Believe what you’re selling?

The movie “Hitch” highlights the importance of believing in what you do.

Hitch, starring Will Smith, who plays Alex Hitchens, or “Hitch,” known as the “date doctor,” and Eva Mendes as Sara Melas, is a great movie, especially if you like romantic comedies.

Hitch basically helps guys get dates. Sara is a gossip columnist for an NYC tabloid. Despite both having been hurt in relationships, they begin a relationship with one another. But things get difficult when their work collides and brings their relationship to an end.

We watched the movie a a good while back, but the movie has a lot of good scenes and lessons. One scene toward the end of the movie especially has a great lesson for leaders. Do we believe what we’re “selling” or, has our job simply become, well, our job? Do we truly love God and love people or, has loving/leading people simply become a product we sell?

This particular scene involves Hitch and Albert (Kevin James), one of Hitch’s clients. Albert’s relationship with Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta) gets destroyed because of Sara’s work as a gossip columnist when she discovers that Hitch is the “date doctor.” She think she’s discovered evil motives behind his work.

The following scene/transcript begins when Albert enters Hitch’s apartment with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Here’s the transcript:

Hitch: What you got there?

Albert: This? (box of doughnuts) I figured maybe if my heart stops beating, it wouldn’t hurt so much.

[…]

Albert: I want you to fix it.

Hitch: I got nothing, Albert. Hey, you wanna do something? We should get out tonight.

Albert: Honestly, I never knew I could feel like this. I swear I’m going out of my mind. I wanna throw myself off of every building in New York. I see a cab and I wanna dive in front of it, because then I’ll stop thinking about her.

Hitch: Look, you will. Just give it time.

Albert: That’s just it. I don’t want to. I’ve waited my whole life to feel this miserable. If this is the only way I can stay connected with her then this is who I have to be.

Hitch: No, you don’t. You can change, you can adapt. You can make it so you don’t ever have to feel like this. Ever again.

Albert: Oh, my God. You just don’t get it do you?

Hitch: I get it.

Albert: Let me get this straight. You’re selling this stuff, but you don’t believe in your own product.

Hitch: Love is my life.

Albert: No. Love is your job.

Hitch: Hey! You wanna jump out a plane without a chute, be my guest. But forgive me if I don’t join you.

Albert: This isn’t about love for you at all, is it? (Hitch walks away) Yeah, this whole time I thought I was the coward. (Albert turns to walk away)

Hitch: Where you going?

Albert: Skydiving! (Albert storms out)

Have you lost touch with why you do what you do? Has your call to lead simply become a job or a product you sell? Or, do you believe in what you’re doing?

“The Astronaut Farmer” and Creativity

Movie inspires viewers to keep dreaming!

Last week, we watched The Astronaut Farmer. The movie made me think about dreams and creativity.

A few years ago, I read John Maxwell’s Thinking for a Change, which includes a sad survey on the state of our creativity. The survey reveals that as we age, we become less creative. According to the survey, 2% of men/women in their 40s were found to be highly creative. As they continued their study, they also found that 2% of 35-year-olds were highly creative. This proved to be true all the down until they reached 7-year-olds. 10% of them were determined to be highly creative. However, as researchers continued, they discovered that 90% of 5-year-olds were highly creative!

These results cause me to wonder what happens between ages 5 and 7 that causes us to lose our creativity. Maybe Dr. Suess was right, “Adults are obsolete children.” 🙂

The Astronaut Farmer is about a middle-aged man’s dream to go into space. In the process of building a rocket in his barn, he encounters a lot of skepticism and ridicule from small minded people who don’t understand his dream. Charley Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton), when asked by reporter why he was building a rocket and planning to launch said, “It’s always been my dream.”

The movie takes place in a small town. At one point, Farmer’s friend, Arnie, said:

I’m your friend first and a banker second, all right? Now, folks around here, they think you’re crazy. I happen to think you’re a genius. You got bad credit, but you got great character, and uh, that rocket ship of yours is amazing. But as a friend, I have to look you in the eye and say that I think it’s time you give it a rest.

