The end of May means that another class of high school and college seniors will end yet another chapter of their lives before making their splash into the real world. Before they get there though, there are three quotes from the movie world that I believe hold some important truths that might be the keys to building great careers.
“If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation”
There is a lot of power in this quote from Don Draper, a man who more than any who never lived, was able to recreate himself. The point of the great quote is that each of us has that same power. If we don’t like what’s being said about us, we can change the conversation. We’re in control of our brand.
If we don’t like what our boss says about us, we can change that conversation. If we don’t like what our customers are saying about us, we can change the conversation. By this I don’t mean change the subject, any fool can do that, and they will indeed look foolish. What I mean is to get better. To make the conversation about how great you are, rather than our failings. Every day we get to choose if we’ll show up in our lives, and if we choose to correctly, we can change the conversation.
I love the movie Saving Private Ryan and my favorite scene comes at the very end of the movie when Tom Hank’s character is dying on the bridge and he pulls Matt Damon’s Private Ryan close to him and tells him to “earn this.” It’s a powerful scene that calls to mind all of the sacrifices that went into saving Private Ryan.
Most of us will never have someone die for us on a bridge, but all of us have people that sacrifice for us to make it to where we are. It might have been parents, teachers, coaches, mentors or a combination of all of the above, but there are those who paid a price for us to be successful. Our job is to earn it and we earn it by paying it forward. If people help you get to the top and you don’t return the favor to those still struggling, you’re dishonoring the many sacrifices that others made for you. The absolute greatest gift that you can give those who have helped you is to help others. Be a mentor, an example, and guide to others and earn this.
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
I’m not sure why every man I’ve ever met loves Braveheart, but I think this attitude has a lot to do with it. Condemned to die but given an opportunity to save himself, Mel Gibson’s William Wallace refuses to take it. When they tell him that he’s going to die, he responds with every man dies, but not every man really lives.
This is a great quote to keep in mind as we build a career. We spend a lot of time planning, thinking and stressing about our future. We map out steps and pursue our goals strategically, but in the end, we’re going to die anyway. Now some will read that sentence and think that I’m being nihilistic, but I can assure you that I draw so much from that thought. If I’m going to die anyway, I don’t want to miss anything while I’m here. It’s why I advocate always saying yes and doing as much as humanly possible. Every man dies, not every man really lives.
The class of 2017 is leaving school ready for the workforce. I truly believe that keeping these quotes in mind is not only the best way to build a career but a life as well. The time has come to make the splash. Make the most of it.