“Sick In The Head” Quotes

I recently read “Sick In The Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy” by Judd Apatow. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. Since it’s an interview book, the person who says the quote is listed in bold directly above the quote. If you like the quotes, please buy the book here.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 6.19.37 PMJudd Apatow
“There’s this quote from John Cassavetes. He said, “I don’t care if you like me or hate me, I just want you to be thinking about me in ten years.”” (20)

“We were willing to go down for the show. It would have been awful if one of us said, “Let’s do all these changes – I really want to keep this job.” (97)

“You have to have a dream before you can execute it. That the people who succeed are the ones who think through what the next stages of their careers might be, and then work incredibly hard, day after day, to attain their goals. They don’t just flop around like fish. They have a vision, and they work their assess of to make it a reality.” (101)

“Do not be afraid to share your story, or to be vulnerable and open when telling it.” (130)

“It taps into the national neurosis in a way, where people are so happy to not be unhappy.” (223)

“My approach was always: This is an impossible job for Garry. I’m just going to try and help him in any way I can. But other people, when they would pitch a joke that didn’t get through, would get angry at Garry. And that was destructive.” (232)

“I shoot an enormous amount of film, and when I’m shooting what I think to myself is, If I hate this scene in editing, what would I wish I had? And so as I’m shooting, I’m shooting many permutations of the scene. It might be different lines or alts. If it’s too many, let me get something a little less mean. If it seems sentimental, I might get something edgy. I usually have like a million feet of film that in my head – I’ve edited every permutation and I’m just flipping things in and out so at the end of it I’m reasonably happy.” (264)

“So much of the conversation about diversity on TV should be about subscribers and advertisers. If the networks thought they could make more money creating shows with diverse casts they would do it in a second. They’ve clearly decided there’s not enough money in it. Every once in awhile they throw a bone to the idea of diversity, but it’s not a high priority.” (269)

“David Milch said executives don’t want to give notes and don’t want to stand behind their opinions. Executives want you to have enough power or reputation so that if you screw up, it’s your screw up, not theirs. The whole thing is inverted. Executives are looking for ways to not be responsible. And when you achieve a certain level of success, you’ll notice that some executives disappear because they have deniability about the process. “Of course I trusted Judd, he’s had enough success that I should let him do what he wants to do.” It’s actually harder for them to work with young people, because then they have to be responsible.” (270)

“Everybody told me you get five bombs before you go out of business. You can withstand five. your budget will get lower every time you have a bomb.” (270)

“Sometimes you make things and, the whole time, you’re aware that it might not make money, and yet it’s what you should be making at this moment in time and you hope it will connect in a big way because it is unique and personal. You have to try to do things that are more challenging to the audience. Those often become the biggest hits. Sometimes they don’t make a ton of money.” (271)

“I always heard that from Larry David. That was his big inspiration. He was willing to walk away from Seinfeld when they would give him bad notes.” (302)

“You write movies to figure out why you’re writing the movie.” (370)

“The thing that really makes a lot of these movies possible is that when we do the auditions, Seth reads with every actor trying to get a part in the movie. So by the time the movie is shot, he has read with like two hundred people. Through that process, we figure out who his character is and we try to problem-solve all the issues of the movie. So we’ll hold auditions for parts even though we kind of know who we want for the part, just to hear it with that person – and that almost becomes the rehearsal of the movie.” (427)

“With comedy, as soon as you succeed, you have some credibility and then they trust you more.” (442)

Jerry Seinfeld
“I wanted to be around it, you know. I never thought I’d be any good at it. But that turned out to be an advantage because it made me work harder than most other people.” (9)

Albert Brooks
“My friend Harry Nilsson used to say the definition of an artist was someone who rode way ahead of the herd and was sort of the lookout. Now you don’t have to be that, to be an artist. You can be right smack-dab in the middle of the herd. If you are, you’ll be the richest.” (28)

“I sum up all of show business in three words: Frank Sinatra Junior. People think there’s nepotism in show business. There’s no nepotism on the performing side, especially in comedy. I don’t know of any famous person that can tell an audience to laugh at their son.” (40)

“If I’ve learned anything – anything – getting older, it’s the value of moment-tomoment enjoyment. When I was young, all my career was “If I do well tonight, that means that Wednesday will be better. That means I can give this tape to mya gent and…” It was thiis ongoing chess game. And that is a really disappointing game, because when you get to checkmate, it never feels liek it should. And there’s another board that they never told you about. So if I come here and talk to you, if I have an enjoyable three hours, god damn it, that counts.” (45)

