The Ultimate Wisdom of Chuck Palahniuk | Unskippable - Marketing Keynote Speaker - Jim Kukral

The Ultimate Wisdom of Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club, written by Chuck Palahniuk, is a wonderful, violent and meaningful story if you read between the lines and pay attention to the messages it gives. So today we’re going to examine some of the famous quotes from the movie and talk about them together. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, it’s ok, we can still discuss the quotes on their basic level without the story context.

But you really should read the book. The movie works too. And in my opinion, it’s one of the only movies that is actually, possibly, better than the book. My other picks that fit that bill are Dances with Wolves and Wiseguy (Goodfellas). 

Now on with the quotes from Fight Club. Remember to text me after and “fight” me. :)

“You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.”

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club  -

Materialism: This is an epic smack down on it. As harsh as this quote screams at us all; it’s dead on. Yet here we are, a society of people driven by our possessions. Directed like cattle through the chutes of advertising and marketing sales funnels. Our lives are more meaningful when we achieve more possessions that create not only the dopamine hit our brains require, but also give us social status and sense of self worth.

Don’t believe it? How’d you feel when you bought that iPhone 11 you’re reading this on right now? Or how’d you feel when you bought that new, fancy car and collapsed into the leather, heated seats? When you walked into the office with that Prada handbag; you’re telling me you didn’t want people to notice?

You felt good; don’t pretend you didn’t.

Look, you’re not an asshole because you like to buy stuff and accumulate stuff, that’s not what I’m getting at. I’m just saying, we like our stuff, but it’s owning us, and not the other way around. Our possessions, and the pursuit of more of them, keep us in bondage away from the life unlived. The life that we all deeply want to have, where we don’t have the pressures of money and the worries of every day normal life like bills and relationships.

Because that’s what we all really want; to live without pressure/worry, and too much stuff. You may not be open to hearing that, or believe it, yet, but deep down if you had the choice to forgo all the “stuff” in your life for true happiness and a pure sense of meaning, you’d take it. Probably.

Here’s a really, really obscure book I once read that I really dug. It’s called The Pots Of Gold: Memoirs Of A Modern Prospector. It has a massive 16 reviews so you know it’s super popular. One of them is mine from 2012. It’s a saga about a regular guy who did something highly irregular. He turned a two-week vacation into an eight-year adventure in the heart of Gold Rush country of Northern California. He made his own shelters, stayed in cabins, lived in caves, or slept under the stars as he prospected year-round in the High Sierras.

“Anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving the modern world behind for even a short time—no mortgage, no bills, no telemarketers, will enjoy this rousing tale of one man’s journey as he retraces the path of part of America’s history. Self-effacing, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and always compelling, Memoirs of a Modern Prospector will make you think seriously about loading up your backpack for an adventure of your own. For those of us who can’t take off and follow our dreams just yet, this may be the next best thing. His story is part how-to manual and part introspective, a tale that makes us envy his audacity and love of life.”

I’d do it. Would you?  

"I don't want to die without any scars.”

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club  -

Sometimes I look at my children and feel terrible about how much I have protected them and kept them safe from the harsh realities of the world. Now don’t get me wrong. We (my wife and I) don’t wrap them in bubble wrap, and we don’t shelter them from the news. But honestly? Yeah, they’re soft, and it’s my fault. They’re soft in a way that they have never wanted for anything, or experienced any real life challenges beyond the normal suburban, middle-class nonsense. 

So in a way, by protecting them, I’ve failed them, and I realize that. Of course, in a way my failure is also a success. It just depends on how you view it.

Heck, I’ve failed myself in this regard. I have a few scars (my time in politics), nothing big, but certainly no “witness” moment. Like me you’ve met people who have amazing stories of life. Addictions, loss of limbs, disease, etc… Those are terrible things, yes. But they also shaped their lives and gave them experiences that most of us won’t have. An argument can be made that your scars make you stronger or more experienced, and possibly then, you might have lived a more fulfilling life? Seems logical. 

"We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.” 

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club  -

We’re all soft. The previous generations went through some heavy shit. Yeah, we had 9/11. We had a housing crash that messed with the banks. Those were terrible, terrible things. But they weren’t anything like WWI or WWII. 

Our grandparents and those before them dealt with some serious possible world ending shit. The Great Depression had people living on the streets and on breadlines. When the housing crisis struck in 2008, sure, lots of people lost a lot of money. Lives were ruined, yes. But you probably still had a cell phone, and you ate every day, even if it was fast food.

If any of that stuff (Cuba Missile Crisis, Nazis trying to control the world…) that happened way back when happened in today’s world, we’d poop ourselves, right after we Tweeted about it.

Mental illness is at a record high. Suicide is as well. Organized religion is trending down. The American Dream is slowly draining through our fingers like sand in an hourglass. We’re depressed and frightened, more than ever. 

Spiritually, today, we’re simply just not sure what to think. At least in earlier times it was more black and white. Now we don’t know what to believe in, if anything at all.

“If you died right now, how would you feel about your life?”

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club  -

Obvious answer: You’re dead, you wouldn’t feel anything. But you get the point. 

My advice? Today is a new day. Take a goddam risk this week. Do something stupid, or fun, or fun and stupid that you’ve always wanted to do. Chuck Palahniuk demands it.

Now text me and let’s fight about it. Which of these quotes stood out to you? Did anything you read today make you feel better, or worse about your life and where we are all going together as a society? 

Text me now. (216) 236-8294


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