Lessons from The Princess Bride

by | Jan 1, 2011 | Mindset

Business lessons from The Princess Bride
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Happy New Year!

At least once a year, I like to sit down and enjoy my favorite movie of all time, the 1987 classic directed by Rob Reiner, The Princess Bride. Usually that time is in the space between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

In fact, I’ve watched The Princess Bride so many times, I can practically follow along with the dialogue, saying the lines almost perfectly. (Yes, I’m that much of a geek.)

Well this year, as I watched it I became aware of some lessons from the movie that could apply to a creative (or otherwise) business. I’d like to share those with you in this post.

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Princess Buttercup and the Man in Black
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Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?
 
Buttercup: Well, you were dead.
 
Westley: But death cannot stop true love…All it can do is delay it for a while.

Don’t let the death of an idea be the end … let it be “delayed” for awhile so that it can mature and come back later even better than before.

It can be surprising how often a business idea you had thought was dead comes back later to save the day. Therefore, when you have an idea that you can’t develop right now, I recommend jotting it down and putting it in an idea file. The idea could still be in a gestation period … or could be the inspiration for an even better idea down the road.

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“It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.” ~ Miracle Max
Miracle Max
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Along those lines, are you sure that the idea you thought was dead is actually dead? Maybe it just wasn’t implemented correctly or with the right balance of business savvy and passion. Maybe the idea is just “mostly dead” and just needs to be tweaked. For, as Miracle Max said, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”

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Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black
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Man in Black: If you’re in such a hurry, you could lower a rope, or a tree branch, or find something useful to do.
 
Inigo: I could do that. I have got some rope up here. But I do not think that you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.
 
Man in Black: That does put a damper on our relationship.

Are you in business merely to make money? Are you selling your wares just to increase the bottom line?

Customers and prospects pick up on that and it can hurt your business.

When you have your prospects’ and clients’ best interests at heart when you develop your products and services, you are building a more sustainable business.

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“Don’t rush me sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” ~ Miracle Max
don't rush a miracle
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Are you so excited (or desperate) to get your products or services out that you rush them? You don’t want to rush to market so quickly that you damage your reputation with crappy products and services.

Of course, you don’t want to sit around perfecting them so long that by the time you do get them to market (if at all) they are obsolete.

You want to strike a happy medium. Your product should be good enough to satisfy the market and yourself.

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The Princess Bride, fire swamp
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Buttercup: That’s the fire swamp! We’ll never survive!
 
Westley: Nonsense! You’re only saying that because no one ever has.

Have you ever stopped yourself in your tracks because you hadn’t done something before? Have you killed a business idea because no one before you had done it in the same way?

Yes, there is the thought that if someone hadn’t done it before the was a good reason. But there are times when that’s a bunch of hogwash. Can you imagine if Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniak had thought that way and not created the Apple computer? What if we never went to the Moon because no one had done it before?

For everything there is a first time. Before you could ride a bicycle, you had never ridden one before!

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“It’s not that bad. I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.” ~ Westley
The Princess Bride, fire swam as summer home
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There’s something to be said about keeping a positive outlook on life. Cultivate a “cup half full” attitude and you’ll go far.

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inconceivable
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Vizzini: He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!
 
Inigo: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

This is one of my favorite quotes from the movie! Have you ever found yourself using a word only to find out that you’ve been using it incorrectly?

Well, in business, it is possible to have an incorrect understanding of your own skill set. Or even of the skill set you need to be successful.

If you haven’t had the success you desire, don’t assume that it is because you are not good enough. It could be that you have an incomplete understanding of what you need to be doing to be successful.

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Count Rugen: Are you coming down into the pit? Wesley’s got his strength back. I’m starting him on the machine tonight.
 
Prince Humperdinck: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.
 
Count Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.
if you don't have your health
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As odd as this interchange may sound, Count Rugen’s advice is sound. You need to take care of your health … or you don’t have anything.

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We'll never succeed. We may as well die here.
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Buttercup: We’ll never succeed. We may as well die here.
 
Westley: No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt – no problem. There’s a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too.

Never give up! Believe in yourself. Each day you learn and grow and become better. Each challenge you face makes you stronger and more capable of handling the next challenge.

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Inigo calling on his father's spirit
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And in conclusion, there’s a great scene in the middle of the film where Inigo and Fezzik are looking for the Man in Black so he can help them get to Count Rugen (who is the six fingered man that killed Inigo’s father). Fezzik accidentally “jogged” the albino’s memory too hard, knocking him out … and he was the only one who knew the secret entrance to The Pit. So Inigo uses his sword as a dowsing rod, calling on the spirit of his father to guide him to the entrance. It takes him to the tree, but the door doesn’t open until Inigo leans on it in despair.

The lesson? Many people give up just before they would have been successful. So, I say again, never give up! Keep going. You will make it!

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