Business Advice from The Graduate

The Graduate

Recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock is trapped into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, who happens to be the wife of his father’s business partner and then finds himself falling in love with her daughter, Elaine. (Source: IMDB)

What I Learned:
There’s a lot to be said about this movie, many people regard it as one of the best movies they’ve seen. When I saw this movie there was a distinct feeling I had about it and how it kept relating to business. When entering business arrangements and agreements we tend to romanticize the situation rather than seeing it for what it is. We often tend to let ourselves get caught up in the game and that’s the dangerous part. Just like in the movie when Benjamin starts thinking that he is in control of his arrangement is when he finds out that he has in fact relinquished all of his control without ever knowing he did so. It doesn’t stop there though, he seeks the love of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, there seems to be no stopping Benjamin now that he is grasping at control. He longs for control over his relationship with Mrs. Robinson, control over falling in love with Elaine, and ultimately control over the meaning of his life. What becomes rather apparent is that while he made commitments in each relationship he continues to betray each of them. As the movie wraps up it appears that Benjamin has everything he truly wanted, after all didn’t he fight for love? In the final moments of the film you see the two of them smiling but then in my opinion you begin to see their smiles fade as reality sets in. For every decision, for every action people are affected.

This is the same in business and our agreements and relationships we make. We will enjoy the fun but sometimes we get so lost in the fun of it that we lose our hold on what’s really happening. Or worse when we consider our fight as a win we never consider the consequences of a loss. I once heard this saying that is so simple and obvious but has a much greater implication when you apply this to many greater aspects of our lives. What we consider a total win for us today is also a complete loss for the opposing party. While our goals may be to find a point of agreement there is almost always a winner and a loser. Often times this is okay in business, we might be willing to lose a little today to gain a lot more tomorrow. Other times we win because we had leverage. I’m not saying that we should ignore winning and losing and only make everything fair because a harsh reality to life is that it’s rarely fair. It’s apparent throughout The Graduate there is a symphony of leverage being displayed, from Benjamin’s relationship with his parents, Mrs. Robinson, and Elaine. It’s easy to become obsessed over leverage and how to use it properly, but is leverage everything? Can we begin to lose ourselves and the vision and goals of our business when leverage (or winning) is the only thing that is driving us?

I have spoke with quite a few people on the subject of business and maybe it’s my experience that has shaped my worldview but to me it’s to easy to get lost in whether I’m leveraging every lead, client, and competitor. It doesn’t interest me to constantly leverage my skills in order to put myself in a superior position over someone. Sure, I need to make money and to keep the business running but at what cost will we do it? When I think of Benjamin, I think that he did get what he wanted, well, what he settled/thought/loved was only temporal. After being in business relationships that span over a decade and some that just started I can tell you that when we look to sate our immediate desires is when we begin to fail and stress the relationship. Like Benjamin, when we feel that our immediate desires are no longer met we seek to move to the next best relationship and sometimes to spite the former one.

Business Advice from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Annex - Taylor, Elizabeth (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf)_NRFPT_03

I’ve been doing this personal challenge to watch AFI’s 100 Best Films in 100 Years and I have been doing pretty well with it. It’s amazing to see how many of the older films have been redone multiple times now and yet the original is still 100 times better. I have been thinking about how I can update my blog more often and really give some insightful advice from my own experience and perspective. So I thought I would do it in line with the movies I’ve seen. I’m not going to give a giant synopsis of the movie or tell you the deep, dark mysteries of what the filmmaker meant to say but only how I relate it to the business world.

My first movie I’m throwing out there is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” This was a fun movie, I had no idea going into what it was even about except that it wasn’t an anticipated film, Liz Taylor took a risk on the role, and it was one of the last films to be made in black and white.

George and Martha are a middle aged married couple, whose charged relationship is defined by vitriolic verbal battles, which underlies what seems like an emotional dependence upon each other. This verbal abuse is fueled by an excessive consumption of alcohol. George being an associate History professor in a New Carthage university where Martha’s father is the President adds an extra dimension to their relationship. Late one Saturday evening after a faculty mixer, Martha invites Nick and Honey, an ambitious young Biology professor new to the university and his mousy wife, over for a nightcap. As the evening progresses, Nick and Honey, plied with more alcohol, get caught up in George and Martha’s games of needing to hurt each other and everyone around them. The ultimate abuse comes in the form of talk of George and Martha’s unseen sixteen year old son, whose birthday is the following day. (Source: IMDB)

What I Learned:
1) This film was actually supposed to be made in color but at the last moment it was decided to be done in black and white. The detail, the dynamic ranges of gray is stunning. It is hands down one of the best black and white films I’ve seen so far. From the 20’s through 60’s many black and white films have issues with focus or saturation or contrast; not this film. I learned that when telling a story that is about the ride more than the ugly lesson the details matter A LOT. I kept getting lost in the scene where George and Nick are out by the tree talking. The tree is the star of that scene, you can see the details so vividly, the swing so perfect. This is all about making you remember that while the story was moving forward the details of the world help tell the story just as much as the characters do. Too often we go straight for the goal of what we want. We stop telling a story, we want to take a shortcut to the end and get what we want. We leave out the romance and the only way to create lasting relationships is to build up the romance and that’s found in the details. It shows we give a shit about our customers.

