I’m not a big movie buff. The last time I went to see a movie in theaters was in 2014. My DVD collection is small, but among the movies I do own is Office Space, and after dusting it off, I decided to watch it for the first time in a while. I always loved it, but it struck a particular chord this time around.
In the quest for True Glory, we realize that there are many paths that are guaranteed to stop us from getting there. Unfortunately, the typical career path is one of those. It’s depressingly backward when you think about it. In our recent discussion on education, we saw that the purpose of “teaching” now seems to be solely to prepare the young to enter the corporate rat race, with some politically correct propaganda sprinkled liberally on top.
Office Space illustrates that corporate rat race at its apogee. It’s humor at its finest – an (only slightly) exaggerated and silly way to highlight an underlying truth. The movie opens with a very depressing and all too common scene around the world.
And what’s the reward for sitting through this traffic? Office Space tells us that it’s getting to do this for eight hours!
And sometimes you get to do it all seven days a week!
All those years being “educated” and turned into a politically correct pussy all so some guy like Bill Lumbergh can be up your ass about TPS reports? This isn’t the good life. It’s not even life. It’s death without an afterlife. You can feel the misery of all the people at Initech (the fictitious company in the movie) when they “celebrate” their boss’ birthday.
You see the realities of social hierarchy and frame control being present throughout Office Space, indeed, the movie would orbit around it, as the character of Milton, the omega male of Initech, was constantly bullied by almost everyone. In any social group there’s always going to be the lowest rung on the ladder. Milton is that rung and if you think his boss, Bill Lumbergh, would stop it, you’d be wrong. On the contrary, Bill Lumbergh, as the highest on the ladder, helps solidify his power by constantly lowering Milton’s status.
Milton responds by burning the building down, saving the protagonists in the process unintentionally.
It’s a Problem of Motivation
Peter Gibbons, the primary protagonist of Office Space, describes it all perfectly.
Office Space is a great movie, greater now in my mind, because it should be a movie that motivates you. With few exceptions, the corporate rat race is death. Unfortunately, that’s mostly what the schools train you for. What’s almost never seen is a picture beyond it.
In Office Space, Peter Gibbons didn’t really seem to have an idea either. He finally found a way to relax, but wasn’t really sure what to do. At the end of the movie, it’s implied he just moved to another boss like Bill Lumbergh after Initech burned down and he was working in construction. Different industry perhaps, but the story was still the same.
Office Space ultimately serves as a great motivation to devise ways to get out of the corporate rat race. Its depiction of the soulless office with all its politics hits too close to home. Inevitably, many people will have to work in a cubicle to support themselves, but that should be a waypoint, not the destination. Peter Gibbons didn’t seem to know this, as instead of making the best of a bad situation by reframing it as a way he could build valuable skills he could ultimately take elsewhere, he was just miserable every day, seeming to see no way out of his predicament…until he was hypnotized, that is. The movie showed what happens when you have people that see no way out, who live at the whim of bosses like Bill Lumbergh and downsizing consultants like the Bobs.
Peter Gibbons and everyone else like him was failed in large part by the lack of a proper education. He wasn’t taught to see himself as his own man rather than a cog in the machine. He wasn’t taught to control his own mind, to build a talent stack that would allow him to transcend the corporate rat race, to think of a higher vision for his work, or to have a strong masculine self-center, which a Classical education would have provided.
Peter Gibbons didn’t have any higher thoughts, so he had no higher reality. In fact, it’s also true of Bill Lumbergh and everyone else.
Escaping the Office Space
You don’t need to rely on a Milton to burn down your office building, like in the movie. That would be a bad system. Instead, if you find yourself trapped in office space, use the time to acquire valuable skills (including people skills), and always look for a better opportunity, as Scott Adams advised in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Commune with the great men of the past and immerse yourself in the Classics. All of this will help you to think big and therefore act. Watch the Office Space movie over and over again to see what you don’t want to be.
Most of all, get a hold of the persuasion skills in Stumped, since they’re crucial to any path that will help you escape the Lumberghs of the world.