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What Classic Movies Can Teach Us About Success

Movies have a unique way of transporting us to a world different from our own and sharing new stories that inspire, inform and entertain. For business owners and entrepreneurs, there are hidden lessons of success in many classic and contemporary films—if you’re looking for a new source of inspiration, here are four movies you won’t want to miss.

1. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006): Believe in yourself.

Based on the true events from a personal memoir, “The Pursuit of Happyness” follows the career of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith). Gardner is a young American businessman working his way up the corporate ladder. With little formal education and a historically unsuccessful career as a “bone density scanner” salesman, we see him relentlessly pursue success after procuring an unpaid internship at a well-known brokerage.

Against all odds, he finds a path to success to support his ambitions and his son. This story is a remarkable example of having faith in yourself and believing that you will come out on top, even if the future looks bleak. At one point, Gardner encapsulates this mentality and shares that if, “you got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something’, go get it.”

2. Moneyball (2011): Innovation breeds success.

Everybody loves a classic underdog story, because to some degree, we can all identify with the feeling of being underestimated. As the general manager for the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) had to use unconventional tactics to create a winning team, operating without the luxury of money or resources to purchase talent. This classic tale serves as a reminder that innovation and intelligence, not the odds against you, will be the primary indicator of your success.

3. The Cincinnati Kid (1965): You won’t always get the anticipated ending.

The game of poker itself is a microcosm for business; in playing, you learn about discipline, risk, reward, decision-making and patience. While there are a number of great poker films worth watching, we’d recommend going back to the 1960’s for a classic. “The Cincinnati Kid,” starring Steve McQueen, shares one man’s journey to cement his legacy as the greatest poker player in the city.

Near the end of the film, audiences are ready for a win as our hero faces his enemy in one final round of poker. Unfortunately, yet realistically, he doesn’t win. He shows a full house against a queen-high straight flush. It’s over.

Poker can be an unforgiving game to play, but this film reminds us that we don’t always get the outcome we desire. What then becomes most important is how we pick ourselves back up and try again after our failures; growth and success is bred in trial and error.

4. The Shawshank Redemption: Hope can set you free.

Each person will face a degree of unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances over the course of their life. In those moments, business leaders and entrepreneurs must remember to maintain hope and keep going in the face of adversity. Shawshank Redemption showcases how one man was able to thrive in the most difficult conditions after being falsely imprisoned for murder. Our hero, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) shares in a moment of great insight that, “I guess it comes down a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.”