“The Charisma Myth” Quotes

I 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 them, buy the whole book here.

“Charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.” (4)

“When we first meet someone, we instinctively assess whether that person is a potential friend or foe and whether they have the power to enact those intentions. Power and intentions are what we’re aiming to assess. ‘Could you move mountains for me? And would you care to do so?’” (5)

“When you meet a charismatic person, you get the impression that they have a lot of power and they like you a lot… A final dimension underlies both of these qualities: presence.” (5)

“The three crucial aspects of charisma: presence, power and warmth.” (6)

“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.” (10)

“People will tend to accept whatever you project.” (19)

“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 likable, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as overeager, subservient, or desperate to please.” (20)

“We can’t micromanage charismatic body language.” (21)

“Our body language expresses our mental state whether we like it or not. Our facial expressions, voice, posture, and all the other components of body language reflect our mental and emotional condition every second. Because we don’t control this flow consciously, whatever is in our head will show up in our body language.” (21)

“To be effective, charismatic behaviors must originate in your mind.” (22)

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

“Because your brain cannot distinguish imagination from reality, imaginary situations cause your brain to send your body the same commands as it would for a real situation.” (24)

“Whatever your mind believes, your body will manifest. Just by getting into a charismatic mental state, your body will manifest a charismatic body language.” (25)

“Charisma has three essential components: presence, power and warmth.” (26)

“Any physical discomfort 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)

“Check in with your face from time to time; notice if it is tense.” (31)

“Responsibility transfer:

1. Sit comfortably or lie down, relax, and close your eyes.

2. 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 worries and concerns.

3. Pick an entity-God, Fate, the Universe, whatever may best suit your beliefs-that you could imagine as benevolent.

4. 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. They’re in charge now.

5. Visually lift everything off your shoulders and feel the difference as you 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.

The next time you feel yourself considering alternative outcomes to a situation, pay close attention. If your brain is going around in circles, obsessing about possible outcomes, try a responsibility transfer to alleviate some of the anxiety. Consider that there might be an all-powerful entity-the Universe, God, Fate-and entrust it with all the worries on your mind.” (34-35)

“Try a responsibility transfer to alleviate some of the anxiety.” (35)

“Few things impact people’s performance more than how they feel about themselves.” (38)

“To destigmatize, remind yourself that this internal discomfort, whatever it might be, is a normal part of the human experience and a by=product of one of our brain’s survival mechanisms.” (44)

“Depersonalize the experience. Rather than saying “I’m feeling ashamed,” try “There is shame being felt.” Imagine that you’re a scientist observing a phenomenon.” (50)

“Neutralizing Negativity

Use the techniques below anytime you’d like to lessen the effects of persistent negative thoughts. As you try each technique, pay attention to which ones work best for you and keep practicing them until they become instinctive. You may also discover some of your own that work just as well.

• Don’t assume your thoughts are accurate. Just because your mind comes up with something doesn’t necessarily mean it has any validity. Assume you’re missing a lot of elements, many of which could be positive.

• See your thoughts as graffiti on a wall or as little electrical impulses flickering around your brain.

• Assign a label to your negative experience: self-criticism, anger, anxiety, etc. Just naming what you are thinking and feeling can help you neutralize it.

• Depersonalize the experience. Rather than saying “I’m feeling ashamed,” try “There is shame being felt.” Imagine that you’re a scientist observing a phenomenon: “How interesting, there are self-critical thoughts arising.”

• Imagine seeing yourself from afar. Zoom out so far, you can see planet Earth hanging in space. Then zoom in to see your continent, then your country, your city, and finally the room you’re in. See your little self, electrical impulses whizzing across your brain. One little being having a particular experience at this particular moment.” (50)

“We’re learning here to neutralize unhelpful thoughts. We want to avoid falling into the trap of arguing with them or trying to suppress them. This would only make matters worse.” (51)

“Because trying to suppress a self-critical thought only makes it more central to your thinking, it’s a far better strategy to simply aim to neutralize it.” (51)

“When people are induced into a negative emotional state and then asked to suppress negative emotions, their internal negative experience often remains unchanged and they sustain elevated stress responses in their brain and cardiovascular system.” (52)

“But what if you happened to learn that this apparently reckless driver was actually a distraught mother whose baby was choking in the backseat, and she was desperately trying to pull over into the breakdown lane while reaching back to save her baby’s life? Would that immediately reduce your anger?” (52)

“Deciding to change your belief about what happened (technically called cognitive reappraisal) effectively decreases the brain’s stress levels.” (53)

“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)

“I sat down at the desk, pulled out pen and paper and asked myself: What if this unfortunate, unpleasant experience is absolutely perfect just as it is – the insomnia, the nausea, the fact that this is happening the very night before a high-profile assignment? In what way can this turn out to be absolutely perfect for me?” (54)

“I continued to write all the possible upsides of this unfortunate experience. I made this new reality as detailed and sensory-rich as possible: describing what I said, what the audience looked like, when and how they nodded and laughed throughout my speech.” (54)

“Write in the present tense: “The speech is going well…” Or, even better, in the past tense: “The speech was a complete triumph…” (56)

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

“Putting It into Practice: Getting Satisfaction

• Think of one person in your life who has aggrieved you.

