I recently read “Mastering Stand-Up: The Complete Guide To Becoming A Successful Comedian” by Stephen Rosenfield (no relation to me, Ben RosenFELD without an “i” – although his publisher did send me a complimentary review copy of this book). Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

“Comedy is not nice. It is unflinchingly, unapologetically honest. Comedy looks unblinkingly at life and says, “A lot of this sucks. Let me be specific.” Adn a lot of life does suck. Always has, always will. Comedy is an entertainment hat calls out the bad stuff. It ridicules the bad stuff. By taking the things we struggle with and worry about, and by ridiculing these things, comedy transforms them from overwhelming to laughable. It enables us to laugh at the struggles and problems we share. And when we can laugh, we know we’re OK. And when we hear other people in the room laugh, we know we’re not alone. For a glorious moment the comedian lifts our worries off our shoulders and unites us in laughter. The underlying message of comedy is this: You have problems; I have problems. But we’re OK. You are not alone. We’re in this damn thing together.” (40)

“Comedy has a much higher purpose than being nice. It helps us survive.” (40)

“Ultimately, what gives an audience the license to laugh at your problems is a clear signal from you that you’re OK with them. If they feel you’re devastated by your problems, the audience can’t laugh.” (61)

“PHyllis Diller achieved what all great comedians achieve: she found her story. Her story way, I’m an oddball, I’m not hiding it. I’m putting it in your face. I don’t fit in at all and I find that absolutely hilarious.” (63)

“When a comedian creates a persona that embodies a shortcoming, this form of stand-up comedy is called the comic flaw.
There are two keys to creating this form on stand-up. The comic flaw comedian must not be aware of his or her flaw. The cheap person doesn’t know he’s cheap, the dumb person doesn’t know he’s dumb, and so on. We know it, but they don’t…
The second key is that if the shortcoming is a malicious one like bigotry, it must be clear in the writing that it’s being held up for ridicule. It’s there to be laughed at, not taken as a valid, albeit controversial, point of view. Otherwise, the audience will detest the comedian.” (73)

“Audiences often love comedians who master the comic flaw – in part because their vulnerability is so out there. They make no attempt to disguise their flaw because they don’t know they have it. This creates a persona that is so very human and identifiable… Audiences also enjoy feeling superior to flawed comedians: we know them way better than they know themselves.” (76)

“The really great edgy stand-ups shock audiences as a means of jolting them into confronting inconvenient truths about themselves and their ways of living.” (92)

“Talent is work, and brilliance is obsession with work.” (106)

“Writer’s block is not caused by your sense of humor disappearing; it’s caused by you rejecting your sense of humor. The problem isn’t that you’ve stopping coming up with funny ideas but that you’re snuffing them out as soon as you have them. You’re not letting them see the light of day. You’re not doing what you need to do to discover if something is funny or not: write it down and try it out.” (114)

“The cure to writer’s block is to stop editing yourself.” (114)

“A performer who has talent but lacks joyous communication may be admirable but ultimately in a live performance is a stage weight.” (156)

“Focusing your mind on realistic, positive thoughts will enable you to consistently enter the emotional sweet spot that is joyous communication. Make it an essential part of your warmup. When you’re up next, consciously think this: I’m going to go out there and have a great time talking to these people. Make it your mantra.” (157)

“Don’t wait for the audience to show you affection. Bring the affection onstage with you, and because they feel what you feel, they will give it back to you in return.” (157)

“Remember that every setup should be clear about its subject and about your attitude toward it.” (159)

“If you can’t define the emotion, you need to rethink the joke. Adjust the writing so that it expresses how you feel about your subject.” (160)

“A stand-up always performs the form of the emotion, not the real emotion.” (161)

“For a comedy club audience to give its full attention to a stand-up, they need to feel that he or she is talking not at them or even to them but with them, as if they are in a conversation with the stand-up.” (163)

“When an audience is unable to see how you feel about what you’re saying, you lack personality.” (168)

“You will find your way into the zone by replacing your preshow thoughts with this thought: I’m going to have a great time talking to these people. I’m going to have a great time expressing myself. I’m going to have fun!” (184)

“If you have a good time when a joke works, your audience will have a good time. If you have a good time when a joke doesn’t work, your audience will still have a good time. They feel what you feel., remember? People go to comedy clubs to have fun, not to evaluate each of the stand-ups’ jokes.” (188)

