Sunday, 17 August 2008

It is not just what you do; it is how you do it

Imagine that you are a superhero who can fly, deflect bullets and sharp objects, does what a superhero generally can do and save lives. Don’t you think you will have millions of fans, clamoring for your attention, trusting and dependant on you to save them when major crises hit them?

But that did not happen to John Hancock in the movie Hancock (2008), the non-typical superhero whom everybody disdained. Why this particular superhero suffers bad public image although he is actually saving people lives?

That comes to the moral of the story: It is not just what you do; it is how you do it.

What did Hancock try to do?
He saved lives and fought crimes with his superpower.

How did he do it?
He had no regards for damaging anything that gets in his way of getting the job done.
He caused damaged to public property, costing the city millions of dollars. He was rude to everyone who gets near him. He was depressed, drunk and looked filthy like a homeless person.

The result ?
He was universally despised among humanity.

Fortunately, a public relations man named Ray came to his rescue by teaching him HOW to do this job well. Here are the few things that Ray taught him:

1. Teamwork and giving credits to others: To work with the police and fire personnel and say “Good job” to them.

2. Control of Power: Land without leaving a giant crater. Do not damage properties.

3. Responsible, Own up to one mistakes: Serve jail time for his various misdemeanors, attend the anger management course.

4. Better Outward Appearance: Have a clean look and wear a good outfit (which Hancock described jokingly as “homo” but this is not the point I am trying to make).

Overall, Hancock is not a very great movie, but I guess some movies do give us something to learn. And I appreciate this lesson from my mentor.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Do you want to become a Hero or a Zero?

I am not going to compare between Batman and The Joker (the villain, in the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight). I would not say heroes as just those people who are noted for courageous and noble purpose, especially those who risked and sacrificed their lives. And I would not say a zero is a nonentity, one having no influence or importance. I think everyone would have some sort of influences or importance.

I mean the heroes and zeroes whom we meet daily, even the hero and zero entities that are both inside us depending on how and when we want to use it.

In life, I do not think hero and zero are easily identified as Batman and The Joker. That is why my most unforgettable hero and zero from the movies are not the conventional iconic figures. To me, a hero or zero emerges when one is in danger. A hero will rise to the occasion and do the right things regardless of how afraid he is in the painful situation. A zero will flunk or run away when there are pressures and crisis.

In the popular Saving Private Ryan (1998) movie, I always remember this character, Upham. Upham is a translator who had never seen any fighting and killing action before the mission. He was supposed to carry ammunition to his comrades. But he lost his nerve amidst the shooting. Frozen on a stairway just beyond the reach from his comrades, he did nothing when one of his comrades was brutally killed by a German solder just a few steps away. It was the most excruciating scene as the German soldier slowly drove his bayonet into the heart of one of his comrades. At that split second, we all know Upham would have save his comrade just by being there and maybe just as much as given the German a kick. And we all wanted so much to shoot Upham himself at that moment for his cowardice. When the German left and approached Upham, he was so in shock that he took his hand off his rifle’s trigger. Surprisingly, the German left him alive; maybe thinking a coward like that is not worth the time to kill him. In the final twist of fate, when the Germans surrendered, Upham pointed his rifle at the group as if he was a “brave” soldier. He even went further to shoot at one of them, when he realized he was the one who killed his comrades, the comrades who would not be dead if he had done something. The stinging realization that really beat me every time I think about this is that Upham would return to his home, not only alive even though he caused the death of his comrades, but he would also be celebrated as a hero. It is something that I really do not want to accept. My epiphany from this story is no matter how “pure” or “innocent” one might be, that does not allow him to be irresponsible, be a coward and have a bad judgment especially when the situation is critical and calls for him to act.

I certainly would not go near Upham, least become his comrade. To me, Upham is the ZERO, real total ZERO. He did not act when he was most needed to.


Ironically, in the movie Hero (1992), a cynical and amoral man, named Bernie, did a noble thing by rescuing the passengers from a crashed airliner, only to see someone else take credit and have no one believing he was the true hero. Although, Bernie was not really likeable in generals, but he took the right action when he was required to do it, even though at that time, he did not really seem to know or care what he was doing.

To me, Bernie is a hero even though he is not a nice guy.

I learnt from my experience that Mr. Nice Guy can be more evil and he usually hurts us behind our backs while Mr. Bad Guy can be the one who comes to help and save us when we most need it.

How do you know if you act like a Zero?

Through my own experiences and observations as well as experiences of others which are mostly painful, the following behaviors are found in the zeroes:

1. They do not want to admit their own mistakes, either because they are too prideful or they are afraid to face the consequences or punishment. Or, maybe they are scared of how other people will view them when their mistakes are known.

These are the few variation of the behaviors:
a. They do not apologize.
b. They may apologize when they are pressurized into doing it even though they do not realize or admit their mistakes.
c. When they apologize, they never commit to improve or prevent the same things from happening again.
d. They only apologize to the person who confront them about their mistake(s), but not to the rest who also deserve the same apology.
e. Even when they apologize, they make some excuses to try to put the blame to someone else, some other things or circumstances, maybe like the wind, the rain, etc.

2. They tend to play stupid games behind the back and appear to be innocent and nice at the front. They do not dare to compete head-on because they are usually incapable and stupid. Moreover, they are easily threatened by people, who are smarter and more capable than them, especially if the smarter guys are younger too.

3. They always want to avoid conflict. This is also driven by the fact they do not want to admit their mistakes (point #1) and cannot compete head-on (point #2). Instead of trying to resolve the conflict by open talks, they pretend to be fine but keep the revenge or judgment at heart.

4. They do not face their lives and take action. They always give themselves excuses not to act. They always want to wait for something to happen, and then only they act. They want to wait when the path is totally cleared from the mist, and then only they can start walking their life. For most of them, they are still waiting until the final breath of their lives.

5. They always want to play it safe. They do not want to take risks. They always have thousands of reasons why the risks are not worth taking at all, especially when they try to take care of all the people and their opinions in the world.

6. They do not want to get out of their comfort zones. It is always same paths, same mistakes, same faces and same stories over and over again.

7. They are doubtful when good things happen to them or when people offer them good things. So, sometimes, they just reject the good things or people. They continue to push them further and further away from them.

8. They feel embarrassed and ashamed more easily. They always avoid being open. They are usually not assertive because they usually say things in a vague way and like to drop hints. This is intended to create the leeway in case they say something wrong.

9. They always give up on things. They start things without knowing the goals or objectives they want to achieve. They are not persistent enough to pull through until they reach the finishing line. Sometimes, they just give up even though they are only just an inch to getting what they want.

10. They like to follow the crowds. Instead of following the successful people or people who have made it, they use the failures of others as a reference to limit themselves. For e.g., Andy sees a lot of sales person in his group of friends who are not doing very well and come to a conclusion that he should not go into sales.
On the other hand, they might follow the crowds to do something even without knowing what are their strengths and weaknesses. In the “Saving Private Ryan” movie, Upham should not have taken the job. Do not take the fighter job if you are not a fighter.

Of course, there are a lot of ways to overcome the Zero in us to emerge as a hero. This is done not for all the people in this world, but mostly for ourselves. The measures are, of course, to avoid all those that have been said above.

"Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts." - Cicero

Captain Miller famous quotes From Saving Private Ryan: "Ryan...I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But if...you know....if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife....well, then, then that's my mission."