The Truth in Dr. Strange's Fiction
***Warning: This post contains mild spoilers for the recently released Doctor Strange movie. Read on at your own risk.
One thing you should know about me, I love superhero movies. And at the risk of being controversial, I think Marvel's are the best. It's been a long journey since they first released Iron Man when no one quite knew what to expect, to now boasting a never-before-imagined entertainment engine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
They had their growing pains, but now they have gotten so good at doing blockbusters that can cram in a surprising amount of character development (though I will agree with people who have said that female leads like Natalie Portman and Rachel McAdams have been underutilized).
Take, for example, Dr. Strange. While I won't get into context for those of you who haven't already seen it, I wanted to share a scene that really stood out for me.
In a break from the action, Doctor Strange is having a bit of a philosophical discussion with his mentor, the Ancient One, during which they spoke about fear and motivation. Doctor Strange tells the Ancient One, "it was my fear of failure that drove me to succeed." Ever the wise mentor, she replies, "no, it was your fear of failure that held you back."
Pretty deep for a paint-by-numbers blockbuster, no?
It is common for people to use fear as motivation every day. We all have something we want to get away from. To borrow from another iconic series of movies, we turn that fear into anger, and that anger into the fuel that we need to overcome obstacles. But at what cost?
That fear feeds our ego. It makes us put our needs ahead of others. It leads to selfishness, and excessively competitive behaviour. Just succeeding is not enough; it needs to be done at the expense of others, who then must recognize our greatness.
Dr. Strange, prior to his transformation, is portrayed as a singularly brilliant person, capable of great acts of kindness. But he lives alone. He doesn't have many, or any, friends. He is surrounded by valuable possessions with no one to share them with. His treatment of others ranges from tolerance for those he respects to outright disdain for those he doesn't. He partakes in excessively risky behaviour to satisfy his own ego. It's all about him. He drove himself through fear to become the undisputed best at his profession, at the cost of his health, his relationships, and his true potential.
How many people do we know like this? People who might appear powerful and project an image of having everything together, when behind the facade, are ruled by their own fears and insecurities?
It's ok to be driven. Though why not be driven by the things that we truly want, instead of the things that we want to get away from?
In the executive world, I've seen many whose actions and choices are dominated by fear and stress. That fear and stress permeates teams and workplace cultures. It causes people to use their fear of failure to drive them to succeed. But really, it is that fear of failure that holds them back. It might allow for moments of singular brilliance, but creates silos, fosters distrust amongst colleagues, leads to blaming and shaming, and ultimately a toxic workplace.
Interestingly enough, in the end, Dr. Strange could only save the universe by being willing to fail infinitely.
Yes, fear can be a powerful tool. But passion, shared and harnessed collectively, is the most powerful tool there is. How would you like to be oriented by passion, instead of fear? Contact me...I have a bargain.