Wednesday, April 22, 2015

J is for Jerry Maguire

At the beginning of Cameron Crowe's 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, the main character stays up all night to write a mission statement (more a manifesto than a memo) about the future of his business.  It takes him by storm.
"I am not a writer but I can’t stop from writing this. It is something pure, from the deepest part of me."
Of course, he gets into trouble after he impulsively makes a few hundred copies of it, complete with the Holden Caulfield-esqe cover, and distributes it to everyone at his sports agency company.

In my opinion, the movie kind of goes downhill from there.  But that first scene grabs me every time.  Only recently I learned that Cameron Crowe actually wrote the whole mission statement, not just the snippets that we hear on screen.  You can read all 5,600 words of it here.  It's really quite good.
How can we do something surprising, and memorable with our lives? How can we turn this job, in small but important ways, into a better representation of ourselves? Most of us would easily say that we are our jobs. That’s obvious from the late hours we all keep. So then, it is bigger than work, isn’t it? It is about us.
How do we wish to define our lives? 
The lesson Jerry learns, which gets him into all that trouble, is that quality matters more than quantity, and people matter even more.
The answer is fewer clients. Less dancing. More truth. We must crack open the tightly clenched fist of commerce and give a little back for the greater good. Eventually revenues will be the same, and that goodness will be infectious. We will have taken our number oneness and turned it into something greater. And eventually smaller will become bigger, in every way, and especially in our hearts.
True confession time.  I've had a text file sitting on my computer called "quo-vadis.txt" for almost 10 years.  Every so often, I think of something to add to it... one more little snippet about where I think my own professional field should be headed.  The bullet items are in the second person imperative, addressed to future-me.  Maybe to future-us.  Here's how a few of them begin:
  • Give...
  • Rail against...
  • Don't half-ass...
  • Be wary of...
Someday I plan to get myself into trouble, too.  I'm with ya, Jerry.

Let us start a revolution. Let us start a revolution that is not just about basketball shoes, or official licensed merchandise. I am prepared to die for something. I am prepared to live for our cause. The cause is caring about each other. The secret to this job is personal relationships.


  1. Movies usually start with a problem. The rest of the movie is about solving the problem, or occasionally, an inability to solve the problem. This concept is particularly obvious when studying Jerry Maguire. Jerry needs to learn how to have a personal relationship, which he learns from Rod Tidwell. I love Renee Zellweger. I don't think I'd ever seen her before. She should have been nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this movie.


    1. As odd as it might seem, I've considered Jerry McGuire to be one of the most obvious applications of Campbell's "The Hero's Quest" to a movie. I know it's a big of a thing in Hollywood (even screen writer books about it) but this is the one that really stands out.

    2. Janie: I was probably too harsh with my "all downhill from there" quip. Who doesn't love Rod Tidwell and his family? QWAN! :-)

      (Renee's acting was subtle and nuanced, but I'm not as fond of her character's development... there could have been much more of an upward arc for her, too.)

    3. Herb: Good call on the hero's journey trope. I also wonder if Tilley's "plot snake" would be a good fit for this story, too. (That link is a blast from the past... nearly exactly 3 years ago during another A-Z challenge!)

  2. I have, during the editing process, recently (yesterday!) been asked to write out the Blue Fedora manifesto, as Kyle herself would state it.

    Reading these posts up to now in one go feels so affirming and encouraging at this point on my own journey. Thank you, Cygnus.

    1. Thank you! I can save space for that manifesto later in the alphabet (O is for Odyssey?), but I'm sure it's destined for bigger & better places.

    2. (The name of the competition has been changed during the editing process.)

      I can imagine no better place for The Code than on this excellent blog, a gem that stood out to me among a list of literally thousands a couple of years ago during the A-Z. :)

    3. Aw, I liked OM, but it's a real thing out there, so it probably had to go to the same hallowed place as Libby & Thea rockin' out to Manfred Mann with their wine coolers.

      Thank you... April 2012; 3 years ago. It's funny, for a while there the years were just whizzing by. Once you said somthing like "way back in 2008..." and I thought "wasn't that just last week?" But with all the life changes going on, this past year to year-and-a-half has slowed down for me. I like that.