• Take a blank page and write that person a letter saying anything and everything you wish you had ever told them. Really get into this-you have nothing to lose. Make sure you write it out by hand.

• When you’ve gotten absolutely everything off your mind and onto paper, put the letter aside.

• Take a fresh sheet and write their response just the way you wish they would respond. You might have them taking responsibility for their actions, acknowledging and apologizing for everything they’ve ever done that hurt you. You don’t need to find any justification for their actions, just an acknowledgment and an apology. It’s your imagination, so you get to decide exactly what you’d like to hear.” (57)

“The answer, surprisingly, is to delve into those very sensations of discomfort. That’s right. Though it sounds counterintuitive, rather than trying to suppress, ignore, or power through them, your goal is to give your full attention to the very sensations you’d instinctively want to push away.” (61)

“The next time you do this exercise, aim to create images that are even more detailed. Guided imagery must be precise, vivid, and detailed to be effective.” (70)

“When clients ask me if they should use visualization before an important speech, I answer, “Only if you want it to go really well!”” (72)

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)

“A twenty-second hug is enough to send oxytocin coursing through your veins, and that you can achieve the same effect just by imagining the hug. So the next time you’re feeling anxious, you might want to imagine being wrapped up in a great big hug from someone you care about.” (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)

“One way to invoke a sense of gratitude is to focus on little things that are physically present.” (76)

“Another good gratitude-enhancing tool is to view your life through a third-person lens, writing a narrative about yourself cast in a positive light.” (76)

“​​When our only aim is to broadcast goodwill, it takes the pressure off.” (80) 

“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… even if these are as small as “their shoes are shined” or “they were on time.”” (80) 

“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)

“Paul Gilbert describes the process of accessing compassion as follows: first comes empathy, the ability to understand what someone is feeling, to detect distress; second, sympathy, being emotionally moved by dis-tress; and third, compassion, which arises with the desire to care for the well-being of the distressed person.” (82)

“You can think your way into compassion even if you don’t naturally feel it.” (82)

“Putting It into Practice: Compassion

Goodwill and compassion give you warmth to balance your power, and can save you from appearing overconfident or, worse, arrogant.

They can also be a stealth tool, a silver bullet that turns around difficult conversations.

Take the three steps below to practice compassion for someone you know:

1. Imagine their past. What if you had been born in their circumstances, with their family and upbringing? What was it like growing up in their family situation with whatever they experienced as a child? It’s often said that everyone you meet has stories to tell, and that everyone has a few that would break your heart. Consider also that if you had experienced everything they have experienced, perhaps you would have turned out just like they have.

2. Imagine their present. Really try to put yourself in their shoes right now. Imagine what it feels like to be them today.

Put yourself in their place, be in their skin, see through their eyes. Imagine what they might be feeling right now-all the emotions they might be holding inside.

3. If you really need compassion dynamite, look at them and ask: What if this were their last day alive? You can even imagine their funeral. You’re at their funeral, and you’re asked to say a few words about them. You can also imagine what you’d say to them after they’d already died.” (83)

“Helen had plenty of self-confidence. So what was she lacking? Warmth. People were impressed by how much she knew, but they didn’t feel cared for. Helen couldn’t emanate warmth because she had a hard time feeling it-whether for others or for herself.“ (84)

“Self-confidence is our belief in our ability to do or to learn how to do something. Self-esteem is how much we approve of or value ourselves. I’s often a comparison-based evaluation (whether measured against other people or against our own internal standards for approval). Self-compassion is how much warmth we can have for ourselves, especially when we are going through a difficult experience.” (84)

“Self-compassion is feeling that what happened to you is unfortunate, whereas self-pity is feeling that what happened to you is unfair.” (85)

“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 were going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.” (86)

“Displaying confident body language will actually make you feel more confident; these feelings will in turn affect your body language.” (91)

“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.

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 rib cage expanding, doubling in size make the biggest smile you can and look upward, hold for a second, and then relax everything.” (92)

“I decided that I was a movie star incognito.” (93)

“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.” (97)

“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.” (105)

“To project power and confidence in your body language, you’ll need to learn how to “take up space” with your posture, reduce nonverbal reassurances (such as excessive nodding), and avoid fidgeting.” (106)

“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.” (123) 

“Continue with an open-ended question, such as “What’s the story behind it?”” (123)

“If they start asking about you and you want to refocus the conversation on them, use the bounce back technique. Answer the question with a fact, add a personal note, and redirect the question to them, as follows:

Other Person: “So where are you moving to?”” (124)

“Remember, it’s all about keeping the spotlight on them for as long as possible.” (124)

“Instead of saying “I read a great article on that subject in the New York Times,” try “You might enjoy the recent New York Times article on the subject.” Or simply insert “You know…” before any sentence to make them instantly perk up and pay attention.” (124)

“We are about to cover three keys to communicating presence: attentive listening, refraining from interrupting, and deliberate pausing.” (129)

“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)

“First, think about how you would behave if you were indeed speaking to the most important person in the room.” (135)

“imagine that the person you’re speaking with is the main star in a movie you’re watching right now.” (135)

“I tell all my clients: Don’t try to impress people. Let them impress you, and they will love you for it.” (136)

“Studies have consistently shown that audience ratings of a lecture are more strongly influenced by delivery style than by content.” (139)

“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)

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

“Putting It into Practice: Vocal Power

The guidelines below will help you broadcast power through your voice.

