Even though it came out way back in 1995, Heat is still one of my favorite movies.
In my opinion, it was the last of the great performances from both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. The fact that those performances occurred in the same movie makes it really special.
The cat-and-mouse game that it sets up from the start is really fantastic.
The entire film has this visceral feel. There’s a sense of being hurtled forward into the inevitable crash between an immovable object and an unstoppable force.
There are two particular exchanges in Heat that have stuck with me throughout the years. The fact that I can easily recall them, even today, speaks to their effect on me.
I want to share them with you today because I think they go beyond a Hollywood script and actually express ideas that are extremely relevant and thematic to life and money.
These quotes relate incredibly well to my personal sense of freedom, authenticity, and happiness.
The Action Is The Juice
There’s a scene in the movie where the group of thieves, led by Robert De Niro’s character, Neil McCauley, are discussing whether or not to pursue their next score (a major bank robbery). They’ve realized that they’ve got heat (the police), and they’re now having a debate among themselves whether or not the score is worth the risk.
At one particular point in the exchange, McCauley is attempting to talk one of his partners, Michael Cheritto (played by Tom Sizemore), out of the job because Cheritto is financially solid and doesn’t need the money from the score.
After contemplating McCauley’s sage advice, Cheritto says this:
Well, you know, for me, the action is the juice.
This is brilliant.
Well, not brilliant within the context of the scene. It’s obviously never a good idea to go around robbing banks, especially if you’ve got plenty of money.
But I think it’s brilliant because it aligns perfectly with what I’ve been saying for years now.
FIRE isn’t about not working. Having a lot of money isn’t about not working.
It’s actually the total opposite.
FIRE is about working. But it should be work on your terms – doing what you want, when you want, where you want. You should be doing all of this for reasons that make sense to you, and you should be working with people you enjoy working with.
It’s all about freedom, control, and autonomy.
It comes down to choice. Having choice and options leads to authentic outcomes.
The juice isn’t the money. People too often focus on the reward, instead of the process.
The juice is the action. The juice is the process that gets you the money. Money is just a byproduct of doing things you love and being happy.
In fact, I’ve come to fully believe that pursuing passions that keep you productive and progressing forward as a human being is vital to enjoying FIRE.
100% leisure, 100% of the time, isn’t fun. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. Work makes leisure better. And vice versa.
For me, the action is the juice.
That’s why I’ll continue to work on passionate projects for many more years to come.
Don’t Get Attached
One of the best exchanges in all of cinema. The showdown between Pacino and DeNiro.
Heat is, as far as I know, the first movie in which these two legendary actors shared screen time and acted alongside each other.
Their first onscreen interaction comes about halfway into the movie.
And it’s a doozy.
Pacino’s character, an LAPD detective named Vincent Hanna, tracks down McCauley while he’s driving down the highway. Hanna pulls McCauley over and invites him to have a coffee.
The ensuing conversation between cop and robber is unique and amazing on so many levels, not the least of which is because a similar conversation between the real cop and robber on which the story and movie is based actually occurred.
There’s a major aspect of McCauley’s discipline as a thief that he relays to Hanna during their conversation:
Guy told me one time, don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.
This sounds a bit brutal at its core, which prompts Hanna to ask McCauley if he’s some kind of monk.
Indeed, one of Buddhism’s central concepts relates to a lack of attachment, due to the idea that attachment can lead to suffering.
My own life riffs on this a bit, as I only own two bags’ worth of items, find myself unattached to any physical location, and generally have a level of autonomy and freedom that few people in this entire world will ever experience.
I love this line because I believe in it and follow it.
Now, this quote is technically referring to “heat” as in the police. McCauley is telling his pursuer that he has such discipline, he’s willing to immediately walk out on everything and everyone in his life if he feels the heat.
Well, I feel the same way. Except my “heat” isn’t the law; my “heat” is unhappiness.
Said another way, I’ve set up my life in a way that can be radically reconfigured in a moment’s notice. I’m not so attached to anything that I can’t walk out on all of it if I spot that “heat” around the corner.
If I at any time feel unhappy with what I’m doing, who I’m with, what I have, or where I’m at, I can change all/any of it very, very quickly. That level of flexibility gives me immense peace of mind.
I’ve been disproportionately exposed to suicide and hardship in my life. And I’ve come to believe that a lack of options can back someone into a corner and potentially lead to really bad outcomes.
As such, I’m perhaps more cognizant of my own happiness and well-being than other people. I like to take my “happiness temperature” often so as to make sure that I feel great about what I’m doing. If at any time I feel like the heat is rising and I’m not happy with my setup, I’m going to step in and take action.
I’m not talking about temporary unhappiness, like having a bad day. I’m talking about something systemic in nature.
Feeling trapped by prior choices that may no longer have value or relevance is an uncomfortable idea for me. Being free to live the right life for me on a constant, go-forward basis is an amazing privilege I’m very proud of and grateful for.
A recent example of this was my decision to indefinitely leave the United States back in 2017.
I felt like the US was no longer a great place to live based on what mattered to me. I started to feel unhappy about living in the States. So I left. Quite quickly, I might add.
Being able to up and leave an entire country (particularly one’s homeland) because the “heat” was coming around the corner is a wonderful level of freedom.
Thailand might be a hell of a lot hotter than most of the US. But I’ve never felt less “heat”.
This movie was one of the best that’s ever come out of Hollywood. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend taking the time to check it out.
A lot of people might watch the movie and walk away simply entertained, but I picked up on these two exchanges in the movie and contemplated about them a bit.
I’ve come to realize that there’s a profound philosophy at work here.
First, the action is the juice. The process is far more valuable than the monetary reward. If you only focus on the financial rewards, you’ll almost surely find yourself hollow and unhappy.
Second, don’t get attached to things that you can’t get rid of if you spot the “heat”. Attachment leads to suffering. I’ve found a lot of happiness and value in the ability to fluidly move through life and right-size things as I go. Don’t let past choices trap the current or future version of you. We grow and change over time. Allow yourself that space and flexibility.
What do you think? Have you seen this movie? Did you enjoy it? Do you find a deeper meaning in the above exchanges?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures.
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