What Space Jam tells us about self development - 20 years on
Space Jam, undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever (bizarrely Oscar judges never agreed with me on that), came out 20 years ago this week. So what, I hear you ask, has a film about Bugs Bunny playing basketball against aliens got to do with a blog that talks about self development, fitness, career change and coaching in general?
Well, in adult life all these things become big, unwieldy topics - careers, money, status, purpose - the subjects of endless hours of questioning, debate, self-doubt and rollercoaster emotions. In a week where the Social Mobility Commission published a fairly depressing report about "treadmill families" and offered a bleak outlook for social progress, it's easy to find yourself staring at an insurmountable wall of challenges.
Wind back to 1996 though, and for me as an 11-year-old, none of those questions really existed. Things were a lot simpler, and anything seemed possible. England even got to the latter stages of a major football tournament, it was so long ago. This is the theme of Space Jam - anything is possible. The R Kelly theme tune, which seems laughably twee now, was direct about the idea too - if I can see it, then I can do it.
Just in case you aren't aware (you really should be), the premise is that Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan assemble various Looney Tunes characters for a basketball game against the "Monstars" to avoid spending eternity as attractions on an evil intergalactic theme park that resembles Chessington on a wet bank holiday. The Monstars steal the talent of some top NBA stars (and, inexplicably, Shawn Bradley), and play dirty, allowing them to build a seemingly unassailable 66-18 half time lead.
Which is where the positive psychology message really kicks in.
Heads bowed in the locker room, the Tune Squad are ready to give up, until Bugs Bunny passes round water bottles full of "Michael's Secret Stuff", telling everyone it's the key ingredient to Jordan's talent. Invigorated, they obviously go out and win (despite some frankly questionable non-calls from referee Marvin the Martian). The message being - all you have to do is believe in yourself.
Yes, it's a children's film and not "realistic". But how many times have you told yourself you can't do something, it's impossible, there's no point trying? You're still here, still moving forward, still have dreams and ambitions. I see this everyday in my coaching. People who tell me that they are stuck because they have no skills, nothing to offer. I know it's not true, and so do they, deep down - all they need sometimes is a bottle of Michael's Secret Stuff.