[ originally published 06/23/11 | updated 02/06/18 ]
Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. That’s the first thing they teach you.
Ronin is one of my all-time favorite movies. There’s a suit with a metal briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He’s surrounded by thick, heavily-armed security everywhere he goes. And there’s a team of equally well-armed mercenaries out to steal the case.
What’s in the case? I don’t remember. That’s the second thing they teach you.
Suffice to say, Ronin fires on all cylinders. In its just-under-two-hour runtime, it serves up two of the most amazing car chases of all time, multiple double-crosses, and some of the slickest, most memorable dialog ever coming out of Hollywood.
Consider the preview:
I’ve easily been quoting Ronin on an almost monthly basis for more than a decade. Most people never notice it, but I like to think those who love Ronin as much as I do pick up what I’m laying down when I do. I mean, it just makes sense sometimes.
Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.
That’s the first thing they teach you.
Early in the movie, Sam (Robert DeNiro), Vincent (Jean Reno), Spence (Sean Bean), and Larry (Skipp Sudduth) are in Paris and sent out on in the middle of the night to do a sketchy arms deal in a riverside parking lot. It’s a cash deal and the sellers immediately raise red flags.
They don’t have all the guns they said they were bringing. The little guy is way too easy going. The big guy is shifty as fuck. And they announce “The boss wants to check the money” as another car full of crims pulls up under the bridge down the way.
Walking into an obvious setup under a bridge early in the movie, Sam gives Vincent a head’s up on what to do if things go sideways. This shit hits the fan and Sam’s advice saves Vincent’s life.
Now they sit in a car, staking out the case and Vincent asks how he knew there was going to be an ambush back in Paris.
I use this line all the time. At work.
Am I going to be able to get this project done on-time/on-budget? Should I call the customer to deliver the less-than-good news today or tomorrow? Can I really do this on my own? These are doubts. Whenever there is doubt, there is no doubt, so I’m reminded to voice my concerns, to call my customer before he has to call me, to see about getting a little help just in case.
That’s the first thing they teach you. Who taught you? I don’t remember.
Part of the problem, part of the solution, or just part of the landscape.
Talk about sonder.
Nobody suddenly wakes up a millionaire. You can’t expect extraordinary results from ordinary behavior. By the time everybody knows how to do something profitable, the people who actually profited have already moved on to the next big idea. You gotta have a sense of urgency about things.
I’ll tell you an old trick: Next time you find yourself thinking, “Somebody should do something about that,” recognize that’s a problem in need of a solution. You are somebody. Maybe YOU should do something about it. If you can come up with a solution that makes things better, faster or cheaper, you’ve got a business opportunity.
In Ronin, the team gets off to a rough start, but soon we see Sam going over the plans—how they’re going to get the case from several well-armed men intent on preventing them from doing so—and Dierdre, their handler, points out she’s glad to see him reviewing their problem.
Sam says, “Either you’re part of the problem, you’re part of the solution, or you’re just part of the landscape.”
Solve the right problems and all your own problems will be solved. We’ve all experienced this firsthand. You show up for a couple wrenchfests, helping local buddies get their machines back on the road, and they are there for you when you need a hand with yours. This can be just as effective at work or with your side hustle.
(Why do you think MY side hustles all revolve around helping gearheads like us live better lives?)
No more Amatuer Night.
Life’s too short for bullshit.
Remember the triangle? Fast, right, cheap—pick any two. If it’s fast and right, it won’t be cheap. Right and cheap won’t be fast. And cheap and fast won’t be right.
Sam’s done this sort of thing many times before and is an expert on the subject. After seeing what they’re up against—the hardcore security detail protecting the case he’s been hired to steal—he tells Dierdre they need a bigger team to do the job right.
When she attempts to shut him down, he pulls the expert card to end all expert cards.
Considering the team agreed to something like $20,000 total compensation when they were originally hired, this is a pretty ballsy move. And I’ll be brutally honest with you—I am itching to find myself in one of these situations one day (minus the whole, international criminal thing). Of course, that requires that I become the kind of expert in such high demand that I can tell someone dicking around for peanuts to put up or shut up.
We’ve got to be true to our word, but that doesn’t mean being taken advantage of. Life is too short for bullshit. Each of us only has so much time, so if it’s gonna be amateur night, make sure it’s worth your while.
Accept it and move on. Maybe that’s lesson number three.
If you haven’t seen Ronin yet, FFS, go download it or something. It’s an epic, gearhead tale of honor among thieves. Sure, they’re out to steal something at gunpoint—which is bad—but they’re presumably stealing it from baddies even worse than themselves—so it’s not THAT bad, right?
Your life is a road trip from Cradle to Grave. Some roads are smooth, fast, and flowing. Others are barely what you’d consider roads at all. But you’re the driver. You’re the one behind the wheel and you ultimately determine where you’re headed. Remember…
- Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. Do something about it.
- You’re either part of the problem, part of the solution, or part of the landscape. Do something about it.
- No more amateur night. Step up and solve those problems.
You’re gonna make mistakes. Like the rallyistas say, it’s not a question IF you’re going to roll, but WHEN you’re going to roll. Accept your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, figure out why they happened, and move on with the newfound knowledge.
What color IS the boathouse at Hereford?
You’ll have to ask Spence.
“No questions, no answers. That’s the business we’re in. You accept it and move on. Maybe that’s lesson number three.”