Four Movie Quotes with Lessons for Writers and Storytellers

The ideas and themes in cinema—being part of the global collective knowledge base—contains a number of truths that you can apply to your role as a business leader or entrepreneur, regardless of where you are in your career.

Note: This article was originally written for marketing professionals and entrepreneurs. Given the fact that the market has changed, and being an independent author means marketing yourself as a brand (and business), the information easily translates to the literature — and screenwriting — worlds.

Calling on the wisdom of those who experienced adversity before is almost always a wise decision, even if you disagree with what they have to say. The point is to analyze their knowledge to discover how you can incorporate (or eliminate) those ideas from your life, and ultimately, make better business decisions.

For your consideration, here are four mentally stimulating movie quotes with lessons that apply your personal and business life:

“If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” – Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men

In No Country for Old Men, this quote was spoken by bounty hunter Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) moments before killing rival hunter Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson). Wells bargains for his life by attempting to convince Chigurh that his methods were too brutal for… well, humanity. Chigurh—who views himself as a force of nature—points out that the “rules” that Wells followed ultimately led to his death.

It’s a thought-provoking notion, one we can apply to our own lives—without killing anyway, that is.

We often engage in dangerous thought cycles, repeating the same mistakes over and over to avoid moving beyond our comfort zone. It takes a bit of objectivity to break this pattern, to realize that the “rules” we’ve established to govern our personal and/or business decisions may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.

For example, if your marketing campaigns are continually producing lackluster results, or your business decisions keep ending in complete catastrophe, it may be time to take a step back and analyze the “rules” you employ to make business decisions.

The consumer market is a force of nature; it’s always changing. You must remain fluid and be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. If an object crashes into a concrete wall at a fast enough velocity, the wall crumbles. But what if the wall were made of rubber? It would instead bend and flex, absorbing the energy before reflecting it in a near equal reaction—thus, returning to a state of normalcy. You don’t have to completely compromise your core values and ideas, but you must be able to adapt to an ever-evolving marketplace.

“We can’t retract the decisions we’ve made. We can only affect the decisions we’re going to make from here.” – Nick Rice, Law Abiding Citizen

We are all subject to the effects of the eternal pendulum, swinging between cycles of success and failure, and as a society, we’ve been conditioned to fear the latter. However, “failure” is one of the most important tools we have to encourage internal growth. “Failure” provides us with an opportunity to critically analyze what went wrong and determine how to adapt in the future. The next time you experience failure, instead of shutting down, meditate and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What did I learn from this experience?
  2. How will I react in future similar situations?
  3. What did I gain from this experience?

Some may have a hard time stomaching the third question, as those experience what they perceived to be an abject failure tends to focus what they’ve lost. There’s always something to gain from any experience, however, whether it’s the acquisition knowledge or motivation to push forward and succeed. Those who truly understand the relationship between success and failure will find the pendulum swing easier to bear.

“If you want to be understood—listen.” – Tagline for the movie Babel

One of the most detrimental ways you can react to advice or help is to say, “I already know this.” Whether you possess the knowledge or not, simply listen. The individual may be trying to connect with you on a deeper level, and claiming that the ideas they want to share is essentially useless is not only insulting, but may also prevent you from learning something new. Unless you can read the future, you cannot possibly know how the conversation will end and you’re bound to learn something new by the conclusion of the exchange.

A much better strategy is acknowledging the advice, offering examples of how you’ve incorporated that wisdom into your life. Sharing how that knowledge helped or harmed you in specific instances will enrich the conversation and ensure that you come across as genuine instead of elitist.

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’” Yoda, Star Wars

There’s great wisdom in this iconic line from our backwards-speaking Jedi master. The word “try” insinuates an expectation of failure—which is a possibility—however, as stated before, failure is nothing more than a misunderstood friend. We should plan and then act, not “try” to act, as we’re then allowing the fear of failure to govern our actions. How can one be bold and charge forward if we’re allowing a hypothetical situation—the consequences of which we tend to over-exaggerate anyway—to paralyze us?

Instead, simply make your plan and “do,” adapting to the aftermath later. This isn’t a call for recklessness. It’s a call to overcome your fears and create the destiny you want for yourself and your business.

While we shouldn’t distill all our life experiences down to a single quip, it’s always good to arm ourselves with a few inspirational quotes to wield against fearsome times. Just remember to stay positive, driven and use objectivity to make decisions.