Ten Life Lessons I Took Away From Watching "The Company Men"

The Company Movie Poster

The Company Movie Poster

I watched "The Company Men" last night. Its tag line is: "In America, we give our lives to our jobs. It's time to take them back."

I had first watched this 2010 movie a few years ago and, for kicks, decided to watch it again. I found it offers reasonable food for thought, despite a somewhat cheesy ending. So why not have a little fun reviewing some of the "life lessons" it contains.

It is my pleasure to present to you my take on Top 10 Life Lessons According to "The Company Men":

  1. Being tight on money makes us self-centred. In fact, experiencing scarcity in any aspect of life will tend to make us focus on our own needs above those of others and keep us from being the best person we can be.
  2. Business decisions based on the vagaries of a capricious market are never in the best interests of long-term shareholders, employees or customers. Jumping ship when we feel that is what fuels upper management may be a good idea.
  3. Creating reports and focusing on revenue and expense dollars as opposed to sustaining and investing in the reason a company exists, meeting its customers' needs for its product or service, does not tend to meet our human need for fulfilling and meaningful work. 
  4. Having a social support system is important and can make a significant difference in our ability to bounce back when times are tough. Too bad we start to ignore this system when times are good.
  5. A large salary and associated increase in status only increases the perceived pressure to "look and act the part": bigger homes, cars, memberships, toys, etc. Chasing and acquiring status symbols, building a virtual house of cards, is the antithesis of a sound personal finance strategy.
  6. Acquisition of material possessions can offer a false sense of security that the past is an indication of what to expect in the future. How can we not expect to continue to be successful when we are surrounded by tokens of our past and present success?
  7. Denial regarding our immediate circumstances can lead to mid to long-term inaction. Mitigating the impact of a situation that may further deteriorate restores us to a position of control, which makes life easier to deal with, even when it stinks.
  8. Money masks problems. When all the cards are down, we quickly find out who our true friends are. How our friends and loved ones behave when we fall on hard times says a lot about them and the insights can lead us to make significant changes to our inner circle.
  9. Hurting others, even in the name of good business sense, is offensive to most of us and often something we regret over the long term...unless you are a psychopath.
  10. When life forces us into a state of change, we often find we are better off over the long term. Our fear of the unknown is a powerful force that can keep us from potentially experiencing our best selves.
Tommy Lee Jones & Ben Affleck in "The Company Men" movie.

Tommy Lee Jones & Ben Affleck in "The Company Men" movie.

As you can see from the above points, though the movie focused on how "big business" companies are wronging their employees, I found the underlying messages were far more about how a preoccupation with "stuff and status" was the real evil that caused chaos and distress for most of the movie's characters. Had Ben Affleck's character been more money savvy, he would have been able to stay in his reasonably-sized home (NOT the one pictured in the movie!) and made minimal changes to his life because he would have used his significant salary to live debt-free and increase his net worth to a comfortable level that allowed him to weather most storms that could come his way.

So, here's my proposed change to the movie's tag line: "In America, we give our lives to stuff. It's time to downsize and remind ourselves of what really matters: family, friends and community."

What do you think of the movie's messages? Do you agree with the list? Disagree? Is anything missing?