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Don’t Be A Slacker: Lessons Learned From Back to the Future

I’m not joking when I say I use to dress up like Marty McFly in second grade. There I was: puffy red vest, jean jacket, white Nikes — 80s to a tee. It helped that I was awkward and had a thing for Huey Lewis and the News (see “About the Author” above).

Little did I know as a prepubescent boy with zero grasp of reality how much impact the “Back to the Future” film series would have on my life (thankfully – from 1990 on– in a strictly non-fashion sense). I play guitar, am obsessed with time travel, have a curious infatuation with 1950s culture…and believe in myself. Yes, that’s right; the “Back to the Future” series offers viewers quite a few handy life lessons. And seeing that I’m watching the trilogy for the 1,985th time, I’ve taken it upon myself to devote a few Inner Game articles to lessons learned from the trilogy. This is heavy.

“Back to the Future”

Lesson 1: If You Put Your Mind To It, You Can Accomplish Anything

Listen closely

Is there a job you want to land, but you’re too afraid to apply because you think you’re under-qualified? Want to ask your dream girl out, but worried she’ll laugh in your face? You, my friend, are not alone.

In the original “Back to the Future,” both Marty McFly and his father George possess the same defeatist attitude. Marty’s too afraid to send in his demo tape to “the record company,” and George refuses to show anyone his science fiction writing because he’s afraid no one will like it. Where does this get the McFlyboys? While Marty still has some time to change things, George’s decision to lay low, take shit from everyone around him and keep his work to himself has pretty crappy consequences. His lack of confidence leads him to a life where he works for the school bully, his wife’s a drunk, and his idea of having fun is watching old reruns at dinner. Some future.

As it turns out, arguably the craziest person in the movie, Doc Brown, is actually the voice of reason when it comes to confidence and inner game. After Marty’s band is turned down to play at the school dance, Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer reminds him of Doc’s words of wisdom: If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. To quote Jennifer, “That’s good advice…”

Just take a look at Doc. Sure he’s got a few gears loose and is batshit insane for messing with those Libyans, but he accomplishes quite a feat: he builds a friggin’ time machine. Like his hero Thomas Edison, he fails numerous times, but keeps on trying and eventually succeeds. He puts his mind to something and accomplishes it. Delirious, but a man of his word.

While you might not have an incredibly brilliant (and comically fictional) idea like the flux capacitor in your noggin, you’ve certainly got something worth going after. Take a cue from Doc Brown: go for it. Doc spent years building something that could have simply blown up. Your risks are likely less explosive.

If there’s something you want to achieve, you’ve got to try, no matter how crazy it may seem or how afraid you might be. Want to start your own business, but afraid you don’t have enough money to get off the ground? Rather than wallow in defeat, put your mind to it and think of a solution. Dying to date the girl a few cubicles over? Get your ass off that ergonomic chair and ask her out for coffee.

Inspired by Marty’s reiteration of Doc’s credo, George proceeds to take down Biff, win Lorraine’s heart and live happily ever after as a tennis-playing pseudo Carl Sagan.  Words to live by, eh?

George McFly’s total life transformation at the end of “Back to the Future”is a bit of a stretch – he actually looks different — but it’s a reminder of the power of choice. It’s your choice whether or not to believe in yourself; your future is a direct result of your willingness or unwillingness to try.

To be continued …

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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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