A few years ago, I read an interesting book called “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter “. It is the point of view of Hal Urban on the priorities of human existence. Invariably, when I deal with training and cinematic language, I look for examples from films.

Hal tells how the Seventies marked a turning point for him. The USA in that period was spreading “courses on personal growth“, gurus, cult leaders and all-powerful leaders did not find it hard to attract the masses of followers ready to praise them.

At a certain point Hal says:

“I had bought into the movement because, like countless others, I felt something missing. I was looking for the fulfilled life but never found it in the personal-growth movement. It had become expensive, exhausting, and serious. Too serious.

And it actually did more harm than good, because it began to weigh me down. Then a funny and unexpected thing happened. During this time, yet totally unrelated to my relentless search for personal nirvana, I saw two movies which had a more positive and lasting effect on me that all these “growth experience” put together. Just think, for the price of two movie tickets and about four hours of my time, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble (at the time trainingwithmovies.com didn’t exist :-) ).

The first movie was “Zorba the Greek”. It’s the story about a relationship between two men, Zorba and Boss. Boss has looks, intelligence, health, money and education. He’s also a good person who’s all locked up inside; he doesn’t seem to enjoy life. He reads and he thinks, but he doesn’t have fun. He’s looking for the missing piece. I found myself identifying with Boss. Then Zorba tells him, “You’ve got everything, Boss, except one thing: madness. A man needs a little madness or he never does cut the rope and be free.” At the end, Zorba teaches Boss to dance, to laugh, and to let go.”



“The other movie was “A Thousand Clowns”.  It’s also the story about a relationship, this one between Murray and his eleven year old nephew, Nick, whom he is raising alone. Murray’s main concern for Nick is that he does not grow up to be a Norman Nothing, one of “those nice dead people” who become so serious that they forget how to enjoy life. He wants Nick to be able to see “all the wild possibilities, “ and to “give the world a little goosing” when he gets the chance. Most important, he wants Nick to look around and to be able to laugh at what he sees.”

The beginning of the scene is brilliant when the uncle says to his nephew: “Nick, you are about to see a horrible, horrible thing: people going to work” :-)

Strangely I agree with Urban: a film is worth a hundred examples, one hundred courses and one hundred readings. A scene can condition us to the point that it becomes part of our way of thinking; what enormous power the film industry has!

In the words of Urban:

“Most of us need a Zorba or a Murray to remind us to not get bogged down, to not take like and ourselves too seriously. I don’t want to imply that either Zorba or Murray are mindless clowns. On the contrary, they’re quite deep. They know life is hard and that it’s not always fair, but they also know that the only way to survive it is to get plenty of laughs along the way. And we get those laughs when we look for them. Programs like Candid Camera and America’s Funniest Home Videos are funny simply because they hold a mirror up to us. They show us pictures of real life. Life is funny. There’s comedy all round us. We just have to look for it”.



“… and in case I don’t see ya

good afternoon, good evening and good night!”…

(The Truman Show)




Buy the film

Buy the recommended book

"Zorba the Greek" A film by Michael Cacoyannis with Irene Papas, Anthony Quinn, Lila Kedrova. Greece/USA/UK, 1964

"Life's Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter" by Hal Urban

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