Is it just me, or can we learn a lot about being successful in life from TV detectives?


I have to admit, my guilty pleasure is sitting down to watch an absorbing episode of Morse, Lewis, Poirot or, my current favourite, Death in Paradise. Sure, they are formulaic and you can often see the twist or punchline coming from a mile away, but they are fun and are usually a decent way of killing an hour or two.

But I was thinking recently (actually whilst watching said Death in Paradise) that there are a lot of lessons we can learn about how to be successful in our personal and professional lives from the way in which they approach their crime fighting, and I thought I would share some of them here:

1. They have a very clear sense of purpose

Ok, so let’s face it, most detective shows revolve around murder or homicide, mainly because investigating fraud doesn’t really make for great TV. But what this does is create a really clear sense of purpose – someone is dead and we have to find the killer and bring them to justice. They know that everything they do has to work towards that end, and they will doggedly pursue it.

2. They are good at strategic thinking and scenario planning

There are always many conversations in these shows which start ‘So, what have we got?’ Their ability to take quite disparate clues, weave a number of potential scenarios to pursue, and then put the relevant plans in place to investigate them is astounding. This ties into point 6 about below.

3. They do the ground work

In every case they know that they have to do the groundwork. Collecting clues, questioning suspects, the ubiquitous ‘door to door’ enquiries, forensics, reading reports – it all has to be done if they are to get a lead and move forwards. And they are never afraid to go back to it all and start again, to see if they missed something. Answers don’t come on a plate, you have to work hard and cover the basics every single time.

4. They possess huge levels of self-belief

This probably comes from the fact that they believe that right should triumph wrong, and this gives them the necessary drive. But if you just look at the amount of time they spend standing up to superiors, facing off against the most horrific of adversaries or simply stating that what they know to be true is, in fact, true, you can’t help but see how this helps them move forwards and close the net on the killer.

5. However, they are flawed human beings, they know it and they work with it, or gather people around them to plug the gap.

In most cases they have some kind of flaw. They knew they weren’t perfect but were comfortable in their own skin. They also had their foils, whose prime purpose was to ground their idiosyncrasies. Was it any accident that Lewis was a ‘humble northerner’ who called a spade a spade. I don’t think so. He needed to let Morse know that doing crosswords wasn’t the basic requirement of police work.

6. They have a huge failure rate

There’s usually only one killer, so in each story there have to be a lot of dead ends. They realise this, and often question or accuse a number of people. Most are wrong but they accept it and move one, learning what they can and building the case further. How many times did Lewis say, ‘Well, Hathaway, we got that one wrong. Reckon we should just let it go.’? Never, that’s how many.

7. They can adapt to circumstance and shift direction quickly

How many times does the prime suspect end up getting murdered too? How often does a key piece of information arrive and simply unravel everything they have thought up to this point? So many cases end up going back to square one half way through, but again, they adapt and shift their focus and usually operate at the creative best to find another path.

8. They don’t rest on their laurels

Yes, they solve the murder and the killer is either behind bars or indeed dead themselves. There may even be beer and pizza involved. But they know that the next one is going to happen and they will start it all over again, and with it will come the ground work, the twists, the turns and the dead ends, but they do it all anyway, with as much gusto as they did it before.

Any additions? post them in the comments…


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