“Creativity Inc.” Quotes

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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“The Charisma Myth” Quotes

Charisma MythI recently read “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, click here to buy the book.

“Imagine what your life would be like if you knew that the moment you entered a room, people would immediately take notice, want to hear what you have to say, and be eager to earn your approval. For charismatic people, this is a way of life. Everyone is impacted by their presence. People are magnetically drawn to them and feel strangely compelled to help them in any way they can.” (2)

“Charisma gets people to like you, trust you, and want to be led by you. It can determine whether you’re seen as a follower or a leader, whether your ideas get adopted, and how effectively your projects are implemented.” (2)

“As extensive research in recent years has shown, charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.” (4)

“As extensive research in recent years has shown, charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.” (4)

“We assume that charismatic people are magnetic every instant of every day. They aren’t.” (4)

“When you meet a charismatic person, you get the impression that they have a lot of power and they like you a lot.” (5)

“The equation that produces charisma is actually fairly simple. ALl you have to do is give the impression that you possess both high power and high warmth, since charismatic behaviors project a combination of these two qualities.” (5)

“A final dimension underlies both of these qualities: presence.” (5)

“Three quick tips to gain an instant charisma boost in conversation:
Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences.
Reduce how quickly and how often you nod.
Pause for two full seconds before you speak.” (11)

“When we’re not fully present in an interaction, people will see it. Our body language sends a clear message that other people read and react to, at least on a subconscious level.” (14)

“Someone who is powerful but not warm can be impressive, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as arrogant, cold, or standoffish. Someone who possesses warmth without power can be likeable, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as overeager, subservient, or desperate to please.” (20)

“Because what’s in your mind shows up in your body and because people will catch even the briefest microexpression, to be effective, charismatic behaviors must originate in your mind.” (22)

“Lao Tzu reportedly said: “To know others is knowledge. To know oneself is wisdom.” (24)

“Any physical discomfort doesn’t that affects your visible, external state – your body language – even slightly may affect how charismatic you are perceived to be.” (29)

“Signs of fatigue can easily show up in people’s body language as lack of enthusiasm.” (30)

“Responsibility Transfer
Whenever you feel your brain rehashing possible outcomes to a situation, try a transfer of responsibility to alleviate the anxiety.
Sit comfortably or lie down, relax, and close your eyes.
Take two or three deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine drawing clean air toward the top of your head. As you exhale, let that air whoosh through you, washing away all your worries and concerns.
Pick an entity – God, Fat, the Universe, whatever may best suit your beliefs – that you could imagine as benevolent.
Imagine lifting the weight of everything you’re concerned about – this meeting, this interaction, this day – off your shoulders and placing it on the shoulders of whichever entity you’ve chosen.
Visually lift everything off your shoulders and feel the difference as your are now no longer responsible for the outcome of any of these things. Everything is taken care of. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever good you can find along the way.” (34-35)

“The very act of comparing and evaluating hinders our ability to be fully present.” (37)

“When your brain spins negative scenarios, remind yourself that you may not be getting an accurate perception of reality. Your brain might be following its negativity bias, playing up some elements more than others, or omitting some positives entirely.” (49)

“The researchers concluded that deciding to change beliefs was a far more effective and healthier solution than attempting to repress or ignore emotions.” (53)

“In most situations, we don’t know for certain what motivates a person’s actions, so we might as well choose the explanation that is most helpful to us and create a version of events that gets us into the specific mental state we need for charisma.” (53)

“One charismatic entrepreneur told me: “I decide to interpret everything favorably toward myself. It’s not just that I’m optimistic, I’m actually conveniently deluded.” (54)

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (57)

“Look for little miracles unfolding right now.
Love the confusion.
What if you could trust the Universe, even with this?” (70)

“After fifteen years of speaking professionally, I find that doing even thirty seconds of visualization makes a substantial difference to my performance. It greatly affects how charismatic I am on stage. In fact, every time I don’t run through a visualization just before stepping on stage, I regret it. Even when I know the speech so well I could say it backward, it’s worth using visualization to ensure that I get into the right charismatic mental state.” (72)

“Before key meetings, she’ll imagine “the smiles on their faces because they liked me and they are confident about the value I’m bringing them. I’ll imagine as much detail as I can, even seeing the wrinkles around their eyes as they’re smiling.” She visualizes the whole interaction, all the way through to the firm handshakes that close the meeting, sealing the deal.” (73)