“The final and ultimate way of moving a joke up to an “A” is to change the attitude underpinning the joke to its exact opposite.” (198)

“The question to ask yourself when a joke gets a big laugh is What attitudes did I play on that joke?” (204)

“Don’t feel that you need to be nice. Nie has nothing to do with likability.” (214)

“Whatever you’re talking about in your stand-up, strive to make it personal; make it clear how strongly you feel about it and why it matters to you. And position it so that it’s something you’re struggling with not in the past but right now – this moment on stage. When an audience sees your wrestling with something that really matters to you, they laugh and they love you, because you’ve just made their own struggles easier to bear.” (215)

“We like comedians with struggles because we identify with them. All of us, in some ways, are struggling. When stand-ups speak about their struggles, we identify and laugh. And we hear other people laugh. We realize we are not alone in our struggles. We’re in this thing together.” (216)

“It’s important to realize that having a struggle does not make you a victim. It makes you the leading character in your comedy. It makes you the person the audience is rooting for. And make no mistake, you want the audience to root for you.” (216)

“You causing a struggle for someone else makes you an unlikable bully. You in a struggle makes you a likeable hero.” (216)

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I recently read “Are You Anybody?” by Jeffrey Tambor. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“Yo-Yo Ma once said that you have to have fire in the belly to be an artist. Same goes for being an actor. It’s not enough to want to be an actor, you have to have that fire. One of the things that provided that fire for me was that moment with my family. I loved my dad, but I was going to prove him wrong. I woke up each morning with a mission, with fire in the belly.” (8-9)

“There are three kinds of Jews: Orthodox Jews, who only read Hebrew; Conservative Jews, who read Hebrew and English; and Reform Jews, whose only requirement is to sing show tunes.” (12)

“I keep a photograph folded in my wallet of a little Jewish boy being marched out of the Warsaw ghetto at gunpoint. When I lose my nerve, I take the photo out and look at it. I am that boy. We are all that boy.
A reporter once asked me if I put my Jewish roots in my performances.
“All my characters are Jewish,” I said.” (24)

“A late friend of mine came up to me one day with tears in his eyes and said, “I used to be somebody. Now I’ve become somebody else. God help me, what have I done?” (27)

“When I do my talk, I choose a moment in the evening to have the audience close their eyes and imagine someone in their lives who is having a bad time of it, someone who is failing. I caution them not to use themselves, because it’s too close and it’s hard to be objective.” (29)

“The very definition of being an actor is: Don’t keep your nose clean – your mission is to get into trouble and stay there.” (29)

“I have a theory that we come into this world with a set of sealed orders. It’s not just our physical DNA, but a sort of spiritual DNA. You could call it your purpose or your groove or whatever word you like. Joseph Campbell called it bliss. George Saunders calls it “one’s primary reason.” Whatever you call it, it’s your obligation to yourself to find it. It’s not a whim, nor a wish, buta need. It wakes you up each morning with almost a sickness in your stomach to get on with it.” (42)

“If you comment on it, you kill it. If there’s a hat already on your head, why in God’s name would you put another hat on top of it? The audience doesn’t like to see you wink.” (48)

“Jack was adamant about this one: You must come to the first rehearsal off book – with your lines memorized.” (49)

“Forcing us to confront the text made us get ready in thought and character. We had begun the process. We weren’t waiting for his direction. We were co-creators. It wasn’t about learning the lines, it was about learning the part.” (50)

“About two weeks into the four or five week rehearsal period, Jack would leave. Let me repeat: the director would leave. For a week.
We were blocked, which means we had all the stage movement learned, and were up on our feet. He’d say, “Okay, see you in a week. Start running it.” That’s it. No advice, no notes. Not even a wave at the door. We would rehearse with the stage manager while he was gone.
I’ve never seen any other director do this, but it worked extremely well for him. He believed in his cast, and he believed in the play, and he believed in his process.” (50)

“He taught me to seek out other mentors in my life and career who would also give me confidence.” (51)

“There are actors in those local companies who kill in show after show, and they never leave because they are already doing exactly what they want to do.” (61)

“If you don’t get better in the first two weeks of your acting class, for which you’ve plunked down a good amount of money, get the fuck out of there as fast as you can.” (82)

“When people ask me for one salient piece of life advice and I tell them, “Adore everything,” they are usually disappointed. But it’s a true thing, and you should do it.” (95)