1. Speak slowly. Visualize the contrast between a nervous, squeaky teenager speaking at high speed and the slow, emphatic tone of a judge delivering a verdict.

2. Pause. People who broadcast confidence often pause while speaking. They will pause for a second or two between sentences or even in the middle of a sentence. This conveys the feeling that they’re so confident in their power, they trust that people won’t interrupt.

3. Drop intonation. You know how a voice rises at the end of a question? Just reread the last sentence and hear your voice go up at the end. Now imagine an assertion: a judge saying

“This case is closed.” Feel how the intonation of the word closed drops. Lowering the intonation of your voice at the end of a sentence broadcasts power. When you want to sound superconfident, you can even lower your intonation midsentence.

4. Check your breathing. Make sure you’re breathing deeply into your belly and inhale and exhale through your nose rather than your mouth. Breathing through your mouth can make you sound breathless and anxious.” (141)

“There’s only one thing you need to do in order to project more warmth in your voice: smile. Smiling affects how we speak to such an extent that listeners in one study could identify sixteen different kinds of ~ smiles based on sound alone.’ This is why it’s worth smiling even when on the phone.” (142)

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

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

“​​If your body language is anticharismatic, it doesn’t matter how great your message is.” (144)

“As a leader, the emotions conveyed by your body language, even during brief, casual encounters, can have a ripple effect through your team or even your entire company.” (145)

“The first is excessive or rapid nodding. 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)

“The second hindrance is excessive verbal reassurance: making a sound, such as “uh-huh,” or a half-sentence, such as “Oh, I agree.” Done once, and consciously, this is fine; multiple times per sentence is not.” (161)

“The third issue is restlessness or fidgeting (tapping your pencil or foot, or rearranging items on the table). 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.” (161)

“Aim to bring your chin down a few degrees.” (162)

“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)

“Imagine that just a few hours ago they saw a beloved parent die.” (171)

“Here’s one specific— and surprisingly effective-recommendation for phone charisma, courtesy of author Leil Lowndes: Do not answer the phone in a warm or friendly manner. Instead, answer crisply and professionally. Then, only after you hear who is calling, let warmth or even enthusiasm pour forth in your voice. This simple technique is an easy and effective way to make people feel special.” (185)

“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)

“I often recommend that they go through their marketing materials (you can do the same with your e-mails) using two different-colored highlighters, one for things relating to them and the other for sentences that speak to their potential clients. If the second color doesn’t predominate, they have a problem.”” (185)

“It’s hard to have a question-and-answer period as compelling and energetic as your main speech. Almost inevitably, the Q&A period lowers the energy.” (190)

“Personally, I avoid formal Q&A entirely. Instead, my introducer warns the audience that there will be no Q&A session at the end, so their one and only chance to ask questions is during the speech.” (190)

“• Red conveys energy, passion. Wear red to wake up an audience.

• Black shows you’re serious and that you won’t take no for an answer.

• White exudes honesty and innocence, which is why defendants often choose it in the courtroom.

• Blue emits trust. The darker the shade, the deeper the level of trust it elicits.

• Gray is a good neutral, the quintessential color of business.

• Orange and yellow are not recommended. Because they are the first to attract the human eye, they are also the first to tire it.” (191)

“Express high expectations. Sometimes, simply assigning to people the labels you want them to live up to is enough” (202)

“Express this expectation as if you have full confidence that they can live up to it.” (203)

“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)

Liked the quotes? Buy the full book here.

“When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead” Quotes

I recently re-read (without realizing it!) “When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From A Persuasive Man” by Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“A person is a kind of memory machine. You collect, and sort, and remember, then you tell.” (xi)

“It was the beginning of my life as a working man. I got the jacket, of course, wore it till I lost it, but, by then, the jobs I had taken to buy the jacket had become more important to me than the jacket itself had ever been. At some point, you forget the object, and the means becomes the end. You work for the joy of the work. My father must have known this would happen.” (16)

“Over time, the neighborhood took on a different aspect for me. I saw it with new eyes. It was no longer just streets and stores: It was needs and opportunities, money to be made. Once you see the world this way, things are never the same.” (19)

“This much I knew: As soon as you feel comfortable, that’s when it’s time to start over.” (27)

“These are people (artists and actors) who do not make a product, perform an essential service, or, as my father would say, have an inventory, so even the most successful of them are haunted by the following thought: “Who really needs what I’m making?”” (33)

“An artist who attempts to get into business – to do what I do, produce or deal or whatever – is an artist who has stopped being an artist.” (34)

“Do not get attached to the world as it is, because the world is changing, something new is coming, every ten years a big hand comes down and sweeps the dishes off the table.” (38)

“Grunt jobs are often the most instructive – they allow you to flow through an organization unnoticed.” (39)

“The job of an agent is, in part, anyway, to bullshit and schmooze: How better to find talent than by seeing who can talk his way into a career? From usher to mailroom to secretariat pool to my own office.” (42)

“I have a theory. If you act like you’re in charge, no one will stop you.” (59)