“To boost your charisma, choose figures who represent complete self -confidence, or warmth and caring, or calm and serenity. Or you might even find some figures who embody all the elements at once. Visualize yourself going to these figures for a “pep talk” anytime you feel you need one. Thanks to the brain’s wonderful placebo response, this will produce effects even if it doesn’t feel real.” (74)

“Gratitude has a special advantage for those of us who sometimes find it uncomfortable to connect with others. It can give us charismatic warmth without having to connect with anyone.” (75)

“When our only aim is to broadcast goodwill, it takes the pressure off. We’re no longer striving, struggling, pushing for things to go in a certain direction. And since we’re less concerned about how the interaction goes, we can both feel and project more charismatic confidence. Goodwill is the simple state of wishing others well.” (80)

“One simple but effective way to start is to try to find three things you like about the person you want to feel goodwill toward. No matter whom it is you’re talking to, find three things to appreciate or approve of – even if these are as small as “their shoes are shined” or “they were on time.” When you start searching for positive elements, your mental state changes accordingly and then sweeps through your body language.” (80)

“In any interaction, imagine the person you’re speaking to, and all those around you, as having invisible angel wings.” (81)

“Imagine that you’re all a team of angels working together, all doing your wholehearted best.” (81)

“While looking at someone, think, I like you. And I like you just for you.” (81)

“Compassion is empathy plus goodwill: you understand how they feel, and you wish them well.” (82)

“Your willingness to focus on others’ well-being is all you need to positively change your body language. This will be enough to give people the feeling that you really care about them, and is one of the core components of charisma.” (82)

“Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as a three-step process: First, realizing that we’re experiencing difficulties. Second, responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves when we are suffering or feel inadequate, rather than being harshly self-critical. Third, realizing that whatever we’re going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.” (86)

“For confidence, assertiveness, and to be able to emanate gravitas, imagine playing the role of a military general – take a wide stance, puff up your chest, broaden your shoulders, stand straight, and confidently put your arms behind your back. Feel the effect of this posture internally.” (92)

“For a boost in both energy and warmth, stand up, stretch your hands as high up as possible, inhale as much as you can – imagine your ribcage expanding, doubling in size – make the biggest smile you can and look upward, hold for a second, then relax everything.” (92)

“- Creating an optimal mental state is crucial to unleashing our full charisma potential.
– Visualization can help you create the right mental state and thus the right charismatic body language. To make visualizations most effective, vividly engage all five senses in your imagination.
– You can increase both warmth and confidence by practicing gratitude, goodwill, and compassion for others as well as for yourself.
– Just as professional athletes and performers do, plan a gradual warm-up to reach your peak charismatic performance. Before important events, avoid experiences that would impair your mental state and plan warmth- and confidence-boosting activities instead.
– Your body affects your mind. Flip the visualization technique on its head and practice adopting the right posture and facial expressions to access more of almost any desired internal state.” (97)

“In another experiment, a researcher conducted fake surveys in shopping malls wearing either a designer-logo sweater or a no-logo sweater. When faced with the designer label, 52 percent of people agreed to take the survey, compared with only 13 percent who saw no logo. Expensive logos also affected people’s charitable impulses. Research assistants brought in nearly twice as many donations when their shirts bore a visible designer label than they did when they wore (otherwise identical) no-label shirts.” (105)

“As always, body language trumps all other signs of charisma. Even if all the other signals are present, a body language of insecurity will undermine any possibility of authority charisma. Conversely, you can gain a certain measure of authority charisma through body language alone if it’s strong enough.” (105)

“If, for instance, you can get yourself into a mental state of goodwill, this would show in your facial expressions and body language and register with people on a deep emotional level. People perceiving this would want to like you, want to see your behaviors and actions in the most positive way. Think of goodwill as your charisma safety net: as long as you can get into a state of goodwill, you will have the absolute best chances of getting your charisma right.” (111)

“According to economist John Kenneth Galbraith, when “faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” (115)

“When people are similar in terms of attire, appearance, demeanor and speech, they automatically assume they share similar social backgrounds, education, and even values.” (118)

“Clothing, essentially, is modern-day tribal wear.” (118)