“Orson Welles put it: “You have to make the actor believe he is better than he is. That is the job. More than confidence, give him arrogance. He really has to think he’s great, that he is extraordinary.”” (100)

“I start every single day reading. This is my ritual: I make a cup of coffee before bed and put it on my nightstand. This routine goes all the way back to my college days. When I wake, I drink the cold coffee and read for thirty minutes. I don’t get out of bed until I’ve completed this sacred ritual.” (113)

“I like to say, Judith is so good she gets a Tony when she goes to the theater.” (123)

“By the mid-1980s, I had a recurring role on a top television show, and people were noticing me – and I noticed them noticing. Under that gaze, I became not myself but this actor with this built-in expectancy. It’s what happened when I first did Sly Fox in front of Larry Gelbart. “Wait till you see the kid” ruined me. I was trying to be perfect to impress people, but that’s not where the “good stuff,” as they say, comes from. To find your purpose – or your “primary reason,” as George Saunders so aptly describes it, or as we used to say in the ‘60s, your “thing” – I believe you first must be willing to wreck it.” (141)

“The author Henry miller said his teacher told him he knew what he sounded like when Miller tried to write well, but what did it sound like when he tried to do it badly? And that’s when Henry Mill said he found his “voice.”” (142)

“Errors are essential and need to be welcomed. They are the opposite of perfection and yet can lead to genius and revelation.” (142)

“In movies and television, the director might have you do many takes of a scene until it’s done, and then say, “now do one for yourself.” Inevitably – ask any actor – that’s the take that’s full of play and creativity and joy and is the one that has the most freedom and life. On the Transparent set, Jill Soloway starts us with that take. That is, indeed, our premise.” (144)

“Dopamine and serotonin flow through the body when you play. It makes you joyful and fearless. When you submit to the eyes being on you, the work ceases to be play and becomes something else, something rigid, something expected.” (144)

“There is no such thing as a straight line to success, in life, in love, or in career. You’re going to fuck up somewhere along the way. You might make a bad decision, a stupid choice, an ill-informed move. You might choose to do something good, but for the wrong reason. You might choose something bad for the right reason.” (151)

“Milton said, “You’re a good boy. You’re the first one off book. You’re the first one to rehearsal. You like to please people. That’s a good thing, and a bad thing.”” (161)

“The crazy part is, the audience doesn’t know you’re in their thrall. You’re in thrall to no one and nothing, to something that doesn’t even exist. And that thrall is the death of spontaneity and invention.” (169)

“I think this ability [to eliminate any sense of subservience to the audience] is not just a necessity, but it is one of the keys to the kingdom. To be clear, dear reader, the phrase is “fuck ‘em.” It’s not “fuck them.” It’s not “fuck you” – especially not “fuck you,” never “fuck you.” It’s “fuck ‘em.” It really should be written fuckem actually. It’s an attitude – not of hatred or aggression – but of freedom from self-censorship and the need to please.” (169)

“It’s not that you don’t give a shit – you do give a shit. It’s not that you’re relaxed; it has nothing to do with relaxed.” (171)

“It’s not being unafraid; who’s not afraid. It won’t slow your heart rate down; in fact, it will increase it because “fuck ‘em” brings more tasks and makes you use even more of the colors on the palette. It won’t make you happy; who’s happy? I’m the Jewish son of Russian Hungarian parents – it’s not even an option.” (171)

“It will make you more effective when you put down the heavy luggage being a good boy or girl; that’s when your talent will come through.” (171)

“It’s an attitude. It is confident.
It applies even in the quotidian routines of everyday life. A friend of mine used to being his day by aying, “I’m going to work to get fired today.” That was his version of muttering through the peephole. He assumed an attitude that said, “Fuck it. Fire me if you don’t like it.” It freed him to do his work unfettered by fear.” (172)

“This is how you get a role. You walk into an audition with this attitude: “If you were to pay me, this is how I would do this role. If you agree with that, hire me. If you don’t agree with that, adjust my performance. If you don’t agree with that…then let’s part ways as professionals and move gently on with our lives.” It’s called an audition, a word that literally means a “hearing,” not a do-you-like-me or do-you-think-I’m-talented or do-you-think-I-have-a-future-in-show-business.” (175)

“My attitude showed them that I had confidence, a word I take very seriously. Con = with; fidence = loyalty to oneself. Loyalty to oneself. Fuck’em. And confidence spreads in the room: if the actor is confident, the director is more confident as is the producer and, oh boy, the casting director, and maybe, just maybe, the guy doling out chili on the set.” (175)