Later, after serving Farmer a 30-day notice of foreclosure on Farmer’s property, Arnie says:

You got 30 days, so you gotta open your eyes. Look at this as a wake-up call, because the dream is over. It’s gotta stop now, before you lose everything.

Because Farmer throws a brick through the banker’s window, he must see another childhood friend, Nurse Goode, for a psychiatric evaluation. She tells him, “The rocket is not going to bring you a happy childhood. We all just have to grow up and just take responsibility.”

These statements remind me of what I heard Ed Young Jr. say at a seminar in early 2006: “Little people with little vision will go after awesome people with awesome vision.”

My favorite quote in the movie comes at the mid-way point. Farmer, standing before the FAA committee to determine whether or not he would be permitted to launch his rocket, said:

You see, when I was a kid, they use to tell me I could be anything I wanted to be. No matter what. And maybe I am insane, I don’t know, but I still believe that. I believe it with all my heart. Somewhere along the line we stopped believing we could do anything. And if we don’t have our dreams, we have nothing.

We must guard our dreams. Bobb Biehl says, “Dreams are like soap bubbles floating close to jagged rocks on a windy day.” Isn’t that a great picture of the fragility of dreams? Guard your dreams. Don’t let anyone cause you to doubt God’s ability to accomplish great things through you!

Creativity is something we’re thinking about as we prepare to be parents. Part of the key, it seems, is simply not killing creativity. Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Movies for Leaders

Lately, I’ve been thinking about good movies for leaders, movies teach, inspire, and challenge leaders to make a difference in the world. Here are some of my favorites …

We also put these movies in the sidebar in a list called “Movies for Leaders.” The list will change as we add movies to the list.

We’re sure there are many other good movies for leaders. To add a suggestion, please click on “comments” and post the name of your recommended movie for leaders. We’ll add them to our personal list of movies to watch, and if we like it, we may add it to the blog list.

“Don’t write me off …”

Song from the movie “Music & Lyrics” makes a good prayer.

Awhile back we watched the movie Music & Lyrics on DVD. It’s a romantic comedy that Joleen, particularly, wanted to watch. At first, it was just an okay movie, but overall, it was a good movie, especially if you like romantic comedies.

Music & Lyrics is about a washed-up 80s pop singer, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), who is given an opportunity to write a song for a top young musician. Unfortunately, he’s only given a couple days to do it. His strength has always been writing music, not lyrics. During the couple of days he meets a writer, Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), who seems to have a knack for composing lyrics. The movie is about the development of their relationship, how music and lyrics go together.

Anyway, toward the end of the movie Alex composes and sings a love song that I think makes a great prayer, especially the ending …

“And now I know I’ve already blown more chances than anyone should ever get. All I’m asking you is don’t write me off just yet, don’t write me off just yet.”

God is constantly at work in us, molding and shaping us into the people he wants us to be. Sometimes we yield and surrender and God is able to form us. Sometimes we resist, and God’s formational work in us gets much harder. Sometimes I just want to say to God: “Don’t write me off just yet!”

“Evan Almighty”

Good movie with a message.

On July 4th, we went to watch Evan Almighty. Though the movie has received mixed reviews and has not done very well at the box office we both enjoyed the movie and thought it was well done. It was a good movie with a good message.

Steve Carell, who play Evan in this sequel to Bruce Almighty, says about the movie in this USA Today article: “It’s about a guy having to make a leap of faith and he hopes others follow suit.” You can read more details about the movie, including the plot, at Wikipedia.

Here were a few things that struck us, in terms of the movie’s message …

Changing the world. The movie sent the message that the way to change the world is through Acts of Random Kindness (ARK).

