EP 11: Fight Club Quote “You are not your job.”

In this episode of the Merkol Podcast, we analyzed the famous Fight Club quote starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. The quote goes:

“You are not your job.”

Fight Club Quote
Fight Club Quote
Fight Club Quote

Who is Chuck Palahniuk?

Chuck Palahniuk was born in Washington and he grew up there as well. He started writing books when he was in his mid-thirties. When he finished writing his second novel, Invisible Monsters, publishers did not like it because they thought it was too scary.

This made him work on his best-known book, Fight Club. He wrote it to try to scare the publisher even more for not publishing his earlier book. Palahniuk wrote this story in his spare time. After first writing it as a short story, Palahniuk made it longer into a full book, which, surprising to him, was published.

Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club Quote
Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club Quote

After it was published, he began receiving attention from 20th Century Fox. Palahniuk was signed by actor and literary agent, Edward Hibbert. Hibbert eventually guided and brokered the deal that took Fight Club to the big screen. In 1999, three years after the novel’s publication, the film adaptation by director David Fincher was released.

The film was a box office disappointment (although it was No. 1 at the U.S. box office on its first weekend) and critical reaction was mixed, but a cult following soon emerged as the DVD of the film became popular upon release.

In 1999, a changed version of Invisible Monsters, and his fourth novel, Survivor, were published. This made Palahniuk a cult figure. A few years later Palahniuk wrote his first New York Times bestseller, Choke. After that, Palahniuk’s later books would mostly have the same success.

To get an idea of how Chuck thinks, let us take the story of his father and how he portrayed the story in an interview with Rolling Stones.

His father, Fred, had a very shocking childhood. Fred’s father, chuck’s grandfather, killed his wife (Chuck’s grandmother) in an argument over a sewing machine. He then went in search of Fred to kill him, but could not find him as he was hiding under the bed. He then got agitated and shot himself in the head.

When Fred was separated from his wife (Chuck’s mother), he started having lots of girlfriends, and on one date with a woman, they decided to go back to the woman’s place. The woman’s husband found out about this and shot the woman and shot Fred as well due to the rage caused by infidelity.

Anyone living through this would lose their mind and would not be able to comprehend this. But here is how Chuck perceived thus:

My father’s first memories were of hiding under that bed, his father having just killed his mother. After that, he was always this man still looking for his mother. Then, eventually, he found this woman, and once again a man with a gun comes back into the picture. And kills her. And then kills him. In a way, I can’t help but admire the shape of this perfect completion of a thing that started so long ago. I find comfort in that. That things happen for a reason and according to a pattern.

Chuck Palahnuik – Rolling Stones Interview

What does this Fight Club Quote mean?

To understand this quote, let us start with knowing what labels mean.

What do labels mean?

Labels, in simple terms, are what give a person more context about who he is and what to expect from him. For example, Lionel Messi, Footballer at Paris Saint Germain Football Club. For a person hearing his name for the first time, they get a sense of who he is. So it helps in understanding people better.

But things get ugly when people choose to live with the labels that they don’t want.

Polina Marinova summed this up in her post on why she hates labels:

Sometimes, we voluntarily label ourselves, and sometimes society labels us. When we do it, labeling can act as a compass to our values. When someone else does it, a label can be a lifelong prison sentence.

Polina Marinova – The Profile

People choose to live with the labels that are conferred on them by society even at a stage where they are just trying to figure out what they actually want in life. For some reason, this is a burden they choose to carry with them for the rest of their lives.

There are a lot of negative scenarios associated with labels such as people labeling others as an ‘Addict’, a ‘liar’ etc. How can a person come back from those if they are not strong-willed to believe that they have a second chance in life irrespective of the labels conferred on them by society?

This would a separate article in itself. So for the sake of time, let me just stick to the negative scenarios of labels involving jobs.

Negative Scenarios of labels:

There are two scenarios where labels will play out negatively.

– Society labels you with the company/organization you work for/associate yourself with. For example, ‘Aaron works at Apple’ would be his introduction to all the places he goes to. When a feels like he gets girls’ attention or he gets an extra level of respect because he works at Apple, he will never ever quit that job himself.

Even though he may hate that company or the job deep down. Because he fears he will lose respect when people don’t associate himself with Apple anymore.

– Society labels you with the designation or role you are in. For example, ‘Aaron is a Data Analyst’. He may be just trying out different things and he may be in a stage where he is not yet ready to give his best years to this field of work. But if he feels he is respected because he is a data scientist, he will never leave the role.

He might change companies but he will never leave this role. All those other roles like a musician, football coach which he would have been great at are now down the drain.

This is why labels are really bad.

Society cannot stop associating us with our work, but deep down please realize that you are not your job.

The people who mind when you change jobs/ companies are the ones who don’t matter, the people who matter don’t mind.

I am once again going to refer to Polina’s article. Here she sums up why it is bad when we label someone.

Remember, every time you slap a label on someone and put them in a box, you filter what you see. You make your world smaller, simpler, and less reflective of reality. As novelist Toni Morrison once wrote, “The definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”

Polina Marinova – The Profile

You can be a Data Scientist, a guitarist in a rock band, and a part-time football coach. Other people’s perception of who you are is none of your business. You just do you and let them be confused with what to label you, it is not your job anyway.

If you feel you are not happy in a role, please just quit. You are doing no one any good. This frustration will slowly grow in you and you will start hating your life. You will hate everything and everyone around you.

Closing:

Careers are for people who are great at what they do, not for people who are still trying to figure out what they want in life. You can be good at multiple things, do them all. And along this path you find something that you want to be truly great in, then you devote your time and energy to that field.

Don’t settle in a career and stay in a career because of what society may think.

In simple terms, ‘Fuck what society thinks’.

Podcast:

I have recorded a podcast on the same quote. But it is in Tamil. If you know the language then please do listen to this. Do let me know if you like it. Here is the link:

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