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.