In the film versions of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels, 007 often wins the day through the use of special high-tech gadgets furnished by the Q Division.
But in the books that birthed the character, Bond very rarely relies on wiz-bang gizmos, or really, very many tools at all, to defeat the world’s super villains.
The literary Bond certainly knows how to wield a gun and drive a car like his cinematic counterpart, but his equipment is comparatively minimal. The secret to his success instead rests more primarily on his possession of a singular quality:
It’s a wonderful French phrase that roughly means: knowing what to do in any situation.
A man with savoir-faire is adaptable and adroit and has the knowledge and ability – the capacity for action – that enables him to respond appropriately in a wide variety of circumstances. It especially refers, Merriam-Webster tells us, to demonstrating “a polished sureness in social behavior,” but it broadly applies to having the confidence to deftly handle every conceivable scenario.
In other words, James Bond to a T.
Bond is able to adapt to and navigate any environment, whether rural or urban. No matter whether he finds himself in a high-stakes casino in France, a posh ski lodge in the Swiss Alps, or a poor fishing village in Japan, Bond knows what to do. Whether he’s trying to seduce a beautiful woman, confidently converse with a megalomaniac, or discern whether someone is friend or foe, he knows how to respond. Polished sureness in social behavior? Bond’s got it in spades. And he also knows how to make invisible ink with his urine, dive from great heights, and kill a man with a single stab.
Not only that, 007 does it all with seeming ease and smoothness. He’s debonair. He’s suave. Indeed, that which Mr. Big, Bond’s nemesis in Live and Let Die, says about his own approach to life, could also be said of Bond’s:
“I take pleasure…in the polish and finesse which I can bring to my operations…to impart an absolute rightness, a high elegance, to the exaction of my affairs. Each day…I try to set myself still higher standards of subtlety and technical polish so that each of my proceedings may be a work of art, bearing my signature.”
If you’ve ever wanted to develop James Bond-like savoir-faire, you’re in luck. Below we offer all the secrets of 007’s playbook.
Note: All quotes come from original Bond novels written by Ian Fleming. A list of the books used is found at the bottom of the article.
How to Develop the Savoir-Faire of James Bond
The paradox of any performance that seems effortless, is that tons of effort invariably went into producing that effect. When a master pianist plays a sweeping, flawless concerto, all the audience sees is the beautiful finished product, while missing the thousands upon thousands of hours in practice it took to achieve the seamless result.
So it is with the attainment of savoir-faire. Knowing how to act in any situation, and do so smoothly, requires extensive training, preparation, and practice. To look like you’re not trying hard, you have to try very hard when no one’s looking.
This training involves the development both of one’s skillset and one’s mindset. We’ll thoroughly cover each.
“As a gambler [Bond] knew it was a mistake to rely on too small a capital.” –Casino Royale
Fleming was referring to monetary capital, but the same principle applies to all of our everyday “operations.” There are many kinds of capital, from social alliances to brain knowledge, and amassing these resources is something you should do before you set out in an endeavor.
Indeed, rigorous, thorough preparation was arguably the central key in Bond’s ability to pull off a mission. As noted in Moonraker, he was a follower of war strategist Carl von Clausewitz’s principle of first making your base secure, and then proceeding to action.
Here are the various strategies Bond employed to secure his base:
The Foundation of Savoir-Faire: Competence in a Wide Variety of Skills
If you wish to know what to do in any situation, you quite obviously need to have a diverse set of skills in your back pocket. You never know what kind of environment you’ll end up in and what circumstances you’ll find yourself facing.
Bond’s missions took him all around the world and dropped him into all kinds of settings; success thus required that he develop a diverse skillset that encompassed a wide variety of areas, from the hard to the soft.
Tactical Skills. As a secret agent, being proficient in the primary tricks of his trade was a matter of life and death. He was therefore adept with combatives, weaponry, and other miscellaneous tactical skills, including:
- Gunmanship. According to M, Bond was the best marksman in the Secret Service. He started his career with a .25 Berretta, then moved to the 7.65mm Walther PPK, and he knew his pistols so well he could dismantle and reassemble them with his eyes closed. He also kept a long-barreled Colt Army Special .45 in the glove compartment of his car, and sometimes slipped a .38 Colt Police Positive under his pillow. Besides his proficiency with handguns, he also knew how to handle a variety of rifles, including the Savage Model 99 and the Winchester .308. This experience with a range of guns meant that when his own were lost or confiscated, he was able to pick up and competently employ the discarded firearms of antagonists.
