Great movies are great because…
According to IMBD, these are the top 15 movies of all time. The list was determined by combining a high IMBD rating (some criteria they use) and an audience vote:
Whether or not you agree with this list, these movies are some of the best of the best. They have stood the test of time and represent what audiences want to see, sometimes over and over again. There are a few movies on this list I’ve seen more than one time.
What draws people to movies, TV shows, the theater, or a sporting event?
Why do people spend their hard earned money on entertainment, over and over and over again?
We watch, and continue to watch for one primary reason.
We watch for story.
What’s so special about story?
When I first started studying “story”, I was surprised to learn that story is essentially about transformation.
We watch story to vicariously experience transformation through its characters.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, play, or some sporting event. This is why you root for certain teams, get attached to TV characters, or love going to the theater.
The common denominator is story, and we get sucked into watching where our beloved, and sometimes our despised players end up.
This phenomenon occurs because people are meaning makers and natural storytellers. People can’t help but make up stories.
You make up stories about who you are, where you live, what God’s like, and the world around you. You make up stories about what you can or can’t do. You tell yourself stories about what kinds of people are safe, who to do business with, and who’s successful or not.
We all do.
“My brother showed me how to fish.” or “I remember when (name some event) and we all died laughing.”– these are very short narratives, but still story.
And beliefs are just story disguised as personal truths…
“I’m not a morning person.”
“White (insert any race) people are…”
“The government is…”
Not only do you view the world as an ongoing narrative, but you are in fact THE primary author, shaping your own life story with every decision of your existence.
Your history (or her-story) is being written by you moment to moment whether you’re aware of it or not.
Blame it on thousands of years of evolution or a miracle from God, but every human being is wired to see and interpret the world through story. Every single one.
The key that unlocks a killer story
As I began studying “story”, I started noticing a pattern that runs parallel with our own lives. Story needs a main character, and that character must face some type of “conflict” or difficulty.
No conflict, no story. Period.
Depression and anger.
People, circumstances, or environment.
Limited resources, ignorance, or low skills.
These are all forms of conflict, and they must be dealt with in order to progress or advance your own story.
This is an important point. Without problems to solve, you cannot evolve into the person you want to be. No obstacles or resistance to overcome? No growth. It cannot happen. You cannot aspire to greatness without challenges.
Without conflict to resolve there can be NO TRANSFORMATION. None. Zero. Nada.
You cannot experience that feeling of AWESOMENESS without going through some type of conflict. That wonderful feeling of being alive? That million dollars you think about getting or the body you want so badly? They’re all waiting for you on the other side of conflict.
Can you imagine Sam & Frodo prancing through Mordor with no obstacles or difficulties? Can you imagine Rocky knocking everyone out in the first round without even breaking a sweat? How about Andy Dufresne NOT having to escape a prison through 500 yards of nastiness for a crime he didn’t commit?
Would you still watch? Would you still care?
Deep down you understand that the main character(s) must struggle to overcome obstacles. They must experience a defeat or setback of some kind, and many times multiple defeats. You want them to have the courage to face their fears, to take on the villain and WIN, but they can’t always win.
Conflict leads a character to either feeling more alive or to an experience of loss, maybe even death. Transformation works both ways.
As you go through conflict AND overcome it (or not), then a change takes place within you. As more and more changes take place then eventually a complete transformation can happen.
The path to transformation
What happens when a problem gets solved? Or an “a-ha” moment comes out of the blue? Or a mysterious stranger serendipitously comes into your life to give you a clue about your next step? Or a crisis is averted? Or a key relationship changes (for better or worse)?
When conflict is resolved, a shift takes place. How big a shift depends on how big the conflict or crisis was to you.
change ➢ change ➢ shift ➢ shift ➢ big change ➢ change ➢ small shift ➢ change ➢ small change ➢ shift ➢ shift ➢ BOOM!
The caterpillar to butterfly is a series of small changes that lead to the complete transformation of the caterpillar.
Think about this. All those changes and shifts can’t happen without CONFLICT or some type of challenge. Conflict must be met head on until its resolved. It can take many tries to get to resolution.
For the butterfly conflict is breaking free of the cocoon. For a tree, conflict is dealing with the weather and other elements that could potentially destroy it. For animals, it’s other predators and the elements of nature.
For humans, conflict shows up through other people, the environment, nature and animals. But the toughest conflict to overcome is internal (inertia, fear, bad attitude, lack of confidence, low self-esteem), and that’s where big transformations takes place.
What does transformation look like for you? You decide.
You could want a transformation in the amount of money you make, a new career, a change in look in body or style, a profound shift in perspective, the ability to do something with ease that once struck terror in your heart, or a new level of confidence.
Small conflicts can mean small cumulative changes. Eventually big changes are the result of all those small changes.
Big things are made up of little things.
What does that mean? It means you don’t have to do it all at once. You don’t have to do it all in one day. You can make a series of small changes that culminate in your own transformation.
Change the atom and you alter the universe.
Conflict is coming
Conflict is coming whether you want it to or not. Any goal worth going for inherently has resistance. You’d have to want absolutely nothing or be dead to avoid conflict altogether.
Life contains a series of conflict moments that you must face. If you cannot grow from them you cannot experience transformation and without transformation, you don’t have a story worth telling.
Conflict is neither bad or good. It’s merely a plot twist, a turning point, or a critical juncture in your story. Will you take the bait?
The origin of conflict
WHY does conflict exist in the first place?
Because of duality. Duality creates a relationship between two opposing points.
There’s a here and a there. An up and a down, a black and a white, and a beginning and an end.
Conflict potentially exists in between any two points.
Life is basically a long journey between here and there. You start as a baby immediately facing incredible challenges. Going from crawling to walking, from not communicating clearly to language fluency, etc. From life to death, conflict is all those moments that give you the opportunity to either grow or wither away.
