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3 Things It’s A Wonderful Life Teaches Us About Remaining Hopeful

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3 Things It’s A Wonderful Life Teaches Us About Remaining Hopeful

It’s A Wonderful Life is not only one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time, it is one of the most beloved films of all time. The director of the film, Frank Capra, had just finished a stint in real life serving in World War 2 – he helped defeat the Nazi Propaganda machine by making pro USA films – and when he came back to Hollywood he made a decidely fitting film that encourages us to count our blessings (just like his war experience made him count his).

Here’s a quick recap of the film in case you haven’t seen it in a while. The movie follows George Bailey who is at his wits end and thinks it’s just about time to end his life after a series of unfortunate events occur causing him to potentially lose his family business. After these incidents, he takes himself to a bridge and tells God that he wishes he would have “never been born” as he sees himself as a total failure and loser. George is about to jump off the bridge just before his guardian angel, Clarence, suddenly intervenes and escorts him back to his hometown, Bedford Falls, to show him what life would have looked like if George in fact had never lived. After seeing that the town would have been a dramatically different – and worse – place without him, George realizes that maybe his life wasn’t so bad after all. Suddenly back at the bridge, George begs for his life back and God gives it to him.

What can you and I learn from George and It’s A Wonderful Life about remaining hopeful if we’re ever at our own wits end?

  1. We should remain hopeful because help often comes when we need it most. George, who thought that life was over after he lost money to save his family’s savings and loan business, felt the only option he had was to commit suicide. However, God had different plans and sent him his guardian angel to show him that his life was really just getting started (that, in fact, the best of his life was just getting started). Even though George was skeptical at first, he went along with Clarence (the angel) because somewhere in his heart he knew that he needed any kind of help he could get (deep down he knew he didn’t really want to commit suicide). Likewise in our own lives, whether we’re at our wits end like George or in some other dark situation we don’t see a way out of, we should have at least a smidgen of hope because our help could be on its way literally any time. It may not show up the way we expect it to, but it will show up if we’re only open-minded enough to both recognize and accept however it comes.
  1. We should remain hopeful because even if we don’t currently see how our lives have impacted other people, we should know that they have. Because of one bad break with his family’s business, George believed that his ENTIRE life was a failure and that everything he had ever done was worthless. Even though this wasn’t true, he couldn’t see past his negative circumstances to any of the good that he had ever done in his own life. But Clarence broke this wrong thinking by showing George all of the moments where he had done good to remind him that his life had in fact mattered and that, without it, things would have been much worse for the people that George loved the most. In our own lives, we sometimes question if what we’re doing actually matters – whether it actually makes a difference to anyone and whether we actually matter- and we should know that our lives do really in fact matter and make an important difference for others. Regardless of whether we know how our lives positively impact people right now, we should understand that they have made a difference even if our feelings don’t support this thought/reality 100% of the time.
  1. We should remain hopeful because we will always get a second chance. George got a second chance to live not just when the angel intervened, but many other times in his life too. After all, George could have lost his life in World War 2  (he was a war hero who lost his hearing) and could have had other moments of personal and professional failure, but he was given second chances whether he knew it or not. In your life and mine, we have had more second chances than we have realized and we may get more second chances in the future when we least expect them, which is why we should remain encouraged.

Ultimately, It’s A Wonderful Life teaches us that we should always be hopeful. Even if we don’t know how the dark moments in our lives are going to turn around, if we embrace that help can come when we least expect it; that our lives are really making a difference for others; and that we will get more second chances we will be well on our way to keeping a positive attitude no matter what life is throwing our way. 

Dr. Rob Carpenter - known simply as “Dr. Rob” - is a transformational author, filmmaker, and CEO whose mission is to entertain, empower, and uplift people and humanity.

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3 Things Jurassic Park Teaches Us About Man’s Hubris

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3 Things Jurassic Park Teaches Us About Man’s Hubris

As a kid, Jurassic Park scared the bejesus out of me – and I loved it. Not only did the film gross hundreds of millions at the boss office, but it became one of my top 2 or 3 favorite Steven Spielberg films of all time. 

