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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I recently read “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, And Habits of Billionaires, Icons, And World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferriss. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. The person’s name who said the quote appears directly above the quote with a colon after their name. If there’s no new name, it’s the same person as the previous quote(s). If you find these quotes interesting, please click here to buy the full book.

Tim Ferriss:
“You create yourself, instead of seeking to discover yourself. There is value in the latter, but it’s mostly past-tense. It’s a rearview mirror. Looking out the windshield is how you get where you want to go.” (xxii)

“The superheroes you have in your mind are nearly all walking flaws who’ve maximized 1 or 2 strengths. Humans are imperfect creatures. You don’t “succeed” because you have no weaknesses; you succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing habits around them.” (xxiii)

“It’s how I frame the importance of the first 60 to 90 minutes of the day. They facilitate or handicap the next 12+ hours. I’ve deliberately set a low bar for “win.”” (143)

(Morning rituals) “Do 5 to 10 Reps of something (

(Morning rituals) “Add one of the following to your drinking mug: 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or 1 scoop of Quest MCT Oil Powder.” (146)

(5 minutes) “To be answered in the morning:
I am grateful for… 1. ____ 2. ____ 3.____
What would make today great? 1. ____ 2. ___ 3.___
Daily affirmations. I am… 1. ___ 2. ___ 3. ___

To be filled in at night:
3 amazing things that happened today… 1. ___ 2. ___ 3. ___
How could I have made today better? 1. ___ 2. ___ 3. ___”
(146-147)

“Most of our waking hours, we feel as though we’re in a trench on the front lines with bullets whizzing past our heads. Through 20 minutes of consistent meditation, I can become the commander, looking out at the battlefield from a hilltop. I’m able to look at a map of the territory and make high-level decisions.” (150)

“Meditation simply helps you channel drive toward the few things that matter, rather than every moving target and imaginary opponent that pops up.” (151)

“If you want to try mantra-based meditation without a course, you can sit and silently repeat on two-syllable word (I’ve used “na-ture” before) for 10 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning.” (151)

“If you spend even a second noticing this wandering and bringing your attention back to your mantra, that is a “successful” session. As Tara Brach pointed out to me, the muscle you’re working is bringing your attention back to something. My sessions are 99% monkey mind, but it’s the other 1% that matters. If you’re getting frustrated, your standards are too high or your sessions are too long.” (152)

“Here’s my 8-step process for maximizing efficacy (doing the right things):
Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. Email is the mind-killer.
Make a cup of tea and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper.
Write down the 3 to 5 things – and no more – that are making you the most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted form one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually equal most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.
For each item, ask yourself: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” “Will moving this forward make all the other to-dos unimportant or easier to knock off later?” Put another way: “What, if done, will make all of the rest easier or irrelevant?”
Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions.
Block out at 2 to 3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.
TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2 to 3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work. No phone calls or social media allowed.
If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward-spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.” (200)

“If I have10 important things to do in a day, it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day. On the other hand, i can usually handle one must-do item and block out my lesser behaviors for 2 to 3 hours a day.” (201)

“Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.” (201)

“If you didn’t get into the prospect’s mind first, don’t give up hope. Find a new category you can be first in. It’s not as difficult as you might think… if you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in.” (277)

“When you launch a new product, the first question to ask yourself is not ‘How is this new product better than the competition?’ but ‘First what?’ In other words, what category is this new product first in?” (277)

“This is counter to classic marketing thinking, which is brand oriented: How do I get people to prefer my brand? Forget the brand. Think categories. Prospects are on the defensive when it comes to brands. Everyone talks about why their brand is better. But prospects have an open mind when it come sto categories. Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better.” (278)

“If you understand principles, you can create tactics. If you are dependent on perishable tactics, you are always at a disadvantage.” (289)

“If you ad a + to the end of any bit.ly URL, you can see stats related to that link.” (300)

“Go to any Kickstarter project, click on Share, and pick a social network, like Twitter. A pre-populated tweet will appear with a shortlink. Copy and paste the link alone into a new tab, add + to the end, and hit Return.” (300)

“If you drag and drop any image file into the search bar at images.google.com, you’ll be shown every website that has ever posted that image.” (301)

“The question I ask whenever I’m straining for extended periods is, “What would this look like if it were easy?”” (357)

“Schedule things in advance to prevent yourself from backing out… Make commitments in a high-energy state so that you can’t back out when you’re in a low-energy state.” (380)

“To develop your edge initially, you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others. Once you reach a decent level of professional success, lack of opportunity won’t kill you. It’s drowning in “kinda cool” commitments that will skin the ship.” (387)

