Continuing on with my movie education, I followed up Terminator 2 with The Shawshank Redemption, arguably one of the greatest modern films ever made.
In case you haven’t seen it — go on, admit it, I know you’re out there — Morgan Freeman plays Red, a con who served 30+ years of a life sentence in Shawshank prison. At various points throughout the film, he appeals for parole.
At the parole hearing, he’s always asked the same question:
“Do you feel you’ve been rehabilitated?”
Twice, he replies with his eyes open wide:
“Oh, yes sir. Absolutely, sir. Yeah, I’ve learned my lesson. I can honestly say that I’m a changed man. I’m no longer a danger to society. That’s the God’s honest truth.”
Both times, his appeal was rejected.
At his final appeal, they ask him the same question. And he sighs and replies:
There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t.
That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time.
Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.
His appeal? Approved.
Two things struck me about this.
Firstly, like Red with his unsuccessful appeals for parole, when we say what we think other people want us to say, it just screams of inauthenticity. We aren’t our true selves, and as a result our words sound empty, our emotions are forced and the person listening feels like there’s something a bit ‘off’ about us — but they can’t quite pinpoint what.
Second, Red was only successful once he stopped “giving a shit”. I wrote briefly about why you need to give less of a f*ck in this post here. It’s not about caring less about your work or how you serve others. Rather, it’s about caring less about what other people think.
When you care too much about what other people think, you change the way you behave in order to appeal to them. You speak a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way. But it’s obvious when you try too hard, right? No one wants to be friends with the person whose behaviour screams “Will you please like me? Like me? Please? Be friends with me!! PLEASE!!”
The people I have the deepest admiration and respect for are those whose behaviour says: “This is who I am. I behave this way because this is my true self. And if you don’t like it, I don’t care. Go hang out with someone else.”
Like Red, they don’t give a shit.
So if you’ve been unsuccessful in asking for a raise, going for a job, asking someone out, making meaningful connections etc, think about if you’ve been saying what you think they want to hear. And do you think maybe, just maybe, they hear the exact same thing from everyone else?
And wouldn’t it be refreshing — and attention-grabbing — for them to hear something different? Something that is honest, authentic and shared without any care for the end result?
My boyfriend is amazing at this. As a sales guy, he cold calls people and has the difficult job of getting past the ‘gatekeeper’ receptionists to speak to the decision maker. And I’ve heard him say things like: “Frankly, I don’t care if you put me through or not, I’m just doing the job my boss has told me to do. I’m doing this to make him happy. So if you can put me through, you’ll help me get my job done, and you’ll have done your job too.”
And you know what? They put him through.
So I challenge you to stop caring so much about your end result. Stop caring about what others think of you. And be brave enough to be authentic. Speak your truth without thinking about what they want to hear. And you may just be surprised with what happens :)