How to Be Every Guy in Pulp Fiction: Leadership Lessons from Bad Motherf*ckers
Tarantino’s modern gangster noir turns 18 this year. We all know the soundtrack and the best quotes by heart, but how can these prizefighters, gangsters and other unique characters make you a better leader? Let’s take a few lessons from these guys.
Jules Winnfield – Know when to get out of a bad situation. In the movie, Jules is nearly gunned down in an ambush by a guy wielding a very large hand cannon. Remarkably, (Jules believes ‘miraculously’) he’s not hit and quickly dispatches his attacker. At that precise moment, he decides to abandon his life of crime, no matter what the financial toll will be.
Not everyone gets a moment of clarity like Jules had, but many people don’t take a moment to step back and look at their situation objectively. Are you in a job, relationship or other situation that’s not where you want to be? It might pay off to take a bold step, even if you’re scared to do so. The greatest failure is sometimes the failure to try.
Vincent Vega – Be willing to improvise and reach out to your network to help you out of a jam. When Vincent’s chaperoning of Mia Wallace takes a turn for the worse, he has to rely on his friend the entrepreneur to save her life (and his). Knowing nowhere else to turn, he goes to the one person he knows who can bring the boss’s wife back to consciousness.
Facebook and Twitter are great tools for updating the world on every facet of your personal life, but do you use them to stay connected with people who can help you out professionally? Don’t forget to reciprocate - offer your own expertise or assistance when you can. It’s great to be owed a favor and helping people out just feels good. Don’t neglect a chance to take it offline and buy someone a coffee, lunch or a drink.
Marcellus Wallace – Keep it cool, and stay focused. It’s tough being a crime boss, but Mr. Wallace makes it look pretty easy. Even when everyone around him is panicking, he’s staying level-headed, speaking in a calm tone of voice, and clearly passing directives to the people he manages.
We’ve all been in a situation where someone’s freaking out, or everyone’s shouting their ideas over everyone else. Hasty decisions can get people in serious personal and professional trouble. Nobody ever learned anything with their mouth open, so listen more and think more than the next guy. You’re all on the same team, and you can get to the goal together.
Butch Coolidge – When you see your opportunity, take it. After a lifetime of being knocked around literally and figuratively, Butch takes a big risk that, if it pays off, will ensure his safety and security for a long long time.
Most of us choose to make our living outside of a boxing ring, so it’s not as clear when our “title fight” will be. But the adrenaline you get before a big interview, presentation or even a date is the same feeling that Manny gets right before he heads down that tunnel. Leave it all out there and give every opportunity your best effort. Regret’s a pain worse than a body shot. Oh yeah, and double check your suitcase when you’re packing.
“Pumpkin” – Know when you’re beaten. When “Pumpkin” finds himself looking down the barrel of Jules’ 9mm in the diner, his plan to rob the joint has been completely destroyed. Rather than risk his life and that of his “Honey Bunny,” he accepts defeat humbly and moves on without any blood being spilled.
Nobody wins ‘em all. You have to learn to lose with dignity and move on to your next challenge. Don’t dwell on losses, but make sure you learn from them.
The Wolf – Be a clutch guy that people can count on. When the clock is ticking and a big package needs to be delivered in a timely fashion, the gang is lost until they get in touch with the Wolf.
We’ve covered what it means to be a clutch guy before, but the best thing about the Wolf is the confidence he inspires in those around him (“You’re sending the Wolf? That’s all you had to say!!”).
He makes clear, strong choices and simple plans. He thinks as fast as he drives, and he pays attention to every detail. The guy who’s connected, who has a plan, and who can organize people and motivate them will always win the day.
Zed and Maynard – Try not to be like either of these guys in any way.
Got any more? Hit us up in the comments.