“I go up to this security guard with a piece of paper in my hand and ask him a bunch of questions – “How long is your present shift?” “Did you find your training adequate to the task?” say, “Thanks, you’re doing a great job,” pat him on the shoulder, then walk past him to the elevators.” (59)

“I asked Mr. Disney what he was drawing. It was not Micky hitting Goofy with a club. It was a design for the bathing suit Deborah Walley would wear in Bon Voyage. He did not have a costume designer do it. He did it himself. The man was intense, but in an admirable way. He believed he had to control his product, utterly, as the product was really just him in another way.” (62)

“Nothing is more important than a relationship. It trumps politics, party, club. People are what matter.” (68)

“I am still the same kid who ran away from the Bronx. Life is strange – you travel so far, do so much, but the people you look for at the end are often the same people you looked for at the beginning.” (70)

“The man who rides in style often rides away with the big contract.” (74)

“When the man says no, pretend you can’t hear him. Look confused, stammer, say, “Huh?” Persistence – it’s a cliche, but it happens to work. The person who makes it is the person who keeps on going after everyone else has quit. This is more important than intelligence, pedigree, even connections. Be dogged! Keep hitting that door until you bust it down! I have accomplished almost nothing on the first or second or even the third try – the breakthrough usually comes late, when everyone else has left the field.” (76)

“The Colonel once scolded me, saying, “To you guys from the coasts, the country is New York and LA. Everything in between is just the blur you fly over. But I’ll tell you, that blur is where the audiences lives and where you make your money.” (80)

“To understand this country, you must understand the paintings in the Whitney Museum in New York, or know how to pretend to, but you must also understand the flamingos in Colonel Tom’s garden.” (80)

“Elvis was older than me. He was also the biggest star in the world. Yet he called me sir. It’s how he was raised. He was uneducated and country, but really, in many ways, a true gentleman.” (82)

“Let the other guy save face with his people, but keep score.” (98)

“Once you’ve established yourself, you can, to some extent, let business find you. You become a beacon, a door into a better life. “Can you do for me what you did for Elvis?” In other words, people seek you out.” (99)

“This is another part of the job: being able to cross frontiers, move from culture to culture, making everyone believe you are a fully committed citizen of each.” (103)

“Dean worked as a blackjack dealer in the Beverly Hills Club in Cincinnati. Dean’s whole philosophy was that everybody on the other side of the table is a sucker. Whoever he was dealing to was by definition a sucker. And when he got on stage, everybody in the audience was a sucker, too. That’s why he sang the way he did, cocky and nonchalant – because he was singing to the suckers. He couldn’t believe people actually paid to hear him.” (106)

“What had started as a ploy to snap Frank out of his depression had turned into a major deal – handled wrong, it could turn into a major embarrassment. At such times, I become obsessed with details. That’s where God is, so that’s where I go, with my notebook and phone numbers and head full of ideas.” (111)

“Sinatra taught me about spontaneity that night – this, too, helped me as a film producer. Live, let it happen. There’s never a better take than the first: Sinatra knew that in his bones.” (114)

“I sat and listened. John Denver made a connection immediately. That’s how it was with him – his talent. With each song, you felt he had opened his chest and was showing you his beating heart.” (119)

“You can evolve and grow but you should never resent your thing. If you look at how few artists actually make it, you will recognize that those trademarks, though in some ways limiting, are a gift of providence.” (121)

“At times, I used my other clients to break John. Fame is a private party. You can dazzle your way in with talent, or you can be vouched for. How far this can be carried depends entirely on who is doing the vouching.” (121)

“The song, the tour, the public appearances – these were a means to an end, which was not merely to have a hit, but to turn John Denver into a star: not a star in prospect, but a star now and yesterday, someone who has already happened, so accomplished it’s no longer up for debate. It’s why I did not present John Denver as an exciting find, or as someone who had recently been playing to an empty house in Greenwich Village, but as talent that had already made it, an accomplished fact. I sold him in the past tense, as someone you’ve known about for years. I was telling the audience to relax and enjoy, as the judgment has already been made. You love him! In this way, we skipped several steps, jumping directly from the early days of struggle to the golden years.” (122)

“If a bunch of men are discussing you, meeting about you, and scheming to destroy you, it probably means you’re doing something right.” (135)

“Work with the best people. If you have the best writers, the best actors, and the best director and fail, okay, fine, there is even something noble in it; but if you fail with garbage, then you are left with nothing to hang your spirits on.” (167)

“Was I there for every recital, or play, or concert? No, I was working. It’s nearly impossible to succeed in the world and also succeed in the house, which means, at some level, even if you do not realize it, you make a choice.” (177)

“Everyone stood when George Burns came in. For the actors, reading with him was like taking batting practice with Babe Ruth. But he was an old man, so you could not help but wonder how he would handle his lines. When we started reading, though, it was obvious he knew not only his part, but every part in the script. If John Denver fumbled, George Burns would correct him. He was incredible.” (183)

“As I always say, “Better too late than too early.” Too late means you look slow but still make a bundle. Too early means you look like you’ve lost your mind, and you get people shouting, “Kill that idiot.” But it also means there is a chance for rediscovery.” (187)

