3 Life Lessons from Good Will Hunting

This weekend I decided to sit down and watch Good Will Hunting for the first time. Yes, it was my first time seeing the film. Before I came to school in Boston, a family friend recommended I watch the movie, as it is set in this beautiful city.

Despite the fact that the movie came out 18 years ago (I was 2 at the time), so many life lessons can be learned from Good Will Hunting. Here are a few that especially hit me.


Education Does Not Equal Intelligence  



In the beginning of the movie, Will and his buddies go to a bar near Harvard University. Will’s best friend, Chuckie, gets into an argument with a Harvard student as he tries to pick up a girl at the bar. The student intentionally tries to embarrass Chuckie knowing that he is an uneducated, blue collar citizen. Will, a self-taught genius, steps in and simply schools the kid. He calls him out for pawning off other intellectuals’ ideas as his own to look smart. Will tells the Harvard student that “in about 50 years” he will realize that he “dropped a hundred and fifty grand” on an education he could have got for “a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library”. Will is a naturally gifted individual that never had the formal schooling as do other characters in the film. Will is able to solve complex math problems that are impossible for even MIT students. He is able to read books at rapid speed and memorize important details. Although Will never went to college, he is incredibly smart. His talents that are not visible on a resume. Today, we live in a world where your education carries a lot of value – not only where you went to school, but if you simply have one. Good Will Hunting shoots a hole in the common notion that you need an education to achieve intelligence.


Life is About Experiences, Not Knowledge

In the iconic scene featuring Robin Williams and Matt Damon in the Boston Public Garden, Robin’s character, Sean, tells Will Hunting, “So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him…But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling”. An important emphasis is put on knowledge being inferior to life experiences. Will might know everything there is to know academically, but he is not an expert on life. I feel like this concept often gets overlooked as college students. We seem to focus our self-worth and accomplishments on successes in the classroom. Our value is derived from GPA’s and SAT scores. Despite the many examples of successful folks who were not college geniuses, we still place a high price on knowledge. There is a lot to be said about the the implicit value of life experiences. Whether it be work experience, time spent in foreign countries, or simply just age/seniority, no amount of knowledge or book smarts can beat genuine life experiences.


Take Risks & Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Skyler, Will’s lover, criticizes him for living life in a “safe little world where no one challenges” him. She says that he is too scared to do anything because he would “have to change”. This lesson definitely seems cliche, but when you think about life as a college student, it is undervalued. The fact of the matter is, as a whole, young students do not take risks. There are a myriad of societal pressures that make this increasingly difficult – college debt, grades, career aspirations, family opinions, etc. Students avoid classes that are difficult because they do not want to hurt their GPA instead of intellectually challenging themselves. They do not take classes that do not count towards some minor or concentration because they see no value in simply taking a class for fun, or to learn something new. Everything has to count for something. Everything has to translate into some positive outcome in our future. Though this seems like a sweeping generalization of all college students, this is what I have observed in the last year. In Good Will Hunting, Will is afraid to take a high paying job or love his girlfriend because it is not how he has lived his life. I believe that as students we are all afraid to change, to step outside our comfort zones. Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple, Inc. recently said that “fear is a great motivator”, and I agree with him. I really believe fear is an undervalued motivator. It does not matter whether we fail, or do not see the immediate results of our actions, by taking risks and being different, we learn numerous life lessons that have invaluable benefits in our future.

There are many themes in the film, yet these are simply ones that stuck out to me. Glad I finally took the time to check out the film as once again, Robin Williams was fantastic. If you have not seen it, definitely check it out on Netflix!


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