“The Princess Bride”: Movie or Mini-MBA?

The following article, written by Jim Foxworthy, appears in the newly relaunched Pragmatic Marketer magazine. During normal conversations, either at home or at work, I often find that the reply that comes to mind is actually a quote from a movie. And more often than not, that movie is “The Princess Bride.” You may have this experience yourself. Perhaps in a meeting, listening to the latest version of your organization’s strategy, your buddy turns to you and asks, “Think it will work?” And all you can think is: “It would take a miracle!” Or your boss tells your team that the organization must have “focus,” and you think, “You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.” I’ve applied eight of my other favorites to the product management and marketing world. See if any of these situations sound familiar to you: 1. “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” The lead engineer says the product will miss the release date by six months. You may want to strangle this person, but keep this quote in mind. You’ve got to collaborate with your counterparts in development, because what they do isn’t immediate. It’s not throwing a light switch. 2. “We are men of action. Lies do not become us.” Telling the truth, especially when it’s not popular, is one of the most challenging things to do in business or at home. We know what we believe, but do we have the courage to say it? Even when the audience is the president of the organization? It’s difficult to strike that balance between telling the truth and rocking the boat. At the end of the day, though, you have to look yourself in the eye and know you did what was right, that you spoke what you believed was true. And hopefully, you can make it through without your boss saying, “Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed, in Greenland?” 3. “I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using?” Competitive threat is a constant part of any successful business. If you are successful, there is always someone trying to take your market share away from you. You don’t want to obsess about the competition or build a product that mirrors what the competition has. But by the same token, you’ve got to pay attention to them. You’ve got to make sure that if there is a new wind out there, you get that in your sails too. 4. “You know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.” Ever have one of those days when you just cannot seem to get all the work done? Product management and marketing are jobs where you’re just not going to finish everything. There are no clear priorities, and you have got to be really good at picking the things that you’re going to work on and letting the other ones hit the floor. 5. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Many years ago, I decided that the word “fair” should be stricken from the dictionary. If you expect life to treat you fairly, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Move past those “unfair” situations as quickly as possible, because the longer you cling to them, the more time you’re wasting. The lessons you’re learning from what’s unfair today could be something you can apply somewhere else—and that’s okay. 6. “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.” Do you work beside supermarketer? That’s the fellow employee who always manages to work on products that exceed their revenue goals; who gets invited to every sales team quota club; and who has the best hair, the best clothes and the nice car. There’s always going to be someone else who knows things that you don’t. 7. “Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders—the most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia’—but only slightly less well-known is this: ‘Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’” Try as you may, there is always one more business rule, one more experience that you haven’t had yet. And it seems as if the rule you need today is the one you don’t know. There’s always more to learn. Quotes 6 and 7 together, knowing that there’s always someone bigger and stronger and that there’s some classic blunder that I’ll always commit, keep me humble—and sometimes you need that. 8. “Sonny, true love is the greatest thing in the world, except for a nice MLT—mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich—where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe. They’re so perky! I love that.” At the end of the day, most stuff doesn’t matter. When emotions are high, and the release is late and everyone is screaming at each other, the successful marketer keeps perspective. Because life is not about this release or that customer or that deal. Life is much more, but is often as simple as a delicious sandwich. Thanks for reading to the end. Good night. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning. For the full new issue of Pragmatic Marketer magazine, please click here.
Pragmatic Institute

Pragmatic Institute

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