“It’s a danger of success: You’re a kid, and want only to be heard; then you are heard, by everybody, all the time, but your thought is, either, “Well, yeah, great, but now what?” or “Yes, they hear me, but it’s not the real me, not the voice I have in my head, or the person I want to be.” (198)

“You have to be willing to walk away from the most comfortable perch, precisely because it is the most comfortable.” (204)

“It’s nearly impossible to sell a story that has no grand concept, reads intimate and small, and is moody in the way a song can be moody – you get it or don’t. It was like trying to sell jazz to a person who’s never heard of Coltrane.” (206)

“With Armand, the event was always less interesting than the show. He wanted to be in the action, to see and be seen. He made a study of human drama – it was his life’s work. He was fascinated by everyone, high and low. He wanted to find out everything. He had a special interest in charisma and power, in great men, the special few who worked their will on history. Hammer participated, but he also observed. In this, he exhibited a kind of active detachment. He was in the game but removed from the game, playing and watching himself play. He made a spectacle of himself but enjoyed watching that spectacle.” (226)

“People think that Hollywood and politics operate in different spheres – they don’t. The world is very small at the top, with a few thousand players running everything. For a producer, an actor, a banker, a politician – name your celebrity – crossing genres is less a matter of making connections with the leaders of other industries than of climbing high enough in your own to reach the place where all lines converge.” (229)

“From Kennedy I learned that the best politicians are not different from movie stars. They charm, communicate, command. The good ones never make you feel isolated or small, as if they have something you don’t. Quite the opposite. They include you in their world, enlarge you, make you recognize the best qualities in yourself.” (230)

“At one point, I realized that everyone in the room had been on the cover of Time magazine. Secretaries of state, presidents, vice presidents. But when Reagan came in, everything stopped, everyone stared, then they rushed to him like moths to a flame. Whatever moment he was in became his moment. Whatever room he entered became his room. Some people have that. It’s the intangible quality that sells tickets and pulls nations out of funks. It’s where politics becomes showbiz, and showbiz becomes transcendent. A movie or a piece of art can save your life in the same way your life can be saved by a policy or law. This is why politicians seek out movie stars, and why movie stars want to become politicians. They seek the same target, which is the soul of the people.” (231)

“The Rebbe comforted me about life and death. He made me see that my general, uneducated sense of the world – that there is a God, an order, a plan – was not superstition or error, but correct, built into me for a reason, as my heart or lungs are built into me. Without it, I could not live. Which is why you need more than material things. I mean, yes, the material can be nice. I like having what I have, but I know none of it is mine, that we are only renters on earth, that even our bodies belong to someone else. Which is why you hunger even when you’ve had your fill. Life will never satisfy if it is experienced only as the rise and fall of commerce. You need to see yourself as part of something larger that never dies.” (240)

“As I hired staff and began planning projects, I realized he had given me the title but not the job. A title without a job is the worst of all worlds: it means taking all the blame while getting none of the credit and having none of the fun.” (244)

“The rooms had floor-to-ceiling windows through which you could see hills and cars moving in the canyons. There was art on the walls, shag on the floors, Perrier in the refrigerators, no expense spared. People judge on first sight, so make those surfaces shine. If you want to be seen as a major, look like a major.” (245)

“You grow into the suit. As a philosophy this means operation gon confidence, in the belief that something will happen, that the trick will work, that the backup will arrive with the heavy guns. It’s how America has operated from the beginning.” (245)

“I loved making movies, which resulted in hits, which increased my love, which sparked a desire for control, which caused me to start my own studio, which – and here is the paradox – took me out of the movie business and put me in the company running business, occupied not with writers and artists, but with health-care plans, office rivalries, and infighting. I had, in a sense, promoted myself right out of the job I always wanted, which was telling stories, producing. I lost touch with the films, which were now being made for me instead of by me and thus were no longer Jerry Weintraub Productions.” (246)

“Steve Ross, CEO of Warner Communications said, “What are you worrying about? You are a talented guy. That talent did not go away. The company went away? So what! Companies always go away. They’re a dime a dozen. It’s talent that counts!” (248)

“I learned how to act – and I am not saying I’m a good actor, only that I’m comfortable in front of a camera – after I learned how to stop acting.” (249)

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“Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama” Quotes

I recently read “Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama” by Bob Odenkirk. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book here.

“I tried just as hard at the stuff that didn’t work as I did at the stuff that worked.” (xiv)

“Now I find myself in “drama,” of all things – comedy’s enemy. In the past decade or so, I have been called upon not to mock but to empathize with humanity, to discover dignity in every character, even when the character’s most notable quality is his lack of dignity. It’s a new kind of challenge, approaching humanity’s foibles from a sympathetic stance, my work is turned inside out. For the first thirty years of my career, I did nothing but compromise my character’s dignity.” (xv)

“Janet Coleman told me, “You know what Del did that was truly amazing? He didn’t commit suicide. He figured out other things to do.”” (13)

“My mom is also very funny, but she doesn’t know it. She was always a big fan of not thinking too highly of yourself, or anyone else for that matter. This is a base component for good comedy thinking and writing – a lack of respect for the world and one’s place in it.” (16)

“Monty Python was comedy with a kick. It never winked or suggested that ‘We’re all in on it.’ Instead it maintained its point of view and said, ‘We’re in, and whoever doesn’t get it is out.’ It felt great to find my people.” (19)