- Knifemanship. Bond often kept a blade strapped to his forearm, and was not only proficient with knives in close fighting, but could also throw them at distant opponents with deadly accuracy.
- Unarmed Combatives. As a young man at Fettes College, Bond had boxed competitively and formed the school’s first serious judo class. As a member of the British Secret Service, he continued his training in unarmed combatives. Bond often wore steel-capped shoes to give himself a literal leg up in turning himself into a human weapon.
- Tactical Driving. Bond’s one hobby outside of work was cars, and he greatly enjoyed first his supercharged battleship-grey Bentley 4.5 liter, and then his Mark II Continental Bentley. Bond drove his cars “hard and well and with an almost sensual pleasure,” but he also knew how to drive them with a high-stakes purpose. When pursuing a bad guy, Bond could pilot vehicles at over 100 mph without losing control, “caressing the great car against the camber with an easy sway of body and hands.”
- Lock Picking. Bond knew how to jimmy his way into most any door, and how to make improvised lock picks from things he found in his environment.
- Stealthy Maneuvering. An expert in walking quietly across floors and up stairs, Bond could traverse a house with ninja-like silence.
Physical Skills. The Russians’ dossier on Bond described him as an “all-around athlete” and he did indeed strive to keep himself fit and ready for the physical demands of his job. Fitness isn’t often thought of as a skill, but it should be; the ability to effectively move objects and one’s body in space requires training and practice. In addition to Bond’s competency with fighting mentioned above, he was also a strong swimmer, and a good skier.
Before certain missions, he’d begin a training routine to strengthen himself in the specific skills that would be needed in the operation, but he also did a regular workout of bodyweight exercises to keep himself in decent shape between assignments:
“Bond went down on his hands and did twenty slow press-ups, lingering over each one so that his muscles had no rest. When his arms could stand the pain no longer, he rolled over on his back and, with his hands at his sides, did the straight leg-lift until his stomach muscles screamed. He got to his feet and, after touching his toes twenty times, went over to arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy. Panting with the exertion, he went into the big white-tiled bathroom and stood in the glass shower cabinet under very hot and then cold hissing water for five minutes.”
Bond also possessed a remarkably high tolerance for pain, a quality likely strengthened by all the cold showers and baths he took.
Diplomatic Skills. Even though Bond’s missions invariably ended up with a violent confrontation with the villain and his henchman, the majority of his operations typically consisted of a lot of social tangoing – conversations with allies, the feeling out of potential moles, and of course, the wooing of beautiful women who were always thrown in the mix.
Bond excelled on all counts.
- Conversation. Bond could carry on a conversation and win the allegiance of people from all walks of life, from the daughters of mafia bosses, to salt-of-the-earth fishermen. His fluency in French and German also allowed him to make international ties.
- Taste. In addition to being adept at the art of conversation, Bond also knew how to navigate two common social lubricants – meals and games – with finesse. While in his ordinary life, this bachelor subsisted “on grilled soles, oeufs cocotte [eggs in pots] and cold roast beef with potato salad,” on the job he enjoyed gourmet meals “as a welcome break in the day, something to look forward to, something to break the tension.” Though a taste for well-made cocktails and “paté de foie gras and cold langouste” constituted a personal pleasure, an appreciation for gourmet fare, along with a refined set of table manners, allowed Bond to comfortably and confidently dine in fancy establishments and build bridges with the well-heeled allies (and villains) with which he frequently rubbed shoulders.
- Gamesmanship. Bond received ample training in astute card playing, both in regards to how to win by the rules, and how to win through deception (a skill only employed for the sake of a mission). Bond knew how to play baccarat, roulette, bridge – most any game hosted in casinos and gentlemen’s clubs. While, like dining, he took personal pleasure in games and gambling, being able to join in, and, when needed, beat opponents at the card table, was another skill that allowed Bond to comfortably mingle in different environments, and further his purposes.
- Seduction. 007 certainly knew his way around the ladies. While women didn’t always fall for him (even Bond gets turned down in Moonraker!), they typically found him pretty irresistible. He achieved his magnetic charm through the combination of two seemingly antithetical qualities: toughness and tenderness. Bond put on a kind of cool, “alpha,” personality when he met beautiful specimens of the opposite sex; he was a little cocky and never seemed desperate, which was attractive to these women. But despite this detached, confident exterior, he would quickly fall hard for them and take them under his wing. Rather than being domineering or combative, he was enormously protective of the ladies in his life, a quality which proved as attractive as his aloofness.
