The Dude Abides! 5 Quotes from “The Big Lebowski” that Apply to Quality

You can learn some surprising lessons 
about life and quality from the Dude. 
(Photo courtesy of Polygram Filmed
 Entertainment and Working Title Films)
“The Big Lebowski” never fails to make me laugh. The 1998 cult classic, starring the indefatigable Jeff Bridges, features some of the most quotable lines in film. Saying them is enough to break the ice among strangers at a party. In my family, the quotes are inside jokes that never grow old.

The film is about Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski, an unemployed stoner who loves bowling, and his mix-up with an old rich man who shares his name. Played to perfection by Bridges, the Dude is plunged into a misadventure after some baddies who mistake him for his namesake, take the rug in his living room and manhandle him. The rest of the movie is about the Dude’s quest to take his rug—and his peace—back. Along the way, he meets the real “Big Lebowski” (his rich namesake); he serves as the middleman in paying the ransom for the old man’s young wife; and he even romances the man’s estranged daughter, Maude.

The film, quirky and filled with profanity, was a flop when it came out, but it has grown increasingly popular over the years. Written and directed by the brilliant Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan), the movie has inspired many books, “dress as your favorite character” festivals, and the Little Lebowski shop in New York City. Eighteen years later, Lebowski-related merchandise continues to sell.

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Top 5 Quotes

I rounded up five of my favorite quotes from the movie. They carry a lot of truth in general. And, surprise—they apply to the field of quality as well.

#1 “The Dude abides.”

In life and in quality, follow the rules, or at least go with the flow. If you’re a quality professional, the Dude is your opposite—he doesn’t care about…well, almost anything, while you care about a million details that affect your organization’s compliance. Still, you can learn from Lebowski’s zenlike demeanor in the face of adversity. Whatever, man, the Dude abides. 

#2 “The rug really tied the room together.”

Stay focused on your quality goals, the way His Dudeness sticks to his mission of getting back his rug. You will have distractions coming from all directions on a daily basis, but keep in mind your overall goal of maintaining high quality standards. As the Dude’s friends, Walter and Donny, remind him, “The rug really tied the room together,” so he must get it back.

#3 “Just take it easy, man.”

The Duderino can’t pay his rent. He has no job. So what? No need to stress out. How can you be Dude-like when you’re responsible for quality and compliance? If your company is still using a manual or partially automatic quality management system, a big step toward reducing your team’s stress is to switch to a fully automated system. Then, you can just take it easy, man.

#4 “The Royal we.”

When the Dude delivers the ransom money to the bad guys, his buddy Walter goes with him.  Walter may not be the best team member around, but he means well and he supports his friend. In quality and compliance, you can’t do it alone. Quality should be everyone’s responsibility. Enlist your organization’s support. Consider the different departments part of the team—or what the Dude calls “the Royal we.”

#5 “Let’s go bowling.”

The Dude faces one challenge after another. His car is stolen, his friend Donny dies, and he still doesn’t get his rug back. Everything is a mess. But when all else fails, the Dude can always turn to bowling.

Maintaining quality for the purpose of compliance is the kind of challenge that will blow the Dude’s mind, but you can bet that he’ll remain cool. If you find yourself overwhelmed by unresolved CAPAs, incomplete training tasks, and an upcoming audit, just stay calm. When all else fails, do as Walter exhorts the Dude, “Let’s go bowling!” In other words, do something that will help restore your composure—take a walk, listen to music, or meditate—so you can get back to the challenges at hand with a sharp mind.

If you haven’t seen “The Big Lebowski,” watch it for some good laughs, and yes, some unexpected lessons on quality.

Cindy Fazzi is the editor of MasterControl Insider, a monthly publication for MasterControl users. She writes about the life science industry and other regulated environments. Her two decades of experience as a news reporter, writer, and editor includes working for the Associated Press in Ohio and New York. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University.