adaptability and desire, drive and determination to succeed when pitching to a Head of Human Resources, Jay Twistle (Brian Howe), he acts it, firstly by blagging his way into the latter’s taxi and secondly by impressively solving Jay’s Rubik’s Cube – it’s 1981, the year the original Rubik’s Cube was launched, and therefore before the days of YouTube tutorials); personal qualities (e.g. honesty, humour and charisma); retraining (as a Stockbroker after hounding Jay for a job, which he does in addition to his self-employed, part-time sales job); strategy (e.g. jumping up his prospective client call sheet, going straight for the listed Pension Fund CEO’s); being unconventional (e.g. visiting one such CEO and prospective client, Walter Ribbon (Kurt Fuller), at his home one Saturday); being present (e.g. during and after Walter rejects his best sales efforts); and, crucially, exploiting opportunities (e.g. networking with at least three of Walter’s associates – Junior Executives –which later, through more networking via these contacts, leads to him managing to sign up thirty-one accounts for his employer and securing a permanent job).
Christ went on to found the investment firm Gardner Rich in 1987 and eventually in 2006 sold a minority stake in his brokerage firm in a multi-million-dollar deal. Interestingly, as the Narrator tells us in an extra based on the film’s real-life hero, “In 2003, Chris Gardner made a life-transforming trip to South Africa, where he was granted a private audience with Nelson Mandela. And ever since that life-changing visit, he has worked to increase the employment opportunities, economic stability and the distribution of wealth in that emerging nation….The man who once pursued happiness is now creating it for others.” Clearly, then, Chris is part of the “…new generation of socially responsible leaders” that AMBA wishes all MBA students and graduates to be a part of (“History & Heritage” webpage).
Lesson 2: Eat Pray Love: A holistic view of health Eat Pray Love (2010), a film which “…is not just for the ladies, fellas” (GQ magazine), is also based on a memoir of the same title by Elizabeth “Liz” Gilbert, an already successful and relatively wealthy Writer; however, despite her ‘picture perfect’ life, she (played well by Julia Roberts) experiences an internal crisis, “…leaves New York and embarks on a year-long journey – travelling to Italy, India and Bali – seeking self-discovery through good food, meditation and the prospect of finding true love…” (DVD cover), something she does indeed come to find.
Now, given the success that the real-life Liz has gone on to have – for example Eat Pray Love has sold over twelve million copies worldwide – I would argue that the book/film teaches us that our holistic health is the first and foremost way to work on all the other areas of our lives and so it pays to invest some of our thought, time, energy, and even our money in exercising our mind, our body and our soul/spirit/heart. For example: for the mind, Liz learns Italian before and during her time in Italy, the payoff being when she’s sitting wearing the new gown she treated herself to, eating a gorgeous breakfast and reading – and understanding – an Italian newspaper; for the body, she walks, cycles, sails, and swims, bathed not just in fresh air but also fresh awareness of the sun, blue sky, green trees, and all the other sights, sounds and smells on offer to anyone who is truly present in the here and now; and, for the soul/spirit/heart, Liz practices being grateful for the people and things in her life, open and honest prayer, silent meditation, and, whilst you would expect it to go under that for the body, pizza, a type of comfort food which is fine in moderation – cowabunga!
Lesson 3: Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru: Make your life a masterpiece To summarise, the documentary Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (2016), featuring the giant Life and Business Strategist that is Tony Robbins, reminds us that, for one thing, in addition to focusing on all that we want to achieve in our professional lives we must focus on that which makes us feel deeply fulfilled in our personal lives because otherwise we may well end up materially wealthy but also mentally, physically and/or emotionally bankrupt. Naturally, this requires us to, for example: reflect on what our values and beliefs are; replace any limiting beliefs (e.g. “I’m not good enough”) with empowering ones (e.g. “I am good enough”); work hard to become the better versions of ourselves that we want to be; connect with like-minded people; work with a Mentor in our respective field; be grateful for all that we have; and help others to move up along the way.
In conclusion, movies, including the three films I have focused on in this article, can and will empower you to improve yourself and your life if only you choose to view them in this way. May the force be with you and may you live long and prosper.<< Back