Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is an American neo-noir film chock full of crime, drugs, twisting, and jiving. It’s hip, happening and, while it dates back to 1994, there are plenty of professional lessons scattered between Vincent Vega’s (freaky) stabbing of Mia Wallace in the heart with an adrenaline shot to the terrible things that happen to Marcellus Wallace in the basement of an LA pawn shop. Here are five professional lessons from Pulp Fiction:
Dance to your own beat
The soundtrack of Pulp Fiction is terrific. They’ve got all sorts of great tunes ranging from surf-rock rendition of “Misirlou” to “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang and Dusty Springfield‘s version of “Son of a Preacher Man“. It’s pretty notable, not only because it’s awesome music, but because it really teases out the spirit of each scene. It gets us moving with the characters. So what’s this mean for you? We all are living our own story and sometimes it’s worth thinking about what’s playing in our own personal internal soundtrack. Harnessing the sound and the energy it creates – whether when riding your bike to work, powering through some grunt data entry, or grooving as you write a story or report – is just a great thing to do.
“The Wolf” gets called in by Marcello and Jules to solve a gross, important problem. The Wolf is a precise, down to business operator who arrives on time, coolly assesses the situation, delegates tasks, and owns the room as he lives up to his awe-inspiring reputation. He treats everyone with respect while speaking as “quickly as he thinks”. He provides specific expectations to Vincent, Jimmy (a skiddish Tarantino) and Jules throughout their ordeal. The Wolf really demonstrates a pretty clear style of situational management. Follow his lead and get things done.
Loyalty and trust
Christopher Walken has a killer cameo as the war vet friend of Butch’s father Captain Koons. What he tells young Butch is trust and loyalty are critically important to friendship and life in general. The ultimate question Koon makes us consider is who would you wear an uncomfortable hunk of tin up your ass for? In our careers and personal lives loyalty – to our friends, boss, colleagues – is often a critical part of upward momentum. People remember when you stuck by them through thick and thin.
Personal branding is key
Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield have style. They wear matching black suits and ties and look as scary as they do cool. Jules quotes Bible passages while he intimidates people with his handgun and Vincent oozes cool as he jives and struts across the dance floor with Mia Wallace. After making a mess in their car and clothes by blowing the head off a young man in the back seat of their car they have to change clothes. The new outfit totally undermines their personal brand. They are described as “volleyball playing dorks” rather than fear inspiring gangsters. Take note of the importance of your own personal brand and how your wardrobe can impact how others see you. Does your dress and style inspire the sort of reputation you’re looking for among your peers? If not, what do you need to do to change things up?
Big risk, big reward
Butch embodies risk. It’s a big risk for him to ignore Marcellus Wallace’s orders, but nonetheless he bets big on knocking out is opponent and then makes a run for it. Just like Butch, most of the time, the quicker you want to get ahead, the more risk you need to take. Being aware of and willing to take risk is often a prerequisite for big reward. The first step is identifying just how much risk you’re willing to take. The next is embracing it.