Chris Rock
“I did some things that sucked. But you learn more from fucking up than you do from success, unfortunately. And failure, if you don’t let it defeat you, is what fuels your future success.” (70)

“I did stand-up for fifteen years before I broke, you know.” (70)

Jason Segel
“We would get the script on a Friday, and Seth and James and I would get together at my house every Sunday, without fail, and do the scenes over and over and improve them and reallyt hink about them. We loved the show. And we took the opportunity really, really seriously.” (95)

Seth Rogen
“We felt if we made the scenes better on the weekend, if we came in with better jokes, they would film it. And they would! And we didn’t know it at the time, but that was completely unindicative of probably every other show that was on television.”

James L. Brooks
“I think the whole thing with writing – generally, you push and push and push and then, come on already, when do you pull? At a certain point, it pulls. I mean it’s pulling you forward and you’re not working so hard. You’re not laboring. You’re serving. Laboring becomes serving.” (145)

Jerry Seinfeld
“I was a minimalist from the beginning. I think that’s why I’ve done well as a comedian. If you always want less, in words as well as things, you’ll do well as a writer.” (186)

Jimmy Fallon
“We just went in knowing that we might get canceled. And if you’re going to go down, you have to go down doing what you like doing and what’s fun for you, because I don’t ever want ot do something painful and then have everyone go, “Hey, that works. Keep doing that painful thing for years.”” (216)

“Out of all the things I watched to get ready for this job, Larry Sanders was the ultimate – that’s the ultimate piece of advice I’d tell anyone to watch if you’re doing a talk show. It’s so real and so well done. That’s how a show gets made.” (221)

Jon Stewart
“Think of how much energy it takes to fuck with people. What if you try to use that energy to get the show done faster and better and get everybody out by seven? If I go into the morning meeting and I have clarity, and I can articulate that clarity, everybody’s day is easier. If that doesn’t happen, it’s my fault.” (231)

“Intention is a really big thing at this show. We always want to know where’s the intention, and, now, let’s find a path to that intention.” (232)

“It’s so important to remove preciousness and ownership. You have to invest everybody in the success of the show, and to let them feel good about their contribution to it without becoming the sole proprietor of a joke. There has to be an understanding that, that may be a great joke, but it might not serve the larger intention, or the narrative, of the show. You have to make sure that everybody feels invested without feeling that type of ownership.” (233)

Larry Gelbart
“I don’t worry about what they’ll get. I write for myself on the assumption that there are a number of people who have similar sensibilities and will appreciate what it is that I thought was good enough to present, not to them but to me.” (261)

Louis C.K.
“You want it to be compelling, that’s all. The likable thing is not really worth much. It’s a low-wattage bulb, you know.” (301)

“I never cared if I got cancelled. That’s the only thing that makes me do this stuff well, is I was willing to let the job go any day.” (302)

Mel Brooks
“John Calley said, “Mel, if you’re going to go up to the bell, ring it.” (335)

Michael O’Donoghue
“The way that you program is you put your best thing first, and your second-best thing second, and your third – because you’re just trying to fight sleep.” (353)

Mike Nichols
“I’m too good of a director to like me as an actor. I can get better people.” (366)

Roseanne Barr
“Today they want no part of anything having to do with class on TV. No part. Because it’s too true.” (399)

Spike Jonze
“When I’m making a movie, I want to be responsible and listen to the concerns of the people who gave me the money. But at a certain point, I have to put that all out of my mind because it’s not the responsibility of that movie. That movie’s responsibility is to be true to itself. If I don’t get to make another movie, I’ll make something else. I’ll make a movie for a milion dollars. I’ll go write a short story.” (440)

“I just don’t start to make another movie until I feel clean again from the last one.” (443)

“My job really isn’t to know how many people are going to like something. My job is to know what a movie’s about to me, and to know that I need to make it. It’s somebody else’s job to say, “okay, that budget makes sense or doesn’t make sense.” Once they gamble on it, that’s their gamble and I’m gonna be their partner in it, but we have to support each other.” (444)

“When I finished Her, I thought, Okay, I’ve done everything I can do to give this as much love as I could give it and now it’s gonna go off and be what it’s gonna be. If it gets loved I’ll be proud and if it gets hated it’ll hurt, but I also know that what I have done with my friends and collaborators will never change.” (447)

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“The Lean Startup” Quotes

I recently read The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.  Below are the quotes I found most interesting. As always, if you like the quote, click here to buy the book.

