Oh Captain, My Captain!

“O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, “O Captain my Captain” – John Keating (Robin Williams) “Dead Poets Society”

That scene from “Dead Poets Society” is one of my favorites. The part of the scene that I especially like, since it applies to so many parts of life and that of a marketer, is when Williams’ character stands on the desk and changes the perspective of his view of the classroom – and then invites students, daring enough, to do the same.

Robin Williams in many ways changed the perspective of how people viewed him as an actor and a comedian with the diverse roles he played. From affable Mrs. Doubtfire to Armand Goldman in “The Birdcage.” In each of these roles we saw a perspective of the other characters from a character’s point of view that adapted to understand and be empathetic to the point of view of others in the cast. The view through that lens was a key element to making the story work so well and it is what drew audiences to the edges of their seats and helped them understand the plot developments’ twists and turns and yet still come together at the conclusion of the movie. 



In my posts, I often talk about marketers needing to put themselves in the shoes of the customer, to step back and look at how to solve the rubric by changing perspective. The scene from “Dead Poets Society” when the students climb up on the desk and gaze across the classroom is something that always comes to mind as I start new projects and reminds me to build a solution that accounts for multiple perspectives. 

Robin Williams was one of my favorites early on from watching him on “Mork & Mindy” all the way through his many roles. He challenged the conventional way of doing things, challenged us to think differently and engaged us with his genius storytelling. He was truly a Captain for many and for me.

Be daring and challenge yourself and change your perspective. And like Mr. Keating’s students you will find your work more rewarding and be rewarded with indelible impression with your craftwork, be it in marketing, entertainment, storytelling or just about anything. 

Thanks for the lessons, Mr. Keating.

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