Framing God’s actions in love. Scripture says, “God is love” (1 John 4.8). Because God is love, all of God’s actions are grounded in love, including his discipline and judgment. This was made clear in the conversation between “God” (Morgan Freeman), and Joan Baxter, Evan’s Wife (Lauren Graham). In this scene, “God,” a server in a restaurant, encounters Joan (Evan’s family was leaving him because they thought he was losing his mind), and tells her, “When someone prays for courage, do you think God gives them courage, or does he give them a moment to be courageous? When someone prays for the family to be closer, does he sprinkle around happiness, or does he give them an opportunity to be closer?” The conversation was meaningful to Joan because, toward the beginning of the movie, she mentioned she had prayed for their family to be closer. The conversation was a turning point for the family who returned to Evan’s side as he continued to build the modern-day ark in the face of increasing media attention and ridicule.

Following God. What do you do when God calls you to do something, especially something that seems out of the ordinary? How do you obey God when you know there’s going to be a high price — the loss of respect, your job, and maybe even your family? Of course, this comedy made the story even more bizarre by making Evan look like what Noah might have looked like millennia ago (i.e. robe, long white hair/beard, etc.), which in Noah’s day, would have looked pretty normal. But it can still be difficult to follow God’s leading sometimes. And this movie forces us to wrestle with that question.

“Freedom Writers”

The amazing story of Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers.

We recently watched the movie, Freedom Writers. The movie is based on a true story, involving, Erin Gruwell, a new 21-year-old high school English teacher, who seeks to be a change agent for a group of Black, Latino, and Asian gang members at Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles, CA, in the early 1990s. The movie is the story of how she did it.

Erin connected with this tough group of kids by listening to them and connecting with them through pop culture and history. Erin went well beyond the call of duty. In fact, because the school system refused to provide adequate resources for this group of students, Erin took on a second and third job in order to provide resources for her students.

Erin didn’t avoid the students’ incredible problems and challenges. She didn’t teach in a vacuum. Rather she connected her teaching to where the kids were. And it worked! She changed the culture for the kids she taught. The turning point in the story occurs when Erin discovers a drawing that’s being passed around the class, a drawing of one of the black students, which Erin uses as a teaching moment …

I saw a picture just like this once, in a museum. Only it wasn’t a black man, it was a jewish man. And instead of the big lips he had a really big nose, like a rat’s nose. But he wasn’t just one particular jewish man. This was a drawing of all jews. And these drawings were put in the newspapers by the most famous gang in history. You think you know all about gangs? You’re amateurs. This gang will put you all to shame. And they started out poor and angry and everybody looked down on them. Until one man decided to give them some pride, an identity… and somebody to blame. You take over neighborhoods? That’s nothing compared to them. They took over countries. You want to know how? They just wiped out everybody else. Yeah, they wiped out everybody they didn’t like and everybody they blamed for their life being hard. And one of the ways they did it was by doing this: see, they print pictures like this in the newspapers, jewish people with big, long noses… blacks with big, fat lips. They’d also published scientific evidence that proved that jews and blacks were the lowest form of human species. Jews and blacks were more like animals. And because they were just like animals it didn’t matter if they lived or died. In fact, life would be a whole lot better if they were all dead. That’s how a holocaust happens.

In the follow-up discussion, Erin discovers no one in the class has ever heard of the Holocaust. Afterward, Erin takes the class on a field trip (over the weekend so as not to interfere with the school’s exam schedule) to the Museum of Tolerance, which turns out to be a life-changing experience.

At the beginning of their second (sophomore) year together, Erin begins with a special activity …

Okay, guys, gals, listen up! This is what I want you to do. I want each of you to step forward and take one of the Borders bags, which contain the four books we’re gonna read this semester. (All right!) They very special books, and they each remind me, in some way, of each of you. But, before you take the books, I want you to take one of these glasses of sparkling cider, and I want each of you to make a toast. We’re each gonna make a toast for change. And what that means is, from this moment on every voice that told you “You can’t” is silenced. Every reason that tells you things will never change, disappears. And the person you were before this moment, that person’s turn is over. Now it’s your turn. Okay? Okay, you ready to get this party going on?