“An easy way to start interactions in a way that both communicates warmth and sends the conversation down the right path is to offer a compliment about something the person is wearing. This would be a great opener when you’re aiming to broadcast either kindness charisma or focus charisma… continue with an open-ended question, such as “What’s the story behind it?”… Another good question to break the ice with is “Where are you from?”… You can follow up with “What was it like growing up there?”… “To keep people talking, simply ask open-ended questions, such as “What brought you here tonight?” or “How are you connected to this event?”” (123)

“Aim to keep your questions focused on positive subjects because people will associate you with whatever feelings your conversation generates.” (123)

“Even when you’re speaking, the one word that should pop up most often in your conversation is not I but you.” (124)

“What impacts people isn’t the words or content used. Rather, they remember how it felt to be speaking with you.” (126)

“Good listeners know never, ever to interrupt – not even if the impulse to do so comes from excitement about something the other person just said… Great listeners know to let others interrupt them… Master listeners know one extra trick, one simple but extraordinarily effective habit that will make people feel truly listened to and understood: they pause before they answer.” (130)

“When someone has spoken, see if you can let your facial expression react first, showing that you’re absorbing what they’ve just said and giving their brilliant statement the consideration it deserves. Only then, after about two seconds, do you answer.” (131)

“Because we’re constantly creating associations in people’s minds, it’s crucial in both business and social situations to be aware of how you’re making people feel. To be charismatic, you need to create strong positive associations and avoid creating negative ones.” (133)

“Imagine that the person you’re speaking with is the main star in a movie you’re watching right now. This will help you find them more interesting, and there’s even a chance that you’ll make them feel like a movie star, too.” (135)

“Image generation has a powerful impact on emotions and physiological states and a high impact on brain function.” (136)

“Whenever you can, choose to speak in pictures. You’ll have a much greater impact, and your message will be far more memorable.” (136)

“Presidents rated as charismatic, such as FDR and Abraham Lincoln, used twice as many visual metaphors in their inaugural addresses as did those rated as noncharismatic.”

“”When you tell someone, “No problem,” “Don’t worry,” or “Don’t hesitate to call,” for example, there’s a chance their brain will remember “problem,” “worry,” or “hesitate” instead of your desire to support them. To counter this negative effect, use phrases like “We’ll take care of it” or “Please feel free to call anytime.” (138)

“The degree to which your voice fluctuates affects your persuasiveness and your charisma. Increasing voice fluctuation means making your voice vary in any of the following ways: pitch (high or low), volume (loud or quiet), tone (resonant or hollow), tempo (fast or slow), or rhythm (fluid or staccato).” (140)

“One classic exercise to hone your projection skills is to imagine that your words are arrows. As you speak, aim them at different groups of listeners.” (141)

“A slow, measured tempo with frequent pauses conveys confidence.” (141)

“Broadcast power through your voice by 1) Speak slowly. 2) Pause. 3) Drop intonation. 4) Check your breathing.” (141)

“In order to project more warmth in your voice: smile.” (141)

“Often, just thinking about smiling is enough to give your voice more warmth.” (142)

“Imagine that you’re a preacher exhorting your congregation.” (142)

“Alan Weiss says, “Logic makes people think. Emotion makes them act.” Which would you rather have? If you speak only to people’s logical mind, you’re missing half the playing field. Charisma, which makes us feel impressed, inspired, or thrillingly special, speaks to our emotional side.” (144)

“Mirroring is also one of the few techniques that can help overcome a bad first impression.” (149)

“When people are sitting across from each other with a table dividing them, they tend to speak in shorter sentences, are more likely to argue, and can recall less of what was said.” (152)

“Keep eye contact for three full seconds at the end of your interaction with someone.” (154)

“Charismatic eye contacts means switching to a softer focus. This immediately relaxes our eyes and face, and quiets down our stress system. Here are three simple steps to help you switch to a soft, open focus: First, close your eyes. Focus on the space around you, the empty space in the room. Now focus on the space filling the entire universe. That’s it – you’ve moved into “soft focus.” (155)

“Few things gain you charisma points more than improving your eye contact. The next time you’re in a conversation, try to regularly check whether your eyes are feeling tense. If you feel the slightest bit of tension around your eyes, aim to relax them. You can use any favorite quick visualization (just one heartwarming image can do the trick) or aim to move into soft focus.” (156)

