Indiana Jones is everyone’s favorite big-screen hero who uses his wits as well as his fists to get what he’s after.
One of the most interesting aspects of the character is that Indy doesn’t have any super-powers, he gets knocked down over and over just like those of us in the real world.
While the character’s exploits are created on storyboards, there’s no reason you can’t work on the script of your own life as well. Here are some tips you can use to start putting your own plan into action.
What do you treasure? When asked the importance of the “Shankara” stones by Short Round—the pint-size Temple of Doom sidekick—Indy replies, “Fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory.” Have you taken time to decide what you really want out of life? What does fortune and glory mean to you? Do you have a plan on how to get it, and what you’ll do with it?
Write it down. In most adventure movies, the call to action usually begins with something in writing: a mysterious old map, a cryptic code, or ancient runes on a tablet. We intuitively know that when something has been written down—or set in stone—it’s tangible.
This is true in the real world, what gets written down tends to get done. You can put this power to work for you by making your big goal come alive with a written mission statement and a business plan. If you like paper, use a classic Moleskine notebook. If you prefer pixels, try the Nightingale Conant mission-statement builder. Or go ahead and knock yourself out with a chisel and slab of basalt.
Face your fear. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is shocked to find his pilot Jock’s pet snake “Reggie” in the cockpit. “I hate snakes, Jock, I hate ‘em!” To which Jock replies, “C’mon show a little backbone, will ya!” It’s a humorous scene that sets up a fear the hero’s going to have to face down as the film progresses.
Indy will take on Nazis, but snakes will stop him in his tracks. Indy’s ophidiophobia presents a particular challenge since his exploits require that he enter dark passages where snakes like to hide.
Quite often we also have fears linked directly to our professional pursuits, fears that are holding us back. Fear of starting that business, a fear of public speaking, a fear of rejection. Sometimes even a fear of success. What scares you? Identify it and take steps to face it down and vanquish it.
Be an open-minded skeptic. As a scientist, Indiana Jones is suspicious of “magic and superstitious Hocus Pocus.” Yet it is revealed time and again that there are mysterious forces at work in the world. You don’t need a PhD to adopt an inquisitive mindset. Make an effort to regain the sense of wonder and amazement you once had as a child.
Study a new language or learn a new skill. Become an expert in something. Train for a marathon. Read passages from the teachings of different faiths. Look up at the night sky and marvel at the same stars the ancients saw. Visualize your place in the universe and get excited by the possibilities.
Take your lumps. “Dr. Jones, once again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away.” Who can forget the opening sequence in Raiders when Indy reluctantly hands over the golden Chachapoyan idol to his rival Belloq?
A trademark of the Indiana Jones movies is that despite Indy’s Herculean struggles, he often loses the very thing he’s after. The mystical Crystal Skull is returned to the temple, the U.S. government confiscates the Ark, and the Holy Grail is hopelessly lost in a crevasse. Along the way Indy ends up getting punched, shot, beaten, and whipped. But he doesn’t give up, and it’s that relentless nature and ability to adapt that sets him apart.
Don’t let the prospect of failure dissuade you either. Others will take their shots and you’ve got to roll with the punches, dust yourself off and jump right back in. In most cases you’ll come away from the experience stronger and wiser than if you hadn’t dared at all.
Know what you do. What Indiana Jones does for a living is nicely summed up in one scene by army man Major Eaton; “Dr. Jones, professor of archaeology, expert on the occult, and obtainer of rare antiquities.” It’s a great “elevator statement” that introduces us to the character of Indiana Jones and tells us everything we need to know about him.
Regardless of what you do for a living, you need a short, snappy way to sum up your expertise and what you can offer others. It should establish your credibility and succinctly tell others what it is you do. (Click here for tips on writing your own.)
Be focused on the moment. In Temple of Doom lounge singer Willie tells Indy, “You’re gonna get killed chasing after your damn fortune and glory!” To which he replies, “Maybe. But not today.” Indiana Jones is a man who—as Eckhart Tolle would say—understands the power of “the now.” Indy is all about surviving and moving ahead but to do that he needs to stay focused on the urgency of the moment.
Too often we’re distracted by persistent thoughts of the past and the future. Neither will help us through the current predicament. Make an effort to be in the moment and give whatever you’re doing your full attention and effort. You’ll get more things done and enjoy life more.
Get away from your desk. In his day job as a professor at Marshall College, Dr. Jones has mundane lectures to prepare and stacks of papers to grade. He has busy work just like the rest of us. But to find valuable treasures, Indy knows he can’t spend all of his time at a desk or podium. He needs to get out of the office to make things happen. This isn’t easy, even for Indy. In The Last Crusade, he resorts to dodging appointments with a crowd of students by escaping out of his office window.
Your life is playing out in real time, and you have to make the most of it. Do something today to break out of your comfort zone. Make getting out of your office to learn new things, meet new people, and follow up on leads a part of each week. You’ll be surprised how interesting things start happening.
Decide on a bold objective. All of the Indiana Jones plots contain what legendary director Alfred Hitchcock called a “MacGuffin.” A MacGuffin is the object of the hero’s quest, such as the Ark of the Covenant, or the Holy Grail. It has to be compelling and pose a challenge to obtain. It’s what keeps the story moving and the main characters motivated.
So what’s the MacGuffin you want to chase? What gets you moving and motivated? Decide what it is, and go after it with Indy’s same grit and persistence.
Bullwhip or not, you may find you can really become an action hero in your own life.