If you haven’t been watching HBO’s latest thriller series, The Last of Us, you’re missing out. Not only because the series combines the key ingredients of an amazing story – an unlikely pair of heroes fighting for survival, epic action scenes, emotional turmoil, and super freaky monsters – but because it has one key lesson buried within: your potential is far greater than you think.
The Last of Us is a chilling tale of something we are all spookily familiar with: a global pandemic happens seemingly overnight. Yet instead of Covid-19, it’s cordyceps, known to zoologists as the zombie ant fungus, that rips through the population. The “zombies” become insane, zombie-like human shells that charge around looking to infect others. They can live like this for years. There is no cure.
After losing his daughter to a military killing on day one, protagonist Joel becomes a smuggler. 20 years later, he’s tasked with taking a teenage girl, Ellie, to a rebel hospital on the other side of the country. Why? Ellie’s immune – the only immune person found since the pandemic happened. She’s the only hope for humanity’s survival. No pressure, right?
As a business owner, The Last of Us probably doesn’t sound very relatable. But within the context of the show’s creation (it was adapted from a video game – more on this later), and nestled in the story itself, are countless examples of individuals whose self-belief helps them, as the show puts it, “endure and survive” despite a changing world.
Here’s why this unlikely tale, both in creation and in action, could finally convince you to believe in your own ideas.
If you’re going to “endure and survive”, self-belief and self-awareness must be combined
It might sound corny, but self-belief is now widely considered a huge contributing factor to success, despite pervading imposter syndrome (something Bee recently wrote eloquently about).
Let’s get scientific for a minute: a study published by Entrepreneur found 84% of entrepreneurs experience imposter syndrome, especially if they are successful. This discovery lends itself to the “Dunning-Krueger effect”: the more self-awareness and intellect you have, the more likely you are to doubt yourself.
So, lots of successful people have imposter syndrome. How come they’re so good at what they do? They combine this potentially limiting self-awareness with a healthy dose of self-belief. Then, they use it to carve their own path.
In The Last of Us, Ellie and Joel are initially cast as opposite ends of this spectrum.
On their first meeting, Ellie flies at Joel from a doorway, switchblade at the ready – he’s come too close, and she doesn’t know him. He reacts bluntly, effortlessly throwing her at a wall and disarming her. Her childish self-belief is not dampened: I can take this guy! I’m immune to the infected – I’m unbeatable!
Conversely, we meet Joel as an emotionless, violent thug who spends his life illegally crossing the quarantine zone border at night. He’s decidedly apolitical, keeps to himself, and accepts whatever job he’s given without question. After failing to protect his daughter from the horrors of the pandemic, his self-belief only extends as far as being able to sneak, smuggle, and brutalise if necessary.
Along their journey across America together, Joel and Ellie are both humbled and emboldened by each other’s presence – Joel finds his caring, fatherly side again, while Ellie learns to be both brave and cautious, depending on the circumstances.
As an entrepreneur or company leader, finding both your “inner Joel” and “inner Ellie” could help you back your own ideas while remaining self-aware.
Blind self-belief can lead to arrogance, but too much self-awareness can cripple your confidence. Combining these factors could mean you believe in your own unique power while never forgetting what you’re up against.
The adaptation of The Last of Us for TV is a fantastic lesson in pushing your ideas to their potential
Aside from the content of the show itself, the very inception of HBO’s The Last of Us is an apt lesson in self-belief.
Indeed, the original game was released in 2013 by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Neil Druckmann, the game’s creator, relished its success over the past decade, with entire online communities forming around Ellie and Joel’s powerful story.
So when the opportunity arose to adapt the game, Druckmann jumped at the chance, placing himself at the centre of this new version as creator and writer. In an interview with the Washington Post, Druckmann says, “This kind of storytelling leads to really new, interesting decisions,” and describes the remaking of his game for TV as “thrilling and liberating”.
Indeed, when he created The Last of Us for a somewhat niche community of gamers, it’s possible Druckmann had no idea just how much potential this story and its characters contained.
Simply from a financial point of view, the adaptation has pushed Druckmann’s core material to new heights: according to Game Industry Biz, sales of the game jumped by 238% after the TV show was launched. All of a sudden, non-gamers want to play too – and so a whole new swathe of fans enter the conversation.
By squeezing the narrative of the game even harder and adapting to the high-content media landscape we have in 2023, The Last of Us turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Crucially, without the level of self-belief to envision The Last of Us in its new medium, Druckmann would never have known just how powerful the story he’d created really was.
Having the foresight to pitch even the boldest, biggest ideas – while being aware of your flaws – is an essential ingredient to any entrepreneurial success.
Want to create a legacy beyond your perceived limits? We can help
Even if you’re in a niche market, that doesn’t mean your vision should be limited. Just like Neil Druckmann (and the nuanced characters he created), you can exceed your own potential and make your goals a reality. Not sure how? We can help.
If you want your firm to “endure and survive” in an ever-changing world, email email@example.com or call 0115 8965 300 and let’s have a chat.