“Follow these seven steps to convey confident body language:
Make sure you can breathe. Loosen any clothing if need be.
Stand up and shake up your body.
Take a wide stance and plant your feet firmly on the ground. A wide, stable stance helps you both feel and project more confidence.
Stretch your arms to the ceiling, trying to touch it with your fingertips.
Now stretch your arms to the walls on either side of you, trying to touch them.
Bring your arms loosely to your sides, and roll your shoulders up and then back.
INFLATE. Try to take up as much space as possible. Imagine puffing up like a gorilla, doubling in size.” (159)

“High-status, high-confidence body language is characterized by how few movements are made.” (160)

“Nodding once for emphasis or to express agreement is fine and can be an effective communication method, but nodding three or four times in rapid succession is not.” (161)

“Fidgeting decreases presence, thus charisma. Even when you have warmth, confidence, and are mentally present, if you are physically restless, you can’t be charismatic. Your body language is sending distracting signals.” (161)

“Be aware, however, that broadcasting too much power can come across as either arrogant or intimidating for some people. The warmth-enhancing techniques, such as keeping your eyes in soft focus, will counter this. You can also aim to bring your chin down a few degrees – imagine a king bowing his head to a noble emissary. This had a double benefit. It avoids giving the impression that you’re contemptuously looking down your nose at someone and simultaneously makes you appear more thoughtful, attentive, and deliberate as your eyes automatically open wider.” (162)

“Ask them for something they can give without incurring any cost: their opinion. Asking for someone’s opinion is a better strategy than asking for their advice, because giving advice feels like more effort, as they have to tailor a recommendation to your situation, whereas with an opinion, they can just spout whatever is on their mind.” (168)

“The more appreciation you express and the more you show them the impact they’ve had on you, the more they will like you and feel invested in your success. They’ll rationalize in your favor. When you show people how they’ve impacted you, they feel that they’ve in a sense made you. This sense of ownership gives them a vested interest, and they identify with you; you become part of their identity. Therefore, they feel more responsibility for ensuring your success.” (169)

“Hostility is often nothing but the external manifestation of internal turmoil.” (170)

“Write out the e-mail as you normally would, but before you send it, simply cut and paste so that whatever pertains to the other person appears first and most prominently.” (185)

“There are a few tricks to owning the stage… First, when you stand, be sure to have a wide stance, well balanced on both feet… Second, practice without a podium or a lectern… moving comfortably around the stage will make you appear much more confident, powerful, and charismatic… Third, find the right volume to project confidence.” (193)

“As you roam about the stage, give one to two seconds of eye contact per person.” (194)

“It’s really worth paying attention to your tempo because the slower you speak, the more thoughtful and deliberate you will sound, and the more attention people will give to what you say.” (196)

“When you walk on stage, come to the center, face the audience, and stop. Remain completely silent as you count three full seconds while slowly sweeping your eyes across the crowd and making eye contact. This may feel endless, but it will be well worth it.” (196)

“Business moguls and entertainers make mistakes purposefully to make themselves more relatable to the audience.” (198)

“As soon as you start worrying about yourself – wondering how you’re doing, or if this or that sentence was good enough – self-criticism can easily arise. If, instead, you can make it all about your audience – wondering how they’re doing – you take the focus off yourself, lift your self-consciousness, and get into a state of goodwill, which will be read and appreciated by the audience.” (199)

“People who respond to crisis with bold, decisive actions will be perceived as charismatic.” (201)

“Giving people a sense of ownership for your success is a great way to prevent resentment and engender good feelings, such as pride and loyalty, instead.” (208)

“Showing vulnerability and humanity makes you more relatable and helps to avoid the feelings of alienation, which is a real risk when your charisma gives you a touch of the superhuman.” (216)

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“Success and Luck” Quotes

I recently read “Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy” by Robert H. Frank. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, buy the book here.

Success and Luck“Because the contests that mete out society’s biggest prizes are so bitterly competitive, talent and effort alone are rarely enough to ensure victory. In almost every case, a substantial measure of luck is also necessary.” (3)

“Taking a risk means that a successful outcome isn’t certain. So if Varney took risks and was successful, he was lucky by definition!” (5)

“Branko Milanovic has estimated, roughly half of the variance in incomes across persons worldwide is explained by only two factors: country of residence and the income distribution within that country.” (7)

“Napoleon Bonaparte once observed, “Ability is of little account without opportunity.” (7)

