Since I’m a huge Batman fan, in honor of this week’s “Dark Knight Rises” premiere, I thought I’d reflect back on a few of my favorite Batman quotes and share how they translate to the things that have made me successful in my own life.
Alfred: “Bruce, why do we fall?”
Bruce: “So we can pick ourselves up again.”
I like succeeding as much as the next guy, but the reality is that you’re going to fail at some point in your life – no matter who you are or what you do. You’ll probably have a few little “whoopsies” mistakes, but you’re also going to have a few soul-crushingly huge failures that’ll leave you wondering if you’ll ever find your way again.
The key isn’t to try and avoid these situations – it’s to learn how to pick yourself up from your failures and learn the lessons needed to move forward effectively!
As much as I wish I could say that I’m the exception to this rule, I’m not. I’ve failed hard, and I’ve failed often. In particular, when I think about failure, I think about failing out of college when I was younger and less focused. If I hadn’t been able to rebound from that moment – stronger and more motivated than ever – I definitely wouldn’t be the entrepreneur that I am today.
Harvey Dent: “You make your own luck.”
In The Dark Knight, Harvey uses this line in reference to a double-sided coin, but I see this principle paralleled in the way we talk about entrepreneurs. Too often, we refer to successful business people as being lucky, or having “been in the right place at the right time.”
I believe it wasn’t an accident that put those people in the path of “luck” – it was the hours of hard work and dedication that were occurring behind the scenes.
Bill Gates is often held up as an extreme example of luck in the business world. Not only was he born into a privileged family that allowed him to spend his formative years at private primary schools and Harvard (institutions that would have had access to computing technology not available in other programs), he was born at a “lucky” time in the development of microcomputing and had the good fortune of teaming up with fellow visionary Paul Allen at the right moment.
But despite these factors, to say that the entire success of Microsoft can be pinned on one man’s lucky break is extremely shortsighted. Certainly, Gates wasn’t the only one born into these specific situations. Any number of his classmates could have replicated his early successes – but they didn’t.
Really, for most successful entrepreneurs, a moment of good fortune is one of millions of other moments dedicated to hard work and drive. Without the hundreds or thousands of other things done at different periods in their companies’ life cycles, they never would have been able to capitalize on the instances of luck that did happen to appear.
Bruce: “People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?”
Alfred: “Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.”
The word “endure” isn’t a fun one to think about. When we get into business, we do so because we want to succeed and enjoy the fruits of our labors. The last thing we want to think about is the tedious monotony of burying nose in grindstone and pressing forward when things look bleak.
Unfortunately, “enduring” is something that nearly all business owners must do at one point or another. When profits are down and you’re trying to decide between laying people off or shutting down entirely, what matters is how able you are to double down and endure hardship until you’re able to resolve the situation.
And believe me, I’ve been there. In 2010, Single Grain was going through some tough times. In just over 60 days, we lost 6-7 clients – a shift that didn’t just hurt team morale, but put our financial future in jeopardy as well.
Faced with the decision to either give up and call it quits, or double down and work my ass off to recover, I chose to endure. I worked harder than ever and refocused my marketing and networking efforts. And within 3-4 months, Single Grain was back on track and doing better than ever.
Batman: “Killing is not justice.”
Batman doesn’t kill people. Instead, he does the right thing – even when making this tough decision hurts him tremendously in the short run.
In business, we’re rarely threatened with death or dismemberment, but we do frequently face situations that tempt us to compromise our values and principles. However, in my opinion, it’s incredibly important to do the right thing when it comes to making decisions.
At Single Grain, I’ve had a number of opportunities to take on clients with bad business models. And sure, I could keep them on for a few months in order to make a few extra dollars – but I know this isn’t morally right and won’t help these clients in the long term.
Instead, I prefer to give out free advice on how to do things differently or better leverage SEO. It might pay off in the long run if these potential clients come back later on, or I might never hear from them again – but either way, my conscience is clear.
Alfred: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Part of being successful in business is realizing that we don’t all have the same goals and aims. Your goal might be to build a solid company that provides a great product at a great price, while others might make it their goal to get rich with the minimum amount of effort possible.
The bottom line? Stop worrying about what other people are doing and why they’re doing it! Overall, you’ll see much more success by focusing on why you’re doing the things you’re doing and how you can do them better than by wasting precious resources trying to get into other peoples’ heads.
The Joker: “Let’s put a smile on that face!”
Really, a little smile goes a long way. Smiling changes our moods, helps to relieve stress and is hugely contagious. Taking the time to put a smile on your face will literally make you and the people around you happier.
One of my favorite people to work with is Mark Hawks. He’s always got a smile on his face – no matter how much he has on his plate. He could be completely frazzled, but I take a great deal of comfort knowing that he’ll put on a smile and say, “Sure.” Changes my mood every time J
The Joker: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
While I think that there’s definitely a time and a place for sharing information freely, I also know that too many people begin their businesses with rampant undercharging.
Not only does charging less than you’re worth make it harder to raise rates in the future, it devalues the work you do in the eyes of your clients. People are used to paying certain amounts for certain things, so if you sell yourself for substantially less, why wouldn’t your clients come to the conclusion that you’re offering an inferior product or service?
The Joker: “I believe, whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger.”
From the outside, plenty of the decisions we entrepreneurs make seem strange – especially when we’re explaining ourselves to friends and family members or running counterintuitive to traditional industry wisdom.
But really, if you know what you’re after and what you want to achieve, you can’t let this hold you back. As you become more accustomed to taking risks and overcoming adversities, you’ll undoubtedly start to get more attention and judgment from those who deem you “strange.” If you let these opinions hold you back, you’ll only be compromising your full potential – and that’s just unacceptable!
Batman: “It’s not who I am underneath – it’s what I do that defines me.”
Take a look at any of the number of recent news stories involving smooth-talking, deception-dealing business people and politicians, and it’s pretty obvious that talk is cheap.
No matter who you are or how successful you become, you can’t allow the hype surrounding you to influence you. At the end of the day, all we can be judged on are our legacies of actions – so be sure your words and actions reflect the kind of person you aspire to be.
Commissioner Gordon: “He’s not the hero we need right now, but he’s the hero we deserve.”
This quote really resonates with me as a manager – especially when it comes to hiring and firing employees.
As an entrepreneur managing a small team, sometimes you have to be a hard-ass to get things done. While it’s great to be friends with your employees and connect with them on a personal level, you’ve also got to remember that you’re the boss – and that it’s on your shoulders whether or not the work gets done. Handing out assignments and holding people accountable won’t always make you popular, but it might just make you successful.
Really, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten pissed off over a boss who’s made me take on tasks I didn’t like or complete these jobs on a completely impossible timeline. At the time, I resented it, but now, I couldn’t be more grateful to past bosses for backing me into a corner in order to show me just how much I’m capable of doing. I’m stronger because of their guidance, and I’m tremendously thankful for how much the ability to work hard has helped me to achieve at Single Grain.
Can you think of any other Batman quotes that relate to business and personal success? If so, share them – or any of your other favorite superhero lessons – in the comments section below.