“To me, the best comedy has an anger in it, and I still don’t like comedy that lacks a touch of that anger. It’s like “smooth jazz” – a waste of jazz.” (19)

“You are a pro the second you take that crumpled, sweaty, possibly counterfeit twenty.” (34)

“Besides writing good stuff and presenting it well, you have to give some thought to how the audience comes to it, and what they signed up for. They’re good people, that ol’ audience, but if they paid for a greasy hamburger, then a deftly seared steak will only bum them out.” (37)

“This was another thing that separated me from “real” stand-ups: their brazen disregard for being liked. The hardcore stand-ups I know all have proud stories of “walking the room,” performing their act to an unappreciative or hostile audience and digging in on it until they all disperse.” (41)

“There was no obvious route to fame, or even a “career” … Every day was just Write something funny today, then see what happens.” (42)

“On Monday of my third week at SNL, I took out a legal pad and wrote:
Use the Host!
Write for the Ladies!
Something topical! Read the news!

One Set! No films!
Loud and/or Recurring Characters!!” 

I figured out that if I could incorporate two of these strictures into a sketch, it would greatly improve my chance of getting something on the show. Sound like no fun? It was! Reverse-engineering comedy is an inspiration killer, but it’s a good list if you ever get hired there, so tear this page out and stuff it in your pocket.” (58)

“I was trying too hard, but the more I failed, the more I tried. It’s a sick cycle afflicts many a fresh SNL writer.” (59)

“It’s wonderful that the audience is there, but you mustn’t listen to them; they don’t know what’s good.” (61)

“You don’t want to put your good stuff out there (at the Monday meeting) because you want a fresh energy to greet your golden idea when it’s read at Wednesday read-through.” (61)

“I revered writing, but performing completed the journey. It was the payoff for the pain of writing!” (68)

“Adam Sandler was having a good time. The intimidation factor of SNL, of the big time, of more experienced people around him, did not faze Adam. He would happily pitch the thinnest of notions, and he had a blast doing it, and his good energy was infectious. I needed some of that. It was the opposite of this brainy math-problem pursuit of the “craft” of sketch writing, and a great reminder that, especially in comedy, performance matters more than writing or ideas. Loony behavior trumps clever constructions… Of course, if you have both, well, then you got something truly great.” (79)

“From the start, I had wanted to be part of a team that made the show its own. But that show is bigger than any team. It’s justifiably a juggernaut, and it’s hard to wrangle it into any writer’s personal voice. Only Michael O’Donoghue and Adam McKay seemed to me to have done some version of this: been a “star writer” whose work is distinctive and takes the show in a unique direction. Basically, I had to realize that I wanted what every comedy writer wants: my own damn show.” (80)

“Animation seemed like a lot of work – no time to focus on my own material. I was right about that – animation allows for numerous rounds of rethinking and rewriting and the Simpsons writers I knew put in long days with no time for doing their own projects on the side. My whole life is side projects!” (83)

“The best thing about Fox at the time was they had no idea what they were doing. Awkward beginnings are when good things can still happen. Once a network knows what works, well… chances are no longer taken. Something beautiful dies with success: the freedom to flail. But for now, and for the next few years, Fox would flail, and I would benefit. I’ve learned that, just like Del, “I belong in struggling organizations.” (85)

“After a while you just can’t keep not being genuine; you run out of gas.” (87)

“David Cross described “alternative comedy” simply as “comedy without the cadence.”” (93)

“There was one more lesson, one I’d been learning my whole career: get your stuff in front of the right audience.” (98)

“The agency doesn’t matter – the agent matters.” (109)

“Garry Shandling was maniacally focused, utterly consumed in the pursuit of perfection. But is there such a thing as perfection in what we do? There is not. Everyone has to come to their own terms with that conundrum; Garry never quit wanting to achieve total mastery.” (11)

David Cross said, “I resented how hard and long you were expecting me, the guy who liked to start drinking at four and going to see bands and ‘living life man!,’ to work. But you expected that from everyone you worked with, because that’s how you worked, because that’s how much work was needed to be done to get it right. And of course you were right.”

“We put each show up only one time. If you were network exec/agent/heat seeker, you HAD to attend the show when we did it. We never repeated material, so you would have missed it completely.” (122)

“Every two months or so for the next year and a half, we would do a live show, with filmed pieces interconnecting with the live performance stuff, showing everyone exactly what we wanted to do on the TV.” (122)

“We made our way forward employing THE THREE STEPS TO SUCESS IN SHOWBIZ:
1. Persistence

2. Begging
3. Waiting – then start again at the top.” (123)

“Chris Albrecht said, “Whatever you do, make it something you would never see on regular TV… It doesn’t matter if people actually watch the show, just so long as they think they should watch it.” … he was saying, “Fuck the ratings – make something worth talking about…” (125)

“There was a lot of luck alongside the years of preparation and intense focus that made Mr. Show happen, but meeting Troy miller was probably the biggest piece of luck in the luck bag.” (128)

“I ran the writers’ room in an opposite manner to every room I’d been in before this one. Instead of beating ideas up, especially weak ones, this gang would build them up – especially weak ones. You’d pitch a bad idea, or bring in a weak first draft, it would lie there, and I would ask, “It’s kind funny – what was the funniest moment in there for you?” and we could find that funny moment and build it out.” (133)