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” (468)

“Write down a precise sequence of curse words that takes 7 to 10 seconds to read. Then, before a creative work session of some type, read it quickly and loudly like you’re casting a spell or about to go postal.” (529)

“8 Tactics for dealing with haters:
It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.
10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math.
When in doubt, starve it of oxygen.
If you respond, don’t over-apologize.
You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.
“Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, and you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted.” -Colin Powell
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” -Epictetus
“Living well is the best revenge.” -George Herbert” (534-537)

“There is a mason jar on my kitchen counter with JAR OF AWESOME in glitter letters on the side. Anytime something really cool happens in a day, something that made me excited or joyful, doctor’s orders are to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in this mason jar. When something great happens, you think you’ll remember it 3 months later, but you won’t.” (570)

“What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?” (594)

“If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?” (596)

“1) To get huge, good things done, you need to be okay with letting the small, bad things happen. 2) People’s IQs seem to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.” (597)

“What if I couldn’t pitch my product directly? What if I had to sell around the product?” (598)

“People don’t like being sold products, but we all like being told stories.” (599)

“Instead of answering, “what should we do?” I tried first to hone in on answering, “What should we simplify?” (600)

“What should I put on my not-to-do list?” (600)

“A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride… So ask yourself at the end of the day, “Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?” (601)

“Killing yourself is like taking your pain, multiplying it by 10, and giving it to the ones who love you.” (624)

“If you can’t make yourself happy, do little things to make other people happy. This is a very effective magic trick. Focus on others instead of yourself. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line.” (627)

Dr. Peter Attia:
“Success is: Do your kids remember you for being the best dad? Not the add who gave them everything, but will they be able to tell you anything one day? Will they be able to call you out of the blue, any day, no matter what? Are you the first person they want to ask for advice? And at the same time, can you hit it out of the park in whatever it is you decide to do, as a lawyer, as a doctor, as a stockbroker, as a whatever?” (71)

Gabby Reece:
“I always say that I’ll go first… That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across somebody and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. [I wish] people would experiment with that in their life a little bit: Be first, because – not all times, but most times – it comes in your favor.” (94)

“If the woman can refrain from trying to change or mother her partner, she has a greater opportunity of putting herself in a position where the guy will respect her. A man needs support. I mean, I love you guys and you’re all strong, but you’re very fragile, and you need to e supported and [for us to] help you fully realize your voice, whatever that is.” (97)

Lao Tzu:
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” (104)

Jane McGonigal:
“If you play Tetris after witnessing a traumatic event [ideally within 6 hours, but it’s been demonstrated at 24 hours], it prevent flashbacks and lowers symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.” (133)

Archilochus:
“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” (149)

Chade-Meng Tan
“With “Just Note Gone” we train the mind to notice that something previously experienced is no more. For example, at the end of a breath, notice that the breath is over. Gone. As a sound fades away, notice when it is over. Gone. At the end of a thought, notice that the thought is over. Gone. At the end of an experience of emotion – joy, anger, sadness, or anything else – notice it is over. Gone.” (156)

“A kind thought is rewarding in and of itself… All other things being equal, to increase your happiness, all you have to do is randomly wish for somebody else to be happy. That is all. It basically takes no time and no effort.” (158)

Coach Sommer:
“Dealing with the temporary frustration of not making progress is an integral part of the path towards excellence. In fact, it is essential and something that every single elite athlete has had to learn to deal with. If the pursuit of excellence was easy, everyone would do it. In fact, this impatience in dealing with frustration is the primary reason that most people fail to achieve their goals. Unreasonable expectations timewise, resulting in unnecessary frustration, due to a perceived feeling of failure. Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process.
The secret is to show up, do the work, and go home.
A blue collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose. Once the decision is made, simply refuse to budge. Refuse to compromise.
And accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the roads. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. This is especially important because you are going to spend far more time on the actual journey than with those all too brief moments of triumph at the end.
Certainly celebrate the moments of triumph when they occur. More importantly, learn from defeats when they happen. In fact, if you are into encountering defeat on a fairly regular basis, you are not trying hard enough. ANd absolutely refuse to accept less than your best.
Throw out a timeline. It will take what it takes.
If the commitment is to a long-term goal and not to a series of smaller intermediate goals, then only one decision needs to be made and adhered to. Clear, simple, straightforward. Much easier to maintain than having to make small decision after small decision to stay the course when dealing with each step along the way. This provides far too many opportunities to inadvertently drift from your chosen goal. The single decision is one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox.” (161)

