7 Life Lessons That You Can Learn From ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

By this point, everyone knows that ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ has the highest imdb rating. It is arguably the most popular movie ever made. But have you ever wondered why. It is undoubtedly an exceptionally well-made film. But could that be the only reason ? Surely, there are equally well-made films, if not more so, but none of them are as popular as ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Some of you may argue that it has a superb climax that completely blows your socks off. But then, there are other movies with equally great endings; and those are not even remotely as popular.

If you think about it, the answer to that question lies in how much and how well ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ conveys about life in the most simple but effective way. It is a film that you can learn so much from that if not a movie it could easily been a “guide to life” book. I know there are many who have learnt a lot from this film and its message. Therefore, I thought why not summarize all the life lessons that one can learn from it in one single article.

1. Life will not always be fair to you.

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Andy Dufresne is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences even when he’s innocent. But he doesn’t give up. He fights. In the end, he wins.

Life, at every step of the way, will present to you with difficult situations. At times, you’ll even feel that life’s been unfair to you. The trick is not lose hope and learn to deal with it. Crying won’t help. Trying will. 

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2. Be persistent and always focus on your dreams.

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It took Andy almost 20 years to escape. Writing one letter a week for six years got him funding for the prison library. In the face of all the problems he had to deal with, he never stopped trying. His focus was always on the dream irrespective of the situation he was in.

Persistence and staying true to our dreams are never easy to do, but only by doing both can we even stand a chance to achieve what we want to do.

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3. Treating others with respect earns you respect.

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Despite horrible treatment at the hands of the warden, the caption and the guards, Andy was always polite, and was even there to help them when he could. He respected the hierarchy and circumstances he was under, even if though he didn’t necessarily believe in it, and worked with the situation he was in rather than against it.

This is the most difficult one to practice in real life. How can you respect someone who is not treating you with respect ? Well, because, ultimately they will start feeling ashamed at their own behavior and change. 

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4. Sometimes you must think outside the box to solve a problem.

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Andy used posters of Rita Hayworth and, later, Rachel Welch to cover the tunnel. Then he created a  fictitious person on paper to allow him to abscond with the warden’s ill-gotten gains.

Sometimes, when we face problems in our lives, we give up too readily. The truth is most of the problems can be resolved. We just have to think outside the box. 

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5. Don’t be afraid about what other people think of you.

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Not only did Andy do things, he focused on the things he was interested in doing, regardless of what other people thought. Carving chess pieces, building a library, keeping his accounting skills sharp — he worked on them even when nobody else was interested. Doing so, helped him build connections and in the end it was also these connections that enabled him to escape.

To often in life we are afraid of what others will think. We don’t follow the path of what we really want to do. Of course, that’s not the right way to lead a happy or even a successful life. The less you care about what other people think of you, the more you can lead a focussed life.

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6. Make good friends. They will always be there for you.

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If there’s one thing that doesn’t waver in Andy’s life, apart from his own will to escape, it is Red’s friendship. They stood with each other throughout their tough times, and ultimately it helped both of them to have one another as good friends.

Yes, it is not easy to make good friends. But if you do, nothing can truly replace a good friend because he or she is going to be with you through thick and thin. 

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7. Your Strength is “You”.

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To stay alive Andy had to hold firm to who he was and what he believed in, despite mistreatment, despite sexual abuse, despite circumstances that were bleak and unjust.

In your darkest and most difficult moments, it is important that you stay true to yourselves; because in the end, even if everything is taken away from you, you still will have your “will” and “courage” that you can hang on to and fight back. Therefore, never forget “you” are your biggest strength. 

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4 comments

  • Ah. That’s all very high minded. The elements that you highlight are all okay but this is a fairy story to calm and encourage the journeymen. Workers like me.

    In that sense this film is a fantasy, (eventually) a soft and pleasant imagining of winning big in the shitty world of work- about winning against the system. How many of us feel like really “sticking it” to the boss and boy does Andy do that!

    One might respectfully suggest that this is a great advert to keep us all working hard and not complaining. So as Americans become relatively poorer in the world, as they work harder, as they get ill or suffer setbacks the message is “Here is a noble set of behaviours that you can have and it’ll all end up happily ever after.” That’s why I love the film and I guess why others do. But it is a fantasy of the little guy winning through because he is good.

    But maybe it’s like a magician’s trick. They draw your attention to the distraction whilst the trick is going on. The distraction is your behaviour the trick is the system.
    A wider meaning would be that for most “The system wins” almost every time. The people who set the rules, the establishment. Those who have arrived are continually rigging it to stay there and increasingly they are. less Fortune 500 crashing out because the management is rigging system of tax, ownership and regulation.

    But hey! Journeymen! Some folk can win so all of you stick at it and keep dreaming. And don’t worry your hardworking little self about the rules you are playing to.

    I agree about Andy’s spirit and discipline and the ending is so good. But for a great many the system is increasingly being rigged in favour of the incumbents, leaving the rest getting madder than hell and electing iconoclasts like Trump and Brexit because we actually don’t trust anyone to Fix it.