A recap is probably not necessary, but in case you haven’t seen it in a while I’ll provide a brief one here. In the film, a crazy old entrepreneur invests in an exotic island to bring dinosaurs back to life. He wants to commercialize his island, so he flies out top paleontologists to certify that in fact his dinosaur creations are real and that it is safe for everyday consumers to visit the island. Of course, once the paleontologists arrive things go downhill very fast. The crazy old entrepreneur has not in fact provided a safe environment for people to visit and has done just the opposite: he has endangered the lives of everyone on the island, including the visiting paleontologists – and his own. Ultimately, he and the paleontologists survive but not before some wild encounters with some very hungry velociraptors.  

What can you and I learn from this movie? Or more specifically, what can you and I learn about man’s hubris from this film? What warning signs is it giving us for our own lives and society?

  1. Jurassic Park shows us that man is capable of anything. The crazy old entrepreneur invested in the exotic dinosaur island because he had faith in not only his abilities but in the scientists’ he hired to engineer dinosaurs from scratch. Even though no animal had been cloned to this point in human history (not even a dog), the crazy old entrepreneur felt he could replicate the baddest – and most vicious – animals that have ever graced God’s green earth. For you and me, this shows us that we are truly capable of anything. There is literally no stopping our creativity, scientific genius, or tenacity if we want to achieve something badly enough. But just because we want something badly enough doesn’t mean we should go after it – as the crazy old entrepreneur learned.
  1. Jurassic Park shows us that, even if our ideas are morally or scientifically questionable, there will always be willing accomplices if the price is right. That is, no matter how strange, suspect, outlandish, or ethically preposterous our ideas are, we can always find people who will go along with them for enough money – or enough benefits. This crazy old entrepreneur wasn’t a scientist but he had something a few scientists wanted as much or more than they wanted to practice ethical science: cash. Likewise in our own lives, we see crazy ideas – be they technology projects or companies, movies, and the like – get going simply because those behind them were bought and paid for with lots and lots of money. This shows that we can sometimes go along for rides when we have no business going in the first place – just for a little bigger bank account.
  1. Jurassic Park shows that unintended consequences will be inevitable. One of the craziest parts of the exotic dinosaur island is that so few of the people there, including the crazy old entrepreneur, actually understood the potential ramifications of their actions if they didn’t go according to plan. And of course, things almost never go according to plan. In our society, I often find it very heartbreaking when I hear very smart people in Silicon Valley extolling the virtues of their technologies without so much as thinking of the potential downsides. 

Of course, there are other lessons Jurassic Park can teach us about man’s hubris. But the film goes to show that we are hubristic to think that just because we are capable of anything – and just because we can pay people off to help us reach our crazy capabilities – doesn’t mean we always should. 

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3 Things Invisible Man Teaches Us About Surviving A Crisis

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3 Things Invisible Man Can Teaches Us About Surviving A Crisis

Blumhouse’s latest adaptation of the classic Invisible Man story became a runaway success. Although the film was only made for $7 million, it went on to earn over $134 million at the box office. Clearly a lot of people resonated with its message.

The movie follows a domestic abuse survivor named Cecilia who escapes from her controlling husband Adrian- who happens to be a tech genius millionaire who has created a suit that makes you invisible. After escaping, a shaken and traumatized Cecilia is told by her sister that Adrian is dead and can no longer threaten her. And that’s when the action heats up. Unbeknownst to Cecilia, Adrian is actually not dead and he has been stalking her while he wears his invisible suit and progressively making her life a living nightmare. Ultimately, she has to survive between saving her life or ending his.

For our purposes here, what can this film specifically teach us? What can we learn from Cecilia about survival in our own lives (whether or not we are currently facing a crisis)?

