The Adam Sandler Guide to Capitalizing on Opportunities

Lessons learned 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?

Meaning 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?

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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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Written by

Author. Speaker. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Founder of Pioneer of Personal Creativity Management (PCM). I also wear a nametag 24/7.

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