Success looks different from person to person. There is no single standard for what success is. For me, one of those standards is watching every single movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as soon as it comes out.
That may not be one of your success metrics, but I’m about to inject a little MCU into your thinking about personal development, entrepreneurship or career success anyway. You guessed it—we’re doing another Marvel movie for SUCCESS Movie Rewind this week.
It’s a good one, too: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. It’s a classic hero’s journey tale that would make Joseph Campbell smile from ear to ear. You don’t have to have seen it to understand the SUCCESS Movie Maxims (trademark pending) we’ll discuss today, but I highly recommend making time to see it.
This is SUCCESS Movie Rewind, the only podcast where we trust you to look up Joseph Campbell’s take on the hero’s journey without us having to explain it. Let’s dive in.
Let your journey be a joy ride.
The scene is present-day San Francisco, and our hero Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is working as a valet with his close friend Katy (Awkwafina). Valet parking is not Shang-Chi’s passion, mostly because he’s on the run from an ancient criminal empire founded by his father known as the Ten Rings.
While Shang-Chi is ambivalent about his life living in a garage and working as a valet, his friend Katy is less so. She likes to drive the fast cars and have fun, and she brings some levity to Shang-Chi’s whole situation (although she doesn’t yet know about it). Katy and Shang-Chi kind of support each other in living in the moment and having fun.
Early in the movie, we see Katy and Shang-Chi getting drinks with some more traditionally successful friends, and one of them implies that while they’re the smartest people the friend knows, the duo has failed to “grow up” and are wasting their potential.
In some ways, she has a point—it’s apparent that there’s little long-term planning going on in Katy and Shang-Chi’s lives at this point. But there’s a balance to strike here, and it’s a balance many of us pursue throughout our lives. Katy likes the joy rides she can take at work, and although she and Shang-Chi are going to do something truly great in this film, they deserve the joy they have throughout their journey, these early stages included.
That’s our first SUCCESS Movie Maxim for this week: Let your journey be a joy ride. I was going to qualify that with something about letting your journey include a joy ride, but that ultimately wasn’t quite right. A joy ride is when you take a cool car and go out and have fun with it, and we should all be doing that. Whatever your journey is, be joyful in it and consider yourself on a journey toward your joy.
Don’t mortgage your life to pay off someone else’s balance sheet.
We later learn that Katy’s friends are not the only people who think she’s not living up to her potential. There’s also her achievement-oriented family.
We have this interesting parallel with Katy and Shang-Chi: Katy is struggling to live up to being good enough in the way her parents want her to be, and Shang-Chi is running from something he was trained by his father to be amazing at (being an assassin).
They end up in a similar time and place working as a team, and they’re both fighting off more than ancient assassins. They’re also pushing against the current created by their families. Every single one of us—mythical immortal ancestors or not—is the product of millenia of people who eked out an existence and survived and reproduced to eventually lead to us, right now.
That’s a tough current to push against, especially when your desires are at odds with those of your more immediate ancestors. That leads us to our second SUCCESS Movie Maxim for this film: Don’t mortgage your life to pay off someone else’s balance sheet.
Your life is yours, and what you want to do with it is your decision. That also means that failure to act—whether it’s out of fear that you won’t live up to someone else’s standards or not—only affects you and is, ultimately, your responsibility.
In a way, letting fear of failure keep you from pushing forward and living the life your parents prescribed for you even when you don’t want to are both ways of mortgaging your life for someone else’s balance sheet. Don’t do that. Do you in the way only you can.
You’ve got to keep it moving to stay in the pocket.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings revives this wacky character named Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley). He’s kind of fun to watch, and Marvel fans will remember him from Iron Man 3.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, I’ll just tell you that Slattery leads our heros through this extremely dangerous forest in a mythical realm. Before they enter the forest, Slattery tells them this: “It’s all about staying right in the pocket or the forest eats us.”
I love that, and it’s our third Maxim for the week: You’ve got to keep it moving to stay in the pocket.
In football and music, the “pocket” is this sort of moving target that changes as the quarterback and/or tempo move and shift. This one hits home when you think about Katy’s journey throughout the film—she’s not staying in the pocket because she’s standing still. If you stand still, you’re not going to be in the pocket (the place you want or need to be in to succeed) for very long.
That goes for all of us. In real life, most targets are moving targets. Situations change, and your plans should change accordingly. Otherwise, the pocket will elude you.
That’s where I’ll leave it for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but trust me when I tell you that there’s more to this film than what we discussed here. We didn’t even get to talk about the faceless, six-legged, four-winged mythical creature named Morris (more on that in the audio version). I hope to see you next week, but I also hope you’ll take the time to see this movie before we come back with another great movie discussion. Have a great week, Rewinders.
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.