Lean Startup“Startups exist not just to make stuff, make money, or even serve customers. They exist to learn how to build a sustainable business.” (9)

“The goal of a startup is to figure out the right thing to build – the thing customers want and will pay for – as quickly as possible.” (20)

“Every new version of a product, every new feature, and every new marketing program is an attempt to improve this engine of growth.” (21)

“In general management, a failure to deliver results is due to either a failure to plan adequately or a failure to execute properly. Bother are significant lapses, yet new product development in our modern economy routinely requires exactly this kind of failure on the way to greatness.” (24)

“When you have only one test, you don’t have entrepreneurs, you have politicians, because you have to sell. Out of a hundred good ideas, you’ve got to sell your idea. So you build up a society of politicians and salespeople. When you have five hundred tests you’re running, then everybody’s ideas can run. And then you create entrepreneurs who run and learn and can retest and relearn as opposed to a society of politicians.” (33)

“Brad Smith explained to me how they hold themselves accountable for their new innovation efforts by measuring two things: the number of customers using products that didn’t exist three years ago and the percentage of revenue coming from offerings that did not exist three years ago.” (35)

“Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste.” (48)

“What if we simply had offered customers the opportunity to download the product from us solely on the basis of its proposed features before building anything? Remember, almost no customers were willing to use our original product, so we wouldn’t have had to do much apologizing when we failed to deliver. (Note that this is different from asking customers what they want. Most of the time customers don’t know what they want in advance.)” (49)

“The effort that is not absolutely necessary for learning what customers want can be eliminated. I call this validated learning because it s always demonstrated by positive improvements in the startup’s core metrics.” (49)

“We adopted the view that our job was to find a synthesis between our vision and what customers would accept; it wasn’t to capitulate to what the customers thought they wanted or to tell customers what they ought to want.” (50)

“The irony is that it is often easier to raise money or acquire other resources when you have zero revenue, zero customers, and zero traction than when you have a small amount. Zero invites imagination, but small numbers invite questions about whether large numbers will ever materialize.” (52)

“The two most important assumptions entrepreneurs make are what I call the value hypothesis and the growth hypothesis. The value hypothesis tests whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once they are using it… The growth hypothesis tests how new customers will discover a product or service.” (61)

“The point is not to find the average customer but to find early adopters: the customers who feel the need for the product more acutely. Those customers tend to be more forgiving of mistakes and are especially eager to give feedback.” (62)

“As Mark Cook says, “Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”” (66)

“What differentiates the success stories from the failures is that successful entrepreneurs had the foresight, the ability, and the tools to discover which parts of their plans were working brilliantly and which were misguided, and adapt their strategies accordingly.” (84)

“The problem with most entrepreneurs’ plans is generally not that they don’t follow sound strategic principles but that the facts upon which they are based are wrong.” (91)

“Before new products can be sold successfully to the mass market, they have to be sold to early adopters. These people are a special breed of customer. They accept – in fact prefer – an 80 percent solution; you don’t need a perfect solution to capture their interest.” (94)

“Early adopters are suspicious of something that is too polished: if it’s ready for everyone to adopt, how much advantage can one get by being early?” (95)

“These discussion of quality presuppose that the company already knows what attributes of the product the customer will perceive as worthwhile. In a startup, this is a risky assumption to make. Often we are not even sure who the customer is.” (107)

“Customers don’t care how much time something takes to build. They care only if it serves their needs.” (109)

“Part of the special challenge of being a startup is the near impossibility of having your idea, company, or product be noticed by anyone, let alone a competitor.” (111)

“A head start is rarely large enough to matter, and time spent in stealth mode – away from customers – is unlikely to provide a head start. The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” (111)

“A good design is one that changes customer behavior for the better.” (120)

“Instead of writing a specification for a new feature that described it in technical terms, Farb would write a story that described the feature from the point of view of the customer. That story helped keep the engineers focused on the customer’s perspective throughout the development process.” (132)

“There is no bigger destroyed of creative potential than the misguided decision to persevere.” (149)

“Failure is a prerequisite to learning. The problem with the notion of shipping a product and then seeing what happens is that you are guaranteed to succeed – at seeing what happens.” (154)