“Our writing process, “make it work,” transformed many a half-assed notion into hard laughs. But, even better, writers didn’t pitch crap that they didn’t want to talk about, only stuff they had a genuine good feeling about.” (133)

“Unlike Chris Farley, Jack Black had more confidence in his talents and himself – good for him. Demons wilt at genuine self-confidence.” (152)

“The script we produced has more funny lines than the Fast and the Furious films have automobiles, but funny lines won’t save yer film.” (157)

“Just as in every filming experience ever, every scene was turning out better than it seemed on the page; an experienced filmmaker knows that this tells you nothing at all.” (158)

“If I’m going to fail, at least let me do it by my own hand.” (160)

“Karma is a bitch! Be nice to people! You can be right without being a dick about it!” (161)

“Bernie Brillstein was in my corner, encouraging me, and he was always the last to let go. In fact, I would be the one talking him down when the network said no. “Bernie, it’s okay; they’re right, it wasn’t panning out. We did our best. Here, I got a new thing…” I always had a new thing, and I think Bernie loved that about me.” (169)

“Bernie had had a long career and a front-row seat to so many fringe ideas that blew up big (SNL, the Muppets), so he knew that the fringe is where truly big stuff is invented.” (169)

“One more failure I have to alert you to before we get into worldwide success and golden days. Because, you fool, failure is where it’s at! It tells you more about anyone’s talent and drive and self than anything that works. Pay attention – it all works out in the end.” (170)

“The moving sidewalk in LAX Terminal 4 goes on forever in the perfect opening sequence of The Graduate, and that can be how the biz feels. Like you are moving but getting nowhere. You’re getting compliments from your peers, and execs and heat seekers tell you, “you’re really special,” “We want ot work with you,” “Bring us whatever you got” … but then, nothing. I know the feeling.” (176)

“Life is a “tale told by an idiot” – int this case, two idiots – and that can be a meaningful thing to share when you’re feeling disconnected or down.” (182)

“I enjoyed directing too much and wanted another film too badly to do the simple, first, job of a director – pick a story you really, really love.” (190)

“The writers were busy with bigger projects, so there was no time for the reworking, something all films demand.” (192)

“I didn’t fall in love (like) with acting until years later; it was always secondary to digging thoughts out of my head and putting them on paper to get a laugh – real man’s work.” (197)

“But even more than the specific character, the way the show wa smade – improvised form a script – was the big attraction. The looseness of this shooting style is the most pure fun you can have as an actor.” (198)

“One trick for surviving Hollywood’s beatdown is to keep making new things in spite of every “no.”” (198)

“Blue is the color of the third rewrite, or fourth – I can never keep track, but it’s pretty final. You should definitely memorize the blue pages, young actor.” (205)

“On most comedies, it’s considered good to know most of your lines, pretty much in the right order, and you are encouraged to “have fun,” as in: MAKE IT FUNNIER, please.” (206)

“Lesson: WRITERS, ESPECIALLY COMEDY WRITERS, SHOULD ALWAYS BE PUTTING THEIR WORK IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. Get those laughs. Or call up them crickets. When you write comedy, you need to have an audience in mind, sitting right there, eager to laugh, or scowl and grunt disapprovingly. Doing brief live tours had become a lifeline in my lost wandering through these Hollywood development years.” (218)

“‘What the hell?’ you ask. ‘Don’t you want to be a star?! Isn’t that why you got into show business?’

Well… NO. Haven’t you been reading this goddamn book for hours now?! I don’t give a shit about that stuff. I am in this to entertainmyself. Here’s how much fame I need: ‘just enough’ and no more.” (220)

“The biggest reason tos ay yes to this offer was what I’d learned from the Del Close School of Trying Crazy Shit. Do something hard, something tha tyou will probably fail at, something that tests you adn excites you and takes you places you didn’t know you would ever go to. Buy the little brown bottle with the label worn off and wallow it (metaphorically speaking).” (221)

“Somewhere in the first season (of Better Call Saul), I wrote a little note to myself: “Every line is emotional.” Which is not entirely true, let’s say it’s mostly true – or at least it’s a good guide to finding the purpose of all of Saul’s chatter. I am always looking for the emotional underpinnings of any line or moment in a scene – so I’m nto just memorizing lines, I’m memorizing feelings, which stick inside you deeper. But you need to know the lines, too – they just tend to come easier if you’re following the emotional journey.” (227)

“Whose side are we on? We are on no one’s side… We aim to tease everyone, equally.
“All comedy is critical” – John Cleese.
It is. There isn’t a good joke alive that can’t be found insulting or insensitive by someone.” (237)

“In Fargo, the blinkered Bill Oswalt eventually shows a glimmer of self-awareness, and it surprise and makes him a person worth caring about. Self-awareness makes characters much richer. Everyone has at least an inkling of their worst character traits, no matter how well hidden they are in public. When you show this self-awareness peeking through, people recognize it.” (244)

“It’s a numbers game, if you haven’t figured that out from this book, but it’s also not. Every single project I work on is one I believe in and that I believe the world needs to gaze upon. Sadly, most will stumble and collapse far short of their mark.” (264)

“I settled on the truth: “You can’t. You can’t make your own break.” She was not happy to hear it. Sorry, kid. But if you care about doing the work, if it rewards you, just to do it, you will probably be all right.” (266)

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“The Operator” Quotes

I recently read “The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells The New Hollywood” by Tom King. Below are the quotes I found most interesting.

