A career lesson from the movie, Sabrina

The other night, Jim and I watched one of our favorite movies, Sabrina. Have you seen it?

Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate. The estate was very large indeed, and had many servants. There were gardeners to take care of the gardens, and a tree surgeon on a retainer. There was a boatman to take care of the boats: to put them in the water in the spring, and scrape their bottoms in the winter. There were specialists to take care of the grounds: the outdoor tennis court and the indoor tennis court, the outdoor swimming pool and the indoor swimming pool. And there was a man of no particular title who took care of the small pool in the garden for a goldfish named George. Also on the estate there was a chauffeur by the name of Fairchild who had been imported from England years ago together with a new Rolls-Royce. Fairchild was a fine chauffeur of considerable polish, like the eight cars in his care, and he had a daughter by the name of Sabrina.


The original movie with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart came out in 1954 and in 1995, there was a remake starring Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear, and Julia Ormond.

Sabrina’s father was a bibliophile and chose a career as a chauffeur that would afford him the opportunity to do what he loved most; not driving, not mechanics, but reading. He loved to read so much, he pursued a job that would give him the time to do just that while he waited for his passengers.

This character, Thomas Fairchild, tells of the sacrifices we make in the quest for personal and professional fulfillment. We can’t always afford to do the work we love or love the work we’re afforded. A compromise is inevitable. Well intended counselors advise us to choose a job we love so we’ll never have to work a day in our lives. I say, bullshit. You can love your job and still resent the work.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, she references work by Mark Manson. “As Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?”… Because if you love and want something enough – whatever it is – then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”

The struggle we endure as we chase our dreams is often how we identify (and justify) what our true passion really is. There are people who say, I didn’t choose this. It chose me. Thomas Fairchild didn’t choose a job he necessarily loved because books chose him instead. And although the following exchange was in reference to a relationship, not a job, I think it says something about our livelihood as we realize our true calling. Sabrina’s father accuses her of reaching for the moon and she confidently replies, “No father. The moon is reaching for me.”

[Sabrina images: Classiq // Paramount Pictures]


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