“Customer segment pivot is keeping the functionality of the product the same but changing the audience focus.” (156)

“This is also common with pivots; it is not necessary to throw out everything that came before and start over. Instead, it’s about repurposing what has been built and what has been learned to find a more positive direction.” (169)

“Once you have found success with early adopters, you want to sell to mainstream customers. Mainstream customers have different requirements and are much more demanding.” (170)

“Large batches tend to grow over time. Because moving the batch forward often results in additional work, rework, delays, and interruptions, everyone has an incentive to do work in ever-larger batches, trying to minimize this overhead. This is called the large-batch death spiral because, unlike in manufacturing, there are no physical limits on the maximum size of a batch.” (198)

“Process is the only foundation upon which a great company culture can develop. But without this foundation, efforts to encourage learning, creativity, and innovation will fall flat.” (204)

“Sustainable growth is characterized by one simple rule: New customers come from the actions of past customers… Either by 1. Word of mouth… 2. As a side effect of product usage… 3 Through funded advertising… 4. Through repeat purchase or use.” (207-8)

“For advertising to be a source of sustainable growth, the advertising must be paid for out of revenue, not one-time sources such as investment capital.” (208)

“Getting a startup’s engine of growth up and running is hard enough, but the truth is that every engine of growth eventually runs out of gas. Every engine is tied to a given set of customers and their related habits, preferences, advertising channels, and interconnections. At some point, that set of customers will be exhausted. This may take a long time or a short time, depending on one’s industry and timing.” (222)

“If you are causing (or missing) quality problems now, the resulting defects will slow you down later. Defects cause a lot of rework, low morale, and customer complaints, all of which slow progress and eat away at valuable resources.” (227)

“In my experience startup teams require three structural attributes: scarce but secure resources, independent authority to develop their business, and a personal stake in the outcome.” (253)

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“10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said” Quotes

I recently read “10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said” by Charles Wheelan. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. As always, if you like the quotes, buy the book here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.34.43 PM“Look around every once in a while and ask yourself; Have I created a race out of something that ought to be a journey?” (61)

“A journey involves following a passion. You identify a worthwhile goal and then work relentlessly in that direction. There are often tremendous external rewards, but the direction and motivation come from within.” (61)

“If you think of life as a race, then every setback means that you have fallen behind. Every risk has a potential failure lurking nearby.
But if you think of life as a journey, then every setback helps direct you to a place where you will be more likely to succeed. Every risk has a potential adventure behind it, or at least a learning experience. you are not necessarily in competition with everyone around you.” (65)

“Your parents don’t want what is best for you. They want what is good for you, which is not always the same thing.” (89)

“Most parents want some form of “tenure” for their children, even if it forecloses the option of a Pulitzer Prize. But if you, as a young graduate, want the Pulitzer Prize, you have to be prepared to go to the precipice and leap. You can’t always expect your parents to be excited about that.” (93)

“The accumulation of wealth becomes an egregiously oversimplified yardstick for measuring life success… I am not saying that you shouldn’t work hard. If you think you will become exceptional at anything without lots of grinding away, you are delusional.” (100)

“Take joy in the journey, rather than building your life around how good you expect the view to be when you get to the top.” (105)

“I try to ask myself, Is the journey still worthwhile if the mountain turns out to be enshrouded in fog at the top?” (106)

“At one point I asked, “Do you really think you can win?”
He said, “I don’t have to. I just have to run a race that my grandchildren will be proud of.”” (107)

“Technology and globalization and the other forces of change are like a stream running downhill. We cannot stop them; we cannot turn them around. But we can direct them. We design the incentives, build the social institutions, mediate the disputes, make the laws, and decide how our collective resources will be used or not used, shared or not shared. We, as educated and responsible adults, have the ability to shape and direct the inexorable forces as they come spilling downhill.
Change is inevitable; but progress depends on what we do with that change.” (112)

“Don’t try to be great. Just be solid.” (116)

“Being great involves luck, and unique circumstances, and a lot of other forces beyond your control. You can’t just make it happen by working more or trying harder.
There is an irony here, of course. The less you think about being great, the more likely it is to happen. And if it doesn’t, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being solid.” (118)

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“The Score Takes Care of Itself” Quotes