“So if you want to be smart and highly energetic, the most important single step you could take is to choose the right parents. But if you have such qualities, on what theory would it make sense for you to claim moral credit for them? YOu didn’t choose your parents, nor did you have much control over the environment in which you were raised. You were just lucky.
Many people don’t like to work hard and also have limited endowments of cognitive abilities and other traits that are highly valued in the marketplace. In the competitive environments most of us inhabit, those people are unlucky.
In short, even if talent and hard work alone were enough to ensure material success – which they are not – luck would remain an essential part of the story. People with a lot of talent and an inclination to work hard are extremely fortunate.” (8)

“Chance events have always mattered, of course, but in some respects they’ve grown more important in recent decades. One reason for that has been the spread and intensification of what the economist Philip Cook and I have called winner-take-all markets. These markets often arise when technology enables the most gifted performers in an arena to extend their reach.” (9)

“In such winner-take-all markets, the quality difference between best and second best is often barely perceptible, but the corresponding difference in rewards can be enormous.” (10)

“It’s one thing to say that someone who works 1 percent harder than others or is 1 percent more talented deserves 1 percent more income. But the importance of chance looms much larger when such small performance differences translate into thousands-fold differences in earnings.
The spread of winner-take-all markets has amplified the importance of chance in a second way. In almost all cases, the prodigious rewards that accrue to a handful of winners in these markets attract enormous numbers of contestants. And the more contestants there are, the more luck matters.” (10)

“Denying the importance of luck may actually help people surmount the many obstacles that litter almost every path to success.” (11)

“Perhaps the most important such obstacle is that most of us find it harder to summon effort when the resulting rewards are either delayed or uncertain. Narratives that stress luck’s importance call attention to the fact that not even the most diligent current efforts can guarantee future success and by so doing may encourage some to sit back and hope for the best.” (11)

“Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon estimated, for example, that couples who spent more than $20,000 on their weddings were more than 12 percent more likely to divorce during any given year than were those who spent between $5,000 and $10,000.” (15)

“The Music Lab findings suggest that many songs (or books or movies) that go on to become hits owe much of their success to the fact that the first people to review them just happened to like them. Works of unambiguously high quality are of course more likely to earn positive early reviews and may succeed even in the face of some negative early commentary. But most artistic endeavors elicit a broad range of subjective evaluations. Some go on to succeed simply because the first people to express their opinions about them publicly just happened to come from the right tail of the opinion distribution. Which is to say, many artistic endeavors owe their success, at least in part, to pure dumb luck.” (31)

“To acknowledge that seemingly trivial random events often matter enormously is not to suggest that success in life is independent of talent and effort. In most competitive arenas, those who do well are almost invariably both highly talented and incredibly hardworking.” (39)

“Charlie Munger has written, “The safest way to try to get what you want is to try to deserve what you want.”” (39)

“It is far more likely that a book of given quality will become a best seller if it was written by an author of earlier best sellers.” (45)

“Winner-take-all markets generally display two characteristic features. One is that rewards depend less on absolute performance than on relative performance… Second is that rewards tend to be highly concentrated in the hands of a few top performers. That can occur for many reasons, but most often it’s a consequence of production technologies that extend a given performer’s reach.” (45-46)

“The top one-thousandth of 1 percent of song titles now account for a much larger proportion of sales (15 percent in 2011, up from only 7 percent in 2007).
Trends for weak-selling titles have also been running counter to the long-tail prediction. THe proportion of titles selling fewer than one hundred copies annually, for example, was 94 percent in 2011, up from 91 percent in 2007.” (48)

“CEOs of the largest American corporations, who were paid forty-two times as much as the average worker as recently as 1980, are now paid more than four hundred times as much.” (51)

“But these global pressures do not account for what’s been happening in the white-collar professions. The growing inequality at the top is even more dramatic than at the bottom, as the most highly compensated corporate managers, lawyers, physicians, and even preachers have pulled away from the pack.” (54)

“Winning a competition with a large number of contestants requires that almost everything go right. And that, in turn, means that even when luck counts for only a trivial part of overall performance, there’s rarely a winner who wasn’t also very lucky.” (63)

“If luck has only a very small effect on performance, why is it so hard to win a large contest unless you’re very lucky? Two factors are involved. One is that the inherent randomness of luck means that the most skilled contestant is no more likely to be lucky than anyone else. The second factor is that with a large number of contestants, there are bound to be many with close to the maximum skill level, and among those at least some will also happen to be very lucky. With very large contestant pools, then, there will almost always be someone who is almost as skillful as the most talented contestant, but is also significantly luckier. So even when luck counts for only a tiny fraction of total performance, the winner of a large contest will seldom be the most skillful contestant, but will usually be one of the luckiest.” (66)

