Have you seen Whiplash?
Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious Jazz drummer, and has fanatical obsession to become the greatest. He is determined to follow his pursuit, practicing so furiously that you can see blood coming out of his blisters. Would he be tough enough to go through the rigors of his idiosyncratic and relentless mentor, Terence Fletcher (J.K Simmons)? Whiplash, the title comes from a difficult jazz piece that is repeatedly played.
Terence Fletcher’s character is one of the most memorable (J.K Simmons received an Oscar for best supporting role) and his commitment to supreme perfection has made him the most revered and feared in the field. His methods are not traditional, because he believes that conventional teaching doesn’t make his students realize their true potential. Fletcher won’t mind abusing his students verbally, emotionally and physically in an attempt to make his students the best that they can be. His band Shaffer’s jazz band has always won accolades because he runs them as per his olympic level commitment.
The price Andrew has to pay is high. Andrew withdraws from a budding relationship, because he thinks that the relationship will come in the way of his commitment. He has absolutely no one in his life. Fletcher is also fired from his position, when one of his students commits suicide. The film questions few important aspects of our society from there.
What is the kind of excellence that one would need to achieve which can be revered even generations later? Later in the film, when Andrew meets Fletcher again, Fletcher confesses, “Truth is, I don’t think people understood what I was doing at Shaffer. I was there to push people beyond what was expected of them. Society is ok with mediocrity and that is a tragedy. But that is what the world wants.”
One of the classic statement in Whiplash is, “Two most damaging words in the English language are the too-easily uttered good job, because they can keep people from pushing themselves to become the best they can be.” This would be ironical in today’s HR parlance.
The climax of the movie is such that it would make you watch it again and again; you will goosebumps and rush of adrenaline flowing through your body. Very few movies come close to it. Damien Chazelle has excelled in his craft.
Many of us would find hard to get mentors, who would push us to the limit of insanity to make the best version of what we can be. They push us harder than what we can push ourselves and make us achieve that we can never achieve by ourselves. The only way one can repay the debt of the great mentor is to pay it forward, by making more imbibe success and making it their second nature.
It would be unfair to paint such a ghastly image of a mentor (I would be dreading if I had taken Terrence Fletcher as my mentor). However, there is no better way to quantify the impact they bring to your life. Bill Gates had Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs. No matter how successful you are you would need a mentor, who would coach you to get ahead.
Nonetheless, if you haven’t watched Whiplash, I would strongly recommend that you watch it and watch it alone. Because, let me warn you that there are chances if your wife is watching with you, you may have to compensate by watching 2 or more chick flicks.
Leadership is a lonely sport.
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