“I met them in the office of the high priest of ABC for this high-pressure pitch meeting. My partners started to do their spiel, and I could see they were being timid and it was not selling. I thought, Fuck it, my mom just died. I just didn’t feel like being cowed and afraid that morning – so I grabbed the script and read a long paragraph, acting it with everything I had. Their mouths were hanging open. By the time my partners and I got down to the lobby, we got the call: the network bought it. They bought my confidence more than even the concept.” (176)

“Brian Grazer told me the best thing: “This is what a career sounds like: No, no, no, no,no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, yes, no, no, no, no, no, no.”” (186)

“I tell my students, “If you are any good, you will be fired.” I must have made it sound good, because I regularly receive emails from students who tell me they can’t wait to graduate and get fired. If you’re ever stuck at a dinner party with actors and the conversation lags, just ask, “have you ever been fired?” and you will be regaled with stories of dismissal for the rest of the evening.” (187)

“Pay attention. God is in the details, as every good writer knows. People are not generalities or abstraction; they are a collection of specifics, detail upon detail upon detail. In observing those details, you will discover this axiom: People are ridiculous.” (216)

“It’s my theory that you don’t get a role by just reading a part well. There’s a moment in a reading where you get a role, and you have to hit that moment.” (225)

“The thing that I loved about doing The Larry Sanders Show was that not everyone got it at first. The writing was remarkable – Garry never went for the easy joke, he went past the joke to the character reveal. If you were a writer who got that, you excelled.” (228)

“As a young actor, I would plan my performance in my office or in my room. I would get up the next day to shoot, and I would get in my car and will the world away. It was as if I had a body prophylactic on. I wanted nothing to affect me. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want anything. And when I got to whatever set I was working on, I presented this pristine, rehearsed, performed character. I didn’t just learn my own lines, I learned everybody’s lines. I showed up two and half hours before curtain and ran through the entire play.
What Garry was doing was a revelation, just as it had been when I first saw him on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show years earlier. With Garry, you didn’t hide; you brought the day – what was affecting you right then, right there – no hiding, you brought “the day.” It was like the crossroads of jazz and existentialism, as composer Ben Sidran once said, by “being yourself in the moment” and “open to what comes next.” (233)

“There’s a wonderful thing that happens when you know you’re a day player. I think everyone should go to work every day thinking they’re a day player. You know that at the end of the day, you can go on to the next job or you can go on safari. There’s a certain liberation to that.” (241)

“I’ve noticed something that happens to me when I teach. My life gets better. I get better. Not my acting per se, but my life. It’s what Milton and other teachers had said to me: when you teach, you’re basically talking to yourself.” (267)

“To be an actor, I believe, you have to be personal and you must act as if your life depends on it.” (267)

“Acting and comedy are about saving lives. My dad used to say, “be useful. This was useful.”” (268)

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I recently read “Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage and Screen” by Robert McKee. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

“Character talk runs along three distinctly different tracks: said to others, said to oneself, and said to the reader oa audience.” (3)

“All talk responds to a need, engages a purpose, and performs an action. No matter how seemingly vague and airy a speech may be, no character ever talks to anyone, even to himself, for no reason, to do nothing. THerefore, beneath every line of character talk, the writer must create a desire, intent, and action. That action then becomes the verbal tactic we call dialogue.” (3)

“The theatre, for example, is primarily an auditory medium. It prompts audience members to listen more intently than they watch. As a result, the stage favors voice over image. Cinema reverses that. Film is primarily a visual medium. It prompts the audience to watch more intently than it listens.” (10)

“When characters look down the camera lens and whisper something secret and personal, it’s usually a self-serving tactic to win us to their side (HOUSE OF CARDS).” (13)

“In a separate file, list every fact in your story, and then rank them in order of importance to the reader/audience. As you rewrite and polish your work, you may realize that certain facts need to be stressed and repeated in more than one scene to guarantee that the reader/audience remembers them at a critical future turning point. Other less important facts need only a single hint or gesture.” (24)

“Somehow the writer must send the reader/audience’s attention in one direction while he smuggles a fact in from another.” (26)

“The moment a story-goer recognizes a shared humanity between herself and your characters, she not only identifies with them but also transfers her real-life desires onto their fictional desires.” (28)

