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Boy-meets-girl, both meet career expectations.
La La Land only came out a few years ago (4 years this week), but it feels like it’s been forgotten. All the hype died down, and then it vansished from our minds. This is not review about how La La Land is a nostalgic escape from the turmoil of the day. Nor is it about how the film is a saccharine example of why the world is so polarised. The movie is both of those things. What this is about La La Land as a different genre: a feature-length infotainment production about career progression in a competitive job market.
If you haven’t watched it and you don’t want spoilers…
What you should know: It’s a pleasant movie with a secondary storyline about romance. It’s not about romance. That doesn’t mean that it’s not romantic, but it has more than one definition of romance. Now, stop reading because the spoilers are coming.
If you’ve already seen it, or you don’t care about spoilers, read on…
This is a playful movie about how to be good at networking. Read this version of the synopsis and tell me I’m wrong:
La La Land is about two people in the same industry trying to rise up the career ladder. Promotions elude them because of their poor attitudes, which causes friction within their networks. The girl learns to focus on positive-thinking and skill development. The boy learns about grief management techniques and goal setting. Both are able to achieve their professional goals, but we, the audience, are able to see that if they had not been so negative during their networking activities, they would have reached their career goals faster and experienced smoother personal lives as well.
Lessons from La La Land
The main theme of the movie is networking. Whatever your goals are, if your interactions with others are positive, your life will move in the direction you want it to move. When Mia and her friends sing “Someone In The Crowd”, they may have well all been recruitment consultants. The message (somewhat lost in their desperation) was about nurturing positive relationships. Even outside of the entertainment industry, this is a good lesson. Actually, La La Land has a lot of good lessons.
Lesson 1: It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know and how you treat them
Have you ever had a job that you didn’t care about? You did the minimum amount of work, maybe you turned up late a lot. You didn’t put in much effort because you knew you wouldn’t be staying there for long. So what happened when you were ready to leave? You didn’t have a good referee because nobody wanted to vouch for you. You didn’t care about their job, why would they care about yours now that you’re leaving? But it’s not just your relationships with known connections that could be affected. You never know who is going to be a useful connection, so don’t burn your bridges.
Lesson 2: Sacrifice is not the answer
I will say it again: sacrifice is not the answer. If you lie to someone to make them or someone else happy, you will hurt someone. If your personality, beliefs, passion and soul all align and then you give up who you are for someone else, you’ll both end up miserable. You’ll get stuck in a sacrifice circle until one of you breaks. That’s not fun. But if you are positive and stay true to who you are, you’ll get wherever you are headed faster and it will be an easier ride.
Lesson 3: It’s not too late to change your career trajectory
Feel like you have stalled? Think about what you can do about it. Could you get some extra training, maybe a free online course or a via a local meet-up? Could you attend some networking events, and if you already do are you developing meaningful connections? Have you actually identified your goals so you know exactly what you are working towards and why?
Lesson 4: Your vision of success can change and you can still be happy
Don’t adjust your vision to fit your resources. Identify your vision and adjust your resources to fit. What did Mia truly want from her career? She wanted her work to have a positive impact on people. That success could have taken many different forms, but if she had held too tightly to the vision of affecting others through screen acting, she wouldn’t have worked on her play, which developed her storytelling skills, which got her film gig. Her skill development advanced her career in either ending, but when Mia enjoyed the process she had a greater impact in her audience and felt more successful. As said in Lesson 3 above, it’s not too late to change your trajectory, just remember to enjoy the changes on the way.
If nothing else, think of La La Land as a reminder that we could all benefit from a little self-reflection. Re-evaluate what you want from life and see if you’re on the right path. While you’re contemplating, put the film’s soundtrack on. I think we can all agree it’s pretty damn good.