“I emphasize that this isn’t the same as saying that most winners win only because they’re lucky. In highly competitive arenas, most would not have even been realistic contenders had they not been both extremely able and hardworking. It would be grossly unfair, the, to say that most winners didn’t deserve their rewards.” (68)

“Bryan Cranston said, “Luck is a component that a lot of people in the arts sometimes fail to recognize: that you can have talent, perseverance, patience, but without luck you will not have a successful career.” (68)

“People with more realistic beliefs about their talents and about luck’s importance may actually find it more difficult to muster the will to overcome the difficult obstacles that litter every path to success.” (70-71)

“Nondepressed students consistently overestimated the quality of their own performance in tasks at which they succeeded, and underestimated the importance of their own performance in tasks in which they performed poorly.” (73)

“A narrative that openly acknowledges the strong link between success and luck calls explicit attention to this uncertainty. It might thus discourage the very efforts that are so often critical for success.” (76)

“Parents who teach their children that luck doesn’t matter may for that very reason be more likely to raise successful children than parents who tell their children the truth.” (77)

“Pride in one’s achievements is often one of the most powerful motivations to expend the effort it takes to succeed.” (82)

“Liberals are more likely than conservatives to embrace the importance of luck in life.” (83)

“The effects of a decline in any one person’s after-tax income are dramatically different from those of an across-the-board decline. If you alone experience an income decline, you’re less able to buy what you want. But when everyone’s income declines simultaneously, relative purchasing power is unaffected. And it’s relative purchasing power that determines who gets things that are in short supply.” (92)

“Overlooking luck’s role makes those who’ve succeeded at the highest levels feel much more entitled to keep the lion’s share of the income they’ve earned.” (93)

“Of the one hundred largest US counties, those where income inequality grew most rapidly were also those that experienced the largest increases in three important symptoms of financial distress: divorce rates, long commutes, and bankruptcy filings.” (114)

“Because chance events figure prominently along virtually every career trajectory, people who claim complete responsibility for their own success are almost surely claiming more credit than they actually deserve, a move that’s unlikely to make them more attractive to others.” (132)

“In short, it may be in your interest to acknowledge luck’s role in your success if only because people will think better of you for having done so.” (141)

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“Bird by Bird” Quotes

Bird by Bird coverI recently read “Bird by Bird: Some INstructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, please buy the book here.

“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.” (19)

“One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do – you can either type or kill yourself”” (22)

“We need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.” (32)

“As soon as you start protecting your characters from the ramifications of their less-than-lofty behavior, your story will start to feel flat and pointless, just like in real life.” (45)

“One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t.” (47)

“Ethan Canin said, “Nothing is as important as a likeable narrator. Nothing holds a story together better.”

“A person’s faults are largely what make him or her likable.” (50)

“THere’s no point in writing hopeless novels. We all know we’re going to die; what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.” (51)

“John Gardner wrote that the writer is creating a dream into which he or she invites the reader, and that the dream must be vivid and continuous.” (57)

“Drama is the way of holding the reader’s attention. The basic formula for drama is setup, buildup, payoff – just like a joke.” (59)

“Fix instead on who your people are and how they feel toward one another, what they say, how they smell, whom they fear.” (61)

“Sometimes Alice Adams uses a formula when writing a short story, which goes ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending.” (62)

“Dialogue is the way to nail character, so you have to work on getting the voice right.” (67)

“My friend Carpenter talks about the unconscious as the cellar where the little boy sits who creates the characters, and he hands them up to you through the cellar door. He might as well be cutting out paper dolls. He’s peaceful; he’s just playing.” (72)

“Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein.” (97)

“In those moments, you see that you and the chipmunk are alike, are a part of a whole. I think we would see this more often if we didn’t have our conscious minds. THe conscious mind seems to block that feeling of oneness os we can function efficiently, maneuver in the world a little bit better, get our taxes done on time.” (98)