On the director commentary (with the director, Richard LaGravenese, and actor Hillary Swank, who played the role of Erin Gruwell), the director commented …

She made moments, events. She wouldn’t just give out the four books for the sophomore year. She would put them in bags that were special tote bags. She would have cider; she would have this banner; she would make them come up and give a toast, so that they made it a moment that meant something. And she’s a pro at that. She’s a pro at making things special and have some kind of meaning and substance so that they’d last and have an effect. And that’s what Toast for Change was about.

It’s a great lesson for leaders who want to shape the culture! Erin was always coming up with creative games/ways of connecting with the students.

Erin had her students read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (as well as other similar books). Afterward, Erin asked her students to write letters to Meip Gies, the woman who housed/protected Anne Frank during the Holocaust. The students came up with the idea of bringing Gies to Long Beach, CA to speak to the class (a much bigger undertaking than Erin had intended). One of the students, Marcus, wrote about the experience, “Ms. G sent our letters all the way to Amsterdam to Meip Gies, herself. When Ms. G made up her mind about something, there was no stopping her, man, for real.”

During the class’ time with Meip Gies, Gies responded to Marcus’ statement about her being a hero, saying …

I am not a hero, no. I did what I had to do, because it was the right thing to do. That is all. You know, we are all ordinary people. But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room. Ja?

Well, there’s a lot of other great content in the movie. If you want to shape the culture of the community you lead, or if you simply want to be inspired by a great story, you should watch the movie. It’s a must see!

There are also some books that you may be interested in: The Freedom Writers Diary (1999) and Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers (2007).

“Spider-Man 3”

The third movie in the series has more good life lessons.

Yesterday, on our day off, we went to see Spider-Man 3. We enjoyed the movie, and thought it was very well done. We read in a local paper that the movie earned a $100 million profit in its first six days (internationally), and it was a very expensive movie to make! Amazing. After the movie’s second weekend at the box office, the movie has earned more than $252 million, putting it at #54 on the all-time ticket sales totals list (previous Spider-Man movies are currently at #7 and #10).

The Spider-Man movies, based on the comic book series by Stan Lee, have had some great quotes and lessons. The first movie included the great statement, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Here are some lessons we saw in the third movie (feel free to add lessons you heard in the comments section) …

Choices
Every villain and super hero in this movie had to make a choice between good and evil. In fact, the movie’s tagline is “The Battle Within.” Peter Parker (Spider-Man) had his own battle between good and evil. The villains Sand-Man, Venom, and New Goblin (Peter’s friend Harry) also each had to make their own choices for good or evil in this movie. Peter says, “Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice.”

Forgiveness
There’s also a great message about forgiveness. At one point, Peter Parker (in a time of choosing evil) says to Eddie Brock (Venom), “If you want forgiveness, go find religion.” Elsewhere his Aunt May encourages him, “Start by doing the hardest thing. Forgive yourself.” Peter’s girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (M.J.) says, “We’ve all done terrible things to each other, but we have to forgive each other. Or everything we ever were will mean nothing.” Toward the end of the movie, Peter says to one of the villains who killed his uncle (in the first movie), “I forgive you.” (You can read more quotes from the movie at IMDB.com.)

It’s worth seeing. Again, feel free to comment here on any lessons or reactions you had to the movie.

“Copying Beethoven”

We enjoy watching movies that are based on true stories. The latest movie we watched is Copying Beethoven, with Ed Harris as Beethoven and Diane Kruger as Anna Holtz (a fictional character). While based on a true story, specifically the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, the movie has largely been fictionalized. We still enjoyed the movie very much.

In the movie, Anna Holtz, a young female composer (a rarity in the 1800s) arrived to “copy,” or make legible copies, of Beethoven’s music for his musicians. After a rough start to his relationship with Anna, Beethoven, called “the beast” in the movie, tells Anna, “I’m a very difficult person, Anna Holtz, but I take comfort in the fact that God made me that way.” That was one of our favorite lines in the movie.

Later, in a conversation with Anna, Beethoven describes music this way:

The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man’s soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That’s what musicians are, Anna Holtz. And if we’re not that, we’re nothing.

