by Darrin Schenck


by Darrin Schenck


In case you didn’t recognize the iconic movie quote I chose as the theme for this blog, this is from the classic Shawshank Redemption.  Ask any Gen Xer and we will tell you this is a favorite.  Awesome movie, and if you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.  It stars Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, with a bunch of other recognizable people as well.  It was released in 1994, and is the story of “two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.”  This movie won seven academy awards and is to this day one of the highest grossing movies from rental and streaming, as people willingly watch it more than once.

The main character of the movie is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime of passion that he contends he never committed.  During his prison sentence he faces some of the usual concerns of prison, but also finds a way to make himself useful to the warden.  Eventually he ends up doing the bookkeeping for the warden, and discovers the unsavory patterns of the warden.  Andy finds a way to syphon off some of that money for himself.  He sets up an ingenious system to pull money away from the warden and send it to a private bank account of his own.  This is just one of the many subplots that takes place during the movie, and keeps you enthralled throughout.

One of the main themes of this movie is how Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) never gives up hope of getting out of prison, and he is actively working towards freeing himself, the old fashion way.  He is serving a life sentence, and therefore has to escape to be free.  He slowly finds ways to help his cause, and does an amazing escape through the sewer system of the prison.  The photo at the top is the scene when he breaks free and climbs out of the sewer pipes into a rainstorm.  Powerful and moving, and quite cinematic all around.  I swear that you can feel the rain on your skin when he breaks free of the pipes.

Throughout the movie Andy is telling his prison friend Red, played by Morgan Freeman, about a place in Mexico called Zihuatanejo.  As apparently men in prison do, he tells Red the same stories over and over about this place, how to get there, and what life would be like living on the coast of Mexico. As the dialog goes:

ANDY: You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?
RED: No.
ANDY: They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.

This one thought, this one thing to focus on during his time in prison is what keeps him going through all of the poor treatment and bad stuff that happens.  Andy treated his prison sentence like it was a temporary part of life, but never took his eyes off of the destination he desired.  Just like the famous book written by Dr. Viktor Frankel states:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This movie is a deep exploration of this concept, and the ability for some people to focus on one thing to get them through the toughest of times.  Andy’s goal never changed, and he was methodical and persistent in his approach to attaining freedom.  He managed to acquire a tool that he slowly but surely dig a tunnel through solid rock over the years.  He hid the hole in his cell with a poster that he was allowed to have.  Each day he would walk out into the prison yard and deposit the night’s worth of rock chunks that he accumulated, dropping the pieces covertly as he walked around the perimeter of the yard.  This went on for years, and eventually he had a hole large enough for him to crawl through to get into the interior walls of the prison.  “Pressure and time” made that wall eventually give in.  From here he makes his way through the literal bowels of the prison, including breaking into a sewer pipe and crawling through “Five Hundred yards of the most foul smelling stench a man has ever had to endure”.  The price for freedom was high, but apparently not too high for Andy Dufresne.

So my question is this: What is your Zihautanejo?  What is the end goal that you envision for yourself that you are working towards?  Is it a specific number in your bank account?  If it is, for example, to have a million dollars in the bank, what happens on the day that you hit that goal?  How is your life different than it was a week ago when you were two hundred dollars short of the goal?  What happens when you spend one of those dollars and slip back below that line you drew in the sand?  It is to own a certain car or to live in a certain house?  Is the car you wanted in your younger days still even around, or even still as cool as you thought it was back then?  Choose wisely, and revise your goals as you go through the different stages of life.

Here is my take on these things above…times change, so you need to as well.  Your taste and desires will (hopefully) evolve and continue to do so throughout your life.  When I was younger, I wanted to be rich and famous.  Now, I hate the idea of most of the things that go along with being famous.  If I was, I would live in perpetual fear of getting cancelled, ruining everything I had worked to build overnight.  I dread the thought of being recognized everywhere I go, people wanting to take pictures of me, with me, asking for autographs.  It would be exhausting, and living in a fishbowl for the world to see everything I do would be awful.  If you think I am crazy, maybe you are right, but for me the trade off of that kind of exposure in exchange for money is not a good trade at all.  I will work hard and make money on my own, thanks.  The things I wanted for myself back then are no longer relevant in my life.  I have changed, evolved, grown.  I understand the world in a different way now, and therefore my goals have changed.

My Zihuatanejo is much different now; I want to obtain financial freedom.  The first stage of this was to be as close to debt free as possible.  Mission accomplished.  Time to move the destination.  Next stop on the ride, that I have enough money in the bank to walk away from my job at any time with no concerns financially for a year.  That page on my passport has also been stamped.  What’s next?  I am still determining that, from a financial perspective.  I know that my Zihuatanejo goal in my day job is to make 50% more money than I do now, but not change my time investment.  I want to get more efficient and increase my output and results without just extending the amount of time I work.  As a speaker, I want to make five thousand dollars per talk I am invited to do.  And I want to have 10,000 subscribers to the Chatter-Box app.  Any of these would create a big jump in my financial status, allowing me to travel more with my wife, go on fly fishing trips around the US, and secure a future where working at all is optional.

What is your Zihuatanejo?  What goals do you have, clearly defined and written down, that you are shooting for?  Do you know?  Remember, your brain cannot hit a target too vague to aim at.  If your goal is to graduate college, you can stumble your way to that end.  But if you commit to “I want to graduate with a degree in Business Management with a 3.5 GPA and an internship to my credit”, now you have a clearly defined goal that you can aim at and hit.  What if you miss, and end up with a 3.2 GPA?  Who cares?  Think of how close you got, and how many opportunities still lie ahead for you because of what you did accomplish.  Aim for the world and settle for a small country if needed.  Pivot, and adjust as you go.  But keep going, no matter what.  Your freedom awaits you, on that sandy beach in your mind…on the shores of Zihuatanejo.

I wish you luck in your escape.

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