The Best Bad Idea is also a Winner

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You sometimes need to get to the clouds to understand the world below.

On the way home from Europe, I decided to watch two movies on the plane instead of finishing a book (Moneyball by Michael Lewis, if you want to know).

There are only bad options. This is about finding the best one says CIA specialist Tony Mendez.

Do you have a better bad idea than this? asks Cyrus Vance, the US Secretary of State.

This is the best bad idea we have sir, by far replies Tony’s supervisor Jack O’Donnell.

Hearing this, Cyrus Vance authorizes Operation Argo, a mission to rescue six US embassy personnel trapped in the Canadian ambassador’s residence in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution.

The rescue team had evaluated several options before choosing Argo. Supplying bicycles to the six so that they can get to the nearby border is a non-starter due to the huge logistics effort. Getting them to pose as English teachers of an international school returning home is ruled out since there are no operational international schools by then. Providing them IDs as crop consultants is rejected because crop consultants don’t work in snowy winters.

Make no mistake. There are only bad options in Argo.

Bad news, bad news, even if it’s good news, it’s bad news intones a character in Batman Begins on the same flight. The League of Shadows has the perfect answer. Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding says Ra’s al Ghul. His radical answer is to wipe out society to wipe out crime.

Make no mistake. There are only bad options in Batman Begins.

My career is stuck in a long-term rut. I feel guilty going to work by leaving my child home. My company pays peanuts and expects me to be a super performer. India has become a hopeless place to live. These dialogues play day after day in our lives. It sometimes looks like we are surrounded by perennially dark choices where picking the best is in itself an endless struggle. We fret, sweat, lose hope, and seek guidance only to fall, fail, crumble and lose heart.

Make no mistake. Sometimes, there are only bad options in life.

It is because art imitates life that we instinctively understand the constraints and challenges an actor faces while confronting bad choices. We see in that moment our own self being portrayed on the big screen. We relate with the actor and cry in her pain. We are one. But what perennially surprises me is that we somehow forget this oneness by assuming that reel and real lives have contrasting endings. Nothing is farther from the truth.

Why do we fall Bruce? So that we learn to pick ourselves up.

Bruce Wayne follows this advice from his dad to reject Ra’s al Ghul’s extremist view and becomes Batman. The characters in Argo, coached by Ben Affleck who plays Tony Mendez, fly out as regular passengers under the noses of Iranian security guards in broad daylight by posing as a Canadian film crew returning home after scouting for film locations within Iran. And in the movie called Life, when all is seemingly lost and the world closing in, we humans intuitively realize that there are no super heroes or heroic secret agents. We create our destiny by playing the actor and the script writer while constantly looking up to the Director somewhere up there for guidance and support. And by fighting to pick the best bad idea within the professional, economic, societal and personal whirlpools, we redeem ourselves by making our tomorrows a tad better than todays. Yes, in the end, real life imitates reel life because there is a bit of Batman and a bit of Ben Affleck in all of us. We just forget this too often.

Make no mistake. The best bad idea is also a winner. I just had to reach the clouds to learn that lesson

Arun Kumar is an industry thought leader and a product /platform evangelist. He is an external contributor on Leadership. You can reach out to him here

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