Moments of Conception 175: The Plastics Scene from The Graduate

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 plastics scene in The Graduate:

What do you want to do with your life? There are a dozen problems with this question. First, it’s
focused on wanting, not needing. And life doesn’t always give us luxury to
prioritize in that order. Second, this question is purely focused on the
future, as opposed to right now. And we forget that this very moment is life
too. In fact, it’s all we have. But if we’re so busy trying to figure out what
to do with our life, we’ll forget to actually live it. Third, this question is
a moving target. People evolve. The world in which we live evolves. And so, we
remake ourselves as we grow and as the world changes. We give ourselves the
freedom to change as we discover, reinventing ourselves many times in an
interesting life, ultimately letting these multiple reinventions mold our life into
book of stories worth telling. Fourth,
this question is outdated. Our generation is seeing the slow death of
traditional career paths. People are keeping their professional lives in
permanent beta. We’re adapting and evolving and pivoting and changing
directions. And like a human startup, we’re evaluating new opportunities as
they present themselves, taking into consideration our ever growing set of
intellectual and experiential assets. Are
you tying yourself to one concept as being your legacy for your entire life?

What do you want to do with your life? Another problem with this question is, it’s inhuman. Because
although people have the impulse to satisfy their basic need for unity, order
and completeness; and although our rational capacities crave a certain amount
of story and dramatic structure to make sense of life, the reality is, tidy
narratives tend to be misleading. Life is confusing and nonlinear and nobody
gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. That’s why this question
is so burdensome. Deciding what we want is the most important work we will ever
do. And so, we keep grilling each other, pressuring people to articulate their
human purpose into a perfectly compartmentalized little package. And life isn’t
like that. This isn’t a twenty two minute sitcom. And so, we can’t allow our
biological craving for resolution to stand in the way allowing life to actually
happen. Humanity comes first. And here’s the other thing. This question
misrepresents focus. Turns out, it’s not about hammering one nail, all of our
lives, it’s about hammering lot of nails, one way, all our lives. In fact, most
people need multiple life purposes. And so, instead of killing ourselves trying
to find the meaning of life, we’re creatively making life’s many meanings. It
may not be easy, inventing our own life’s meaning, but it’s still allowed. What gives purpose driven human uniqueness
to your existence?

What do you want to do with your life? Ultimately, this question is a moot point. As my
mentor once told me, life isn’t a question to be answered, it’s a project to be
lived. There’s no deadline. There’s no wrap party. There’s no gold medal
waiting for at the finish line. Our number one job as humans isn’t playing to
win, it’s playing to keep the game going. When I graduated from college, I had
no idea what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, I rarely gave that idea a
second thought. When I was in my twenties, on the other hand, I thought I knew
exactly what I wanted to do with my life. And that wasallI thought about. But now that I’m in my thirties, I’m back to
not knowing again. The only difference is, this time, I’m giving that idea a
second, third, fourth and fifth thought. Because what the hell do I know? Binary
constructs likealwaysandneverno longer exist in my vocabulary. Anything
can happen. Anything can be a meaning opportunity. That’s my answer. That’s what
I want to do with my life. That’s the organizing principle of my daily
existence. I want to make meaning in accordance with my deepest values.For your life to be perfect, what would have
to change?


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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