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How to Be a Much (Much) Better Agent by Ground Hog Day

A couple nights ago I got caught up watching the movie Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray. It’s a fun movie I’ve seen before, so you can imagine my surprise when I realized how much I was learning from this character.

Murray plays Phil, a weatherman doing an on-the-scene report covering Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Ground Hog that looks for his shadow on February 2nd. The twist is: Phil finds himself awaking each morning… to the same morning! It’s February 2nd again and again and again. What does he do? At first, he does what most of us would probably do, he tests the limits: he flirts, he overeats, he steals money, he even tries to kill himself, just to see what happens. But each morning, he awakens to the same Sonny & Cher song on the radio, and the same day repeated outside.

Eventually, Phil begins to improve himself. He takes classes and he learns new skills; he seeks out people who need help and through it all, becomes a better man. He learns, albeit slowly, the power of… the moment. The moment is that brief instant when a decision is made; the decision may lead to years of work or an immediate change, but either way a course is set. (Of course, the opposite applies too: a moment passes without a decision, and a course is set as well.)  So Bill Murray’s character Phil, begins seizing those moments, and begins improving his life in ways he could have never imagined.

By the end of the movie, Phil has become a new man; even the locals treat him differently (and remember, to them it truly has been only one day). The motivation behind making those decisions is ultimately unimportant; to improve as a man, to win the heart of a woman, or just to make more money; the “why” is less important than the “what.” He has transformed himself, one decision at a time, one moment at a time.

You may not wake up each morning to “I’ve Got You Babe” on the radio. And you’re most likely not waking up each day only to discover that it’s the same day all over again. But are you waking up to anything that much different? Is it the same you, doing the same thing, around the same people, in the same area, and having the same results? Imagine how your life might change if TODAY, you make a decision to take a class, or improve your skills, or simply meet more people. Imagine how your life might change if TODAY, you decide to grab that moment…

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  • 10 comments

    10 Comments so far

    1. Don Reedy July 19th, 2012 11:45 am

      Thanks for this, Sean. I’d like to drink to “world peace”, and also to the simple but firmly rooted idea you posit here.

      Make yourself better, little by little, day by day.

    2. Larry T. July 19th, 2012 12:09 pm

      Sean, I absolutely agree with you. if we never change and still expect great outcomes, we will never get them if we do not take risks. Being creative, and challenging ourselves, is the only real way to achieve greatness. If we fail, then atleast we know what doesn’t work. Great post!

    3. Tom Bryant July 19th, 2012 5:08 pm

      This is a simple and wonderful post. Funny, too, because my wife and I sometimes comment about the Groundhog Day nature of our toil. A more obscure but funny reference is when we trudge into our shared home office at 5 or 5:30 in the morning and joke,”Time to make the donuts.” It’s the money line in old Dunkin Donuts commercial:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=petqFm94osQ

    4. Greg Swann July 19th, 2012 7:51 pm

      Groundhog Day is one of my favorite films. I normally rebel against the mysterious and miraculous, but I’m a sucker for redemption stories.

    5. Mike Woods July 20th, 2012 12:01 pm

      Great insights. Isn’t it funny how something like a comedy can lead to insights on life. This also reminds me of a line from the recent sci-fi movie, Prometheus, when David says, “Big things have small beginnings.” So many significant, life-altering things in a person’s life can be traced a very small thing like a decision.

    6. Sean Purcell July 20th, 2012 1:48 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Mike; our successes and our failures all start with a moment… a decision (even not making a decision is a decision). I believe the key is to remain purposeful, and aware of the moments. Thanks for commenting!

    7. Sean Purcell July 20th, 2012 1:51 pm

      “…I’m a sucker for redemption stories.”

      Which goes a long way toward explaining the passion of Man Alive, to which Don so astutely linked.

      I think you’ll agree Don, most of us are still exploring around the edges, while Greg has already figured it out.

    8. Sean Purcell July 20th, 2012 1:53 pm

      Larry, you reminded me of a wonderful story I read about Jonas Salk: each time the tried something in the lab and it failed, he’d yell out: “Great! We’ve made another discovery!” Got to love someone who understands the power of failure. Thanks for reminding me of this…

    9. Sean Purcell July 20th, 2012 1:55 pm

      Tom, I think we’re dating ourselves… but that was a great commercial. Sometimes the best part of our Ground Hog day toils, is knowing that each morning we might have to make the donuts again, but we don’t have to make the SAME donuts again! :)

    10. Jeff Brown July 20th, 2012 3:36 pm

      You need to write more, Sean. Way more.