The Movies

William Holden to a forgotten film star, “You used to be big.”  Her reply, “I am big … it’s the pictures that got small.” – Gloria Swanson, “Sunset Boulevard”  

I watched some of the Academy Awards for 2020. I have always loved movies. My first regular job with a paycheck was ushering. I was the Chief Usher at the Community Theater in Morristown New Jersey. It might have helped that my older brother, Mike, was the Theater Manager. The first movie I saw also stared William Holden. It was “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Holden plays the reluctant hero who returns to the prison camp he escaped from. And he winds up getting cut down in a hail of bullets trying to stop Alec Guinness from saving the bridge they were building as prisoners for the Japanese. How do I remember this stuff? As an usher I saw the movie 28 times!  

Out movies reflect our culture. They mirror the current zeitgeist. Two starkly different examples: “It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood”, and “The Joker.”

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers does a masterful job of portraying the compassionate and empathic Mr. Rogers who brings entertainment and support to children. He winds up helping an investigative journalist who was looking to “expose him as someone too good to be true” and ends up being transformed by Mr. Rogers’ genuine human caring and connection. Mr. Rogers loves people and they return the love.    

Joaquin Phoenix is The Joker. He seeks love and connection in a dystopian society, Gotham City. The Joker has a job as a clown working in a children’s hospital. Like Mr. Rogers, he also wants to bring these children joy and compassion. The similarities stop there. A gun slips out of the Joker’s costume in the children’s ward. The Joker is psychotic, and Joaquin Phoenix does a brilliant job of showing how thin the line is between ‘control’ and ‘chaos’. The Joker’s environment is impoverished and dangerous. No one cares for him.

Why is it important to go to the movies? We learn about who we are as a society. Movies do reflect our culture. They use art to tell us how to behave without lecturing to us. They make us laugh; they make us cry. They show us our heroes and they show us our villains. And hopefully, we chose to model the good guys.

How’s Your Life Going So Far?

Every now and then, it’s good to pause, reflect on your life to date.”  Prof. Lynn 

According to Erik Erikson*, there are eight psychosocial stages of development. There is an increasing body of research that suggests the process of reviewing your life experiences is helpful in many ways. Your consciousness is raised. You can resolve past conflicts. Reflecting can add meaning to your life, and it can help lessen depression and anxiety. All good reasons to examine your life so far. I’m going to focus on the last three stages. They are the ones most of you are in. First you have to know how old you are, that determines your stage (see chart below). Then answer the questions for where you are currently.

If you are 21-39  a Millennial – Answer these questions:
Did you get married? How is your marriage doing?  

Any kids? What’s your relationship with your children over the years?

Who else are you close to? Do you have intimate friends you can share feelings with?   

If you are 40-59 a Generation X – Answer these questions:

Describe your career. What have you been doing in your 30s, 40s, and 50s?  

Have you had to deal with loss? How are you doing now? What have you learned?

Are you making a difference or just plugging along? 

If you are a 60+  a Boomer – Answer these questions:

What would you still like to accomplish with your life? 

What makes you happy now?

Overall, what kind of a life do you think you have had? 

* Erik Erikson, Identity and the Life Cycle, 1959.

Why is it important to reminisce? To review your life now and then? Living well in the present is helped by not carrying around baggage from your past, and this process of reflecting on the core issues for your age can help you integrate your feelings and as a result, you’ll be healthier and happier. For millennials the issue is, have you developed the capacity to be intimate or are you isolated? For the gen Xers, the issue is are you growing and producing, being productive, or are you stagnating, wasting away in a meaningless job? And for the boomers, are you authentic, sharing your wisdom, or are you despairing for having wasted your life? This is a great time to review your life. It’s never too late to make changes.


“Which road should I take?”  In reply, the cat says: “Where are you going?”  To that, Alice says: “I don’t know.” “Then it doesn’t matter which road you take.”  The Cheshire Cat

Don’t be like Alice. Live your life on purpose. And to do that, you need a plan. As we enter a new year and a new decade, I thought it would be good to share my annual life planning form. The six categories are my own personal preference. You might choose others. The important thing is to think about what really matters to you and write down your goals for 2020. See the template I use below. I keep it to one page. Simple and effective. 