Chris Sacca:
“It may be lucky, but it’s not an accident.” (164)

“A shirt (wearing the same crazy shirt every day) might seem like a small thing, but Chris realized early on that being a successful investor isn’t simply knowing which companies to invest in. part of the process is ensuring founders know who you are.” (167)

“Never forget that underneath all the math and the MBA bullshit talk, we are all still emotionally driven human beings. We want to attach ourselves to narratives. We don’t act because of equations. We follow our beliefs. We get behind leaders who stir our feelings. IN the early days of your venture, if you find someone diving too deep into the numbers, that means they are struggling to find a reason to deeply care about you.” (168)

“Weirdness is why we adore our friends… Weirdness is what bonds us to our colleagues. Weirdness is what sets us apart, gets us hired. Be your unapologetically weird self. In fact, being weird may even find you the ultimate happiness.” (169)

Marc Andreessen:
“Each of our general partners has the ability to pull the trigger on a deal without a vote or without consensus. If the person closest to the deal has a very strong degree of positive commitment and enthusiasm about it, then we should do that investment, even if everybody else in the room thinks it’s the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard… however, you don’t get to do that completely on your own without stress-testing. If necessary, we create a ‘red team.’ We’ll formally create the countervailing force to argue the other side… Whenever Ben brings in a deal, I just beat the shit out of it. I might think it’s the best idea I’ve ever heard of, but I’ll just trash the crap out of it and try to get everybody else to pile on. And then, at the end of it, if he’s still pounding the table saying, “no, no, this is the thing…’ then we say we’re all in. We’re all behind you… It’s a ‘disagree and commit’ kind of culture. By the way, he does the same thing to me. It’s the torture test.” (172)

“Everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” (174)

“My goal is not to fail fast. My goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing.” (175)

“Show me an incumbent bigco failing to adapt to change, I’ll show you top execs paid huge cash compensation for quarterly and annual goals.” (175)

Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“I am a big believer that if you have a very clear vision of where you want to go, then the rest of it is much easier. Because you always know why you are training 5 hours a day, you always know why you are pushing and going through the pain barrier, and why you have to eat more, and why you have to struggle more, and why you have to be more disciplined… I felt that I could win it, and that was what I was there for. I wasn’t there to compete. I was there to win.” (177)

Derek Sivers:
“If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” (185)

“When you’re earlier in your career, I think the best strategy is to just say ‘yes’ to everything. Every little gig. You just never know what are the lottery tickets.” (187)

“When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts, the world-changing, massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill someone enough to make them tell all their friends about you.” (193)

“”Don’t be a donkey” rule. (Donkey can’t decide between food and water, and dies of starvation in the middle.) In a world of distraction, single-tasking is a superpower.” (471)

Alexis Ohanian:
“Improve a notification email from your business (e.g., subscription confirmation, order confirmation, whatever): Invest that little bit of time to make it a little bit more human.” (195)

Neil Gaiman:
“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” (197)

Tony Robbins:
“Life is always happening for us, not to us. It’s our job to find out where the benefit is. If we do, life is magnificent.” (211)

Casey Neistat:
“What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.” (220)

Morgan Spurlock:
“The crew shirts from the first Avatar production said: HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY. LUCK IS NOT A FACTOR. FEAR IS NOT AN OPTION.” (223)

Thomas Edison:
“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” (231)

Seth Godin:
“We need to teach kids two things: 1) how to lead, and 2) how to solve interesting problems. Because the fact is, there are plenty of countries on Earth where there are people who are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition. Therefore, we have to out-lead or out-solve the other people.” (242)

Scott Adams:
“There are six elements of humor: naughty, clever, cute, bizarre, mean, and recognizable. You have to have at least two dimension to succeed.” (262)

Chase Jarvis:
“If I look across and everyone else is doing X, how do you zig when everyone else is zagging?” (283)

Dan Carlin:
“I’ve heard said, ‘Amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic.’” (285)

“Copyright your faults.” (286)

Alex Blumberg:
“Prompt to Elicit Stories (Most Interviewers Are Weak at This)
“Tell me about a time when…”
“Tell me about the day [or moment or time] when…”
“Tell me the story of… [how you came to major in X, how you met so-and-so, etc.]”
“Tell me about the day you realized ___…”
“What were the steps that got you to ___?”
“Describe the conversation when…” (304)

Stephen Hawking:
“When you complain, nobody wants to help you.” (314)

Phil Libin:
“Every single thing in your company breaks every time you roughly triple in size.” (317)

Jerry Colonna:
“How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want?” (317)