“The scene is false and its dialogue tinny because the writing is dishonest. The characters are not doing what they seem to be doing. They seem to be reminiscing, but in fact they’re mouthing exposition so the eavesdropping audience can overhear it.” (39)

“The most important trait of all: talk. She speaks like no one we have ever met before. Her language style not only sets her apart from all other cast members but also, if the writing is masterful, from all other fictional characters.” (41)

“The greater the pressure in the scene (the more he stands to lose or gain in that moment), the more his actions tell us who he really is.” (42)

“The greatest difference between the screen versus stage and page, therefore, is not the quantity of dialogue but the quality. The camera and microphone so magnify and amplify behavior, that every phony glance, every false gesture, every affected line looks and sounds more amateur than the worst dinner party charade. Screen acting calls for a naturalistic, believable, and seemingly offhanded technique. To make this possible, screen dialogue must feel spontaneous. When forced to deliver ornamented dialogue, even the finest actors sound ludicrous, cueing the audience to react with “People don’t talk like that.” This holds true in all genres, realistic and nonrealistic, in television and film.” (62)

“Suspense, simply put, is curiosity charged with empathy.” (81)

“Challenge yourself with this question: How could I write this scene in a purely visual way, doing all that needs to be done for character and story without resorting to a single line of dialogue?” (91)

“Effective dialogue executes six tasks simultaneously:
Each verbal expression takes an inner action.
Each beat of action/reaction intensifies the scene, building to and around its turning point.
Statements and allusions within the lines convey exposition.
A unique verbal style characterizes each role.
The flow of progressive beats captivates the reader/audience, carrying them on a wave of narrative drive, unaware of the passage of time.
The language strikes the reader/audience as authentic in its setting and true to character, thus maintaining belief in the story’s fictional reality.” (97)

“Dialogue concentrates meaning; conversation dilutes it.” (98)

“Authors set traps for themselves when they create characters with excessive, unconvincing self-awareness.” (100)

“The problem of melodrama, therefore, is not over-expression but under-motivation.” (103)

“1) The more emotional people become, the shorter the words and sentences they use; the more rational people become, the longer the words and sentences they use.
2) The more active and direct people become, the shorter the words and sentences they use; the more passive and reflective people become, the longer the words and sentences they use.
3) The more intelligent the person, the more complex his sentences; the less intelligent, the briefer his sentences.
4) The more well read the person, the larger hsi vocabulary and the longer his words; the less read, the smaller his vocabulary and the shorter his words.” (111)

“When conflict builds and risk soards, people get emotional, active, direct, monosyllabic, and dumb.” (111)

“Badly written dialogue tends to be literal; it means what it says and no more. Well-written dialogue, on the other hand, implies more than it says; it puts a subtext under every text.” (116)

“If your dialogue does not suggest unsaid thoughts and feelings below its surface, either enrich it or cut it.” (116)

“With rare exceptions, a scene should never be outwardly and entirely about what it seems to be about. Dialogue should imply, not explain, its subtext.” (120)

“Aristotle argues that the deepest pleasure of theatregoing is learning, the sensation of seeing through the surface of behavior to the human truth beneath.” (127)

“When scenes fail, the fault is rarely in the words; the solution will be found deep within even and character design. Dialogue problems are story problems.” (144)

“The more complex the psychology of a character, the more distinctive hsi dialogue must become. In other words, originality in character design finds its final expression in character-specific dialogue.” (148)

“A distinctive writing style pays off when a creative personality embraces a broad and deep knowledge of the human condition.” (150)

“Language is the medium of conscious thought; image is the medium of subconscious thought.” (152)

“When you write off the top of your head, all characters sound alike and the sounds they make irritate like fingernails on a blackboard. Their grating voices fake life and then fill the sham with irredeemably false dialogue – out of character, out of scene, void of feeling, void of truth.” (152)

“The guiding tenet of public speaking is, “Think as a wise man but speak as a common man.”” (160)

“As a dramatic character pursues his quest, he has sense enough to step back and realize that his struggle could get him killed. Not the comic character: His core desire blinds him. His self-deluded mind fixates on his desire and pursues it, wildly unaware. This lifelong mania influences, if not controls, his every choice.” (170)

“All stories dramatize the human struggle to move life from chaos to order, from imbalance to equilibrium.” (183)

“Character talk is the final result of everything that went before, a surface manifestation of the layers of life beneath the words. The stronger the inner scene, the more powerful the dialogue.” (198)

