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The Manchurian Candidate—Just Who’s Pulling the Strings?

Posted on 02/04/2019 in Featured Articles, Leadership by Jack Speer

Who do you think is pulling the strings of your life? There is no more important questions for you to answer.

The 2004 remake of the thriller movie The Manchurian Candidate asks the question, “Just who really is pulling the strings?”

In this remake of the 1962 version, the manipulative mother, Senator Eleanor Prentiss Shaw, played by Meryl Streep, is part of the brainwashing of her own son, Sergeant Raymond Shaw, a war hero turned vice president, plotting to assassinate the president to become a puppet president controlled by a foreign power.

As far-fetched as the plot sounded in 1962 before the age of the Internet, today even the savviest of us often don’t know where the message is coming from and who’s behind it, whether on Facebook, Twitter, or traditional media. To be wary about who is saying what and why is something we all must do every day.

Becoming Our Own Manchurian Candidate

Most of us have speculated on the question of “Who is really in charge? Who is in control? In the halls of government, in our place of work, in our network of friends?

Sometimes we struggle to answer the question, “Who is pulling the strings on me? We sometimes feel there are forces within us pulling our strings in a different direction. We are something like our own Manchurian Candidate. Our mind says “Yes,” but something within us says, “No.”

We have all succeeded in spectacular ways against all odds. But why is it when we want to take that next step to a better place, we have to fight the voices within us that really don’t seem to care about our being successful in the next phase of our lives?

Breaking the Manchurian Candidate Mindset

Most of us will never be drugged and brainwashed by outside forces, but we can be brainwashed by ourselves. We can’t move forward until we break the bonds of the forces within us that bind us.

Here are some of the forces within us that can bind us–and how we break through to be our best selves.

1. The Clinging Call of Where You Came From. One of the tightest bonds that keeps us where we are is the clinging inward call of where we came from, family and our early formation. In many cultures, it is disrespectful to move beyond the accomplishments of our parents and grandparents. There is the “crawfish effect” principle in which if we move ahead, those close to us–family, friends, coworkers– pull us back to where we were. If we were able to go only as far as our relatives of the past, we would all still live in caves. Give yourself the liberty to move beyond where you’ve been. Thank and appreciate all the people and forces of the past, and move beyond them.

2. You Physical Characteristics Sink Your Possibilities. Your Manchurian Candidate inner voice will tell you that you’re too young, too old, too short, too tall, too undereducated, not smart enough, too smart, disabled, and many more. But in our age, none of those myths we tell ourselves is true. Today teenagers are inventing apps that earn multi-millions of dollars and people in their 70s run for president and win. The voice that tells you there is something you can’t do is just pulling your string. Your limitations come from within, not outside. There are no physical boundaries.

3. Nobody Will Listen to Me. Does your inner Manchurian Candidate tell you not to speak up because nobody will listen? I know a lot of people who don’t speak up because they hear within themselves the voice that they won’t be heard. So they wait for someone to speak for them or to them, to tell them what’s next. Successfully getting people to hear you come from two different factors. The first is do your homework and present a good case for people that will work. The second is to ask a lot of people to support you. People are notoriously averse to any idea, especially if it’s not their own. So plan, communicate, and deliver–and you will be heard.

4. I Can’t Move Forward–I’ll Just Let the Clock of My Life Run Out. I have met a lot of Manchurian Candidates of their own minds who finally decided that moving forward is too painful–they’ve tried and failed too many times. At some point, they put together some savings and retirement funds and decide to play out the clock with minimum resources and options. Some are really delighted with their lives of not having any more hurdles to jump. Yet these people often seem to me to be saying, “I gave up too easily.” Life is a lot of transitions and reinventions. People often stop just short of achieving their goals. Don’t ever listen to the inner voice that says give up.

The Manchurian Candidate is a powerful, entertaining drama that says that people can be controlled by forces outside of themselves in odd and creepy ways. Yet we can become our own Manchurian Candidates because the inner workings of the mind carry different goals and agendas from where we want to be headed. We can break away from limitations of any kind to win.

Often, the best way to break the hold of the Manchurian Candidate inside you–the force that keeps you from becoming who you want to be–is a conversation with a professional coach who can help guide you through the process.

I’d would be pleased to offer my time and counsel to you to get you started on the journey. Please email me at:
or call or text me at
I’m looking forward to visiting with you.

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