My Life Plan for 2020           What matters?                    Date:

Purpose/Calling              Work Goals                            Personal Goals
What’s important?            What do you want to do?        Any fun, educational goals?
Values/Why                     Relationship Goals                Financial Goals
Your top 3 or 4                  Friends and groups                 Income – reducing debt

Why is it important to have an annual life plan? We need to have a purpose, to have meaning in our lives. And writing down your plan for the year is one way to help you. And, by having it in writing, you can reflect on it periodically during the year. For those who are living a chaotic life, this is a great way to get some organization and control into your life. Happy New Year!

A Way to Think About Time

Learn from the past, live in the present, and create a compelling future.”  NLP saying

We all have a timeline.  Where we were born, grew up, went to school, and then work.  And we have a story about our life.  Think about your timeline and the significant events you had on it.  The problem lies in the fact that for many of us we get stuck or spend way too much time either thinking about the past or worrying about some event in the future.  And some unfortunates do both. 
If you want to be sad, spend time dwelling on past events and grievances, bad things that happened to you.  If you enjoy a little anxiety, worry about future events, all the things that could go wrong and how it will affect you.  If you want to be healthy and happier, more resilient, develop this belief about time …” learn from the past, live in the present, and create a compelling future for yourself”.   
The best thing you can do about the past is learn from it.  After Action Reports are a great tool for processing events in the past.  The three report questions, “What happened?”  What did you learn from it? And, “What will you do differently?”  Creative people make many mistakes, and they learn from each one.  Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed, just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”  The best thing you can do about the past challenges is to learn from them. 
And, as for the future, create a compelling one for yourself.  Much better than worrying about things that haven’t happened.  There is a reason why Zebra’s don’t have ulcers.  There is even a great book by that title, I recommend it. 

So, it’s best to live in the present.  How do you do it?  A favorite remedy of mine, during the day, I do a number of one-minute meditations.  I take three normal breadths, then three deep breaths, and then three normal breaths.  Do that twice and in a minute, you can change your state.  I have lowered my blood pressure and increased blood oxygen level by doing this simple relaxation technique.  Focusing on your breathing is a good way to be present, aware. 

Living in the present is a healthy way to go through life.

Why is it important to go through life in the present?  There are many reasons why it’s healthy and better for you to live in the present.  When you think about it, that’s where we are, moment by moment.  Being aware of that, savoring each moment and not worrying about things that happened to you long ago or worrying about things that might happen in the future, you free your mind and body to experience each moment.  As Mary Oliver asks us in “The Summer Day”, ‘Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”’

In God We Trust

Sayings are a particularly effective way to market and get your message across. I was watching a Pinkcast recently and Dan Pink reminded me of the power of rhyming your message to help make it stick in the minds of your customers. And then rhyming got me thinking about a similar technique. About the way I use quotes in many of my trainings. Sayings, short pithy expressions, serve the same purpose as a rhyme. They help us make a point and remember it. The “In God we trust” saying is a powerful way to communicate the importance of measures, facts, and being accountable for results with actual data.

I use aphorisms with clients is to give them memorable short quotes that reinforce a teaching point. These sayings have a way of sticking in your memory. I often run into former students I have trained and not seen for years and they remind me of one of their favorites. See the table below: 

They would see me and smile and say, “Put the candle … back!” Of course, I’m pleased to see my former students, and even happier to see that they remember some key ideas and are using them in their everyday life. That’s the power of a good quote.

The leadership example with Dr. Frankenstein instructing his comely assistant, Inga, appears below: 

“Put the candle … back …”  From the movie, Young Frankenstein

Why is it important to know about the power of sayings? It’s probably not that important, but it is good to know why you can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday, but when you realize you are not being clear in giving someone direction, you can remember to tell them metaphorically “put the candle back.” What’s a favorite saying of yours?