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The Hollywood Illusion

It’s my and my wife’s weekly date night, and I think I’m doing pretty well so far so I ask my wife, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rank this date night?” (a practice I picked up from Jack Canfield). She says, “An 8.” So I ask, “What would it take to make it a 10?” She says, “Watching The Notebook with me.” Inside my head, I scream, Nooooo! I rub my forehead—dead giveaway, but I was trying to recover—and say, “I’d love to.” (“Grrrrr” – inside my head only)

Now, I love movies, all movies, even most “chick flicks.” (Well, I take that back, not scary movies. I watched Carrie at the drive-in when I was 10, and haven’t seen a scary movie since. Oh, except The Shining, you know, “RedRum”, that did me in for good). ) At the same time, though, I don’t like seeing movies I have seen before—been there done that, next. For one reason or another, I had already seen The Notebook three times. Now, whenever I watch it, it’s like scratching my eyes out. But I want that “10,” so we go home and watch.

Not being sucked into the story (since this is the fourth freakin’ time!), I see how truly corny the movie is. The point to this story, though, is what happens the next day.

Now it’s Saturday, and my wife tells me she wants me to install a doggie door. This requires cutting a perfect hole… yada, yada. Who am I kidding? I have no idea what installing a doggie door requires, and I don’t have any intention of finding out. Anything other than a pen and a fork in my hands, and I become dangerous. I say, “I’d be happy to hire someone to come over and do that.” Then she says, “Noah could restore a 200-year-old home, but you can’t install a doggie door?” Uh-oh, I think, I smell something is in the air.

Later, I ask her what she would like to do for fun that day. She says, “I want you to take me out in a rowboat surrounded by hundreds of geese. Then I’d like to have you dance with me in the middle of the street.” Now I know I am in trouble. If you have no idea what I am talking about, good for you; keep The Notebook out of the house and out of the head of your spouse.

Then when we get into bed and I start reading as we normally do, which, for me, usually consists of 15 to 30 minutes of something inspirational just before I go to sleep. But she doesn’t have a book. I—regrettably—ask, “Aren’t you going to read?” She says, “No, I want you to read to me.” “But this is my book. Aren’t you reading something already?” I reply. “Noah read to Allie every single day, and you can’t read to me for one night?” Oy vey! Uncle! I tap-out.

Last week, I wrote about how commercial marketing uses the Law of Contrast to make you feel like crap so marketers can portray a need for something you didn’t know you needed. Let me explain this some more because Hollywood uses this same tactic, and it is falsifying our reality and setting us up to fail.

You see, we only understand ourselves by comparison to someone or something else. For the most part, we only know if we are doing well or poorly by contrasting ourselves with others. Thus, whether we are satisfied and happy with ourselves depends largely on who we’re comparing ourselves to. For example, the guy in Mogadishu who gets two full meals a day, versus only the one meal everyone around him receives, feels like a king. Yet, some people in America think that if they don’t have the latest Louis Vuitton handbag (or whatever), they are living like a pauper.

See, our perspective has gotten way out of whack in America, and that’s because we are constantly bombarded with exaggerated and falsified reference points (our points of contrast) showing us all the things we don’t have and all the things we are not. And one of the biggest culprits is Hollywood.

Hollywood is in the drama, entertainment and feel-good business. It’s an industry built on happy endings. And that’s all fine and good, but much of that industry perverts our perspective. We see an epic love affair between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara; Gordon Gekko’s perfect pitch at the stockholders meeting; George Bailey’s rags-to-riches “wonderful life”; James Bond snowmobiling over helicopters; or Roy Hobbs hitting it out of the park, exploding the stadium lights in the bottom of the ninth and grasping victory just in the nick of time.

The problem is this: We consciously, or subconsciously, start comparing our life to these well-scripted, CGI-enhanced images, characters, or “lives,” on the big screen. The most disparaging aspect is that we start to believe that we should be able to obtain this great love, victory, conquest, fame or wealth in the 96 minutes it takes in the movie. What we don’t see are all the boring, mundane and laborious scenes of the characters trying to make a relationship work, the two-a-day trainings in the hot sun for 10 years before the winning touchdown, the exhausting number of hours spent at the office before the big score, etc.

Life is exactly the opposite of the movies. The real story be told, the journey toward success is ordinary, tedious, unexciting and very unsexy (see “What Happened to Hard Work”).

Don’t let Hollywood’s artificial contrast reference point falsify the reality of what it really takes to be successful: simple, consistent, planned, prepared and skilled discipline applied every day, compounded over time, accumulating to great success, happiness and prosperity.

A fairytalelike life is possible, and happy endings do exist; they just take years of arduous and steadfast disciplined work, which doesn’t necessarily make for “gripping” scenes and “riveting” movies.

For dialogue’s sake: What is your favorite feel-good movie? Share in the comments below…

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