The Morgan Freeman Guide to Getting a Job in Corporate America
Some birds aren’t meant to be caged
All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today’s clip comes from the final scene in Shawshank Redemption:
Some birds aren’t meant to be caged. I’ve spent most of my adult life hiring myself. As a freelancer, I’ve created a variety of projects including musical albums, concerts, books, articles, manifestos, speeches, corporate training materials, corporate culture artifacts, consulting programs, public seminars, web applications, video projects, murals, course curriculums and now a documentary. But a handful of times over the years, I’ve also sought out traditional employment opportunities. As in, working for somebody else. Either to supplement my income, experiment with different career combinations or open myself to the possibility that I was missing out on something. And so, I would submit job applications and go on interviews and wear a suit and tell my fascinating story about making a career out of wearing a nametag, and people would look at me like I was crazy. Like there must have been some kind of mistake. I remember one human resources manager in particular. After presenting a few of my books and past client projects, she looked up from her desk and said, um, I want to work for your company. That should have been my first indicator. Another time I received an email response from the hiring director at a large advertising agency. She asked why on earth I was looking to apply internally for a permanent position. Looks like you already have a great thing going for you, she said. And that was the last I ever heard from her. Red was right. Some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. As romantic as it is to believe that everybody would love you if they only knew the true richness of your offering, some people just aren’t ready to see that yet. What is preventing you from living out your full self in the world?
What you’re good at, you’re bad at. Being unemployable isn’t always a function of your weakness. Sometimes it’s your strengths that kill you. I always thought it would be my obsessive compulsive, anal retentive, conflict avoidant, control freak tendencies that would keep me from getting landing a gig. Not always the case. In fact, what worked to my disadvantage was the very asset I worked so hard to build. My brand. Apparently what intimidated people was my inspiring history. My optimistic vision. Because I would show up explaining that I’d come to positively infect everyone around me. That I was here fashion new arrows, raise the target, change entire field upon which the target rests and redefine what it means to hit it. And deep down, that scared people. Because most companies don’t need a creative visionary. They need somebody to fill a hole. To check a box. To follow a map. I remember one rejection letter that said bringing in someone with a personality and a platform as big as mine didn’t make sense for a company like theirs. According to the talent manager, it was good for their clients to see that their firm had interesting people doing interesting things, but not that interesting. Turns out, the more interesting you are, the more complicated you are; and the more complicated you are, the more expensive you are. That’s just more hassle for the boss. And so, your strengths are frequently your weaknesses. What you’re good at, you’re bad at. What superpower is affecting your ability to be taken seriously?
A confused mind never buys. It’s never been easier or more popular to be yourself. The challenge is, uniqueness is a binary construct. The idiosyncratic part of us wants to be different and stand out and let the colors of our craziness bubble to the surface so our freak flag can fly high. And if people don’t get the joke, they’re dead to us. But the pragmatic part of us needs to be mindful. Because if our goal is to get through to people, we don’t want them to see us as terminally unique. Different is good, but we don’t want to be so impossible to classify that people drop the mental ball. I’ve been guilty of that many times. I’ll be at a meeting or on a conference call or an interview, and I’ll work so hard to make a meaningful impression on others, that I wind up crafting a personality that’s intellectually overwhelming for people. Woops. The point is, it’s never easy to let our edges show. We all want to belong. We’re all searching for people and places that embrace the weirdness we have to offer. But when it comes down to our individual interactions, high stakes moments when we’re sitting across the table from a person we’re trying to influence, we can’t neglect their cognitive wiring. Because a confused mind never buys. There’s a fine line between purpose driven human uniqueness and a patchwork of weirdness. We need to be weird, but not so weird that nobody knows what to do with us. Are you unconventional in the right direction, or are you so far out of the box that there’s nothing left for people to lean against?
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What did you learn from this movie clip?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
Never the same speech twice. Customized for your audience. Impossible to walk away uninspired.
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