Friday, July 24, 2015

Moments of Conception 183: The Donut Scene from Dodgeball

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.

Based on my books in The Prolific 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 donut scene from Dodgeball:

A forbearance in indulgence of the appetite.
Willpower is interesting to me. The habit of saying no, exerting restraint, controlling impulses and delaying gratification is something I’ve always found to be meaningful. At the risk of sounding completely square, there’s just something empowering about resisting temptation. Willpower makes me feel proud to be at full choice. It makes me feel safe for staying in control. It makes me feel special for standing out from the crowd. And it makes me feel virtuous because I’m upholding my values. Who knew restraint could be so beautiful? Who knew the experience of saying no could feel better than whatever awaited on the other side of yes? Cognitive scientists did, that’s who. Stanford did a popular study on willpower, finding that similar to stress, willpower was not just a psychological experience, but a full blown mind body response. It’s called the pause and plan response, which drives people in the opposite direction of the more common fight or flight response. For example, when you exert willpower, instead of your heart speeding up, it slows down. Your blood pressure stabilizes. Instead of tensing muscles to prime them for action, your body relaxes a little. That’s willpower’s biological signature. The act sets into motion a coordinated set of changes in the brain and body. What if you were the one who redefined toughness as restraint?

Patience is a shining artifact of the past. Willpower is difficult for both internal and external reasons. First of all, humans are primed for instant gratification. And so, when we say no, we’re battling millions of year’s worth of physiological impulses. Our hormones are firing, and we want what we want, when we want. But we also live in society that celebrates impulse. Everybody wants everything, for nothing, yesterday. And so, when we say no, we’re also battling millions of people’s worth of sociological impulses. Our social mechanism is engaged, and we want to fit in. As a result, patience has become another shining artifact of the past. And it really bothers me. I’m reminded of a fascinating interview with a famously dry comedian. Sparks explained the story behind his lifelong sobriety in an industry flooded with alcoholism, saying that at a very young age, he saw what seemed like an experiment that everybody seemed to be conducting on themselves, but with no control. Normally, he thought, when you test a drug on a lab rat you, have one rat that isn’t taking the drug. And it seemed like everyone he knew took the drug without ever seeing if their life would be better or different or the same, normal or abnormal, if they abstained. Hal figured he’d just be the control. I wonder what would happen if more people understood the experiment of which they were a part. When was the last time you were rewarded for putting a moral chain on your own appetites?

Wrestle in secret with my wicked self. Saying no to things was always easy for me. But what I lacked was the emotional intelligence component of abstinence. The ability to stand my ground without stepping on people’s toes. Because there’s a fine line between boundary management and righteous entitlement. There’s a fine line between committing to a decision and committing to telling that story at every opportunity. Truth is, despite a person’s admirable willpower, most people don’t want to hear the entire philosophy behind each of their life choices. They louder they say no, the more judgmental they sound. I’m reminded of the best book I ever read on evangelism. Bell explained that you don’t defend a trampoline, you invite people to jump on it with you. Jumping is more important than arguing about whose trampoline is better. You rarely defend the things you love. You enjoy them and tell others about them and invite others to enjoy them with you. And so, when it comes to willpower and abstinence and restraint, we can’t allow the volume of our commitment to disturb the peace. We have to be empathetic towards other people’s life situations, otherwise they get this look in their eyes as if to say, excuse me, but I have a broken way of going through life and you’re not going to take that away from me. Does your commitment threaten the mythology other people have been living by?

What did you learn from this movie clip?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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