- Style. Bond was well-versed in the sartorial arts. He knew how to dress to conceal his weapon, naturally, but also how to fit into the environment he’d be navigating, and make a good impression on others. He knew how to wear a tux with elegance, but also what to wear to look sharp while staying cool in the Caribbean: “dark-blue tropical worsted trousers, white sea-island cotton shirt, socks and black casual shoes (he abhorred shoe-laces).” He could even stay stylish while dressing down to shorts and sandals, as he did when his missions took him Jamaica. And he did it all in a natural way that didn’t give the impression he was trying too hard – a behavior he disliked in other men. For example, “he mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot,” as “It showed too much vanity” and “was often the mark of a cad.” Instead, he typically opted to knot his signature thin, knitted ties with the less formal four-in-hand.
Improvisation. Bond’s grasp of such a wide variety of abilities granted him access to another kind of skill: improvisation. When you’re familiar with a lot of different domains, you gain the ability to mix and manipulate them together, and a mind that can brainstorm back-up solutions when your typical tools fail.
Bond’s familiarity with lock picks helped him identify when a strip of plastic for ski bindings could be turned into one. His knowledge of weaponry helped him recognize when the grill of an air vent could be transformed into a spear, and that placing the top of a bladeless safety razor between his fingers, or his heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch across them, could create two effective knucklebusters. Indeed, whenever Bond found himself in a situation where he’d been stripped of his knife and gun, he’d immediately scan the environment for anything that might work as an improvised weapon – scissors, a lighter, whatever he could find. If he didn’t have the tool he needed, he made one with what he had.
Train for Specific Situations
Having a broad range of skills under your belt is useful for tackling whatever situation comes your way. But sometimes you know a specific scenario is imminent, and it’s wise to particularly bone up in that area.
For example, when Bond is called upon to pretend to be an ancestry researcher in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he throws himself into studying the field until he can talk about family pedigrees and crests with the semblance of a real expert.
In Live and Let Die, when Bond prepares to swim out to an island under the darkness of night and through shark- and barracuda-infested waters, he asks his local guide to teach him everything he needs to know about the carnivorous fish and other creatures he may encounter on the way.
He also adopts specific physical training plans to get ready for specific missions. For example, in his work as a “genealogical researcher,” Bond ends up at a ski resort high in the Swiss Alps. He quickly realizes he’ll likely need to eventually make an escape down the slopes, and decides “he must keep fit…that, despite all the mystery and its demand for solution, there would come a moment when he would need all his muscle. Reluctantly he proceeded to a quarter of an hour of knee-bends and press-ups and deep-breathing chest-expansions – exercises of the skiing muscles.”
Similarly, to prepare for the aforementioned operation in Live and Let Die:
“Every morning he swam a mile up the beach before breakfast and then ran back along the firm sand to the bungalow,” so that “By the end of the week, Bond was sunburned and hard. He had cut his cigarettes down to ten a day and had not had a single drink. He could swim two miles without tiring.”
Carry an Ample EDC
Bond never left home without the tools of his trade – a gun, and sometimes a knife as well. He also always carried his black gunmetal cigarette-box and his black-oxidized Ronson lighter, which came in handy for more than smoking; for example, in From Russia With Love, the cigarette case ends up functioning as a shield that protects Bond’s heart from a bullet. Ever strapped to his wrist (or around his knuckles!) was a Rolex watch, which sported luminous numerals essential for readings in the dark.
This basic EDC varied according to the mission. Sometimes Bond took a flashlight, extra ammo, or handkerchiefs, which came in handy in the card sharping trick he performed in Moonraker.
Establish a Getting Ready Routine That Instills Confidence
Bond’s gathering of his EDC was part of an important routine he invariably went through before he went out. Giving himself enough time to get dressed and double-check that he had everything he needed and that it was all in working order calmed his mind and helped him marshal his confidence and mental resources before heading out:
“He then took from under his shirts in another drawer a very flat .25 Beretta automatic with a skeleton grip, extracted the clip and the single round in the barrel and whipped the action to and fro several times, finally pulling the trigger on the empty chamber. He charged the weapon again, loaded it, put up the safety catch and dropped it into the shallow pouch of the shoulder-holster. He looked carefully round the room to see if anything had been forgotten and slipped his single-breasted dinner-jacket coat over his heavy silk evening shirt. He felt cool and comfortable. He verified in the mirror that there was absolutely no sign of the flat gun under his left arm, gave a final pull at his narrow tie and walked out of the door and locked it.”
