Published on: December 11, 2012by Michael Sansolo
In case you’re looking for the perfect gift for me this year, here’s the one at the top of my list: a Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. Really, it’s all I want.
Now the odds are you fall into one of two groups at the moment. One is thinking I’ve lost my mind—a 57-year-old man writing a blog about wanting a BB-gun and thinking there’s a business lesson in that.
The other group is giggling. Those are my peeps.
You see the gun I want is the object of desire in my favorite holiday movie of all time: A Christmas Story. If you’ve never seen it, just wait until Christmas Eve, when it is usually aired for 24 straight hours on cable. Watch it once and you’ll be hooked. Watch it like me and you’ll trade random lines with perfect strangers in the oddest of circumstances.
But one thing we always argue here at MNB is that business can find lessons in everything, especially movies. (Maybe you've heard. Kevin and I wrote this book...)
And for that reason alone, you need to watch A Christmas Story.
Without disclosing too much of the plot, the story basically follows the travails of Ralphie Parker, a young boy who wants nothing more for Christmas than the aforementioned BB-gun. From there, the mayhem ensues. Ralphie tries endless methods to convince his mother that the gun is the perfect gift, from the subtle to the downright obvious. And each time, he fails, thanks to his mother’s immediate and final reaction: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Yet Ralphie is never stopped. If nagging his parents won’t work, he’ll try other avenues from a school-assigned theme to the department store Santa. Defeated again and again, Ralphie refuses to give up.
Incredibly, the movie itself mirrors Ralphie’s quest. When A Christmas Story was first released in 1983 it barely registered a ripple. Though it stayed in theaters for the entire holiday season it never found a significant audience and it gathered mostly mixed reviews. It wasn’t until the movie moved to television that it became a hit, financially and critically. These days it’s not only a holiday darling, but is actually ranked as one of the best holiday films ever.
So the story is really all about perseverance. It’s about finding a way when every possible path seems blocked; certainly a theme that many businesses and people in business can understand. What Ralphie’s mindless optimism and relentless effort reminds us is that we fail far more often than we succeed and our success rarely comes in the form or on the path we planned.
It comes from improvisation, flexibility and dedication to the task at hand. And maybe it also comes from finding a way to enjoy the journey, even when it isn’t going so well…and trust me, in A Christmas Story, nothing goes as planned.
(The movie also has other great lessons like the importance of not doing something really, really dumb, even when others pressure you. Here’s a free warning: do not lick a frozen flagpole.)
Most of all, it reminds us to laugh, which is an especially important task in the tough times we’ve been stuck with for years.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
- KC's View:
Michael and I agree on a lot of stuff, but we part company when it comes to judging best holiday movies. For me, there's no better Christmas flick than Love Actually - it is a holiday movie for adults that moves effortlessly from drama to comedy, taking advantage of a great cast and a fabulous soundtrack, including one of the great all-time Christmas carols, "Christmas Is All Around," sung by the incomparable Billy Mack.
The interesting thing is that there are some parallels between the two movies. I was reading a piece the other day about how Love Actually also was not a big success when it first came out, but has evolved over time into a holiday classic because of cable TV and DVD sales.
Again, a good lesson ... that perseverance often pays off, and that the journey doesn't always take the expected path. And that's okay.