I recently read “The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership” by Bill Walsh (with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh). Below are the quotes I found most interesting. As always, if you liked the quotes, buy the book here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 8.26.15 PM“When I give a speech at a corporate event, I often ask those in attendance, ‘Do you know how to tell if you’re doing the job?’ As heads start whispering back and forth, I provide these clue: ‘If you’re up at 3 A.M. every night talking into a tape recorder and writing notes on scraps of paper, have a knot in your stomach and a rash on your skin, are losing sleep and losing touch with your wife and kids, have no appetite or sense of humor, and feel that everything might turn out wrong, then you’re probably doing the job.’” (5)

“When the inevitable setback, loss, failure, or defeat comes crashing down on you – allow yourself the “grieving time,” but then recognize that the road to recovery and victory lies in having the strength to get up off the mat and start planning your next move. This is how you must think if you want to win. Otherwise you have lost.” (10)

“Take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of that effort” (16)

“Winning results from your whole team not only doing their individual jobs but perceiving that those jobs contributed to overall success.” (23)

“The leader’s job is to facilitate a battlefield-like sense of camaraderie among his or her personnel, an environment for people to find a way to bond together, to care about one another and the work they do, to feel the connection and extension so necessary for great results. Ultimately, it’s the strongest bond of all, even stronger than money.” (24)

“The culture precedes positive results. It doesn’t get tacked on as an afterthought on your way to the victory stand. Champions behave like champions before they’re champions; they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners.” (25)

“Before you can win the fight, you’ve got to be in the fight.” (26)

“Consistent effort is a consistent challenge.” (27)

“I might do even less strategizing for a Super Bowl game, because in the midst of the extreme pressure I placed a premium on fundamentals.” (30)

“I learned through years of coaching that far-reaching contingency planning gave me a tremendous advantage against the competition because I was no different from anyone else; it was almost impossible for me to make quick and correct decisions in the extreme emotional and mental upheaval that accompanied many situation during a game.” (51)

“All solutions are only temporary. They last until your competitor makes a meaningful countermove to your own countermove. At which time it’s your turn again. The key is to quickly recognize the nature of the threat and then to creatively and expeditiously respond to it. Otherwise, the game will be over before it begins.” (62)

“We have, however, seen a move away from the dictatorial type of leadership, an approach that didn’t fit me and that I do not think is conducive to long-term success, especially in a corporate setting. You may get results for a week or a few months, but the cumulative effects of bullying people, creating an environment of ongoing fear, panic, and intimidation, are a situation where employees become increasingly tuned out and immune to all of your noise. And, of course, the talented ones look for a job with a better outfit.” (77)

“Some leaders are volatile, some voluble; some stoic, others exuberant; but all successful leaders know where we want to go, figure out a way we believe will get the organization there (after careful consideration of relevant available information), and then move forward with absolute determination. We may falter from time to time, but ultimately we are unswerving in moving toward our goal; we will not quit. There is an inner compulsion – obsession – to get it done the way you want it done even if the personal cost is high.
It is good to remind yourself that this quality – strength of will – is essential to your survival and success. Often you are urged to “go along to get along,” solemnly advised that “your plan should’ve worked by now,” or told other variations that mount to backing away from a course you belive in your heart and know in your head is correct. “ (78-79)

“Once the decision was made, the discussion was over. My ultimate job, and yours, is not to give an opinion. Everybody’s got an opinion. Leaders are paid to make a decision. The difference between offering an opinion and making a decision is the difference between working for the leader and being the leader.” (79)

“Proving that you are right or proving that someone is wrong are bad reasons for persisting. Good logic, sound principles, and strong belief are the purest and most productive reasons for pushing forward when things get rough.” (83)

“Plan and prepare for the unexpected. “What happens when what’s supposed to happen doesn’t happen?” is the question that you must always be asking and solving. No leader can control the outcome of the contest or competition, but you can control how you prepare for it.” (85)

“Be A Leader – Twelve Habits:
Be yourself.
Be committed to excellence.
Be positive.
Be prepared.
Be detail-oriented.
Be organized.
Be accountable.
Be near-sighted and far-sighted.
Be fair.
Be firm.
Be flexible.
Believe in yourself.”