“What makes a comic character comic is mental rigidity. He pursues his all-absorbing desire as if myopic to any choice beyond it.” (213)

“Desire intensifies in the comic character to the point of obsession. This fixation holds the character so tightly in its grip he cannot deviate from it. All aspects of his identity are bound to it; without it he is no longer comic. What’s more, this obsession blinds him. He is driven to pursue it but cannot see the mania in himself. To us, he’s a crazed neurotic; to him,his obsession is normalcy.” (214)

“A few comic protagonists, such as Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer in ANNIE HALL and Larry David’s Larry David in CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, constantly dissect their obsession, phobically alert to any sign of neuroses. But what they do not gasp is that addictive self-analysis is itself a blind obsession. The more seriously and persistently these two guys self-psychoanalyze, the more hysterical they become – in both sense of the word.” (214)

“The comic protagonist’s blind obsession usually comes nested inside otherwise normal traits that anoint him with believability, dimensionalize his personality, and make him one of a kind. The art of comedy, however, imposes certain limitations on dimensionality, for this reason: Jokes require objectivity. Laughter explodes the moment two incongruous ideas suddenly clash in the mind. If their illogicality is not instantly recognized, the gag sputters in confusion. Therefore, the mind of the reader/audience must be kept sharply focused and uncluttered by compassion.” (215)

“We welcome feelings in drama, but in comedy, empathy and compassion kill the laughs. For this reason, comic protagonists, almost without exception, have fewer dimensions than their dramatic counterparts and virtually none at the subconscious level of conflicted inner selves. Instead, comic dimensions pit appearance against reality, the man the character thinks he is versue the fool we know him in fact to be.” (215)

“Comic energy comes from three primary sources: defensive emotions, aggressive emotions, and sex.” (220)

“To the comic writer, empathy spells death. Compassion kills laughs. Therefore, comic technique must keep the reader/audience cool, critical, unempathetic – on the safe side of pain.” (227)

“The writer must clearly establish the character at the positive or negative of a value early in the story, so that the audience can understand and feel the arc of change.” (243)

“When the balance favors content over form, when minimal words express maximal meaning, dialogue gains its greatest credibility and power.” (269)

“As Philip Yorder put it: “Do not drown your script with endless dialogue and long speeches. Every question does not call for a response. Whenever you can express an emotion with a silent gesture, do so. Once you pose the question, permit it to linger before you get a reply. Or better yet, perhaps the character cannot reply; he or she has no answer. This permits the unspoken response to hang in midair.”” (280)

“Rewriting bad dialogue is the fastest, most efficient way I know to train your talents.” (291)

“Ask, “If I were my character in this situation, what would I do?” Create out of your own being, but not as yourself, as your characters.” (292)

“Whenever you are stuck, get back on track by posing the questions below from each and every character’s point of view: Background desires, objects of desire, super-intention, scene intentions, motivation, scene driver, forces of antagonism, scene value(s), subtext, beats, progression, tactics, turning point, deep character, scene progression, text, exposition, characterization.” (294-295)

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I recently read “Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency” by James Andrew Miller. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, get the book here.

Bill Haber:
“In any business on earth – I always say to people – nobody will ever leave you for money, and nobody will ever leave you over titles. People will only leave if they have no loyalty to you.” (20)

Bill Haber:
“Even though we were all young, we realized that in American capitalism you can’t make any real money unless you own your own company.” (24)

Ron Meyer:
“Once an agent represents a big star like Sly, people believe you know something – even if you don’t.” (122)

Paul Brickman:
“I was impressed by his (Tom Cruise’s) confidence. Once he stopped himself in the middle of a scene, chose a different approach, and started again – a rather bold move for a nineteen-year-old actor.” (138)

“Among the most influential words of advice young Lourd ever got was from his grandfather: When you get a job, be the first one into the office in the morning and the last to leave at night.” (245)

Michael Wright:
“The curse of Salieri is knowing enough to know what great is and recognizing that you’re good at something, but not great.” (283)

“For most of these people, the ones I really respect and like, the currency that matters most is story. It is still about story for these filmmakers. If you walk in with a great story, they don’t care what your job is or your title.” (285)

Bill Haber:
“For any agent, the minute you become more important than your client, your company is finished.” (415)

Peter Guber:
“All change is anxiety provoking – good change or bad change. How you handle that anxiety can shape your clarity around a decision.” (431)

