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Netflix wisdom

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - February 8, 2021 - 12:00am

“What keeps you awake at night?”

The question was posed to a panel of tycoons some years back. The replies, expectedly, centered on their businesses’ future, the challenges faced by their companies, competition and what-have-you.

But one tycoon, a young brilliant heir now at the helm of a growing listed conglomerate, answered with no pretense: “Netflix!”

He is not alone, especially since last year when we were all forced to stay at home, no thanks to the pandemic.

I, too, spend many nights binging on Netflix when I’m not kept awake by President Duterte’s late night ramblings, the anxiety over COVID-19, the neanderthals in my head, and mostly imagined, but sometimes real mistakes in the stories I submitted earlier in the day.

Indeed, I have surrendered to the lure of the California-headquartered online streaming service, never mind that my internet service is as basic as it is occasionally unreliable and the signal in our place is hopelessly erratic.

I’ve managed to finish some series, and while I do not want to encourage staying up late to escape to this parallel universe, I’ve also come to realize there’s a lot to learn from Netflix.

Some series have unwittingly put a giant black mirror on this nation of about 110 million, while some characters seem straight out of our very own echelons of power.

Truly, life imitates art and art imitates life. Here are some titles which kept me awake for many nights. Some are thrilling, but most of all, carry bits of wisdom on running a business, about life in general and the society we move in.

Lupin

Among the newest Netflix shows is Lupin, a French-made caper series inspired by Arsène Lupin, the gentleman thief in French writer Maurice Leblanc’s short stories first serialized in Je Sais Tout magazine in 1905.

Lupin is smart and engaging. It isn’t dark and heavy, but it isn’t frivolous, either.

Some of the lessons from this series: a man’s pursuit of justice often becomes his driving narrative; some people would do anything to make more money even at the expense of helpless individuals; criminals often feel their misdeeds are justified.

But my biggest takeaway is that in love and in war or in business and in politics, people aren’t always who they seem.

Billions

Billions follows billionaire hedge fund king Bobby Axelrod as his company comes under investigation by a brilliant US attorney.

Lessons from here: in the world of the powerful, backstabbing, horse-trading and tons of manipulation are keys to survival.

It is widely engaging and filled with brilliant one-liners that also provide many business lessons.

Some takeaways:

Know every facet of the business you are involved in.

“Whenever you can, put a company in your mouth.” This was Axe’s advice to an employee. It simply means businessmen should always know the business or investments they’re getting into, as well as their competition.

Make sure your business offers a unique value proposition.

“You weren’t ready,” Axe told his wife Lara when her new business didn’t succeed right away.

He explained: “You offer a service you didn’t invent, a formula you didn’t invent, a delivery method you didn’t invent. Nothing about what you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven’t identified an isolated market segment, haven’t truly branded your concept. You need me to go on?”

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is so much more than about drugs. It’s really how we, as individuals, can spiral down and break as badly as possible when we let the circumstances we find ourselves in take over and ruin our lives.

The Queen’s Gambit

My favorite series of all time is The Queen’s Gambit and my favorite lesson is to never stop chasing one’s passion and to trust oneself.

Part of the reason Beth, the brilliant protagonist, does so well in the world is that she sticks by herself and she does not let her difficult past define her future. People have prevented her from succeeding in life, but she always found her own route, in her own time, and she does not lose focus.

These are just some of the series that kept me awake on some nights. I’ve watched others like Narcos, Pablo Escobar and Narcos Mexico, but I’m still too shocked with all the violence to write about these series on drugs. There’s the movie White Tiger, too. It’s about the Indian caste system and it believes, “the rich will never give you anything for free.”

There are frivolous ones, too, like Emily in Paris, but those who want a glimpse of the French capital and have time to kill can enjoy it.

In the end, whether in real life or on Netflix, some of life’s basic truths remain – some people will kill for money; absolute power corrupts absolutely; the world is filled with both good and bad guys and sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other; criminals hide in plain sight; some businesses are hopelessly dirty, and betrayal hurts most when it comes from those closest to us.

That said, one should always be mindful not to break bad even when it’s tempting. Let us remember that the world is really always better with more goodness than bad.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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