I re-watched The Company Men, a movie with Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, and Kevin Costner. My main takeaway was that two of the characters, those played by Ben and Tommy, lost themselves in the rat race only to find themselves again in the skilled trades. The movie brings a lot of memories of the collapse of many things during the Great Recession of 2008/2009. For our family that was a challenging financial time but it was also a time that brought us closer together.
Ben plays a young ambitious salesman, Bobby Walker, who confuses his achievements at work with his identity. The deconstruction of his facade is played out well as he comes to understand that his family is the most important thing in his life and what they need is him, not all of the material things he was once able to provide. He goes from bragging about his golf score as a cocky executive to making endless calls begging for job opportunities with a suite full of his fellow unemployed.
“I've called everybody I know and a lot of people I don't, and begged, fucking begged for a job, a lead, anything! “You want honesty? I'm a thirty-seven-year-old unemployed fuck-up who can't even support his family!”
Bobby unwillingly takes a job helping his brother in law, played by Kevin Costner, remodel an old home. As his ego is stripped away he comes to enjoy working with his hands as he becomes more engaged as a husband and father.
Tommy plays Gene McCleary, a co-founder of the company most of the characters worked for. He has been biting his tongue for years as the company he once loved has evolved into a soulless corporation. At one point while they are laying people off for another round of downsizing to increase shareholder confidence in the company, Gene has this exchange with human resources:
I'm confident all these dismissals will stand up under legal scrutiny.
What about ethical scrutiny.
We're not breaking any laws, Gene.
I guess I always assumed were trying for a higher standard than that, Paul.
As Gene and Bobby are taking a walk through the run down remains of where the company started as a ship building manufacturer, Gene says to Bobby,
"You start with some crazy idea, take insane risks, make barely enough to feed your family, not a chance you're gonna succeed. Then all of a sudden you've got all these things and you're terrified of losing them.”
Shortly after Gene decides to invest his savings into starting up his own company. He hires Bobby as his director of sales. Bobby hires many of the people who were in the unemployment office with him trying to find work. The movie closes with a sense of hope, Bobby tells his team, "We work as hard in here every day as we did when we were trying to get a job, we'll be alright. What's the worst thing they can do, fire us?"
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.