9 things I learned from Joe Dirt

People who know me know that I love the movie Joe Dirt. Set in the 1980s, it is the story of a boy searching for his long-lost parents, the people he meets along the way, and the lessons he learns. I have probably watched the movie  twenty times. It never fails to make me laugh. In this post, I am going to tell you 9 very important lessons that can be learned from Joe Dirt.

Joe Dirt is a tale of a young man searching for his family. Left at that Grand Canyon place when he was only 8-years-old, Joe sets out to find the family that he is sure must be missing him. Along the way he encounters a fireworks selling Indian, a mafia informant living in witness protection, a cross dressing serial killer and many more. And, of course, he meets Brandy. The experience of finding his parents ends up being far less than he’d  hoped. In the end, Joe finds what he was searching for all along. If you haven’t seen the movie, read this post, then go watch it. You won’t regret it. (Well, maybe you will, but you should still do it)

So, here are 9 things I learned from Joe Dirt

You can’t have no in your heart. As Joe winds his way through one predicament after another, he constantly repeats this notion as one of his personal mantras. It’s his way to remind himself that you cannot let the forces around you get you down. There will always be naysayers in life, plenty of people will try to tell you that you can’t do something, or that you won’t succeed. To survive and thrive, you have to shut them out. You have to make sure that you never let their “no” seep into your heart.

When you let “no” into your heart, you have given up. You have ceased striving for what can be, and have settled for what is. To reach your dreams, to attain your goals, to grab those stars, you have to keep “no” out of your heart.

You gotta keep on keepin’ on. The follow up to not allowing no into your heart is that you have to keep moving forward. In life there are setbacks. You might find yourself trying to secure an inflated tooth, only end up being blown across several states until you land even farther from your goal. But you can’t let that get you down.

We all suffer setbacks, and some of them will blow our life plan far off course. When that happens, you gotta keep on keepin’ on.

Life is a garden. Dig it. A long time ago I taught a class on Leadership for Managers. In that class we covered a lot of principles for how to be better leaders, and not just managers. When teaching that class I came up with this idea. To be successful as a leader, you must learn to be a gardener. A gardener knows that not all plants like the same things. Some prefer shade, others abundant sunlight. Some do better with more water, others with less, and so on.

And so it is with those with whom we work. Some prefer assignments that give them high visibility, while others prefer relative obscurity. Some need constant support and affirmation, while others prefer being given their assignment and the opportunity to figure things out for themselves.

Understanding that all of life is a garden, reminds us that the people around us are all different as well.  We can’t treat people like cookie-cutter drones. Each needs their own kind of attention to thrive, just as we do.

The next time you find yourself surrounded by weeds in your life, remember that life is a garden. Dig it!

Sell people the good stuff. Along the way, Joe meets Kickin’ Wing, a Native American owner of a fireworks stand that only sells sparklers and snakes, because that is what he wants. Kickin’ Wing’s stand suffers from poor sales. Joe does his best to convince Kickin’ Wing that if he sold some hoosker doos, hosker don’ts or whistlin’ kitty chasers, he might do more sales. That would help him fund his dream of being a Veterinarian. Later in the movie we learn that Kickin’ Wing has, indeed, funded his dream, thanks to learning to sell the good stuff.

Our life lesson from this is that when we are trying to sell something, whether it be actual goods and services, or merely our ideas, we must do so by selling what the people want. We have to remember that to sell, there must be a buyer, and that buyer cares not a lick what we want, only what they want.

If you want to be successful in life, remember to sell the good stuff.

Home is where you make it.  As Joe is searching, he comes across a ramshackle, broken down, abandoned house that was once his childhood home. A neighbor comes by, and Joe tells of his plight. The neighbor tries patiently to explain to Joe that “home is where you make it”, but a dialect barrier causes the message to be scrambled.

But the message is clear for all of us. We might want to be in a certain station in life. Whether it means a bigger house, better neighborhood, or just an upgrade to the furnishings, many people pine for better things. But Joe’s former neighbor reminds us that “home is where you make it”. We can choose to be satisfied, or we can choose to constantly be reaching. When we choose contentment, we have the opportunity to truly live in our circumstances.

The next time you find yourself unhappy with your surroundings, take the advice of Joe’s neighbor. Improve the situation you are in, make it the way you want it, rather than chasing something else. After all “home is where you make it. Everyone knows that.”

Don’t try to church it up. Early in the movie Joe encounters a surly gate guard. The gate guard asks Joe his name, and Joe tells him that it is Joe Dirte’ (pronounced Deertay). The guard mocks Joe and tells him not to “church it up”, your name is Joe Dirt.