Kaskade:
“The minutiae fit around the big things, but the big things don’t fit around the minutiae.” (330)

Ryan Holiday:
“Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room – until you change that with results.” (338)

“Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something
You could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you? The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound: You’d learn a great deal by solving diverse problems. You’d develop a reputation for being indispensable. You’d have countless new relationships. You’d have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road.” (338)

Neil Strauss:
“First, I edit for me. (What do I like?)
Second, I edit for my fans. (What would be most enjoyable and helpful to my fans?)
Third, I edit for my haters. (What would my detractors try and pick apart, discredit, or make fun of?)” (349)

“Open up and be vulnerable with the person you’re going to interview before you start.” (350)

Chuck Close:
“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will – through work – bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’” (357)

Scott Belsky:
“The dirty little secret is that every success was almost a failure. Timing and uncontrollable circumstances lay more of a role than any of us care to admit.” (361)

Rolf Potts:
“Work is how you settle your financial and emotions debts – so that your travels are not an escape from your real life, but a discovery of your real life.” (367)

“The simple willingness to improvise is more vital, in the long run, than research.” (636)

Peter Diamandis:
“I think of problems as gold mines. The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.” (370)

“When you’re going 10% bigger, you’re competing against everybody. Everybody’s trying to go 10% bigger. When you’re trying to go 10 times bigger, you’re there by yourself.” (374)

“When you are trying to go 10 times bigger, you have to start with a clean sheet of paper, and you approach the problem completely differently.” (374)

“When you try to go 10 times bigger versus 10% bigger, it’s typically not 100 times harder, but the reward is 100 times more.” (374)

Sophia Amoruso:
“I like to make promises that I’m not sure I can keep and then figure out how to keep them. I think you can will things into happening by just committing to them sometimes.” (377)

B.J. Novak:
“Any time I’m telling myself, ‘But I’m making so much money,’ that’s a warning sign that I’m doing the wrong thing.” (379)

“Money can always be regenerated. Time and reputation cannot.” (379)

“When possible, always give the money to charity, as it allows you to interact with people well above your pay grade.” (379)

“B.J. once brought a bunch of jokes to Steve Carell, who said, “These just feel like jokes to me.” For Steve, comedy was a by-product of authenticity. This is the difference between a kid who knows he’s cute and one who doesn’t (the one who knows he’s cut isn’t cute).” (380)

“If you separate idea and execution, you don’t put too much pressure on either of them.” (381)

Greg McKeown:
“Make your peace with the fact that saying ‘no’ often requires trading popularity for respect.” (396)

Maria Popova:
“If you’re looking for a formula for greatness, the closest we’ll ever get, I think, is this: Consistency driven by a deep love of the work.” (406)

“The second you start doing it for an audience, you’ve lost the long game because creating something that is rewarding and sustainable over the long run requires, most of all, keeping yourself excited about it.” (410)

Jocko Willink:
“Stay humble or get humbled.” (416)

Marc Goodman:
“Back in 2008 [in Mumbai], terrorists were using search engines like Google to determine who shall live and who shall die… When you’re sharing on Facebook, it’s not just the media and marketing companies that you need to be concerned about.” (425)

“By using a made-up name for your car reservation, if you see a placard with your real name on it, you know it’s a set-up. If you become successful – or simply appear successful on the Internet – and travel a lot overseas, this is not paranoia.” (425)

Chris Fussell:
“You should have a running list of three people that you’re always watching: someone senior to you that you want to emulate, a peer who you think is better at the job than you are and who you respect, and someone subordinate who’s doing the job you did – one, two, or three years ago – better than you did it.” (437)

Kevin Kelly:
“To me, success is you make your own slot. You have a new slot that didn’t exist before.” (473)

Whitney Cummings:
“As a writer, you have to be vulnerable.” (478)

“In order for art to imitate life, you have to have a life.” (478)

“My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say, ‘I love you’ before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better.” (479)

“When you tell the truth about your embarrassing moments and show your shadow, a catharsis happens, which is what laughter is. I promise, if you just tell the truth and get your heart broken as a comedian, you will have a house.” (480)

“My definition of ‘love’ is being willing to die for someone who you yourself want to kill. That, in my experience, is kind of the deal.” (481)

Bryan Callen:
“There are three things you can’t really fake: one is fighting, the second is sex, and the third is comedy. It doesn’t matter who your publicist is or how famous you are, man – if you don’t bring the money, it gets quiet in that room fast.” (484)

“I ask myself what I’m afraid of, what I’m ashamed of, who I’m pretending to be, who I really am, where I am versus where I thought I’d be… If you watched yourself from afar, if you met yourself, what would you say to yourself? What would you tell you?” (484)

Joseph Campbell:
“There is great security in insecurity.” (485)

Tim Kreider:
“I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.” (491)

“This busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness: Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” (491)

“It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what that might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.” (492)

“I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since you can always make more money.” (494)

“Aim for the heart, not the head… Once you get the heart, you can go to the head. Once you get the heart and the head, then you’ll have a pathway to the soul.”