“”The Gulf Stream will flow through a straw provided the straw is aligned to the Gulf Stream, and not at cross purposes with it.” … So now I always tell my students about the Gulf Stream: that what it means for us, for writers, is taht we need to align ourselves with the river of the story, the river of the unconscious, of memory and sensibility, of our characters’ lives, which can then pour through us, the straw.” (121)

“If you want to know how God feels about money, look at whom she gives it to.” (128)

“Historically, when people do too well too quickly, they are a Greek tragedy waiting to happen. I, who did not do too well too quickly and who was in fact not doing too well over time, was actually in the catbird seat.” (128)

“When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand.” (137)

“I told him that the best possible thing was to shoot high and make mistakes, and that when he was old, or dying, he was almost certainly not going ot say, “God! I’m so glad I took so few risks! I’m so glad I kept shooting so low!”” (156)

“To be great, art has to point somewhere.” (205)

“The coach says, “If you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.”” (218)

“If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write striaght into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.” (226)

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“Funny On Purpose” Quotes

I recently read “Funny On Purpose: The Definitive Guide To An Unpredictable Career in Comedy” by Joe Randazzo. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the quotes, click here to buy the book.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 2.15.57 PM“As in all of the arts, fortune favors the persistent much more than the merely talented.” -John Hodgman (12)

“I have never been badly served by stopping before typing a word or taking a step on stage and asking myself: Why am I doing this? What do I have to say – need to say – on this specific day, to this group of people? It takes rigor, and a certain brave honesty, because sometimes the answer is small and dumb.” -John Hodgman (13)

“In a comedy-saturation era, where every joke you can think of has already been made five times, twelve minutes ago, knowing yourself is not merely essential to being funny, it is more important than being funny.” -John Hodgman (13)

“The seven traits of highly successful comedy people: 1. Self-Doubt 2. Excellent Procrastination Skills 3. Fear of the Unknown 4. Laziness 5. Fear of Failure 6. Poor Planning 7. A Need to Express Something to the World” (15)

“A character who innocently and earnestly pushes stupid, even dangerous ideas is infinitely funnier than a character who speaks in wisecracks.” -Jack Handey (23)

“It’s funnier – and perhaps more sympathetic – if a character doesn’t know that he’s being mean. If he’s oblivious and actually thinks he’s nice.” -Jack Handey (24)

“The two primary functions of comedy are: to push the bounds of comfort and to challenge authority. Without these two principles – and an important and universal third principle, which is to smear the edges of tragedy with a shared sense of the absurd – one does not have comedy.” (38)

“If The Onion is doing its job right, each article should offend at least a thousand people.” (40)

“When I’m running a show, I’m really looking for jokes from new writers. It’s great if they have story pitches. I mean, we need them, but a great way to contribute is to really listen to want the room and show runner want and pitch within that framework.” -Danny Zuker (76)

“The worst thing any writer can do is get married to their ideas. Write a book if you want final say, but in TV it’s collaborative. And don’t take a rejection of your jokes or stories as a rejection of you. You really need to take it with a smile and keep pitching.” (76)

“Cut anything that you wouldn’t read aloud in front of the people you hope will hire you. Then go through and do it again. ANd again, and again. I know that less than 1 percent of comedy writers actually do this, but I also know that 97 percent of that 1 percent are currently working on a show somewhere.” (79)

“There are five essential building blocks of great comedy performance… Relatability, timing, shamelessness, yelling and vulnerability.” (124)

“The job of the comedy performer is to be able to expose the raw inner animal of the human being at a moment’s notice – to look like a fool. If there’s even a hint of worry or concern about how one will look, the spell is broken and the comedy is dead.” (124)

“A good primal yell is equal to thirty-seven solid spit takes or nine pratfalls. It represents the deepest, least-eloquent form of communication, the bottom rung of emotion, hopelessness, the last straw. In other words: comedy itself.” (125)

“Liana Maeby said, “In some ways, the best career advice might be to figure out how to get to a place where you can be happy for other people’s success.” (136)

“Good characters are funny because of who they are and how they act, not necessarily because they tell jokes.” (190)

“The key is knowing the intention of the scene. If you know you have to et from A to B, and you have to hit certain emotions and story points to be clear, you can have fun along the way, but the intention of the scene must be the same.” -Judd Apatow (215)

“When considering the business of comedy, these are the core questions:
What are you selling?
Who will buy it?
What do they want from it?
How does it compare to everything else in the marketplace?” (301)

“Any good show usually starts from character.” -Kate Adler (317)

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