While the guard is being derisive of Joe, there is a lesson for us  in this, and it is fairly simple. You are who you are, with all your faults and flaws, with all your skills and virtues… you are who you are. Accept that. Embrace the you that you have become.

In life, every experience you have had, every lesson you have learned, every victory you have celebrated and every defeat you have tasted, has made you who you are. You can wish that something didn’t happen in your past, you can wish for the ability to redo a mistake you made. You can wish and wish and wish, but in the end, all those things have made you who you are today. And, you are lovable just exactly as you are. You don’t have to put on a mask, or try to be something different, just be yourself.

Joe learns through the movie that people love him just as he is, without and\y amendments, without any explanations. He doesn’t have to put on airs, his friends just love him. And so it is for you. You don’t need to “church it up”.  Just be yourself and let people love you as you are.

You have to know where you want to be when Jesus comes back. Joe ends up finding his mother because of one of her oft-used questions. When someone is doing something they shouldn’t, Joes mom simply asks them “Is this where you want to be when Jesus comes back?” For her it is a reminder that we must always be at our best because we don’t know when our judgment will come. Whether you are a believer in Christianity, and the second coming of Christ aside, most people understand that at some point in their life there is a day of reckoning. There is a time when you must account for the actions you have taken

Joe’s mom leaves much to be desired in this regard, but the notion of her advice is sound. Act always as though you are being watched, and you’ll never need to know who is looking.  That doesn’t mean that you should be fake or phony. To the contrary, it means to be just in your deeds at all times. Don’t rely on a future chance to make things right, be right, right now.

Things are gonna’ happen for me, I’m Joe Dirt! Joe’s positive self-talk has helped him survive and thrive in the difficult circumstances of his life. At the time that he says this, he is living in the boiler room at a radio station. Many would say that his life was terrible. But, he keeps a genuine smile on his face, and reminds himself that good things will come his way, as long as he keeps being a good person. He reminds himself that other people have their issues, but that isn’t for him to worry about. He is in charge of only himself, and as long as he keeps on the righteous path, he will prevail.

The lesson for us is clear. No matter how difficult things may seem, we must keep to the path of being good people. We must stay in the right, and push forward, and eventually good things will come our way. Stand proudly in front of your mirror every day and repeat this line “Good things are going to happen for me! I’m ME!”

Dang! As Joe is making his way through life, one word seems to come out frequently, “DANG!”. It’s a good catch all word for things. It can express excitement, frustration, anger, joy, all in that single word. Dang doesn’t care what you, or anyone else, thinks of the situation. It’s just Dang.

The beauty of the Dang is that it doesn’t arouse resentment from others. It is a way to express yourself that is neutral in its nature, but expressive in its means.  Often we might want to go on a tirade when the breaks don’t go our way. Or we might want to stand on the table and shout of our successes. In both cases we can truly anger those around us, and hurt the feelings of people. But, a good, simple DANG, can express our feelings without ruffling the feathers nearby.

So those are the 9 things I have learned from Joe Dirt. I think there are plenty more lessons to be had from the movie, and your list may be different. Drop me a comment with your thoughts.

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3 Responses to 9 things I learned from Joe Dirt

  1. Omar says:

    I’m glad someone else realizes how awesome this movie is in it’s subtle and not so subtle messages!


  2. William Henderson says:

    This was an interesting post. Generally, I don’t like Happy Madison films because sometimes I feel that the mediocrity of the jokes can overshadow the message. With Joe Dirt, it stands my favorite film because no matter what happened to Joe was his unrelenting positivity affected those around him. Clem, Brandy, Chicken Wing, and the Crocodile farm owner. Even in those moments, Joe could be in the lowest parts of his life and he still rises to the challenges he faces. Then in his darkedarkest hour, the people who love him as a person came out to help him. It’s a very heart warming message and I feel that the comedy was more on point than any other Happy Madison film.
    With Joe Dirt, I feel that even with the problems he faced, he was still the most mentally healthy person in the movie. He loves himself and even when he didn’t have all the luxories of life, his self respect earned him a woman that loves him and lifelong friends.
    Joe Dirt is the embodiment of the insecurities we feel as people. Granted Joe himself isn’t very intelligent but his positivity makes up for it. He still learns about others and the world around him. The fact alone that he is willing to learn and adapt himself makes him such a compelling character for me.
    My name is William and I am glad to converse about this movie. 🙂


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