Have a Plan; Know Your Plan
“Whenever he had a job of work to do he would take infinite pains beforehand and leave as little as possible to chance. Then if something went wrong it was the unforeseeable. For that he accepted no responsibility.” –Moonraker
Part of Bond’s getting ready routine always included a time for quietly contemplating what the evening might bring, and the moves and countermoves he might need to make. His “mind boring into the future,” he ran and re-ran though his plan, considering what he would do, and how he would respond to what others did:
“Bond walked up to his room, which again showed no sign of trespass, threw off his clothes, took a long hot bath followed by an ice-cold shower and lay down on his bed. There remained an hour in which to rest and compose his thoughts before he met the girl in the Splendide bar, an hour to examine minutely the details of his plans for the game, and for after the game, in all the various circumstances of victory or defeat. He had to plan the attendant roles of Mathis, Leiter, and the girl and visualize the reactions of the enemy in various contingencies. He closed his eyes and his thoughts pursued his imagination through a series of carefully constructed scenes as if he was watching the tumbling chips of coloured glass in a kaleidoscope.”
Plans of course are frequently disrupted, but the act of planning itself is always beneficial. Bond wasn’t superhuman – often he felt afraid before initiating a mission – but by immersing himself “in a sea of practical details…the shadow of fear” retreated.
Observe, Orient, Decide, Act
After extensive groundwork has been done, it’s time to move into the next phase, which centers on the steps of the OODA Loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.
The OODA Loop is a decision-making tool that’s helpful for plotting strategy and executing any kind of operation successfully.
It’s also one of the keys of acting with savoir-faire.
For possessing this quality is not only about knowing how to do something, but what to do when. It’s not only about acting, but responding appropriately to changing circumstances.
“It was the mistakes one made at the beginning of a case that were the worst. They were the irretrievable ones, the ones that got you off on the wrong foot, that gave the enemy the first game.” –Dr. No
Perform Rigorous Reconnaissance. Bond understood the vital importance of making a good first impression. Things that start well tend to end well, and things that don’t, don’t.
To this end, 007 always performed a great deal of reconnaissance going into any operation. This not only involved familiarizing himself with the information available in files, and already known by those working the case, but also getting the physical lay of the place he’d be operating in. Once he landed somewhere new, he’d go out to explore and get his bearings, survey the geography, note where certain buildings were and the distance between them, plan possible escape routes, scout potential exits and places for cover, and even gauge small details like how much the binding on a set of soon-to-be-pilfered skis would need to be adjusted to fit his boots. He’d make mental photographs and maps of his entire environment, trying “to get it all fixed in his mind.”
When Bond knew he’d be carrying out his operations in a certain area, and had a good grasp of what he’d be expected to do – as was the case in Casino Royale, for example – he’d do a dry run to gather more field observations and get an intimate feel for the place and the tasks of his mission:
“Bond had spent the last two afternoons and most of his nights at the Casino…In this way he had made some three million francs and had given his nerves and card-sense a thorough work-out. He had got the geography of the Casino clear in his mind. Above all, he had been able to observe Le Chiffre at the tables.”
Bond’s reconnaissance helped him confidently navigate locations, make smooth entrances and exits, and carry out maneuvers effectively. Later, when he was planning specific movements, he’d be able to mentally measure out things like distances and angles, and plot a potential escape route/attack path as accurately as possible.
“It was no waste of time to start picking up the American idiom again: the advertisements, the new car models and the prices of second-hand ones in the used-car lots; the exotic pungency of the road signs…the thick rash of television aerials and the impact of TV on hoardings and shop windows; the occasional helicopter; the public appeals for cancer and polio funds…all the small, fleeting impressions that were as important to his trade as are broken bark and bent twigs to the trapper in the jungle.” –Live and Let Die
Be Aware and Gather Clues. Once an event is underway, your mind should be open and keen, making as many observations as possible about your surroundings and circumstances, so you can best decide who you’re dealing with, how to behave, and what action to take.
Bond is described as operating with “senses questing in front of him like antennae,” and a mind that “went on clicking up the clues.” His situational awareness and sixth sense were sharp as a tack, so that he could feel people coming up behind him before he saw them.
Everywhere 007 went he was sizing people up – “putting flesh on the dossiers.” He took in their clothes and manners, listened to their accent, read their facial expressions, and so on to guess their profession, background, intent, and whether they were friend or foe. Impassive face and indifferent demeanor while pointing a gun at you? Professional killers. A jacket cut for plenty of room? Might be carrying a gun.
