The ‘Reservoir Dogs’ Method of Career Excellence
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Money & Career

The ‘Reservoir Dogs’ Method of Career Excellence

Tarantino’s cult classic is like business school with more severed ears

Still image from scene in Reservoir Dogs film
Miramax/Photofest

It’s been years since I watched Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino’s bloody 1992 debut. But there’s one scene I’ll never forget. No, not the ear-cutting one. Or when Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) and the other diamond thieves argue about tipping and Madonna’s virginity. For me, it’s when Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) meets with his future employers and weaves a tale of sublime B.S.

He tells them about the time he almost got busted transporting a huge brick of marijuana, after walking into a public restroom and being confronted with four police officers and a German shepherd. In his story, he rides it out, stays cool and gets away. 

Of course, none of it’s true. Mr. Orange — or Freddy, his real name — isn’t a criminal at all; he’s an undercover cop. 

I’ve thought of this scene during every job interview or work meeting I’ve ever had. In my head, I’m always Mr. Orange, pretending to be something I’m not, hoping they won’t realize I’m narrowly avoiding a crippling panic attack. Whenever I start to spiral, I try to remember the lessons Mr. Orange taught me about surviving in the corporate world.

Confidence Is More Important Than Experience 

“To do this job, you gotta be a great actor,” Freddy’s bandanna-wearing handler explains in a fantastic rooftop scene in which he primes Freddy on the nuances of a successful undercover career. 

That’s good advice, and it doesn’t just apply when you’re trying to convince gangsters of your criminal credentials.

There’s a reason that Freddy spent hours practicing in front of his mirror, rehearsing his lines till they came out with the perfect amount of swagger. Your résumé doesn’t matter nearly as much as how convincingly you talk about your experience.

In other words, be the character, not the man behind the mask.

Nobody Knows, Because You’re Supercool 

We’ve all felt like failures at some point, convinced that our coworkers and employers can see right through our facade.

Mr. Orange had those moments, too, but he talked himself past the panic. “They don't know. They don't know s---,” he told his reflection in the mirror. “You're not gonna get hurt. You're f------ Baretta. They believe every f------ word 'cause you're supercool.”

Have I repeated those same lines to myself before heading to the office, a work function or even a Zoom meeting? Hell, yes. Should you? Absolutely.

Everybody is insecure. We’re all barely holding it together. Every single character in Reservoir Dogs, they’re all playing a part. They’re in their own heads, fighting like hell to create their tough-guy personas. They’re not thinking about you; they’re worried about themselves. The same is true at your office.

Repeat Mr. Orange’s words like they’re gospel: “They don't know. They don't know s---.”

“Dive in, and Swim”

When Freddy finishes his B.S. story, the boss, Joe Cabot, is impressed. “You know how to handle that situation,” he says. “S--- your pants, dive in, and swim.”

That sentence should be translated into Latin and used by an Ivy League school as its official motto. Harvard: “Shittuum braccas et dive in.”

There’s nothing wrong with being terrified or worrying that you’re in over your head and it’s only a matter of time before everybody discovers you’re a fraud. But don’t let that fear paralyze you. Embrace the fear. Poop your pants (metaphorically), and then dive into the deep end anyway.

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