Rob's Soapbox Archives

December 13th, 2010


Most movies do not move me. Thus, my list of favorite all-time films is eclectic, diverse and short. It also comes with it an interesting shared theme; each of my favorite movies has a quote, a scene or a moment that resonates today in my life. Far from being the complete list, a few of my favorites instantly come to mind.

The Departed: When Jack Nicholson is grilling Leonardo Decaprio about being the rat while seated in the restaurant, Nicholson asks Decaprio if he wants the job as boss. After hemming and hawing Decaprio essentially says he could do the job, but he doesn’t want to. Nicholson replies, “heavy lies the crown…eh?” 

It is far from the greatest scene of the movie, but it reminds me of a time I was told more than a decade ago that until you’ve “sat in the chair,” you don’t truly understand the weight, obligation and pressure that comes with being the last line of responsibility in any situation. Being in middle or even upper management of a company is not the same as owning it. Running a brigade up a hill is not the same as answering for it. Creating an empire is not the same as preserving one. Heavy lies the crown (which lies upon the head of the leader, for with it comes the weight of his world). I made that last part up after a few years of wearing the crown; it’s heavy and it makes you a pretty lonely person at times. And I wouldn’t give it up to anyone for anything.

As Good As It Gets: Ironically also uttered by Jack Nicholson, he, as a creepy, weird, uncharacteristically awkward Marvin Udall tells Helen Hunt after a totally inappropriate story about his doctor, why he feels so strongly for her: “you make me wanna be a better man.”

That movie came out in 1997 and I saw it with a woman who was all wrong for me. I remember thinking at the time, “that’s not how I feel.” I decided I would remain single until I found a woman who challenged me, not with her demeaning words or demands, but rather by being who she was, to want to become a better man. I had never suffered from a desire to strive forward and achieve so finding a woman who made me, on the inside, want to be a better man would be tough. Three years later and more than ten years ago I met my wife, whom I remind often makes me want to be a better man.

The Dark Knight: As Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale, contemplates quitting as the caped crusader, his butler Alfred challenges him on the idea. At one point Bale turns to Michael Caine and says “what would you have me do Alfred,” to which Caine as Alfred says sternly and without hesitation, “endure, Master Wayne.”

It’s not a new idea or even an original sentiment. Winston Churchill, in the throes of World War Two (10/29/41) famously made the complex simple by saying “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Vince Lombardi said “winners never quit and quitters never win.” In his famous poem called “don’t quit,” Longenecker wrote at the end that “it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”

Endure, Master Wayne.

I’ve grown more and more tired of people who quit, whine, moan, bitch and make excuses for themselves and their lot in life. Whether it be succumbing to the ravages of the economy or being diagnosed with a harrowing disease the answer to the question “what do I do,” remains the same; endure.

Last week a real cretin called into the show named Dave, who was defending his decision to accept unemployment payments in the 3 months per year he couldn’t get work as a contractor. A myriad of choices are before him in those three months: he can accept a second job, he can start a low maintenance online business, he can sell things on EBay, he can use the time to go to school to learn a new trade that would employ him yearlong, he can work harder so that he is employed 12 months per year. In any of those examples, he endures. He finds a way to overcome and to never, never, never, never give in; in this case, give in to the easy way out, the soulless, pride-less way out of accepting money from people you don’t know that you did not earn and that they did not willingly offer you. 

When I said simply to Dave the answer was to “work harder,” he laughed, as if to say that wasn’t possible. Yet we know it is, for he isn’t even working as hard as Johnny Carson in his final contract. The limits we place on ourselves remain the constraints to our abilities. Work harder? Yeah, right. I’m already tired and have no intention of creatively finding new ways to earn my keep. I’ll simply lie back and accept free assistance, thank you very much.

So, like a hibernating bear Dave will rest up for the coming 9 months of labor while some of us endure. 
Earlier this year when my wife got in a serious car accident friends told me to put aside our plans to buy and build our own studio for the show, one of them saying “you can’t do it all, Rob.” To which I responded, “Not with that attitude.”

Endure, Master Wayne.

Whether it be losing your job, hearing that your child has cancer or walking in on your poorly housetrained dog having soiled your carpet, the message remains the same; endure. There is no quitting, no letting the Joker win and no giving in to the whims, desires, wants and pressures of others, for that is what this comes down to. There is always someone or something else that is willing to work harder than you and when it or they come along is when you will fall. Until then, you endure. Whether it be the guy down the hall who wants your job, the guy at your wife’s job who wants her or the forces of nature that try your very soul, all of them will test you, pressure you, push you to your breaking point and ask you whether or not you’re up for the fight. Some people liken it all to some silly good versus evil, God versus Satan storyline; frame it however you wish. Life will ask you time and again whether or not you are willing to endure. No job? Sick kid? Dead parent? Dying pet? The answer remains the same. You have only two choices, you either quit or you fight. You remain true to who you are and show that you’re still in the game, or you become a coward and sit on the sidelines. It isn’t fair what your challenges are sometimes compared to the person next to you, but what are going to do? Are you going to whine about your lot in life and how easy someone else has it or are you going to endure?