There’s another great conversation between Beethoven and Anna about silence. Beethoven says …

You have to listen to the voice speaking inside of you. I didn’t even hear it myself until I went deaf. Not that I want you to go deaf, my dear.

Anna replies:

You’re telling me that I must find the silence in myself, so I can hear the music.”

Beethoven:

Yes. Yes. Yes. Silence is the key. The silence between the notes. When that silences envelops you, then your soul can sing.

That has implications for our relationship with God. We, too, must find the quiet place so that we can hear the still small voice of God speaking to us.

Beethoven’s story is something of a tragic story. Beethoven went deaf, and according to the movie, he was creating a new kind of music toward the end of his life that was not well-received. In the movie, the fictional character Schlemmer (but a compilation of 2 or 3 real people, I understand) complains to Anna, “Who does he write for nowadays? It’s certainly not for money. I’m lucky if I can get anyone to pay for his works.”

While sad, I’m inspired by the fact that Beethoven, at least according to the movie, didn’t simply write for money, he wrote the kind of music he wanted to write. In fact, near the end of the movie, Beethoven describes his final piece as his “bridge to the future of music.” His “bridge” to the future did indeed become a model for future composers.

Beethoven was certainly a creative and musical genius and has left a huge mark on the history of music. And the movie does a good job of sharing his legacy with us.

“Meet the Robinsons”

Friday night was "date night," and we went to see the movie Meet the Robinsons. After having seen the previews we decided that we wanted to watch this one. We especially loved the woman with the caffeine patches (which you may have seen in the commercials/previews). No side effects there!

It was a pretty good movie, although it got a bit slow in the middle. Interestingly, though, the movie had a good adoption theme. The movie opens with a young mother placing her newborn child (Lewis) at the door of an orphanage. The story grows out of the Lewis’ desire to find his family after spending his first 13 years in the orphanage. Lewis is an inventor who is always creating things to impress families, but they always blow up in his face (sometimes literally). After 124 failed adoption interviews, Lewis, tired of rejection, decides to find his family from the past, instead of going through more interviews. But a boy from the future finds him first and leads Lewis on a journey into the future to meet the Robinsons.

In addition to the adoption theme, there was also a great message about failure and "failing forward." The movie opened with a lengthy animated clip of an old Disney classic that involved Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy building a ship. In the end, it turned out to be a failure, but they celebrated anyway. We didn’t understand why that was shown at first, but after watching "Meet the Robinsons" it made sense. Many, well, all, of Lewis’ early inventions were failures. The Robinsons convinced Lewis that failures are valuable and part of the learning process. Using Walt Disneys words, the family encouraged Lewis to "keep moving forward!"

It’s a good message for all of us. Keep moving forward!

“Amazing Grace”

I have been waiting for a while to see the movie, Amazing Grace, which opened in theaters last Friday (2/23). We decided to watch it today on our day off. It was worth the wait!

The movie, which tells the story of William Wilberforce’s campaign to end slavery in England, was very well done. Wilberforce, a member of the House of Commons, was influenced by former slave trader, John Newton, who experienced a radical change of heart and went on to write one of the most important hymns in the Christian tradition, “Amazing Grace,” from which the movie gets its name, of course.

Not only was the story well communicated, there was a strong faith element, without being overdone or done poorly. It was also a very inspiring movie. Wilberforce was an example of someone who did the right thing even though it was incredibly hard. He fought for something that very view people agreed with and even fewer people were willing to stand up for. It wasn’t easy for him to do so, but he persevered against all odds, and somehow, he found the courage to fight the battle against human trafficking. And the world is better because of it!

Interestingly, I checked out the weekend’s box office numbers and “Amazing Grace” came in at #10 in its first weekend at the box office. That’s not so good UNTIL you realize that the movie only opened in an unbelievably low 791 theaters! Even more interesting, the movie’s per-theater ticket sales was right up there with the top two movies, but those movies appeared in FIVE times as many theaters. Needless to say, I’m very surprised, and disappointed, that “Amazing Grace” only opened in 791 theaters. It’s a movie that everyone needs to see!