Moments of Conception 155: The Pudding Scene from Punch Drunk Love

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 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 pudding scene from Punch Drunk Love:

What can we learn?

Most people don’t look. Barry has finally duped the system. The frequent flyer
mile promotion seems too good to be
true, but it’s not. The exploitation of the fine print sounds like an insane
premise, but it’s not. The company simply made a labeling error. They didn’t
realize the monetary value of the prize was worth significantly than the
pudding itself. And so, he took advantage of the loophole. He jumped on the
idea before anybody else had a chance, and it changed his life forever. Barry
may have serious anger and anxiety issues, but he’s also one hell of an
opportunist. I’m reminded of an interview with a veteran actress, who told the
story of how she got her start. Back in the early eighties, she joined the
local theater company as an entry level player. But since that position didn’t
afford her a lot stage time, she was forced to get creative. So she started
researching the theater bylaws. And she discovered a loophole. Turns out, any player in that particular company,
rookie or veteran alike, could perform for free on any night that didn’t have a
regular show. Wednesday, as it turns out, was that night. And since nobody else
was claiming that spot, she took it. Within a week, she had put together an
act. Within a few months, there was a line around the block. And within a few
years, she became a fixture in the community. The rest of her career flowed
from there. Yet another reminder, most people don’t look. Most people don’t read
the fine print. What is the opportunity that’s going to pass you by if you don’t act on it?

The greatest force in the universe. This movie is based on a true story of a civil
engineer who took advantage of a promotion to earn over a million frequent
flier miles. And what’s really amazing is, fifteen years later, the guy is
still taking advantage this promotion. Phillips has been flying free with his
family and friends to more than twenty countries and loving every minute of it.
And, he’s racking up new points five times faster than he’s spending them,
earning him lifetime status on the airline. That’s a lesson about the power of
compound interest. Building the capacity to generate more and more value over time through
consistent increments. Which is something mathematicians and engineers and
accountants think about constantly, but we right brained, artsy fartsy folks
rarely ever consider. And so, it’s worth asking ourselves. What could be the
central lever that galvanizes the whole machine? What could be the crucial
stone that kills all of the birds? What could be the single activity that can
be trusted to take care of everything else? That’s called a catchall. My
musician friend, who plays in several bands, teaches guitar lessons,
licenses his music, sells his own records, makes music videos and writes
articles for industry publications, challenges himself to compose one new
piece, every day. That’s his catchall. After ten years in the business, he
knows the accumulation of that work generates the compound interest to support
his career. What systems might you create
to do the heavy lifting for you?

is made, not found. 
Barry is a
lonely, frustrated, angry man. He doesn’t like himself. He cries a lot for no
reason. And he doesn’t have anybody he can talk to about these things. But then
something snaps. Barry accepts that he has to make work for himself, work that
nobody asked him to make. First, he turns his brain over to this magnificent
obsession around the pudding promotion, which allows him to channel his
thinking in new ways. Then he pursues an exciting new romance with a beautiful
woman, which gives him relief from the emotional isolation he has endured. And both
of these new endeavors become far more interesting and galvanizing than sitting
in a warehouse trying to market themed toilet plungers. It’s the ultimate
existential victory. Proving, that when we make the crucial shift from seeking
meaning to making it, life is a lot less lonely. That when we really bite into
a mental task, we not only generate an internal demand for ourselves, but our
chewing drowns out the external chatter. Because meaning is made, not found. Are you spending time in the brain as if the
brain were a destination, or using your brain in the service of the work you
intend to accomplish?


What did you learn from this movie clip?


For a copy of the list called, “22 Unexpected Ways to Help People,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *

Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

Never the same speech twice. Customized for your audience. Impossible to walk away uninspired.

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