“After a cold shower, Bond walked over to the Casino. Since the night before he had lost the mood of the tables. He needed to re-establish that focus which is half mathematical and half intuitive and which, with a slow pulse and a sanguine temperament, Bond knew to be the essential equipment of any gambler who was set on winning.” –Casino Royale
Bond also used his antennae to gauge the overall mood of a room, and to pick up on anomalies – people or things that looked out of place. For example, when he arrived at an airport, and a passenger-less taxi followed him out, he correctly identified a threat, surmising that “You don’t drive an empty taxi back from the airport. It’s an expensive run.”
“He explored his present physical sensations. He felt the dry, uncomfortable gravel under his evening shoes, the bad, harsh taste in his mouth and the slight sweat under his arms. He could feel his eyes filling their sockets. The front of his face, his nose and antrum, were congested. He breathed the sweet night air deeply and focused his senses and his wits.” –Casino Royale
Finally, Bond not only observed his surroundings, but also himself, keeping tabs on his own moods, so as not to make decisions that were biased by fatigue and fluctuating feelings:
“He always knew when his body or his mind had had enough and he always acted on the knowledge. This helped him to avoid staleness and the sensual bluntness that breeds mistakes.”
Checking in with himself also kept Bond in touch with his intuition, which regularly helped him recognize important clues; through trial and error, and regular personal observation, he developed very well honed hunches.
“Normally it was little straws in the wind like this that would start a persistent intuitive ticking in his mind, and…he would not have been happy until he had solved the problem.” –From Russia With Love
After (and while) you’re making observations, you start orienting. Orientation is where you break apart your old paradigms and put the resulting pieces back together to create a new perspective that better matches your current reality; you thought X was going on, but you’ve observed evidence that this isn’t correct, so you dissect X and create a new Y.
In all of Bond’s missions, the facts of the case as he knows them constantly shift and evolve. He goes in with a tentative theory about what may be happening, but then makes observations that call that hypothesis into question. He then starts piecing together a new paradigm as to the reality of the situation.
This process, which the OODA Loop’s postulator, John Boyd, called “destructive deduction” and “creative induction,” began with Bond “combing his memories” and “raking his mind” for clues. He reviewed “the way [a] conversation had gone” and “his mind ran back over the previous twenty-four hours and panned them for the gold-dust of truth.” He’d ask himself, “Where was a pattern? Where was a plan into which the clues would fit?” and would play with varying scenarios:
“Bond sat on in the silent room, shifting the pieces in the jigsaw so that two entirely different pictures alternated in his mind. In one the sun shone and all was clear and innocent as the day outside. The other was a dark confusion of guilty motives, obscure suspicions, and nightmare queries.”
Because of the robust arsenal of mental models – different ways of looking at and understanding the world – Bond had gained from learning so many different skills and making so many incisive observations, he was always eventually able to piece together a new picture, and solve the mystery before him.
Decide & Act
Preparation is powerful, but there has to come a time when one moves on the information he’s gathered and puts his plan into motion.
Once Bond had commenced a course of action, he used several strategies that ensured he did the right thing, at the right time, in the right way – that he operated with savoir-faire.
“At twenty minutes to nine he had exhausted all the permutations which might result from his duel with Le Chiffre. He rose and dressed, dismissing the future completely from his mind.” –Casino Royale
Clear the mind. Just as important to Bond’s success as his meticulous forethought, was the fact that once he decided to act, he was “able to clear his mind of everything but the task on hand.” If questions remained unanswered, he left “his subconscious to digest the details” while he engaged fully in another activity. The past and future were temporarily set aside; only the present mattered.
“Some players always draw or always stand. I follow my intuition.” –Casino Royale
Follow intuition. Bond trusted his preparation. He understood that the time to figure out how to do something came before a decision was demanded, and that once it was, it was time to follow your intuition – to rely on instinct and “muscle memory.”
Seize the initiative. When Bond was captured and trussed up by a villain’s henchman, he could frequently see that resistance was futile, and would resign himself to being imprisoned, and even tortured, biding time ‘til a better chance of turning the tables emerged. Occasionally, however, he would fight back, even if he knew the reward would simply be a kick in the teeth. Why? Because the counteraction, at least momentarily, “regained the initiative and effaced the sudden shock of capture.” It took Bond’s mindset away from being the victim, and back to the offensive.