Tom Pollock:
“Mike left because he knew there are good agents and there are old agents, but there are no good old agents.” (457)

Rick Nicita:
“Remember, nobody signs on for a thousand years. Another agent rule is “Every client is leaving you. The only issue is when.”” (493)

David Oyelowo:
“I’ve always felt that my agents are my employees. I pay them a wage whenever I work, and on that basis, they work for me and their job is to help me realize my goals. I think a lot of actors think they work for their agents; they are so happy to have an agent and give too much weight to the direction in which their agent wants their career to go. My goal every day is to outwork my agents so that they are inspired to work harder for me. I don’t think there’s any agent who wants to feel like they have to put dead weight on their back and try and sell it to the world.” (639)

Sam Gores:
“The bigger an agency gets, the more it loses a bit of its focus, and then one day it ends up as just another media business.” (694)

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I recently read “Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, get the book here.

“In this new world it no longer makes sense to think of people as born with fixed reserves of potential; instead, potential is an expandable vessel, shaped by the various things we do throughout our lives. Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it.” (xx)

“Sometimes these books leave the impression that heartfelt desire and hard work alone will lead to improved performance – “just keep working at it, and you’ll get there” – and this is wrong. The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.” (xxi)

“We live in a world full of people with extraordinary abilities – abilities that from the vantage point of almost any other time in human history would have been deemed impossible.” (7)

“Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement.” (13)

“Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals.” (15)

“Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal.” (15)

“This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.” (18)

“Generally the solution is not “try harder” but rather “try differently.””(19)

“In all of my years of research, I have found it is surprisingly rare to get clear evidence in any field that a person has reached some immutable limit on performance. Instead, I’ve found that people more often just give up and stop trying to improve.” (21)

“Purposeful practice in a nutshell: Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation. This recipe is an excellent start for anyone who wishes to improve – but it is still just a start.” (22)

“To keep the changes happening, you have to keep upping the ante: run farther, run faster, run uphill. If you don’t keep pushing and pushing and pushing some more, the body will settle into homeostasis, albeit at a different level than before, and you will stop improving.” (40)

“Although the specific details vary from skill to skill, the overall pattern is consistent: Regular training leads to changes in the parts of the brain that are challenged by the training. The brain adapts to these challenges by rewiring itself in ways that increase its ability to carry out the functions required by the challenge.” (45)

“There is no such thing as developing a general skill. You don’t train your memory; you train your memory for strings of digits or for collections of words or for people’s faces. You don’t train to become an athlete; you train to become a gymnast or a sprinter oa marathoner or a swimmer or a basketball player. You don’t train to become a doctor; you train to become a diagnostician or a pathologist or a neurosurgeon. Of course, some people do become overall memory experts or athletes in a number of sports or doctors with a general set of skills, but they do so by training in a number of different areas.” (60)

“The main thing that sets experts apart from the rest of us is that their years of practice have changed the neural circuitry in their brains to produce highly specialized mental representations, which in turn make possible the incredible memory, pattern recognition, problem solving, and other sorts of advanced abilities needed to excel in their particular specialties.” (63)

“The superior organization of information is a theme that appears over and over again in the study of expert performers.” (72)

“The main purpose of deliberate practice is to develop effective mental representations.” (75)

“In every area, some approaches to training are more effective than others.” (85)

“If there is no agreement on what good performance is and no way to tell what changes would improve performance, then it is very difficult – often impossible – to develop effective training methods.” (85)

“You generally find that the best performers are those who have spent the most time in various types of purposeful practice.” (95)

“Nobody develops extraordinary abilities without putting in tremendous amounts of practice.” (96)

“First identify the expert performers, then figure out what they do that makes them so good, then come up with training techniques that allow you to do it, too.” (103)

“Once you’ve identified the expert performers in a field, the next step is to figure out specifically what they do that separates them from other, less accomplished people in the same field, and what training methods helped them get there.” (106)

“Once you have identified an expert, identify what this person does differently from others that could explain the superior performance.” (108)

“But an hour of playing in front of a crowd, where the focus is on delivering the best possible performance at the time, is not the same as an hour of focused, goal-driven practice that is designed to address certain weaknesses and make certain improvement.” (111)

“This distinction between deliberate practice aimed at a particular goal and generic practice is crucial because not every type of practice leads to improved ability.” (111)