Conflict may seem non-existent, but it’s always there, lurking in the background asking you to grow and become more. Conflict is how you learn, expand, get better, and hopefully become great. Conflict is also what causes you to retreat, regress, escape, run, and bring you a life of mediocrity and boredom.
Everyday you’re making decisions on how to deal with conflict. The decision to be courageous or cower. The decision to get things done or succumb to laziness. The decision to try something new (knowing you may look silly) or NOT having that new experience.
Conflict seeks resolution
If the protagonist is bombarded with conflict and he/she decides to run from it instead of facing it, then the story is over. There’s no reason to stick around when someone quits. Quitting is the end of the story unless more conflict is generated by quitting.
There’s something to be said about persistence, in story or in real life. If someone fails, then tries again, then fails, then tries again, and keeps this process going until success is experienced, THEN WE HAVE A STORY WORTH TELLING.
Conflict also persists. Notice that if you don’t take care of something, it will find you at a later date. It’s just a matter of time.
You can look at conflict in two ways. One is that conflict is to be avoided because it does nothing but cause problems for you OR that conflict is asking you to become more, to be everything you were meant to be.
This is the human story. This is nature’s story. This is the story of the universe.
Good and evil. Love and friendship. Man vs. himself. Suffering and redemption. Man vs. nature. The underdog.
There are so many themes, so many stories occurring simultaneously that it’s staggering to consider. We all play a part in its creation. We are all co-conspirators and players on this great big stage.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” ~ Shakespeare
The only purpose of life
So what’s the blatantly obvious purpose of life? Well, maybe it’s not so obvious, but story holds many clues about the purpose of life. Story is universal, and story is ultimately about a character’s transformation.
Can a person only experience transformation ONCE? Are you only allowed ONE experience of change?
No. We can have as many transformational experiences as we can muster. Sure, huge transformations may be rare but our ability to experience more of them is only limited by our time on this planet and our willingness to initiate lots of conflict moments.
How many unique stories can you live through and tell? How many epic stories can you write for yourself?
I’m talking about potential.
We all have potential. It doesn’t matter if you’re living next to a landfill in pure poverty, or a billionaire.
We’re all even in potential.
Potential lies within all living things: an apple seed, animals, people, and every alien species in the universe. And within that potential is a possibility. A possibility for someone or something to become all it was meant to be. It may or may not get there, but the potential is there.
What is the potential of a single apple seed? One tree that produces fruit generation after generation? Or many trees producing apples for millions?
Whatever the potential of an apple seed, it seeks to actualize it.
Every year, an apple tree faces conflict in the process of realizing its potential.
It was a difficult winter. It was my first. I didn’t think I’d survive.
My branches are bare. The wind chill sends shivers down my trunk. There are no animals nearby to console me.
I’m all alone, but I refuse to give up.
It’s getting warmer and I will survive this dreadful cold.
The sun has broken through the clouds. I’m invigorated. I see movement in the distance.
I become stronger. My branches feel alive again and the leaves are blossoming.
Soon I’ll be full of apples again, surrounded by all who benefit from my existence.
I never gave up.
Here comes my first apple, and I’m happy to share it…
Actualization. That’s the purpose of life. To actualize your potential.
Life everywhere is seeking to be all it can be.
Aliens. Earthlings. Plants and animals. Each contains the seed and instinct to realize its potential.
What can you do? Who can you be? What does the best version of you look like?
What about human potential? People can do all kinds of things. Erect impressive structures, build flying machines that take people into space, create great works of art, compose beautiful music, inspire one another to be their best, and put together large organizations that generate value for millions of people over and over again.
But ALL humans don’t necessarily want to actualize their potential, right? When I was working with youth a few years back, inevitably I’d hear the phrase, “(Insert name of any youth) has so much potential!”
When did adults stop having “so much potential?”
Almond trees and fish are different than us, they can’t make meaning, but people CAN. Generally nature can’t choose to be less than they were meant to be. Have you ever seen a lazy flower? A tree that procrastinates?
Humans can make that decision.
And what happens when we don’t seek to actualize our potential? What happens when we are less than average humans? What happens when we eat, drink, or smoke all of our problems away instead of facing them? Or watching lots of movies and TV to avoid doing something we know will make us better? How does conflict avoidance affect you in those moments? How does it affect your life? How will it affect your story?
If the purpose of life is to realize its potential, AND humans can prevent that from happening by choice, then what does a world look like where people thwart their highest potential every single day?
But for every person NOT choosing to unleash their potential there is always someone looking to get the most out of their moments. Every moment that someone chooses to be less than what they can be there is someone choosing to be more. And this is what makes human beings “must see TV”.
Would you pay to watch a movie about your life? Do you think an audience would stick around after the first ten minutes? Would you? Are you actualizing your potential or impeding it? Are you taking risks, being vulnerable, and really putting yourself out there?
Are you initiating and embracing conflict or anxiously waiting for it to come to you?
This is not a call for everyone to become a “Da Vinci” or “Booker T. Washington”.
I’m also not telling you to be grinding out your vision every waking moment of your life.
This is what I’m saying:
We all have potential.
We are meant to actualize it the best we can. This is the purpose of life EVERYWHERE.
HOW we realize our potential is different for EVERYBODY. (This is your mission in life)
Your potential is essentially unlimited, since you can never stop learning and growing unless you choose not to (or you die).
Potential can only be actualized by facing conflict and resolving it, over and over and over again.
And every time you “level up” through every solution, you add more depth and awesomeness to your life story.
Is this too much to ask of humanity? Is this too much to ask of you?
Too bad. Now go initiate some damn conflict.
Paul “I come in conflict” Campillo