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Utah Business

In times of struggle, we can learn from our favorite movies, as they might teach us a few lessons in business.

Gratitude is important right now

These are perilous times. A global pandemic necessitating a worldwide quarantine and the phrase of the decade “social distancing” was born. Adding to this, many of us awoke to an earthquake and felt like we were stuck in an episode of The Twilight Zone or the movie, Groundhog Day

Speaking of movies, my favorite of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life. Inevitably, I am brought to tears and cry like a baby at the end, so long as I watch it from start to finish in one sitting.

In that timeless classic, a young Jimmy Stewart plays the protagonist George Bailey, a building and loan banker who sacrifices his dreams in order to help his community of Bedford Falls to the point where he feels life has passed him by. 

Upon facing a crisis in keeping his business open, Bailey becomes discouraged and he seriously contemplates suicide when a guardian angel appears and bestows on him the gift of seeing what the world would have been like had he never been born. The celestial insight helps Bailey realize the powerful impact his influence had on his family and community, and that he really had a wonderful life.

In these times of unique challenges, I am reminded of a pivotal scene in the movie showing the community in crisis, and a panic-driven “run on the bank.” Everyone shows up at the Bailey Building & Loan with demands to pull all their money out, only to be told by a concerned George Bailey that their fates are intertwined. 

If they all pull out, the institution will collapse. Bailey pleads for them to work together, and his newlywed wife generously offers up the money saved for their honeymoon. He asks them what they really need to tide them over until things calm down. After several forcefully demand every penny they can get away with, the timid Ms. Davis steps up and simply asks Bailey for $17.50. It is a particularly poignant moment and Bailey embraces Ms. Davis with heartfelt gratitude. 

The “run on the bank” reminds me of the run on toilet paper and rushed consumption which so powerfully illustrates the anxiety and panic being felt throughout our community as a result of this awful pandemic. I fear that in our panic, we are tempted to take far more than we really need, and unknowingly risk injuring our neighbors in the process. 

There is understandable confusion as to what is appropriate relative to demanding relief and what to expect. This is a difficult and complex situation where entire industries have been disrupted and are grappling with forced closure, while others have been fortunate to maintain operations. 

It is my hope that we can draw lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life and be our best selves through this crisis. I have been inspired by the generosity of so many in our community, who have rushed to aid their suddenly unemployed neighbors or have singlehandedly worked to prop up entire businesses with their patronage. If we work together and put our self-interest aside, I am confident we can weather this storm.