I’m getting clearer on what this blog is about. I have started to call it, to myself at least, Learning and Leading. While leadership and power is a main focus, looking over the posts, I see that a great deal of what I write about involves the problems of learning to lead. And that reminds me of Jerry Maguire.
I love the movie Jerry Maguire, (yes, the one with the memorable one-liners like “show me the money,” or “you had me at hello”) because Jerry Maguire captures so perfectly the jet lag between knowing something and living it. One of the greatest and most frustrating psychological puzzles has to do with the difference between our espoused beliefs and our actual behavior. I’m not just talking about hypocrisy but about knowing. Just because we can think something, or even deeply believe something, doesn’t mean we know what it means as a way of being, as a day-to-day behavior. We have to learn by living it.
Jerry Maguire, a brilliant and successful sports agent has an epiphany about his profession. Unable to sleep one night, troubled by his conscience, he writes an inspired manifesto, a call to arms to his fellow sports agents, reminding them that the essence of the profession is the relationship between athlete and agent. He exhorts his colleagues to put the relationship and the well-being of the athlete at the center. And then his world falls apart. Because of or in spite of his insight, he loses his job, his colleagues steal his clients, and he is left with nothing, save one whining and difficult client, played famously by Cuba Gooding, Jr. (who won a Best Supporting Oscar for the role), and a timid and loyal staffer at the agency, played by Renee Zellweger.
The rest of the movie shows Jerry learning, and ultimately living the morals of his manifesto. And it’s not pretty. He doesn’t deliberately set out to consciously live them; in fact, he really hasn’t a clue that his manifesto has anything to do with him. This is what learning really is. We get an insight, or discover a truth and yet are not yet able to live it fully. Learning is a Hero’s Journey. To follow the call of our insight, we have to go on a journey. Jerry had the insight, an idea about love and friendship, but hadn’t gone on the journey. He didn’t know what it meant to live from love, to be truly in relationship with someone else. We are all Jerry Maguire. We know something intellectually; we get an insight or know something as an idea, but to transform the ideal into a lifestyle, to live it, feel it, and model it in our every action, in our micro-movements and interactions, that is the Jerry Maguire story, the hero’s journey of learning. And mine as well. I’m uncovering what I’m writing about. I had an initial thought, and while sort of true, my deeper interests are only now beginning to reveal themselves. And I’m grateful to have a few readers following along as I discover more deeply what I mean.
Thanks to Kerry Goldstein, perception engineer extraordinaire, for the inspiration.