Personal Parables #14. It wasn’t brains that got me here, I can assure you that

Personal parables are like a regular parables, but they come from modern media and tend to be oddly specific to yourself.

Past examples of mine are that bit in The Life of Brian where everyone is an individual, except that one bloke, that bit in Wall-E where humans become obese and glued to their screens in their self driving chairs, or, that bit in Bernard and the Genie where the Genie eats a Big Mac and hears Mozart and Barry White for the first time

That last one shows what I mean by oddly specific, because who else in the world is likely to remember that 1991 made for TV BBC Christmas movie? Let alone remembering a bit in it so vividly, that it’s conjured in my mind multiple times a year?!

I’ve recorded 13 of mine so far. 14 including this one.

I found this a few years back via Ben Terrett. I watched the film after reading his post, but only remember this brilliantly acted part.

The bit, is a scene from the movie Margin Call. A film about a fictional financial firm in which someone discovers a very complex and very big problem. A 2008 financial crisis size problem.

A meeting is called to explain the issue to the CEO, and anyone that understands how big the problem is, is desperate to distance themselves from it.

There’s chat and jargon and general obfuscation, but in the end the CEO calls them out for bullshitting. He has all the power in the room. He is clearly in charge. Everyone fears him. He asks for a straightforward explanation, and adds…

Please, speak as you might to a young child, or a Golden Retriever. It wasn’t brains that got me here, I can assure you that.

Jeremy Irons as John Tuld, Margin Call, 2011

The character is hideous. He’s clearly culpable for the toxic environment that led to the problem. But there’s something about that last piece of honesty that feels almost redeemable (if only he encouraged the same transparency from others).

This scene enters my mind more than any other personal parable. Whenever I talk with friends that know a lot about finance, politics, history, or any subject that they clearly know loads of jargon for, this bit bubbles up. A desire to just ask for a clear and simple answer, while being confident enough that I won’t seem stupid for asking.

Because everything can be made simple.

We just have to be brave enough (without being tyrants) to speak up when we don’t yet understand, and to encourage clear communication.

Life goals (again, just the brave and honest part, not the tyrant part).