Business Lessons From Movies (part 1)

It’s no secret, I LOVE movies!

While they mainly provide endless entertainment value, from time to time parts of movies offer solid advice on how to be successful in business (as well as good illustrations of how NOT to be successful).  In the spirit of illustrating my affinity for film, here are some notable quotes from some awesome movies that also have a business lesson within:

  1. Catch Me if You Can: “Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned, but the second mouse, he struggled so hard that he eventually churned that cream into butter and he walked out. Amen.” For those that recall, this line came when Leonardo DiCarprio’s character was put on the spot by his soon to be father-in-law to say a prayer at the dinner table.  Lesson- people love to hear stories and analogies. Make sure to use them whenever possible.  Moreover, have a few carefully crafted stories that are effective and memorable that you can pull out of your hat whenever possible. Stories make lessons memorable. When explaining my own management style I refer to “Aaron’s Allstate Hands.” For those familiar with the insurance company’s logo, I adapted it to be one hand below (to support my people) and one hand behind (to push my people to do their best)… it is a bit quirky, but it is memorable and effective.  Side lesson- this quote itself has a good message, don’t be the one who gives up.
  2. Boiler Room: “A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close?” Ben Affleck’s character is pretty right on with this direct statement. Most people assume if they are not in a “sales” role that they are not really selling.  The truth is that you are selling every day, from selling your ideas to your boss and peers to selling the value that you would bring to a company in a job interview; if you are not comfortable with selling, you better find a way to get comfortable with it. Morever, when selling don’t focus on telling the other person all about the benefits of the product, find out what is important to them and key in on that– then you will capture their interest.
  3. Steel Magnolias: “Smile. It enhances your face value.” I know this may seem like a strange reference, but there is a message behind Dolly Parton’s character’s cute statement. People generally respond positively to happiness. If you rely on anger and generating stress for others you will create fear and resentment. Instead when you build a positive branding for yourself then you create empowerment, trust support and buy-in from others.
  4. American Gangster: (I needed a bit of redemption for the Steel Magnolias reference above) “The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.” As the old saying goes, we were born with two ears and one mouth and we should use them accordingly.  Especially as a young professional it is important to be quick to listen and slow to talk. When you listen, you gain key lessons and often can build off of what was said to gain buy-in for your opinions.  If you focus on talking, there is a higher likelihood that you will hurt yourself politically in your workplace (and there is more of a chance you will say something stupid).  The less you talk, the more people will listen when you actually do talk.
  5. Office Space: “My only real motivation is not to be hassled– that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough no to get fired.” No reference to business related movies would be complete without mentioning Office Space… Oh Peter Gibbons, you make a solid point here.  While coming out of school the idea of making loads of money does sound pretty fantastic, money as a complete motivator has a short shelf-life. People need to be challenged and need to feel like they are part of something they believe in to be truly empowered and to operate at their highest potential.  Look at what you are passionate about and find more ways to do those things. Ala Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech, ask yourself what is motivating you and if you love what you are doing from time to time. This will tell you when it is time to do something new. Don’t be motivated by avoiding hassle and defensively keeping your job. Go on the offensive with things you are passionate about.

There are definitely more quotes and lessons where these came from.  Keep an eye out for future posts in months to come and remember that the lessons within movies can have solid advice that is valid in the context of building success in the corporate world.




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About Young Professional's Edge (YP Edge)

Aaron McDaniel is a corporate manager, entrepreneur, author, public speaker and community leader. Aaron has held numerous management roles at a Fortune 500 company, being appointed Regional Vice President at the age of 27, and is the founder of multiple entrepreneurial ventures. He is also the author of the book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World ( Aaron instructed a highly rated student-led course on leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business and has a book, The Young Professional's Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead, and Rise to the Top, due to be out later this year. Aaron offers advice that helps young professionals build the foundation for a successful career. Visit his blog, to learn more.

Posted on February 9, 2012, in Just for Fun, Solid Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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