Friday, July 04, 2014

Moments of Conception 040 -- The Shawshank Redemption

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 new 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 rooftop scene in The Shawshank Redemption:

What can we learn?

We take ourselves with us. Everyone on the roof is eavesdropping on the same conversation. But each person responds differently. Some people express concern. Some people extend congratulations. Some people couldn’t care less. And some people snicker at the captain’s expense. But one man takes a genuine interest. Andy may be a convicted murderer, but he’s still a banker. A man whose mind has trained itself to have a very sensitive radar. And so, upon hearing trigger words like inheritance and tax and government, a light switches on inside his brain. There’s no stopping him. Andy sees an opportunity to overcome his existential distress, do what he does best in front of the people who matter most, and begin to feel normal again. Even if that means getting thrown off the edge of the building. That’s not just commitment, that’s confidence. By walking away from the mop, he demonstrates profound trust in his own abilities. How can you start doing the job before you’re hired, or before the job even exists?

Execution trumps intention. Red is shocked to see his friend standing up. He even cautions him to keep his eyes on his work, lest the guards walk over and club him into shape. Red doesn’t realize, however, that his friend holds a different definition of the word work. Andy is an intellectual. A thinker. He clocks in at the factory of the mind. His work isn’t slopping tar, it’s solving problems. The interaction he has with the captain is his work. That’s why he’s able to create, literally on the spot, a viable strategy for saving money in a legal, tax free, family friendly, lawyer free way. To the prisoners and guards, it’s an astounding calculation. But to the banker, it’s just another day at the office. Ultimately, this scene becomes a pivot point in the movie. It’s the beginning of redemption. And it all starts with one man’s decision to demonstrate his genius. Proving, that if we never produce anything, it doesn’t matter how talented we are. Does your fear of failure trump your desire to express?

A little dancing smile of satisfaction. Andy’s incident on the rooftop kicks opens a lot of other interesting doors. Shortly after his exchange with the captain, the warden begins using the banker’s financial wherewithal to handle matters for a variety of people, even guards from other prisons. Andy’s role creates new jobs for other prisoners, solicits government funds to improve the decaying library, even helps uneducated prisoners earn their high school diplomas. He’s no longer a nameless face, he’s a trusted resource. That’s the redemption. And so, it's a valuable lesson about branding. Andy starts building his reputation solely out of who he is and what he loves. Finances. Everything flows from that organizing principle. But over time, he allows his audience, his customers, his community, to expand the constellation of his identity according to their needs. And that allows his work to find its own legs. Sending him on a creative trajectory that rebalances him above the precipice of meaninglessness. How many different ways can you get paid to get paid to be yourself?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?