Last week, I thought to myself: The SUCCESS Movie Rewind listeners have been begging me to cover the best musical romantic comedy about teenagers in the 1950s ever made, and I owe it to them at this point. I had to go all the way back to 1978 to find just the film to fit the bill.
It’s Grease, of course. This was the smash hit of the late ‘70s, the constantly revived theater classic of the ‘80s and the ubiquitous sleepover movie selection of the ‘90s, and it’s still relevant today. And my thesis, as always, is that this movie is relevant to any self-improver, artist, business owner, entrepreneur or aspiring anything in 2022.
You know the deal: I’m about to support that thesis with three SUCCESS Movie Messages, the soon-to-be trademarked name I have given to the personal development takeaways I discuss each week. Without further ado, welcome back to SUCCESS Movie Rewind, the only movie podcast that will give you new ideas about what to do with your dancin’ shoes this week.
Greased Lightning requires elbow grease.
Before we get too deep into the personal development takeaways from Grease, I need to preface our discussion with two quick notes:
- This is a classic blockbuster film, so we’re not worried about spoilers this week.
- This is a family-friendly podcast, but Grease is a leathery 1978 classic, which is another way of saying that some of the themes and quotes from this film have not aged well. We skip all of that here, but be warned if you plan to rewatch the movie.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Greased Lightning. This, of course, is the car the gang drives. They plan to and eventually do restore it, but not before some major mishaps. In any case, we hear John Travolta’s Danny Zuko give an inspiring song/speech about the car and all of the potential he sees in it, and he gets the gang excited.
Here’s the first takeaway: Greased Lightning requires elbow grease. To inspire others to see your vision and share in your dedication to making it reality, you’re going to have to work hard. You will only get a fraction of what you put into any project out of other people involved unless you truly inspire them.
That also means that you have to take the time and put in the effort to develop your sales pitch—the message you use to inspire others to join you in making your business venture, artistic endeavor or some other goal a reality.
It’s OK to drop out of beauty school.
One of the best character arcs in Grease is that of Frenchy (Didi Conn). She leaves Rydell High School to go to beauty school—her longtime dream is to become a beautician. There’s a big mishap at beauty school that causes Frenchy to question her choice and future career, and the whole thing culminates in one of the best songs in the movie: “Beauty School Dropout,” as delivered by a guardian angel who visits Frenchy.
It’s wild. It’s awesome. And it’s the inspiration for our second personal development takeaway from Grease: It’s OK to drop out of beauty school.
It really is. And I’m not talking about beauty school specifically. Grease is telling us that it’s OK to try something and decide it wasn’t the right path for you. I’ll give that a big grain of salt, though: You really do have to try first. But if it’s not working, it’s not working. And that’s OK.
In the film, we see that Frenchy really did try. But when a guardian angel visits you to tell you that you need to re-enroll in high school, that’s a pretty good sign that you might want to reconsider your plans.
Grease is the way we are feeling.
The title song of this film, performed by Frankie Valli, is so, so good, and it’s got this mysterious way of talking about the word “grease.” It says, “Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion / Grease is the way we are feeling.”
I wasn’t about to let that one slide without some analysis, so here we go. Our third takeaway is this: Grease is the way we are feeling.
There’s a lot to pull apart here, but let’s start with the word itself: grease. It’s kind of a weird choice. It does have a literal meaning, but it’s clear that the conventional meaning doesn’t really apply here. So, what does it mean? It’s a substitute for whatever you’re feeling right now—your perception, the context you’re in.
Words and language are powerful. But words sometimes fail us. Capturing the way we feel and what we’re perceiving is a lot to ask of language sometimes, and that’s why art is so important. It transcends some of the limitations of language.
But for you, there is no work of art (yet) that captures the feelings in your heart, gut or mind that are driving you to achieve what you’re chasing. If you’re an artist, if you’re a business person, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re anyone who relates to other people and you feel something in your heart, and you’ve thought about it, trust that instinct—that feeling. It’s the way you’re feeling that’s going to drive you to what’s next.
That’s a wrap.
When I see movies, I just can’t make my mind behave. That’s my riff on yet another infamous Grease quote, and it’s also my way of saying that we’re going to have another great discussion for you next week on SUCCESS Movie Rewind.
I won’t reveal the movie title just yet, but come on—we just did Grease. You know the follow-up is going to be good. See you there.
Alex Stevens invented motivational media criticism and reinvents the genre every week on SUCCESS Movie Rewind. Alex is also a lawyer, creative consultant, and artist, sometimes all at once. Alex lives with his family in Dallas, Texas.