Bond found that taking the initiative worked to turn the momentum towards himself in less immediately threatening situations as well. While working at the aforementioned ski resort in the Alps, his company consisted of a dozen beautiful, but shy and not particularly bright young women, whose social interactions were tightly controlled by a chaperone. Depressed at the thought of plowing through a week of dull get-togethers with this group, much less persuading them to open up with vital information about his mission, he struck on an idea: “He would break the ice! By hook or by crook he would become the life and soul of the party!”
Bond, “feeling like the games director on a cruise ship,” engaged his companions in a clever tab-paying game, and the effect on the gathering’s mood and his relationship with the girls was immediate:
“There was laughter…the girls stood admiringly round Bond. What a sport he was! And they had all expected a stuffed shirt! Bond felt justifiably proud of himself. The ice had been broken. He had got them all minutely on his side. Now they were all chums together. From now on he would be able to get to talk to them without frightening them.”
Be patient. While “There was nothing that depressed Bond’s spirit so much as the knowledge that he hadn’t one line of either attack or defense,” he understood that sometimes taking the initiative is not the right way to go, and that part of action does paradoxically require waiting.
In situations where there was really nothing else he could do, Bond operated “on the theory that worry is a dividend paid to disaster before it is due,” and consequently relaxed, “emptied his mind of questions,” and waited for things to unfold further – for the emergence of more clues to the situation or the opening of a new opportunity to act.
Patience was a strategy he employed with social interactions as well, letting someone warm up to him instead of trying to bludgeon them with his charms:
“He expected her to smile. She said: ‘Yes, isn’t it,’ in a rather brittle voice. She seemed to be listening carefully to the music. One elbow rested on the table and her hand supported her chin, but on the back of her hand and not on the palm, and Bond noticed that her knuckles showed white as if her fist was tightly clenched. Between the thumb and first two fingers of her right hand she held one of Bond’s cigarettes, as an artist holds a crayon, and though she smoked with composure, she tapped the cigarette occasionally into an ashtray when the cigarette had no ash. Bond noticed these small things because he felt intensely aware of her and because he wanted to draw her into his own feeling of warmth and relaxed sensuality. But he accepted her reserve. He thought it came from a desire to protect herself from him, or else it was her reaction to his coolness to her earlier in the evening, his deliberate coolness, which he knew had been taken as a rebuff.
He was patient. He drank champagne and talked a little about the happenings of the day and about the personalities of Mathis and Leiter and about the possible consequences for Le Chiffre.”
Conversely, being patient in waiting for an antagonist to make the first move also sometimes forced them to show their hand.
“Her stomach pressed against his. Why not? Why not? Don’t be a fool! This is a crazy time for it. You’re both in deadly danger. You must stay cold as ice to have any chance of getting out of this mess. Later! Later! Don’t be weak.” –Dr. No
Keep control. One’s of Bond’s most notable, and success-begetting qualities was his steely self-mastery, his “cold control of himself.” He didn’t act rashly and impulsively.
Bond’s self-control helped him keep his hands steady to hide his nervousness in high-pressure situations and to maintain his cool when death stared him in the face.
It was especially important in managing his Achilles heel – his strong desire for women. Even though he fell hard for the beautiful ladies who crossed his path, when these longings threatened to distract him from the job at hand, he was able to put them “in a compartment which had no communicating door with his professional life.”
Roll with the punches and accept setbacks with equanimity. Though Bond was a supremely masterful secret agent, things did not always go his away. He made errors in judgment; he experienced setbacks in his pursuit of enemies and casino payouts. But he accepted these misfortunes with composure and equanimity. He did all he could to prepare for things, and then resigned himself to the fact that “The rest was up to the Fates.”
When Bond gambles with his own money, and goes up big, only to lose it all in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, his reaction is typical of the way he handles defeats, and reveals how it is that life’s blows don’t much faze him:
“To hell with it! thought Bond. Half an hour before he had had a small fortune in his pocket. Now, through a mixture of romantic quixotry and sheer folly he had lost it all. Well, he shrugged, he had asked for a night to remember.”
A night to remember. Bond took the ups and downs of life in stride, because all experiences, even when painful, held some tang and interest. His attainment of savoir-faire allowed him to see and do an incredible spectrum of places and things, to frequently succeed in his wide-ranging endeavors, and, even when things went wrong, to enjoy the ride far more than someone who lacked the knowledge and skills to dive in so deeply.
“Bond’s nostrils flared slightly. He longed to get in there after him. He felt strong and compact and confident. The evening awaited him, to be opened and read, page by page, word by word.” –Live and Let Die
Listen to our podcast on the real life James Bond:
Live and Let Die
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice