Nominees for Life Skills Learned at the Oscars

ben affleck george clooneyBe gracious or get out.

Joaquin Phoenix has gone on record saying that he thinks award shows are ridiculous and that pitting people against each other is stupid. Last night when his name was called as a Best Actor nominee, he grimly shook his head and looked away.  If he couldn’t act gracious – and we know he could, he’s an actor — declining the nomination or not showing up would have been better choices. If his studio requires that he accept nominations and attend, maybe he should find a different studio or career.  Like it or not this is Hollywood and he signed up for it, warts and all. Same for us.  Being a whiny complaining downer at work isn’t acceptable, productive or attractive. (I know because I tried it.)

Life skill:  Zip it and handle with grace the stuff you don’t like — or get out.

One trophy, many contributors.

Every speech listed dozens of people who helped the winner get to that podium. Whether you run your own business or work in a big office, it can feel lonely if you don’t feel part of a team. Solopreneurs need a network of trusted advisors and the support of contractors who can help them make their business the best it can be.  Those in an office environment need to surround themselves with smart, qualified colleagues who have their backs and make each other better.

Life skill: No one wins alone. And who wants to anyway?

Tripping in front of millions is like spitting on one.

Jennifer Lawrence tripped over her ball gown and fell up the stairs as she went to accept her Best Actress Oscar.  Instead of reacting in horror or pretending people didn’t notice (fat chance) she laughed, made a joke at her own expense and moved on – and the audience loved her for it.

Life skill:  If you’ve done something embarrassing, — maybe hit Reply All when you meant to hit Reply, or spit food on someone at a luncheon – release the tension by acknowledging it with humor, apologize when necessary and move on.

Failure isn’t ugly but vengeance is.

Ben Affleck won his first Oscar 15 years ago and then went through a pretty bad slump.  Think Gigli. Those years had to be gut-wrenching in the judgmental, you’re-only-worthwhile-if-you-can-do-something-for-me environment of Hollywood.  Now he’s back with a second Oscar taking the biggest prize of the night.

Life skill:  When you’ve hit bottom business-wise, press on. And remember those who stuck by you during the crappy times but don’t hold grudges against those who didn’t.  That energy is better spent attracting more good folks into your circle.

Innovation takes disconnecting and focus.

Daniel Day Lewis spent a year learning about and inhabiting the character of Abraham Lincoln.  His method is unheard of even among some of the greatest talents in the world. You can bet he didn’t spend that year incessantly tweeting, Facebooking, checking email and mindlessly surfing the web.

Life skill:  In order to deliver our best work – which in many cases means developing creative solutions for our client’s challenges, sometimes we have to disconnect and focus.  For extroverts (me included) this can be tough but there’s no alternative if we want to lead the pack instead of getting lost in the pack.

Stop talking before people are sick of you.

Seth McFarlane did a pretty good job in what is known as a no-win situation. While there were some notable misses during the evening, there were enough hits that the misses could be excused. I was on his side until the finale with Kristin Chenoweth which was unnecessary and worse, unfunny.  Ever had that experience at a networking event where someone is interesting to a point but just doesn’t know how or when to end the conversation and move on? Don’t be that person.

Life skill:  Leave them wanting more time with you, not praying for a natural disaster in order to have an excuse to get away.


  1. Sandy Barbercheck on February 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Nicely said, Mary. It’s funny, I drew comparisons between the Oscars and work life as well. I strive to be a Jennifer Lawrence at all times. Grace under fire. I’m currently looking for work, so that skill has served me well. Not too many people want to hear that I still haven’t found work, but they enjoy hearing that I have had encouraging interviews and how much I am learning about companies in the area. I try to remember that the glass is half full – all the time. No one wants to hire Debbie Downer.

  2. Nancy Hightshsoe, M.A. on February 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    GREAT examples and lessons, Mary! VERY well-said!

  3. Mary Kutheis on February 28, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks, Nancy!

  4. Mary Kutheis on February 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Yes indeed these are tough times. And I applaud your upbeat efforts. They WILL pay off. Good luck to you and I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities for you.