2) This movie is all about the verbal bantering, of course it’s no where near playful but the exchanges fly by so fast you better pay attention. You can’t help but keep watching awaiting the next dig, a tribute gingerly offered followed by a slanderous slap across the face. While we should ignore the malice intent, the verbal exchanges are something we should learn from. This skill is something that should be practiced, in business. We rarely find customers who are exactly like us, we must be well-versed in all forms of communication. Bantering is truly a skill that must be exercised regularly to use it effectively in the heat of the moment. It helps you stay quick on your feet, forces you to be educated on a wide range of topics and equips you to articulate yourself in a way that is uncomfortable but quickly becomes second-nature. Whether we are dealing with customers, prospects, or vendors it is imperative that we know how to execute our words just as much as we want to make a deal. It’s not always easy but whenever we can put someone else at ease it will always help us get closer to achieving what we want.

3) This movie isn’t an exciting location movie, it primarily resides in three locations for the entire movie but it is the details that keeps it interesting. That’s why details matter, when we have something boring or less flashy to show or explain we must dig into the details of the story to help sell. People don’t want to hear features they want your story to become their own. In storytelling, when we bridge to the story instead of hearing it is when transference is made. The story becomes our story, we connect with the characters, we want to be the characters or want to avoid some of them. When we own the story is when we buy into the idea until then we’re only selling features. People have often said that my job is just sitting down with clients and talking and for the most part that is true. When I sit with clients it is the details that begin enchanting. When language changes from you and us to we things start changing. When what could be turns to what will be clients feel at ease. I heard this saying once that we buy for only two reasons: to be happy or to solve a problem. When we can do both for a client that is a relationship that will last a long time. That is a relationship clients are willing to pay extra for.

This movie was a real eye-opener for me, I really enjoyed it and couldn’t believe that was done in black and white in 1968, relatively late in the game but well worth the effort. Obviously you should see it, whether you have or not let’s discuss!!

On Perspective: The Messy Ramblings

It’s funny how certain things in life forces perspective to thrive in our quiet moments. When the work day is over, the house is still, the TV plays in the background, or music squawks throughout the room; it entices your thoughts away from the daily routine. I’ve always been obsessed with how the human mind works. How we organize thoughts, information, emotion, and circumstance. It’s amazing to me how when the quiet moments arrive, it’s often a presence in the room that allows the speed of thoughts to slow down.

For me my thoughts are constantly flying and filing the days results and figuring out a way to do a better job tomorrow. When perspective arrives though, it stalls and interrupts the process enabling me to stop and to consider the deeper aspect of my actions and choices. It’s weird how we will ignore the critical thought process that we should be applying to the tougher, deeper decisions in our lives. We will put up wall after wall to block us from truly immersing ourselves into the depths of how the choices we make or are made for us will and are affecting us. I am horrible at this, I fill my day with plenty of work, both professional and personal, just so that I am in a deficit of time. I will choose inaction (which is a choice and an action in itself) just so that I can say I have not had the time nor the resources to make a sound decision. I will request more time to consider my options even though I’ve made my decision long before my procrastination.

I love that saying that when you flip a coin it forces you to choose, you can’t wait forever with inaction, you’re propelled to choose. We call it our gut, our instinct, our intuition; it’s a calculated choice made from our current circumstance whether we believe to acknowledge it or not. It’s amazing how fast our minds work, we apply all forms of critical thinking, information gathering and sorting to derive a final choice. The choice is often made long before we utter it from our lips. We waffle on whether our choice is right, whether we came to that conclusion soundly or if we have enough information to move forward with that option.

I believe everyone is endowed with the capability to make the necessary choices when put into any circumstance. It’s whether they have the wisdom to know if their choice is the right one for the moment. Too often we confuse knowledge and the collection of information as a choice. In it’s entirety information will lead to a conclusion but it is wisdom and critical thinking that will determine whether our choice is the best one.

When speaking of perspective I will look at my options and it isn’t until an inconsequential event causes me to rethink and recalculate my unknown decisions. My recalculation is rooted in a preliminary decision. We choose to ignore that we had come to a decision long ago, before perspective arrived to upheave our predetermined choices, and placed them in our gut. Perspective enables us to reevaluate the validity of our decisions and to weigh them against our current collection of morality, law, belief, and circumstance. It allows us to truly immerse ourselves into the situation or choice and to play the proverbial chess master role-playing every decision before we come to a conclusion that we are comfortable with. It’s interesting that perspective seems to provide clarity but more often it gives us the freedom to come to terms with a previously elected decision that is within the parameters of our current worldview.

What do you think?