Put Yourself In The Movie

102688138978725_a-1bfce7c6_kLeZVA_pmI read Vanity Fair on the airplane this week and was surprised to find myself inspired by Graydon Carter’s letter from the editor about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his battle with Hachette over e-books and contemporary publishing.

The whole letter (and article) is worth a read, but I liked this “corny but effective device” Mr. Carter has “used for years in any number of personal and professional situations”:

Put yourself in the movie. That is to say, are you doing the right thing? Or are you just doing the right thing for you? Are you Lionel Barrymore playing wise old Mr. Vanderhof in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It with You? Or are you Lionel Barrymore playing miserly Mr. Potter in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life? In short, when was the last time you went to the movies and rooted for the fellow at the big corporation who is trying to crush the little guy who has a single shop around the corner?

For those of you who don’t get the Lionel Barrymore references…

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Vanderhof was all about living life to its fullest and pursuing things that fulfill you (oh so Millennial in 1938 no less). Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter was about owning the world (or Pottersville at least) and protecting his riches.

That aside, I found the idea of imagining yourself in a movie as you consider the choices you make for yourself fascinating. Who do you want to be? The hero or the villain? Or consider Sliding Doors (love it or hate it); which plot line do you direct yourself in?

When it comes to the Barrymore movies, it’s a long term view. It’s a decision about how you want to live your life. Do you value the richness of money or the richness of a life well lived?

In the short-term, I see the movie device as an effective and kind of fun tool to help you determine the role you want to play in your friends’ lives, your family’s lives and your co-worker’s lives. Give it a try.

As for how you want to live your own life, the 40-something (+) women I talk to believe money has a diminishing rate of return on happiness when you don’t have love and fulfillment in your life. It can be a tough balance in today’s economy, so I don’t mean to diminish the importance of money.  As one divorced 40-something Mom from Detroit told me, “Always be sure that you can pay your bills on your own. After that don’t get so tied to a lifestyle that you’re afraid to leave a life you don’t love.”

My two favorite quotes from It’s A Wonderful Life reflect this balance.

The first is when the angel Clarence tells Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey (who is in a crisis of believing he would be better off dead), that he can’t give him money because they don’t have money in Heaven. George replies, “Well it sure comes in handy down here Bub.”

It’s a favorite line in part because Jimmy Stewart’s delivery when he calls Clarence “Bub” always makes me laugh…and in part because it’s true. We do need money. It’s handy for sure so don’t be stupid with it.

The second line is at the end when George’s brother, the returning war hero for whom George sacrificed his dreams to run the family business, toasts George as “the richest man in town.” It then cuts to a message from Clarence, “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.”

The point for me of It’s a Wonderful Life is that sometimes in your darkest moments, you don’t realize the riches that you do have. Appreciating what you have vs what you don’t have (or what you may lose) is the true turning point of growing up. Envision your movie and all the people that have a role in it. Don’t be afraid to lean on them for support.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Clarence


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