“There is no point at which performance maxes out and additional practice does not lead to further improvement.” (113)

“If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way. Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the “right way” is.” (122)

“The distinction between knowledge and skills lies at the heart of the difference between traditional paths toward expertise and the deliberate-practice approach.” (131)

“Deliberate practice, by contrast, focuses solely on performance how to improve it.” (131)

“Professional schools focus on knowledge rather than skills because it is much easier to teach knowledge and then create tests for it.” (137)

“If your mind is wandering or you’re relaxed and just having fun, you probably won’t improve.” (151)

“For the amateurs it was a time to express themselves, to sing away their cares, and to feel the pure joy of singing. For the professionals, the lesson was a time to concentrate on such things as vocal technique and breath control in an effort to improve their singing. There was focus but no joy.” (151)

“Daniel Chambliss concluded that the key to excellence in swimming lay in maintaining close attention to every detail of performance, “each one done correctly, time and again, until excellence in every detail becomes a firmly ingrained habit.”” (153)

“It is better to train at 100 percent effort for less time than at 70 percent effort for a longer period.” (154)

“To effectively practice a skill without a teacher, it helps to keep in mind three Fs: Focus. Feedback. Fix it. Break the skill down into components that you can do repeatedly and analyze effectively, determine your weaknesses, and figure out ways to address them.” (159)

“With writing, he studied the work of experts and tried to reproduce it; when he failed to reproduce it well enough, he would take another look at it and figure out what he had missed so that he would do better the next time.” (160)

“When you first start learning something new, it is normal to see rapid – or at least steady – improvement, and when that improvement stops, it is natural to believe you’ve hit some sort of implacable limit. So you stop trying to move forward, and you settle down to life on that plateau. This is the major reason that people in every area stop improving.” (162)

“The best way to move beyond it is to challenge your brain or your body in a new way.” (163)

“Any reasonably complex skill will involve a variety of components, some of which you will be better at than others. Thus, when you reach a point at which you are having difficulty getting better, it will be just one or two of the components of that skill, not all of them, that are holding you back.” (164)

“With all of this in mind, I suggested to Josh that if he wanted to speed up the pace at which he could memorize the order of a deck of cards, he should try to do it in less time than it normally took and then look to see where his mistakes were coming from.” (164)

“I think that anyone who hopes to improve skill in a particular area should devote an hour or more each day to practice that can be done with full concentration.” (169)

“When you quit something that you had initially wanted to do, it’s because the reasons to stop eventually came to outweigh the reasons to continue. THus, to maintain your motivation you can either strengthen the reasons to keep going or weaken the reasons to quit. Successful motivation efforts generally include both.” (169)

“As long as you recognize this new identity as flowing from the many hours of practice that you devoted to developing your skill, further practice comes to feel more like an investment than an expense.” (172)

“In order to push yourself when you really don’t feel like it, you must believe that you can improve and – particularly for people shooting to become expert performers – that you can rank among the best. The power of such belief is so strong that it can even trump reality.” (172)

“If you stop believing that you can reach a goal, either because you’ve regressed or you’ve plateaued, don’t quit. Make an agreement with yourself that you will do what it takes to get back to where you were or to get beyond the plateau, and then you can quit. You probably won’t.” (173)

“One of the hallmarks of expert performers is that even once they become one of the best at what they do, they still constantly strive to improve their practice techniques and to get better.” (183)

“The creative, the restless, and the driven are not content with the status quo, and they look for ways to move forward, to do things that others have not.” (206)

“Progress is made by those who are working on the frontiers of what is known and what is possible to do, not by those who haven’t put in the effort needed to reach that frontier.” (206)

“People do not stop learning and improving because they have reached some innate limits on their performance; they stop learning and improving because, for whatever reason, they stopped practicing – or never started.” (225)

“In the long run it is the ones who practice more who prevail, not the ones who had some initial advantage in intelligence or some other talent.” (233)

“Since we know that practice is the single most important factor in determining a person’s ultimate achievement in a given domain, it makes sense that if genes do play a role, their role would play out through shaping how likely a person is to engage in deliberate practice or how effective that practice is likely to be.” (238)

“When preparing a lesson plan, determining what a student should be able to do is far more effective than determining what that student should know.” (251)

“The best among us in various areas do not occupy that perch because they were born with some innate talent but rather because they have developed their abilities through years of practice, taking advantage of the adaptability of the human body and brain.” (256)

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