Why Every Entrepreneur Should Watch the Bohemian Rhapsody Movie
I’m not here to talk about the visuals, music, performance, or how “true” the film was, but I want to discuss the modern relevance of this story and why entrepreneurs, even those who have no interest in rock music, should still be watching this film.
I recently came across an opinion piece in the New York Times that was critical of the new “gig economy”, and that the development of the promise to build meaningful work through freelancing was contributing to modern anxiety and pathological worry. The article contested my beliefs about entrepreneurship and what it means to say “I’m the CEO of my own life”. She argues, the promise isn’t just idealistic, it’s backwards in terms of what would actually make us happy. It made me question, am I victim of this dream? Does being an entrepreneur mean having to sell myself? Will that hurt my mental wellbeing?
Although I haven’t had the time to properly think and discuss Whippman’s argument, I thought about what this would mean for my values if these assumptions are correct.
#1) Running your own business = having to sell yourself
#2) This need to constantly sell yourself will hurt your wellbeing
So what would make it worth it to do what you love and try to be an entrepreneur anyway? This is why I believe entrepreneurs should be watching films. Stories like Bohemian Rhapsody, and the emotions we feel watching it, can help us critically evaluate our own aspirations and the costs in getting there.
Bohemian Rhapsody is about Queen, yes, but at its core, the film is neither about the band nor Mercury, but about chasing after the Dream. It’s about the opportunity to go from rags to riches with nothing but determination and talent. While Queen is a British band, I’m not surprised that the film was overtly reminiscent of the American Dream trope, as the original director Bryan Singer (before he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher) and the main production company behind the film, 20th Century Fox, is American.
But Bohemian Rhapsody is not in just the flattest sense a typical “the American Dream” film, where the hero against all odds achieves his dream to be a rockstar, but focuses more on the element of happiness (or lack thereof) after the success. The film only skims over how Queen built their fame, and their struggles to get there, and the bulk of the story is concentrated on what happened to the band, and specifically to Mercury, after the fame and fortune.
Without spoiling the film, I hope you consider this question while watching the film, or if you have already seen it, to think about it now:
If you were Freddie Mercury, would you be happy?
My answers (spoilers included)
The point of the question above is to help you evaluate your own values from a different lens, so you can consider what it is that your really want, whether your desires coincide with your choices, and if these choices will bring you fulfillment.
Based on your answer, here is my point of view on how you define meaning and fulfillment:
If you answered yes, that you would be happy as Freddie Mercury, then you strongly believe that there is value in chasing your dream and pursuing a life led by passion. Mercury had to combat loneliness and depression, sacrifice stability and a family, risk everything from his relationship with his parents to his pride, to get a shot at becoming a rockstar. Yet if you believe that Mercury led a meaningful life, and that you would prefer to live guided by passion and purpose, then your values dictate that the stability of a 9-5 is not worth it, because your freedom and your thoughts come at your top priorities. Sticking with Whippman’s assumptions, starting a business does mean selling yourself, but to you, even if it can hurt your wellbeing, the cost is small compared to the value of chasing after your ambitions.
To those who answered no, that you would not be happy living Freddie Mercury’s life, then this may indicate a point of reconsideration. Being realistic and choosing a path of stability and comfort through job security, working a 9-5 that will provide the health insurance and economic benefits you value, is the path that probably coincides with your values. It counters the Dream, but chasing the Dream will not bring you fulfillment. Unlike Mercury, you can raise a family, feel loved, and be present in the moment. Your income is secure and your work is contributing to society, so you can dedicate time to your home and family. Your values dictate that this is what creating a meaningful life is about, and that although it can sound unromantic, the passions of starting your own business and having to sell yourself will lead to exactly what Whippman says is plaguing our society.
Of course, the question I posed to you and your answer is not the end-all be-all. You may’ve considered factors I didn’t include, or you may have misinterpreted what I meant. Your response is my guess, and just a tool in which I believe will help you analyze your thoughts and values. Films are a medium in which we can live in a different world, through a different person’s eyes, and give us the opportunity to experience the emotions of being at the heights of success as well as the bottom of rock bottom. By putting yourself in a character’s shoes, it gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves, would I want to be them?
Our time alive is limited, and how we make our decisions on how we spend it is the single most important thing we will do. What is it about living a fulfilling life? What do we need to do, and what should be prioritizing to make sure we don’t have any regrets? These are the questions that I keep asking myself, and use to frame my daily routine.
My point is that entrepreneurs should watch Bohemian Rhapsody because it can help you evaluate what ‘selling yourself’ will mean to you (it’s also a highly entertaining film, regardless of whether it’s an accurate portrayal of Queen), and consider your values from a different lens. The costs, the benefits, the purpose, or lack thereof. Critically analyzing our beliefs is what will drive our decisions, and this is ultimately important in helping us figure out a path that will bring us both joy and fulfillment. Analyze. Prioritize. Decide. Act.
How will you spend your time alive?