Rick Rubin:
“I think people want things that are really passionate, and often, the best version they could be is not for everybody… The best art divides the audience. If you put out a record, and half the people who hear it absolutely love it, and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it, you’ve done well, because it’s pushing the boundary.” (504)

“If you listen to the greatest songs ever made, that would be a better way to work through finding your own voice today, rather than listening to what’s on the radio now and thinking, ‘I want to compete with this.’” (505)

Paulo Coelho:
“There are only four stories: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power, and the journey. Every single book that is in the bookstore deals with these four archetypes, these four themes.” (511)

“Books are not here to show how intelligent and cultivated you are. Books are out there to show your heart, to show your soul, and to tell your fans, readers: You are not alone.” (514)

Amanda Palmer:
“‘Honor those who seek the truth, beware of those who’ve found it’ [adapted from Voltaire]. A reminder that the path never ends and that absolutely nobody has this shit figured out.” (522)

Eric Weinstein:
“We don’t talk about teaching disabilities. We only talk about learning disabilities.” (529)

“It was Julian Schwinger, the great Harvard physicist, I think, who was asked if he would teach the 9:00 a.m. quantum mechanics course, and he stopped for a second. The person asking said, ‘Well, what’s the problem, Professor Schwinger?’ and he answered, ‘I don’t know if I can stay up that late.’” (530)

“Even though I wanted to do science rather than technology, it’s better to be in an expanding world and not quite in exactly the right field, than to be in a contracting world where people’s worst behavior comes out. In the latter, your mind is grooved in defensive and rent-seeking types of ways. Life is too short to be petty and defensive and cruel to other people who are seeking to innovate alongside you.” (530)

Naval Ravikant:
“If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who are more successful than you are, but if you want to be happy, surround yourself with people who are less successful than you are.” (547)

“All of the value in life, including in relationships, comes from compound interest. People who regularly fight with others will eventually fight with you. I’m not interested in anything that’s unsustainable or even hard to sustain, including difficult relationships.” (547)

“In any situation in life, you only have three options. You always have three options. You can change it, you can accept it, or you can leave it. What is not a good option is to sit around wishing you would change it but not changing it, wishing you would leave it but not leaving it, and not accepting it. It’s that struggle, that aversion, that is responsible for most of our misery.” (548)

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” (550)

“I try not to have more than one big desire in my life at any given time, and I also recognize that as the axis of my suffering. I realize that that’s where I’ve chosen to be unhappy.” (550)

“If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.” (551)

“What you choose to work on, and who you choose to work with, are far more important than how hard you work.” (551)

“My one repeated learning in life: ‘There are no adults.’ Everyone’s making it up as they go along. Figure it out yourself, and do it.” (552)

Glenn Beck:
“People are starving for something authentic. They’ll accept you, warts and all, if that’s who you really are.” (554)

“Be willing to fail or succeed on who you really are. Don’t ever try to be anything else. What you are is good enough for whatever it is you’re doing.” (554)

Thomas Jefferson:
“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” (554)

Sam Kass:
“When you think it’s ready, add another lemon. Pros bump up the acidity level… it makes everything taste better.” (559)

Richard Betts:
“If you work for the awards, you don’t do good work. But if you do good work, the awards will come.” (565)

Mike Birbiglia:
“Don’t waste your time on marketing, just try to get better. And also, it’s not about being good; it’s about being great.” (569)

“Because what I find, the older I get, is that a lot of people are good, and a lot of people are smart, and a lot of people are clever. But not a lot of people give you their soul when they perform.” (569)

Stephen J. Dubner:
“Our brainstorming was: Let’s come up with as many ideas as possible, and then put them under scrutiny, and basically try to kill them off, and if they were unkillable, then we’d keep going with them.” (576)

Josh Waitzkin:
“Ending the work day with very high quality, which for one thing means you’re internalizing quality overnight.” (579)

Glenn Close:
“Don’t go for funny. Go for the truth, and you’ll hit funny along the way.” (593)

Dan Sullivan:
“If you’ve got enough money to solve the problem, you don’t have the problem.” (602)

