What Can Shaun of the Dead Teach Us About Leadership and Growing Up?

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal BQB here.

It’s funny how you can watch a movie when you’re young and when you’re older and get a different experience.  When I saw this movie when I was young, I thought it was a funny spoof on zombie flicks.  Now that I’m older, it’s still that, but much more.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is 29, approaching 30 and is seen by everyone, even himself, as a big loser.  He’s a clerk at an electronics store and his teenage employees laugh at him.  His step-father has zero respect for him.  His flat mate thinks his buddy, Ed, (Nick Frost) is dragging him down.

Worse, his girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield) feels she’s wasting her life dating Shaun.  She yearns for a better life and is tired of going on the same date to Shaun’s favorite dive bar, the Winchester.  When Shaun fails an ultimatum to take her anywhere else by forgetting to make a reservation at a fancy restaurant, she calls it quits.

Like a zombie, Shaun is shuffling through life, allowing life to live him instead of vice versa.  Rather than create a plan and work and through, he takes what he gets and dulls the pain with booze and hanging out with Ed.

Now, here’s where it gets complicated.  I think an argument can be made that Shaun is actually the only respectable one in the entire film.

Sometimes excellence doesn’t come from within but from opportunity.  Without the Civil War, Abe Lincoln might have been a mediocre president.  Though I’m not comparing Shaun to the Great Emancipator, we see Shaun kick ass and take names in the zombie apocalypse.

Here’s the thing. As a society, we’ve become programmed to think that success=perfection.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Success comes from showing up.

Shaun takes charge of a group of survivors comprised of his friends and family.  Everyone follows Shaun but as he makes mistakes, they don’t give him any leeway.  His stepdad repeatedly dumps on him.  Liz’s friend Dave routinely craps on him.

This is a show don’t tell thing.  What I noticed is that at no time do any of the naysayers stand up and take control of the group.  They all want to complain but none of them actually vocalize anything they’d do better.  No one tells Shaun to stand down so they can take charge.  This unfortunately happens a lot in life. People are happy to dump on the decision makers but they don’t want to make decisions themselves.

Call Shaun a loser, but a he always showed up.  He showed up every day to a job he hated.  He kept caring for friend Ed even though everyone told him to cut him loose.  He kept dating Liz even though she complains Shaun is holding her back, as if Shaun is somehow keeping her from going to school, seeking a new job, going on a vacation or doing something to improve her life.

All we can do is show up.  Maybe we’ll be lucky.  Maybe we won’t.  But we only fail when we stop showing up.

We don’t get too see too far into Shaun and Liz’s future, other than at the end of the movie (spoiler alert) they’re happy and Shaun acts like a man who is a bit more sure of himself.  Does he get a better job or always remember to make dinner reservations, I don’t know.  But he shows up.

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5 thoughts on “What Can Shaun of the Dead Teach Us About Leadership and Growing Up?

  1. Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. – Thomas Edison
    The perspiration part is showing up and doing the work. People forget that. They get all focused on the inspiration. Someone has to keep the lights on.

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