If I had to pick a single movie that had the biggest influence on my life, it would have to be 1987’s Wall Street.
I was 16 when that film was released, and it made a big impression on me. I must have watched it a dozen times, and even now can effortlessly recall huge chunks of dialogue (with all the appropriate nuance). And yes, while Oliver Stone’s closing message made his desired point, it couldn’t in any way compete with the force of nature that was Gordon Gecko. Like a gazillion other impressionable teenage kids, I was drawn into his web. By the time I was 21 I was working as a technical analyst for a small firm writing reports on global currency movements. A few years after that I became a government bonds trader. And from there, I took the inevitable, almost cliched bridge towards professional blogging, specialising in social media, via a brief interlude as a club doorman.
But I digress.
I wasn’t the only one influenced by Gecko’s seductive charms (and, sure, the glittering lure of supposedly easy money – little did we know then that the real fortune, plus respect and power, was in computer development). Stone’s film accidentally inspired a legion of bright young things – everybody from toffs to barrow boys, should-have-been something-elses to wannabe Bud Fox’s – to abandon whatever former dreams they had in favour of the absolute pursuit of money. Main Street to Wall Street, and let the cost be damned.
The movie had a massive impact on popular culture, too. Boiler Room (2000), which told the story of a team of young traders at a ‘chop shop’ brokerage, borrowed a chunky leaf out of Stone’s seminal work. For example, there’s one scene in the film where several of the main characters get together to watch Wall Street whilst quoting it word-for-word.
Later in the flick, Ben Affleck’s character (think a poor man’s Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross, but that’s a little unfair as he’s pretty good in this), one of the heads of the firm and a mentor to the young brokers, delivers a simple, but empowering message, and it’s a concept that can be of tremendous value to everybody struggling to get noticed on Twitter (I got there eventually):
Act as if.
(The following video contains bad language and scenes of an aggressive, masculine nature. If you suspect that this might upset you, please disconnect from the internet immediately.)
Act. As. If.
If you want more followers on Twitter, act as if you already have all the followers you want.
If you want more retweets, act as if you deserve to be retweeted.
Need more replies? Act as if you don’t need any at all.
Want to earn the respect of somebody you respect? Act as if that’s long been implied.
Some call it arrogance, but I prefer to think of it as total confidence. And so what if you don’t think that’s who you are? One thing I learned from the psychological warfare that is proprietary trading is that faking confidence is pretty much the exact same thing as being confident. If other people can’t tell the difference then who cares? For all intents and purposes you are confident, and your bullish attitude, illusionary as it might be, will have the desired, identical effect. Get a few wins under your belt and suddenly that confidence is real. The transition is both invisible and seamless, and the message is clear: fake it until you make it.
I’m simply asking you to feel entitled. Be worthy. Become somebody.
Act as if.