Jamie Foxx:
“When you raise your kids, you’re the bow, they’re the arrow, and you just try to aim them in the best direction that you can, and hopefully your aim isn’t too off.” (606)

“You are either great or you don’t exist.” (606)

“It’s never been easier to be a “creator,” and it’s never been harder to stand out. Good isn’t good enough.” (607)

Bryan Johnson:
“What can you do that will be remembered in 200 to 400 years?” (609)

“I would say, ‘Tim, if you give me 3 minutes of your time, I will give you $100 if you do not say ‘yes’ to using my service.’ usually they would say something like, ‘That is interesting…’ and I would open my pitch book and walk them through the industry. Here are the providers, here is what they do, here is how they do it, here is what I do. I am the same as everyone else, except with me, you get honesty and transparency and great customer support. So, I became this company’s number-one sales person. I broke all their sales records following this really simple formula of just selling honest and transparency in a broken industry.” (610)

Vivian Greene:
“Life is not waiting for the storm to pass, it’s learning how to dance in the rain.” (611)

Lao Tzu:
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” (623)

Robert Rodriguez:
“I wrote everything around what we had, so you never had to go search, and you never had to spend anything on the movie. The movie cost, really, nothing.” (629)

“I didn’t think anyone was going to see El Mariachi. It was really just a test… had I thought I would ever even show it to anybody. Had I thought it would go to a festival and I would submit it, I would have spent ten times as much.” (630)

“There’s freedom in limitations. It’s almost more freeing to know I’ve got to use only these items: turtle, bar, ranch. You’re almost completely free within that.” (630)

“Sometimes I hear new filmmakers talk down about their film, and ‘Oh, nothing worked and it was a disappointment.’ They don’t realize yet that that’s the job. The job is that nothing is going to work at all. So you go: ‘How can I turn it into a positive and get something much better than if I had all the time and money in the world?’” (631)

“I want all of my movies to not have enough money, not enough time, so that we’re forced to be more creative. Because that’s going to give it some spark that you can’t manufacture. People will tap into it or they’ll go: ‘I don’t know why I like this movie. It’s kind of a weird movie, but there’s something about it that makes me want to watch it again and again because it’s got a life to it.’ Sometimes art should be imperfect in a way.’” (631)

“That was the idea – I’m there to learn. I’m not there to win; I’m there to learn, because then I’ll win, eventually.” (632)

“Failure isn’t always durable. You go back and you can look at it and go, ‘Oh, that wasn’t a failure. That was a key moment of my development that I needed to take, and I can trust my instinct. I really can.” (633)

“They key is to do it early. Do it while you’re still shooting. First impressions is everything. I’ll cut a trailer while I’m still shooting and send it to a studio. They’ll try to make their own, over and over, and they can’t get that first thing they saw out of their heads, ‘It’s still not as good as the one we saw.’” (634)

“You get it in your own way – thinking that you needed to know something, a trick or a process, before it would flow. If you got out of the way, it would just flow.” (635)

“You’re just opening up the pipe and the creativity flows through. And as soon as your ego gets in the way, and you go, ‘I don’t know if I know what to do next’ you’ve already put ‘I’ in front of it and you’ve already blocked it a little bit. ‘I did it once, but I don’t know if I can do it again.’ It was never you. THe best you can do is just to get out of the way so it comes through.” (636)

“Even if I didn’t know what to do, I just had to begin. For a lot of people, that’s the part that keeps them back the most. They think, ‘Well, I don’t have an idea, so I can’t start.’ I know you’ll only get the idea once you start. It’s this totally reverse thing. You have to act first before inspiration will hit. You don’t wait for inspiration and then act, or you’re never going to act, because you’re never going to have the inspiration, not consistently.” (636)

“That’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward.” (637)

Francis Ford Coppola:
“Failure is not necessarily durable. Remember that the things that they fire you for when you are young are the same things they give lifetime achievement awards for when you’re old.” (632)

 

Liked the quotes? Buy the book here.

