If you’re like me, a young artist striving for success who uses quotes from TheOffice (2005) in everyday dialogue, this post will serve your well.
All Office fans have their favorite episode. My favorite episode is Season 3, Episode 23; AKA: ‘Beach Games’. For those of you who don’t know or need a refresher of this episode, it involves Michael Scott, a delusional regional manager of Dunder Mifflin – Scranton Branch, falsely leading his co-workers on a retreat to the beach and putting them to the test with a series of insane challenges as a way to find his replacement after interviewed for corporate. One of these challenges which qualifies someone to have managerial credentials is a firewalk!
A firewalk is the act of walking barefoot over a short trail of burning embers or stones. In some cultures it’s an important rites of passage, but to Michael, it’s a ridiculous expectation of bravery. In this scene Michael explains he believes the new manager should be fearless and his loyal co-worker, Dwight Schrute, played by the incredible Rainn Wilson, is first in line. Underneath it’s silliness there is a very valuable lesson of life to be obtained through Dwight’s actions towards the challenge and symbolically, we artists who are striving for success are no different than him in this moment. Dwight is the leading salesman, the assistant (to the) regional manager, the personal assistant to Scott and like all of us artists, an individual with one goal in mind: Be the manager!
With blind faith, Dwight doesn’t hesitate at the chance to show the world he has what it takes to be manager of Scranton Branch and after pushing his boss out of the way, the ignorant slut (as he is name called in the show) walks along the burning trail of embers! This is his moment to proclaim his goal and his co-workers applaud his bravery, but he does something which you should never do on a firewalk… Dwight stops walking in the middle of the trail!
Numerous articles state that one should never stop walking at any point on the trail. The reason why most people who act on a firewalk don’t get burned is due to the time it takes for the heat to transfer to skin. So, if one keeps walking, they have a less chance of pain, but if one stop and stand on the embers, heat will transfer and pain is a guarantee. I guess Dwight didn’t read any of those articles. He stands there burning his feet to a crisp and while yelling at Michael to, “GIVE ME THE JOB!” Falls, rolls around and crawls out. The scene cuts to Dwight covered in black ash with his feet wrapped up in bandages.
Laughter aside, when you watch this scene and replace Dwight with a version of yourself as one who is striving for a goal, you’ll begin to admire the idiot. Dwight, that young man who strives to accomplish his pipe dream is willing to sacrifice his comfort to obtain success. He acts in the face of opportunity and puts aside his fear of failure. If you want to go further, Dwight shouting at his boss to award him what is owed is no different than working with clients. At some point in our creative careers, we’re all like Dwight; participants hungry for success, willing to stand on hot coals and make fools of ourselves.
Now, I’m not saying you should jump at every opportunity and incur high risk situations which could put you in harms way. You should take time and think things through, but like Dwight covered in ash, when we do something stupid in the pursuit of our goal and suffer the consequences, we shouldn’t care about what others think because we’re too busy learning from our mistake. Your goal, if it’s something you truly believe in is worth the thorns of life.
The best quote I can give regarding this subject comes a renowned Atlanta artist. During an art show of his, the artist found me studying a piece of his on display. I asked him how much it cost and after he gave me a number which basically was the equivalent of how much my 2014 VW Passat TDI was used, I prompted to ask him, “How do you get the point where your art is worth that much?” Noblin said, “I’ve failed every way possible.” Dwight is this example through and through. By the end of the series, Dwight learns from his mistakes and earns his goal the right way.
If anything, I think Dwight’s purpose within the series goes beyond the surface level of jokes and allows the character to be a manifestation of how someone matures when they decide to dedicate themselves to the highest level of persistence. So, next time Netflix asks you if you’re still watching The Office and you select ‘yes,’ take some notes while you chuckle.