I stayed up late last night to watch the Mad Men finale, and while I’m sure that there are a myriad of reviews online today and blog posts about the fashion of the show driving fashion in real life, I wanted to take it a little deeper. Have you ever watched a movie and taken something a little extra from it beyond pure enjoyment? Well, in this second Golden Age of television, I think you can do that with exceptional television shows too. One of the reasons why Mad Men never achieved mass appeal is because it delves a little deeper. Not everyone wants to watch television characters struggle with the same real life issues as we do on a daily basis. However, instead, shows like Mad Med also provide the opportunity to step back and view life as an objective observer with the ability to learn from the struggles. With that in mind, I put together a list of eight lessons I learned from the seven seasons of the show. (Beware, there are spoilers contained below.)
1. You can always rebuild.
How many times was that company reformed? Sure the name changed, but the entrepreneurial spirit never left. Things will come and go in life; the only constant is change. What matters is how you seize the opportunities that change provides.
2. It’s not about who you were; it’s about who you are.
There’s no need to rehash the story of how Don Draper became Don Draper, but how many times did he reveal his secret only to have it accepted. Sometimes that acceptance took time, but those people closest to Don based their feelings about him on more than just a name or his checkered past.
3. Family means whatever you want it to mean.
Whether you look at Joan, her mother, and her baby, Don, his ex-wives, and their kids, Michael Ginsberg and his father, or any of the other groups that held together during the seven season run, family is what you define it to be. The people you can most rely on when you need them are the ones who matter.
4. Don’t drive a lawnmower in the office.
Or operate any machinery for that matter.
5. Your external successes will mean nothing without inner peace.
Don’s best work only came after he was able to truly find peace within himself. Based on the picture to the right, we are meant to infer that Don returned to New York (or at least advertising) and developed one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time.
6. A drink won’t fix your problems, but having one might help you solve them.
When you’re faced with problems in life, no one else is going to fix them for you. Sometimes it gets so overwhelming that the best course of action is to take a few minutes, collect yourself, and start thinking about solutions instead of problems.
7. Give respect to whatever group is being held back, for someday they will break through and they will change the status quo.
During the entire run of Mad Men, a constant theme was the struggles of both the black and female communities in America. While I wouldn’t say that their fight is over, they are breaking through. Groups that are being held back today will break through too. It’s your choice to stand with compassion or animosity.
8. It’s never too late to heal.
Chronic pain is a horrible thing to live with. Emotional pain is even worse. Consider those you’ve hurt and those who hurt you. It wasn’t too late for Don and Betty. It wasn’t too late for Roger and Joan. It wasn’t too late for Pete and Trudy. It’s not too late for you.