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Business/Life Lessons From Cameron Crowe Movies
Say Everything: More Life Lesson Than Business Lesson

Posted by Charlie Recksieck on 2020-07-09
You know a writer and film director of the past 30 years who doesn't get mentioned as much as he should? To me, Cameron Crowe is on that short list. He started in rock (Almost Famous was mostly his true story) with Rolling Stone magazine, wrote Fast Times At Ridgemont High and was on his way to one of the most quotable film careers ever.

In these lightweight "movie business lessons" posts I like to write, I normally really try to extrapolate legitimate things you can do at work to put them into the place. With Cameron Crowe movies, they're usually like modern-day Capra films, featuring cockeyed optimists with real-world obstacles. As such, most of the lessons are on the spiritual or inspirational side. I don't think inspiration is a bad idea right now.

But hey, enough of my yakking. Whaddya say? Let's boogie!

Vanilla Sky

Sofia: Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.
Crowe has lines or characters with this sentiment in the majority of his movies and every year older I get, I appreciate the optimism more. In a business sense, if your business has a pulse then you're in the game.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Damone: Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?
The forever-selling ticket broker puts on a master class in how to sell. If you need to put on the hard sell, do yourself a favor and channel Mike Damone.

Mr. Hand: What are you people? On dope?
Ever wanted to say this to folks in a meeting? Don't say it out loud but it's ok to think it.

Jeff Spicoli: All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.
Jeff Spicoli: "If I'm here, and you're here, doesn't that make it our time? Certainly, there's nothing wrong with a little feast on our time!"

It's a little sad that two of the most Zen characters in film history (Spicoli and The Dude in The Big Lebowski) are perpetually high. But if you want to be happy, enjoy the small things.


Claire: Trust me. Everybody is less mysterious than they think they are.
There was a tremendous New Yorker cartoon I remember years ago titled "If This Ol' Guitar Could Talk ..." and was just a guitar with a thought bubble saying, "Duh." Still waters usually do NOT run deep.

Claire: Do you ever just think I’m fooling everybody?
Drew: You have no idea.

Everybody is faking it to some degree or another professionally. You can use that info two ways: Relax when it comes to your own behavior, and realize that’s also what a lot of other people are thinking at that moment (and give them a break, too).

Almost Famous

Lester Bangs: But you will get free records from the record company. And they’ll buy you drinks, you’ll meet girls, they’ll try to fly you places for free, offer you drugs... I know. It sounds great. But they are not your friends
If a business is offering you something that seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Or if a colleague or client is throwing a lot of perks your way, it's not to be nice.

William: I need to get home
Penny: You ARE home

You might have business (or personal) goals that you're trying to work towards. But you if you started a business or took a job to fulfill a passion then THAT'S its own reward, not some magical finish line that may or may not ever come.

Dennis Hope: If you think Mick Jagger will be out there trying to be a rock star at age 50, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.
This was everybody's conventional wisdom in 1973, including Mick Jagger's himself. As is a theme with Cameron Crowe movies, heroes are usually on the opposing side of conventional wisdom.


Debbie: Desperation: it’s the world’s worst cologne.
Did you ever have an interview for a job that you didn't really want and then ended up killing it in the interview? Karma works like this. Or as they say in Vegas, "Scared money never wins."

David: Tonight I’ll be the super me.
Steve: What if the super you meets the super her and the super her rejects the super you?
David: Then it’s no problem.
Steve: Uh-huh. Why?
David: Because it was never you, it was just an act. I live my life like a French movie, Steve.

That's a Mobius Strip of logic. But a facile lesson from this quote would be "Fake it til you make it."


Carson: The future isn’t just something that happens. It’s a brutal force with a great sense of humor that will steamroll you if you’re not watching.
Yes, movies do celebrate the renegade, rebellious outsider. And we should all follow our bliss to some extent professionally. But not at the expense of logic. Business (and life) can kick your ass at any point. So you need your heart AND your head in pretty equal measures.

Say Anything

Lloyd: I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.
This concept used to seem more outlandish in 1989. Things have changed. You can have a full career somehow now without touching a good or service.

Diane: Nobody really thinks it will work, do they?
Lloyd: No. You just described every great success story.

Yet again here in this article. The most memorable things almost all happened by beating the odds.

Lloyd: The rain on my car is a baptism, the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now.
For those of you who need a good pep-talk in the mirror.

Lloyd: You must chill. You must chill.
Great advice. Re business: As Michael says in The Godfather, "It's not personal, it's strictly business."

Lloyd: Why can't you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?
To some extent, being in a good mood really is under one's control.

Lloyd: I am looking for a dare to be great situation.
We all work for the paycheck ultimately. But if you're in a work situation with passion too, consider yourself luck.

We Bought A Zoo

Kelly: The key to talking is listening.
Best advice that I need to remind myself. If you're just trying to prepare what you're about to say in a conversation while the other person is talking, you're not truly having a conversation at all.

Jerry Maguire

Rod: Show me the money!
Iconic. Right up there with Mad Men's Don Draper's "That's what the money is for line", we work for the money.

Bob Sugar: It's not show friends, it's show business
The slightly more cynical version of "Show me the money" but just as true. You're a professional, you do it for the money. Tell yourself that after a long, bad day - they pay you because it's not always fun. That's kind of liberating.

Jerry: I’ll tell you why you don’t have your $ million. You play for the money. You play with your head, not your heart. When you get on the field, it’s all about what you didn’t get. Who’s to blame. Who’s got the contract you didn’t get. That is not what inspires people! Shut up! Play the game from your heart. Then I’ll show you the kwan. And that’s the truth!
Any time you can prove your worth "on the field" in business, do it. Then the money will come.

Rod: Anyone else would have left you by now, but I’m sticking with you. And if I have to ride your ass like Zorro, you’re gonna show me the money
Dicky Fox: The key to this business is personal relationships.

Absolutely. Work isn't all just skill and talent. Maybe as much as 50% of a successful career is about loyalty and connections.

Dorothy: I was inspired, and I’m an accountant.
Not only is Dorothy the female lead and Jerry's love interest, but her role is key to appreciate Jerry's recently-expressed optimism and validate it even when Jerry's ready to backslide. So many of us can be bold for a short period of time, but with a Dorothy or second person in your corner, you can be bold for the rest of your life.

Jerry: Help me help you
See my blog post from a couple weeks ago

Jerry: I was 35. I had started my life.
A beloved former colleague named Walt used to ask everybody "What they want to do when they grow up?" even if they were 60. Everybody has unembarked-on plans and passions waiting to be activated.

Dicky Fox: If [the heart] is empty, [the head] doesn’t matter.
It's kind of the theme of every movie here that Cameron Crowe directed. Yes, as I said before, don't neglect the head. But I would imagine that a disengaged genius rarely does genius work.

Dorothy: First class, that’s what’s wrong. It used to be a better meal, now it’s a better life.
Rack up those miles. And take our advice: Be nice to airline people and never be afraid to ask nicely for an upgrade.

Rod: Because it’s not just the money I deserve. It’s not just the "coin." It’s the... - "the kwan".
Jerry: That’s your word?
Rod: Yeah, man, it means love, respect, community... and the dollars too. The package. The kwan.

For years while playing music, we got too used to being expected to play for peanuts just because other bands were willing to. We always really loved getting good paychecks; not so much for the little extra money split four ways but for the appreciation, the respect, the kwan.

Dicky Fox: Hey, I don’t have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.
This quote finishes the movie and finishes our article. A fine goal for all of us.