Last night, I went to see J. C. Chandor's film 'A Most Violent Year', a beautifully told story of one man's struggle to stay pure against the backdrop of violence, corruption and decay in New York in 1981.
This film got so many things right. The warm, retro inspired golden color palette. The sparing use of music. The placement of the camera at odd angles to heighten the mood of the characters.
Oscar Isaac was perfectly cast as the protagonist Abel Morales, an anti-gangster reminiscent of a young Al Pacino from the 1970's, deep emotion conveyed through the twin extremes of outburst and stoney expression.
One of my favorite scenes was the sales lessons imparted by Abel to a group of young recruits to his company. If you truly believe in your product, and know how it is positioned, you will not falter when you stare your customer in the eyes and tell them the truth.
From the film:
He reaches over and opens the small door. A fire is burning inside. On cue the instructor hands ABEL a crisp clean white handkerchief.
"When this door opens you begin to close. It must always be spotless. If they see you have ever done this before it is over."
He takes it and reaches up into a small exhaust chimney.
"Now, you do this and only this... You look down at the cloth and don’t say a word... You just keep staring at the cloth and then you slowly just start shaking your head. Very very slowly and small. Don’t look up at them. Just at the cloth."
Then ABEL makes a small clicking noise.
"Do you hear that noise... that’s the noise."
SALES STUDENT ALEX
"It means you are close... Then after sitting in silence way longer than is comfortable, you turn. And say “I’d love to run a few numbers for you. Is there somewhere more comfortable we could sit.” They will almost always take you to the dining room table and will offer you something. And whatever it is you always take the fancy option."
"Can I get you a coffee or tea?"
"A tea please."
"We have some homemade lemonade or a soda."
"I’d love a lemonade, thank you."
SALES STUDENT ALEX
"Because, we are never going to be the cheapest option, so we have to be the best. And they want... no, need... to feel that you want the best too. That’s why our trucks are the newest or cleanest, and our drivers are approachable."
"I gotta go, but the final point I will make is the hardest one. Once you have done the math and shown them what we can save them over the long haul through proper maintenance, you need them to sign. And the problem is by hiring you that means they are firing someone else. And that’s never easy. So to get them over the line you need to close them. So when you show them the number look up at them both... and just stare at them…"
ABEL begins staring at the recruits. He continues to stare.
"You stare longer than you should. Because this is not a joke. You will only keep this job if you close. And that’s not funny to you. And I am only interested in this company growing, and when it isn’t I don’t think it’s funny at all. These people work very hard for their money and these other guys are ripping them off, treating them poorly, because they don’t know... so when you look them in the eye you have to believe that we are better, and we are, but you will never do anything as hard as staring a person straight in the eye and telling the truth."
The second lesson seen later in the film was used to explain Abel's drive to be successful, as told to a young bank manager.
From the film:
"When it feels scary to jump Ian... that is exactly when you must jump... or you risk ending up staying in the same place your whole life... and that I can’t do."
Do you currently feel safe, content, and at ease? It might be time to find a new challenge outside of your comfort zone, and throw yourself into the void.