This is a guest post from Kevin Coupe, one of the authors of The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies. I found it a fascinating book, interesting and fun.
The core premise of The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies is that sometimes we all need a metaphor or a narrative as we make decisions that shape our lives, whether they have to do with business, personal finance, or even individual behavior. It really has to do with the ability to tell a story – sometimes to the people we work with, sometimes to our customers or business partners…and sometimes even to ourselves. We’ve all had moments of recognition when watching a movie or television show, or reading a novel, when we recognized a situation or some element of our own personalities – and for a moment, at least, there was just a little bit more light.
Some people, of course, learn from such moments and use this light to illuminate and inform their own decisions and behavior. Others do not, often because they are in some level of denial and prefer that the light now be shone in that particular direction. Sometimes the darkness can be comforting.
In writing The Big Picture, we chose stories from a wide variety of movies as our central metaphors because we believe they serve as a common language – a common mythology – that many people can recognize and share. Let me give you an example…in this case, about the notion of denial, which gets a lot of people into trouble in their own personal finances.
“Jaws” is one of the best thrillers ever made, but it also serves up numerous examples of people who prefer not to deal with reality…a preference that gets them into more trouble with every passing minute.
“I don’t think either one of you are aware of our problems,” Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) says to Chief of Police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) at one point in the movie. “I’m only trying to say that Amity is a summer town. We need summer dollars. Now, if the people can’t swim here, they’ll be glad to swim at the beaches of Cape Cod, the Hamptons, Long Island…”
Sure, Amity needed summer dollars. But what Vaughn ignored was the fact that the town also needed tourists that weren’t worried about being torn limb from limb.
But that’s only one example. Quint, the great shark hunter played to crusty perfection by Robert Shaw, continues to chase the enormous great white shark with a small boat and just two crewmen, and actually was willing to go after the shark himself. That’s world-class denial.
Hooper, the oceanic expert with a passion for sharks, shows a sense of denial several times when he gets into the water with the shark. Sure, he’s getting into an anti-shark cage, but the evidence is pretty strong that it isn’t going to be nearly “anti” enough.