‘The Shawshank Redemption’: A Simple But Powerful Message

February 28, 2013 1:31 pm

‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is indeed a great movie. There are a bunch of messages in the movie, some hidden and some stated – it is about Hope winning over Fear, for example. But there is this hidden lesson, a very powerful one, that one can infer from the movie.

The situation that Andy Dufresne is faced with is very tricky. He embarks upon an activity (carving through a wall) – which has three characteristics:

1. It would take a really long time to complete. He has a feel for how long it would take – but he doesn’t know that exactly. And that feel changes every day as well.
2. He can get caught at any point – in the beginning, in the middle, or at the end – literally on any given day until he is done – and if he is caught, all his efforts up to that point add up to nothing. The net effect of getting caught would be negative, in the form of additional punishment, added with absolutely no scope of receiving a parole thereafter
3. The end result is binary: If he gets caught, twenty years’ effort adds up to nothing. On the other hand, if he succeeds, he can be a free man and live the rest of his life happily.

If you think about it, the exact same characteristics are shared by anyone working on a Startup (in addition to the fact that only fools would embark on a journey with these characteristics):

1. It would take a really long time to complete. You have a feel for how long it would take – but you don’t know that exactly. Besides, this feel changes everyday.
2. You can fail at any point- in the beginning, in the middle, or at the end – literally on any given day until you are done – and if you fail, all your efforts up to that point add up to nothing. The net effect of a failure would be negative, in the form of lost investment, opportunity costs, and a bunch of significant ‘could have beens’
3. The end result is binary: If you fail, you will feel that your efforts added up to nothing. If you succeed, well…..

It might be a strange observation to make from a movie about people serving life-terms in prison – but if you observe closely, the simple and most powerful message from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ is this: ‘Enjoy The Journey’.

Remember the smile on Andy’s face when he disposes off the pieces from the wall every day in that prison ground? It could be the light at the end of the tunnel that keeps you going, or it could be the thrill that comes from the stealthiness of it all – but you have to remember that the journey is more important and satisfying than the destination – getting into that mode is absolutely essential for everyone embarking on the journey.

You have no idea how deep the wall is. You have nothing but a rock hammer. You have no idea when you will be caught.

What you do have, is the journey. Enjoy the journey.

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6 Comments for “‘The Shawshank Redemption’: A Simple But Powerful Message”

  1. Jake Adler

    Enjoy the journey?

    quote: Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a mile of shit and came out clean on the other side.

    Yeah, enjoy the journey.

  2. joe

    Please understand me, I am not saying you are wrong, not at all, but the reality is the journey sucks – the thrill of it is not enough to overcome its suckiness, and the light at the end of the tunnel is not guaranteed.
    How am I supposed to enjoy the journey? I understand that enjoying the journey will make it much more palatable, but that knowledge doesn’t make me enjoy it. If anything it makes it worse, because while I know that theoretically I could enjoy the journey and not suffer, the reality is I don’t enjoy the journey, and the more I dwell on the journey the more pain it causes me.

  3. Chris L

    While I agree with the main sentiment, I disagree with the statement, “The end result is binary: If you fail, all your efforts add up to nothing.” In addition to enjoying the journey, even if you fail at some point, I should hope that you will have gained valuable knowledge and experience during that time. If you don’t, then you are wasting your time, money, etc.

  4. Gabriel

    Even if it does not seem so there are plenty of ways you can go and you might have taken the “wrong” journey. If you don’t enjoy it and you suffer then you might need to take another route. There is no point of life other than to be happy and make others happy. That might sound like preaching or even impossible but being close to death and escaping from suicide makes you appreciate everything and everyone much more.

  5. Andy Dufresne was falsely imprisoned, and managed to escape. Given a choice, I’m pretty certain he would have avoided prison entirely.

    So, given a choice, we all should avoid startups, right?

  6. “So, given a choice, we all should avoid startups, right?”

    That’s the advice I give the most as well :)

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