The James Bond Philosophy of Life – in 007 Chapters

007 LogoIf you´ve visited Mappalicious before, by now you will probably know who Esa Saarinen is – as I´ve written about his work several times. During his MAPP lecture in December 2013, he also initiated us to a slightly more informal area of his teachings: the 007 philosophy of life. Unfortunately, that day Wharton´s recording equipment didn´t work that well – so there´s no account of that lecture (and I´m a lazy note-taker…). Hence, I´ll give you my own – heavily Positive Psychology influenced – interpretation of his “theory”, mixed with the bits and pieces I do remember. As a philosopher, I think Esa would approve of this method. You can see the overview in the following picture:

Esa Saarinen - 007

Don’t get irritated

James Bond is always “cool” – at least that´s the impression he makes on other people. He focuses on the situation at hand and the overarching goal of his mission and never gets sidetracked, except for the occasional tête-à-tête – but even those often serve a purpose, e.g., irritating one of the evil guys. At the end of the day, this is a lesson about mindfulness.

Take immediate Action

Bond is not much of a planner. He makes up his mind and improvises a lot of his moves on the spot, relying on his wits and physical abilities. He knows that the life as a super agent is full of surprises and events that one cannot really prepare for. Therefore, he sticks to a few big goals and decides on the next-best move “then and there”.

Self Respect

James Bond never questions his abilities, he never falters or hesitates. While a real-life person cannot (and maybe shouldn’t…) be equipped with an equal level of self-confidence, this is probably a lesson about self-efficacy, the “power of believing you can”. Self-efficacy is the scientific version of Henry Ford´s aphorism: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”

Always carry a Secret Weapon

When in desperate straits, Bond always has one more trick up his sleeve, usually a tiny gadget given to him by the armorer “Q”. Seen through the lens of Positive Psychology, I think this part refers to the very unique set of signature strengths that we all have – and that we should rely on when to going gets tough. Additionally, it shows that other people matter. Even a lone wolf like Bond needs other people´s support at times.

Act with Style

James Bond understands that style is mostly about simplicity. Similar to the real-life George Clooney, he´s always dressed and groomed extremely well – which means they stick to time-tested essentials. The suit, the hairdo, the car, the handgun, the drink – they all seem to say: Don´t get carried away by fashion, don´t get lost in unnecessary details – no frills. This is also a lesson on efficiency: Bond knows that sticking to certain defaults is the most intelligent way of avoiding unnecessary decision-making – thereby saving up mental capacity for more precarious moments in life than choosing what to wear for dinner.

The true significance of the current mission will become clear later in the Bahamas

I think this point has a lot to do with the “connecting the dots”-part of Steve Job´s Stanford Commencement speech. Life can only be lived forward, but the sense-making happens looking backward. Hence, we have to embark on the journey without necessarily knowing where it will end – or what it all means. We have to get moving. Anyway. Otherwise, we won´t even make it to the Bahamas.

In Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Now, this may be the most important part – even though it doesn´t seem that straightforward. I guess that´s why Esa saved it for last. Even though James Bond seems like a cynical, ruthless, and at times even nihilistic person – he´s definitely not. He´s an agent in Her Majesty´s Secret Service: he fights for the safety of his country and “the free world” in general; he´s not in it for himself. That is his true higher purpose. In his lectures, Esa often refers to this part of our lives as “finding the Queen”: We all have to find a queen we can and want to serve. We´re not on this world only for ourselves. Until we´ve understood this crucial point, we´re only living half a life.

Esa has more in common with 007 than he probably wished for

There´s is a pretty incredible twist to the aforementioned deliberations: About three months after his lecture in Philadelphia, Esa was stabbed with a knive by a presumably mentally deranged young man when being on his way to a lecture in Helsinki. He sustained a wound on his hand when trying to fight off the assailant and another, more severe, to his abdomen before the attacker could be overpowered. By now, Esa has fully recovered and the young man is on trial for his deeds. Esa has lived through this ordeal with admirable equanimity and does not even demand a punishment for the aggressor.

Below, you´ll find the full recording of his glorious return to the lectern in Helsinki. The lecture is in Finnish but has English subtitles.

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