I recently read “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

Creativity Inc Cover“The leaders of my department understood that to create a fertile laboratory, they had to assemble different kinds of thinkers and then encourage their autonomy. They had to offer feedback when needed but also had to be willing to stand back and give us room.” (19)

“Always take a chance on (hiring someone) better (than you), even if it seems threatening.” (23)

“For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.” (37)

“You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.” (51)

“When we disagreed, I would state my case, but since Steve could think much faster than I could, he would often shoot down my arguments. So I’d wait a week, marshal my thoughts, and then come back and explain it again. He might dismiss my points again, but I would keep coming back until one of three things happened: (1) He would say “Oh, okay, I get it” and give me what I needed; (2) I’d see that he was right and stop lobbying; or (3) our debate would be inconclusive, in which case I’d just go ahead and do what I had proposed in the first place. Each outcome was equally likely, but when this third option occurred, Steve never questioned me. For all his insistence, he respected passion. If I believed in something that strongly, he seemed to feel, it couldn’t be all wrong.” (54-55)

“When downsides coexist with upsides, as they often do, people are reluctant to explore what’ bugging them, for fear of being labeled complainers. I also realized that this kind of thing, if left unaddressed, could fester and destroy Pixar.” (63)

“The first principle was “Story Is King,” by which we meant that we would let nothing – not the technology, not the merchandising possibilities – get in the way of our story.” (66)

“The other principle we depended on was “Trust the Process.” We liked this one because it was so reassuring: While there are inevitably difficulties and missteps in any complex creative endeavor, you can trust that “the process” will carry you through.” (66)

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.” (74)

“Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. It is easy to say you want talented people, and you do, but the way those people interact with one another is the real key. Even the smartest people can form an ineffective team if they are mismatched.” (74)

“Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.” (74)

“Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas.” (75)

“John coined a new phrase: “Quality is the best business plan.” What he meant was that quality is not a consequence of following some set of behaviors. Rather, it is a prerequisite and a mindset you must have before you decide what you are setting out to do.” (82)

“Early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I make a point of repeating it often, and I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are.” (90)

“Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process – reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds it throughline or a hollow character finds its soul.” (90)

“There are two key differences between the Braintrust and any other feedback mechanism. The first is that the Braintrust is made up of people with a deep understanding of storytelling and, usually, people who have been through the process themselves. While the directors welcome critiques from many sources along the way (and in fact, when our films are screened in house, all Pixar employees are asked to send notes), they particularly prize feedback from fellow directors and storytellers.
The second difference is that the Braintrust has no authority. This is crucial: The director does not have to follow any of the specific suggestions given. After a Braintrust meeting, it is up to him or her to figure out how to address the feedback. Braintrust meetings are not top-down, do-this-or-else affairs. By removing from the Braintrust the power to mandate solutions, we affect the dynamics of the group in ways I believe are essential.” (93)

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged. To set up a healthy feedback system, you must remove power dynamics from the equation – you must enable yourself, in other words, to focus on the problem, not the person.” (94)

“Michael Arndt, who wrote Toy Story 3, says he thinks to make a great film, its makers must pivot, at some point, from creating the story for themselves to creating it for others.” (94)

“For most of us, failure comes with baggage – a lot of baggage – that I believe is traced directly back to our days in school. Form a very early age, the message is drilled into our heads: Failure is bad; failure means you didn’t study or prepare; failure means you slacked off or – worse! – aren’t smart enough to begin with. Thus, failure is something to be ashamed of. This perception lives on long into adulthood, even in people who have learned to parrot the oft repeated arguments about the upside of failure. How many articles have you read on that topic alone? And yet, even as they nod their heads in agreement, many readers of those articles still have the emotional reaction that they had as children. They just can’t help it: That early experience of shame is too deep-seated to erase. All the time in my work, I see people resist and reject failure and try mightily to avoid it, because regardless of what we say, mistakes feel embarrassing. There is a visceral reaction to failure: It hurts.
We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality). And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, i also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough. That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.” (108-109)

“Failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration. If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy – trying to avoid failure by outthinking it – dooms you to fail.” (109)

“What I want to do is loosen its grip on us. While we don’t want too many failures, we must think of the cost of failure as an investment in the future.” (111)

“They saw that each idea led them a bit closer to finding the better option. And that allowed them to come to work each day engaged and excited, even while in the midst of confusion. This is key: When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work – even when it is confounding them.” (113)

“If you put your faith in slow, deliberative planning in the hopes it will spare you failure down the line – well, you’re deluding yourself. For one thing, it’s easier to plan derivative work – things that copy or repeat something already out there. So if your primary goal is to have a full worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal. Moreover, you cannot plan your way out of problems. While planning is very important, and we do a lot of it, there is only so much you can control in a creative environment.” (114)

“When it comes to creative endeavors, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.” (115)

“The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure – to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.” (123)

“When we are new to the position, we imagine what the job is in order to get our arms around it, then we compare ourselves against our made-up model. But the job is never what we think it is. The trick is to forget our models about what we “should” be. A better measure of our success is to look at the people on our team and see how they are working together. Can they rally to solve key problems? If the answer is yes, you are managing well.” (127)

“Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover.” (128)

“Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on – but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.” (134)

“When it comes to feeding the Beast, success only creates more pressure to hurry up and succeed again. Which is why at too many companies, the schedule (that is, the need for product) drives the output, not the strength of the ideas at the front end.” (136)

“The key is to view conflict as essential, because that’s how we know the best ideas will be tested and survive. You know, it can’t only be sunlight.” (139)

“I often say that managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions. What does that mean? It means that we must be open to having our goals change as we learn new information or are surprised by things we thought we knew but didn’t. As long as our intentions – our values – remain constant, our goals can shift as needed.” (140)

“Negative feedback may be fun, but it is far less brave than endorsing something unproven and providing room for it to grow.” (141)

“It’s folly to think you can avoid change, no matter how much you might want to. But also, to my mind, you shouldn’t want to. There is no growth or success without change.” (146)

“When this happens, it’s usually because I feel like the world is crashing down and all is lost. One trick I’ve learned is to force myself to make a list of what’s actually wrong. Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of the issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it’s really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong.” (151)

“His mission was to drill down to the emotional core of his characters and then build the story around that.” (151)

Pete says, “sometimes in meetings, I sense people seizing up, not wanting to even talk about changes. So I try to trick them. I’ll say, ‘This would be a big change if we were really going to do it, but just as a thought exercise, what if…’ Or, ‘I’m not actually suggesting this, but go with me for a minute…’ If people anticipate the production pressures, they’ll close the door to new ideas – so you have to pretend you’re not actually going to do anything, we’re just talking, just playing around. Then if you hit upon some new idea that clearly works, people are excited about it and are happier to act on the change.” (152)

“When we put setbacks into two buckets – the “business as usual” bucket and the “holy cow” bucket – and use a different mindset for each, we are signing up for trouble. We become so caught up in our big problems that we ignore the little ones, failing to realize that some of our small problems will have long-term consequences – and are, therefore, big problems in the making.” (160)

“If we allow more people to solve problems without permission, and if we tolerate (and don’t vilify) their mistakes, then we enable a much larger set of problems to be addressed.” (164)

“When people in other creative professions merely cut up and reassemble what has come before, it gives the illusion of creativity, but it is craft without art. Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.” (196)

“There’s something about knowing your subject and your setting inside and out – a confidence – that seeps into every frame of your film.” (198)

“The oversight group had been put in place without anyone asking a fundamental question: How do we enable our people to solve problems? Instead, they asked: How do we prevent our people from screwing up. That approach never encourages a creative response.” (203)

“Once you’ve hit on something that works, don’t expect it to work again, because attendees will know how to manipulate it the second time around.” (218)

“The attempt to avoid failure, in other words, makes failure more likely.” (222)

“Creative people discover and realize their visions over time and through dedicated, protracted struggle. In that way, creativity is more like a marathon than a spring.” (223)

“There is a sweet spot between the known and the unknown where originality happens; the key is to be able to linger there without panicking.” (224)

“Brad says, “I tell myself that I have time, even when I don’t. As in, ‘Okay, I’m going to proceed as if I have time – I’m going to sit back and muse rather than looking at the cock – because if I sit back and muse, I’m more likely to solve the problem.’” (226)

“Include people in your problems, not just your solutions.” (228)

“Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.” (235)

“We had learned long ago that while everyone appreciates cash bonuses, they value something else almost as much: being looked in the eye by someone they respect and told, “Thank you.” At Pixar… when a movie makes enough money to trigger bonuses, John and I join with the directors and producers and personally distribute checks to every person who worked on the film.” (273)

“When talking about making a movie, easy isn’t the goal. Quality is the goal.” (273)

“Creative people must accept that challenges never cease, failure can’t be avoided, and “vision” is often an illusion. But they must also feel safe – always – to speak their minds.” (277)

“”To Whom it May Inspire,” Austin wrote. “I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, ‘in the zone’ seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time. The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-cerner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems. In a word: PERSIST. PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision.”” (294)

“Doing all these things won’t necessarily make the job of managing a creative culture easier. But ease isn’t the goal; excellence is.” (295)

“It wasn’t that passion trumped logic in Steve’s mind. He was well aware that decisions must never be based on emotions alone. But he also saw that creativity wasn’t linear, that art was not commerce, and that to insist upon applying dollars-and-cents logic was to risk disrupting the thing that set us apart. Steve put a premium on both sides of this equation, logic and emotion, and the way he maintained that balance was key to understanding him.” (301)

“In order for greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness.” (319)

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