  1. To survive a crisis, we must face our fears. For Cecilia, she had no other choice. Because her ex was invisible she could either let him continue to terrorize her, give in to his demands (he wanted her to return to him), or take him head on. Although she contemplated giving in, she ultimately decided to face him – and her fear of losing her life – squarely in the face. For you and I, if we are going through a threatening situation we cannot run from it. It might be our instinct to get away or to hide or ignore what we’re going through, but ultimately we will have to make a tough decision at some point. Cecilia shows us that we should choose to face our fears as hard as they might be.
  1. To survive a crisis, we must understand that some people will not understand what we’re going through. Even though Cecilia was acting completely crazy – and exhibited all of the signs of being a domestic violence victim – her sister did not understand the mental and emotional turmoil she was going through. Even when Cecilia was framed by Adrian (he sent a fake e-mail to Cecilia’s sister e-mail from Cecilia that looked like Cecilia was being critical of her), Cecilia’s sister did not offer any love, support, or understanding. And she didn’t offer these things even though she knew Cecilia was struggling through some sort of crisis. Likewise in our own lives, sometimes the people closest to us will not understand what we’re going through and may not show up in the ways we think they should. Despite that, we have to continue pressing ahead to be overcomers.
  1. To survive a crisis, we have to outsmart the people or systems against us. Cecilia not only had Adrian against her, but she also had the state of California against her (because Adrian framed her for murder which is what convinved the state she was crazy). Even though Cecilia was innocent in all of this, she still had to develop a strategy to outwit the people and systems that were enemies in her life. For us, in a crisis there will either be people, systems, or forces that are not on our side that we will have to outmaneuver so that we can successfully survive.

Invisible Man ultimately teaches us many great lessons about survival. By showing us that we have to face our fears head on; that we have to understand that not everyone will believe or understand what we’re going through; and that we have to outsmart people or systems to survive a crisis this movie is a clear roadmap we can use to find victory in our own lives if we’re facing a challenging situation. 

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3 Things Get Out Teaches Us About Harmful Stereotypes

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3 Things Get Out Teaches Us About Harmful Stereotypes

Jordan Peele’s masterful breakout movie, Get Out, is a complex and compelling look at race in America. It follows a young interracial couple – Chris (who is black) and Rose (who is white) – as they meet Rose’s white parents for the first time. But things quickly turn for the worst as Chris realizes his girlfriend has set him up to be experimented on by her racist family.

While the film is definitely a psychothriller, its most important contribution to our lives comes in the social message it is conveying. Here are three things we can learn from it.  

First, prejudice can begin by believing ‘good stereotypes’. ‘Good stereotypes’ are when we associate the positive qualities we perceive about a person solely because they come from a certain group. So in Chris’s case, Chris was perceived as being very artistic – a good stereotype some have about black people – and therefore he was highly valued for it by Rose and her family. They desperately wanted his natural artistic talents so they could transfer them to a blind white man in a sick brain/body substitution scheme. What this teaches us is that even good stereotypes can actually lead people to treating others in very negative and detestable ways – and why we should never stereotype others to begin with because this can become a very slippery slope.

Second, when people see others as a stereotype they do not think that their negative thoughts or behaviors toward them are bad. Because Rose and her family had a twisted view about Chris – and black people – they thought it was okay to try to harm and kill people like him. They had convinced themselves that they were right and that hurting black people was just normal. This “normal” thinking is what allowed them to suspend their consciences and not think twice about murdering other human beings. In real life, when people stereotype others – whether it be based on race or gender or political or religious affiliations or in other prejudicial ways – it makes it easy for them to justify negative, untrue, and sometimes harmful behaviors toward them. The history of slavery in America is an example of this and another reason why stereotypes can become bad things very quickly. A second example of this is how both political parties in America stereotype each other which makes it easier for them to dehumanize (and therefore hurt) one another.

Third, stereotypes will eventually backfire on those who hold them. In Rose’s family, their hardened stereotypes and prejudices about black people led to fatal consequences – for themselves. Even though they had gotten away with their racism for a long time, Chris put an end to this family’s wickedness once and for all. This happens in the everyday world too. People who hold stereotypes about other groups often have these stereotypes shattered at one point or another in their lives. Although this does not always happen, when prejudiced people interact meaningfully with others from a group they have (even unintentionally) stereotyped they often get taught major life lessons because the stereotypes they once clung to they realize are not true. They are forced to live in denial or to start to look at people as individuals (and not just as members of groups). I’ve seen this shattering of stereotypes happen to various people who did not know they held stereotypes about me, for example, because of my ethnicity.

With the movie Get Out, we can learn many lessons about why stereotypes in all its forms are bad. We see that good stereotypes are actually just as bad as bad stereotypes; that stereotypes can cause people to justify their harmful behavior toward others who are different; and how stereotypes end up backfiring on those who hold them.  

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