“Plunking down $450 for a suit and shopping at the boutique where only the most senior executives at the agency shopped was Geffen’s way of signaling to his bosses that he was determined to enter their league.” (66)

“Geffen’s friendship with Marian foreshadowed a long string of powerful friendships with the wives of his colleagues. He would, in some cases, forge a tighter bond with the wives than with their husbands.” (83)

“We’re in a shark pool here,” Crosby said. “We need a shark to look after us.” (103)

“But he was surprised to realize that the millions of dollars he had just banked and the trappings he had been able to acquire with it did not make him happy.” (184)

“Geffen clinched the deal when he told the star his fee: He did not want a cent. Geffen did not let on that he was playing a much bigger chess game in which he eventually sought to sign Dylan to Asylum Records. The tour was just his opening move.” (195)

“Geffen did not like his mother because she was strange and poor and not refined and rich. He tried to clean her up by hiring a chauffeur to take her shopping for new clothes; he fumed, however, when he discovered that she had directed the driver to the thrift-shop district on Western Avenue. How much easier life would be, he thought, if he had been born into a family of privilege. No matter how much success he achieved, it seemed he could not get beyond the handicapped self-image of a tortured and tiny poor Jewish boy with the eccentric mother and hopeless father.” (224)

“When Ono next asked Geffen what he planned to pay them, he reverted to one of his tried-and-true dealmaking tricks, refusing to be the first to state a figure. He had learned his lesson since 1972. When Ono insisted that Geffen throw out a number, Geffen calmly declined. “You have to tell me what you want,” he said, “and if I can give it to you, I will, and if I can’t, I won’t.” (314)

“Geffen’s strategy all along had been to grant young smart talents free rein up until when the product was almost finished; he then stepped in to shape the all-important marketing. Geffen knew his strength: He could gauge the market as no one else could.” (347)

“When he was under pressure and business was poor, his plans became increasingly audacious. Sitting with a pair of deuces, Geffen often behaved as though he had a full house.” (366)

“”That’s David’s mother,” one of Geffen’s friends told a reporter at the party afterward… “We call her ‘The Explanation.’” (368)

“Geffen the millionaire had been a pure capitalist for most of his life, and for him capitalism was about winning. With the new ending, Risky Business became a mirror of Geffen’s own story: If you maneuver enough, you can get away with anything, and winning is easy. It does not matter if you tell the truth, cheat on a test, or step on people on your way up to the top. It only matters if you win.” (375)

“The people around him, meanwhile, were so shaken and distracted by his screaming tirades that no one could see the frightened boy he still was. “The liabilities are the assets,” Diller said. “He’s gone through a lot, and goes through a lot, for what he gets.” (562)

If you liked the quotes, buy the book here.

“Keep Going” Quotes

I recently read “Keep Going: 10 Ways To Stay Creative In Good Times And Bad” by Austin Kleon. Below are the quotes I found most interesting.

The reason is this: the creative life is not linear. It’s not a straight line from point A to point B. It’s more like a loop, or a spiral, in which you keep coming back to a new starting point after every project. No matter how successful you get, no matter what level of achievement you reach, you will never really “arrive.” Other than death, there is no finish line or retirement for a creative person. “Even after you have achieved greatness,” writes musician Ian Svenonius, “the infinitesimal cadre who even noticed will ask, ‘What next?’” (10)

We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on. What we work on and how hard we work on it.” (11)

Lynda Barry says, “The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty, and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.” (50)

“The only antidote is JOMO: the joy of missing out.” (61)

“Lots of people want to be the noun without doing the verb. They want the job title without the work.” (65)

Play is the work of the child and there is also the work of the artist.” (70)

“Art and the artist both suffer most when the artist gets too heavy, too focused on results.” (70)

“Write a poem and don’t show it to anybody. Tear it up into little pieces and throw them into the trashcan.” (70)

Another trick: when nothing is fun anymore, try to make the worst thing you can. The ugliest drawing. The crummiest poem. The most obnoxious song. Making intentionally bad art is a ton of fun.” (74)

Quincy Jones says, “God walks out of the room when you’re thinking about money.“ (78)

How to stay alive: 1) find something that keeps you spiritually alive 2) turn it into a job that literally keeps you alive 3) oops! Go back to step one” (81)

“Do what you love” + low overhead = a good life.
“Do what you love” + “I deserve nice things” = a time bomb.” (84)

I noticed a long time ago that there’s actually very little correlation between what I love to make and the number of shares, favorites, and retweets it gets. I’ll often post something I loved making that took me forever and crickets chirp. I’ll post something else I think is sort of lame that took me no effort and it will go viral. If I let those metrics run my personal practice, I don’t think my heart could take it very long.” (89)

“Where there is no gift, there is no art.” (93)

There’s nothing as pure as making something specifically for someone special.” (94)

If you’re bummed out and hating your work, pick somebody special in your life and make something for them.” (95)

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