The 10 Things We've Learned From 'The Great Gatsby'

by Eddie Cuffin

“The Great Gatsby” is easily one of the most iconic books in American culture. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a literary genius who spent his time creating a masterpiece that critiques the American culture back in the 1920s. Just because this book was written back then does not mean that its lessons do not translate to modern times.

The main character in the story is James Gatz, a man who came from humble beginnings and built a fortune on bootlegging liquor all to impress a certain girl: Daisy Buchanan. He spent his whole life trying to get her back. But he was chasing something that was never there and in the end it cost him his life. This timeless story has recently been made into a motion picture featuring a star-studded cast.

Although it is debatable whether or not the book or movie is better, in the end it’s all about what we can take away from this experience. Here are the lessons we learned from “The Great Gatsby.”

Personal branding is more important than ever.

Everyone has their ideal identity that they want to be remembered by. It is important that you understand that you, as a person, are a brand. Everything you do creates a certain perception about you and all your decisions will be judged by others. Now this doesn't mean you let the opinions of others influence your actions.

This simply means that you are a brand, your every action tells something about you, therefore you should understand what image you want to project and set out to make it happen. Gatsby may have understood this to a fault, but left this presence in superficial terms, chasing something that once was but could never be again.

You must utilize this tool as something to be utilized for the present and future. As a young professional, it is time you need to realize who you want to be both personally and professionally; this is a crucial time in your development and personal branding, so take it seriously.

Set high expectations for yourself and never settle for less.

No one has a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses than yourself. With this understanding, you can get a grasp of what you are capable of. Your talents and time should not be underestimated, so it is crucial that you set high expectations for yourself. There is no reason to live a mediocre life, always strive for better because it shows your character.

Do you want to be known as someone who does what he can and stops there or do you want to be someone who is known to push the envelope and achieve great things? There is nothing worse than someone who sells himself short. It is one of the worst things one can do, as it shows that you have a weak character.

In America get it any way that you can.

By no means did Jay Gatsby have an easy life. He came from humble beginnings and had fallen in love with a wealthy beauty. Unfortunately, his life path led them to split up. He thought the only way he could get Daisy back was by becoming wealthy enough to fit into a certain economical class worthy of her attention. He had the mindset that he must do whatever it takes to make enough money to increase his wealth. In order to achieve his 'life goal,' Jay became a liquor bootlegger.

As a man who came from nothing, he was up against juggernauts whom came from wealthy families, that had already made something of themselves. His goal was to live a happy life with his lost love Daisy Buchanan. His ability to accumulate a huge amount of wealth stemmed from the fact that America provides us with a system to make ends meet by multiple means. Everyone has a particular talent and it is your job to find a means of making money for yourself.

Choose to work with those who have the same principles as you.

It is imperative that you choose whom you work with carefully. You will only have a select few business partners throughout your life. It is crucial that you get the most out of each relationship because time is of the essence. From a young age, you want to develop long lasting relationships that will be sure to be fruitful for a long period of time. In order to do this, it is best if you work with people whom have similar principles to you.

This builds good work ethic and develops a good foundation for a long-lasting business bond, not to mention the fact that it makes working with them a pleasure.

 Let your actions speak louder than your expenses.

Jay Gatsby was mostly known by his peers for his extravagant parties. A majority of his guests never really got a chance to meet him, well actually he never really introduced himself properly to any of them. Only a select few at the parties actually knew who Jay Gatsby really was. Jay always let his luxurious soirées speak for him.

This is one of his biggest faults, as it shows that he is a two dimensional character. It provided him with no depth, although his parties had the goal of attracting the attention of one particular person, it is important that we understand the importance of letting your actions and morals speak for you.

While material things are great to have and it feels great to have them, they are not the end all be all. You must not value your expenses as something to gauge how successful or great you are. If you have no depth then you are just dehumanizing yourself. Show others that you have layers, it makes life more interesting and it helps separate the superficial people from the authentic people.

Reflect in order to try and figure out what you truly want from life.

In life, it is important that you have a sense of direction. Know where you want to be and what you want to achieve in your lifetime. In order to do this, one needs to truly understand oneself. Gatsby spent a majority of his life working in order to chase a dream that never really was there. We would never know if being together with Daisy would truly make him happy however we do know that he wasted a major part of his life trying to make this happen.

Know what makes you happy and understand your own definition of success. Reflection allows you to know yourself better and to grow as a human being. If you can reflect, you will eventually find what they really want in life. No one really knows what they want out of life unless they spend enough time thinking about it and trying to figure out what really drives them to do their best in life.

Your dirty laundry will be discovered sooner or later.

We all have secrets that we would love to keep in the dark; however, this is not the way life works. Eventually all your dirty laundry will surface. It is important to understand that mistakes are common, it is how you bounce back from these mistakes that really counts. Do you want to keep falling in the same trap or do you want to do something to change the current situation?

If you plan on keeping something going for a long period of time, you are sadly mistaken if you think you can keep it going forever. There are always ways for your darkest secrets to be brought to light. Therefore in the long run, it's much easier to stay on the straight path rather than live a life of secrets, as this is no way to properly enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Learn to move past the one that got away.

We all have our Daisy Buchanans. While trying to forget the 'one that got away' is difficult, it is imperative that you do whatever you can to move past them. There are plenty of obstacles in life and you don't need extra baggage if you want to make anything of yourself. Unfortunately, it is not easy to let them go, but holding on to their memory will not change anything.

You are making yourself miserable trying to bring back the past. Chasing something that isn't really going to happen is pointless and a waste of your time. If you can grasp the idea that time is your most valuable asset, you will begin to understand that in the long run, it is best not to chase something that may never exist. It just doesn't make sense, so get over it.

Don't kill yourself to fit in.

One of the biggest problems Generation-Y has is that many people feel that they have to fit in. People work so hard to be accepted by a particular crowd that they don't necessarily fit into. Everyone has their own niche crowd of people that they can relate to and these are the people you want to associate yourself with. There’s no need to go around pretending you are someone you're not. It's really not the right way to enjoy life and living a life like this, you don't really get to know anyone.

Gatsby is a prime example of this. He wanted to live a particular lifestyle just to fit into a crowd that really wasn't for him. In the end, he made a lot of phony relationships that never really blossomed into anything that could benefit him. When Gatsby died, he died a lonely death as no one showed up to pay their respects.

This is another sign that shows that Gatsby worked hard to become acquainted with people that never really cared about him. In the end it's not about the number of friends you have, but the quality of friends you have. Don't let the numbers fool you. No one wants to be known by many, yet have none to confide in.

No matter how grand your lifestyle is people will only remember you for the impact you have on their lives.

There is no greater feat in life than having an impact on the life of someone else. It is such a fulfilling feeling to know that your practices have positively affected someone else. Gatsby was truly known for his lavish and outrageous parities that he threw. Other than that, he remained a mysterious character to the rest of the guests at the party.

Although his guests would enjoy themselves at his events, none of them really were impacted by Gatsby himself. That is why he will always be remembered more for his parties than anything else. This shows us that material wealth is just two-dimensional and no matter how luxurious your life is it means nothing unless you have an impact of the life of someone else.

Because Gatsby never really got to know any of the guests that came to his lavish parties, he never had the chance to have an impact on anyone’s life, therefore he was not memorable to his guests -- hence the reason why no one showed up to his funeral. This shows that he surrounded himself with superficial people all because he wanted to portray a certain lifestyle that wasn't anything more than one based on lavish living.