“If your staff doesn’t seem fully mobilized and energized until you enter the room, if they require your presence to carry on at the level of effort and excellence you have tried to install, your leadership has not percolated down.” (90)

“An organization is crippled if it needs to ask the leader what to do every time a question arises. I didn’t want an organizational psyche of leadership dependency, of being sim-dysfunctional without me around making every decision.” (90)

“ A strong company that goes south after the CEO retires is a company whose recently departed CEO didn’t finish the job.” (92)

“Leaders who regularly employ this tactic of demonizing opponents destroy its effectiveness because it’s soon recognized as a ploy to stir up emotions. As soon as that happens, it’s ignored. Nevertheless, it had value in my system because it was used sparingly and performed convincingly.” (95)

“You must be able to make and carry out harsh and, at times, ruthless decisions in a manner that is fast, firm, and fair. Applied correctly, this hard edge will not only solve the immediate difficulty, but also prevent future problems by sending out this important message: Cross my line and you can expect severe consequences. This will have ongoing benefits for your organization.” (97)

“From time to time, leaders must show this hard edge. They must make those around them somewhat uneasy, even ill at ease, in not knowing what to expect from you, the leader. THe knowledge that there is this hardness inside you can have a very sobering effect on those who might otherwise be sloppy – those who occasionally need to be reminded of your policies and practices.” (99)

“Leadership is expertise. It is not rhetoric or cheerleading speeches. People will follow a person who organizes and manages others, because he or she has credibility and expertise – a knowledge of the profession – and demonstrates an understanding of human nature.” (99)

“The true inspiration, expertise, and ability to execute that employees take with them into their work is most often the result of their inner voice talking, not some outer voice shouting, and not some leader giving a pep talk.
For members of your team, you determine what their inner voice says. The leader, at least a good one, teaches the team how to talk to themselves. An effective leader has a profound influence on what that inner voice will say.” (100)

“You don’t need to shout, stomp, or strut to be a great leader – just do the job and treat people right.” (102)

“Remember that praise is more valuable than blame.” (105)

“Believing your own press clippings – good or bad – is self-defeating. You are allowing others, oftentimes uninformed others, to tell you who you are.” (107)

“If you’re growing a garden, you need to pull out the weeds, but the flowers will die if all you do is pick weeds.” (109)

“If you’re perceived as a negative person – always picking, pulling, criticizing – you will simply get tuned out by those around you. Your influence, ability to teach, and opportunity to make progress will be diminished and eventually lost.” (109)

“Employees can thrive in an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them – even when those expectations are very high.” (111)

“You’re not always right, nor is the other person. Sometimes you’re both wrong. Sometimes there are three sides to a coin. I wanted to work with people smart enough to have independent thinking but strong enough to change their opinion when evidence or logic suggested it.” (113)

“Even though I had virtually complete autonomy through most of my ten years as head coach of the 49ers, I was never called Coach Walsh. In fact, everyone in the organization was addressed by their first name, including me. I wanted no barriers such as rank or title to clog up productive interaction.” (115)

“Rank, titles, or inferred status can impede open communication in an environment where people thrive on helping one another.” (115)

“Effective leaders understand that if you’re predictably difficult or predictably easygoing, others become predictably comfortable. In a highly competitive environment, feeling comfortable is first cousin to being complacent.” (118)

“The 49ers had talent and were well schooled. Neither matters if the person in charge falters or fails when it matters most. Having a clear idea of what your options are – situational planning – helps you be a leader when leadership is required.” (121)

“The process – seeing someone I had evaluated, selected, and taught break out and do great things – is what it’s really all about for me, the source of my greatest pleasure in leadership. In my experience, this is what it takes to be a good teacher: passion, expertise, communication, and persistence.” (122)

“I came to understand over my years as an assistant coach that when the audience is bored, it’s not their fault. And when they’re plugged in and excited, it’s because of you, the person in charge.” (126)

“Persistence is essential because knowledge is rarely imparted on the first attempt.” (126)

“Bill would say to us coached, ‘I’m going to yell at you in front of the players once in a while. When that happens, don’t get upset with me. Your players will work even harder for you because they’ll feel sorry for you.” (132)

“The same goes for the individuals on your team. The highest-paid, most talented people that you can go out and hire will not perform to their potential unless they feel as if they are part of something special – a family that treats them right.” (138)

“Mastery requires endless remastery. In fact, I don’t believe there is ever true mastery. It is a process, not a destination.” (144)

“Some individuals have ‘situational character’ – their attitude (and subsequent performance) are linked to results. Good results? Great attitude. Bad results? Bad attitude.” (149)

“In building and maintaining your organization, place a premium on those who exhibit great desire to keep pushing themselves to higher and higher performance and production levels, who seek to go beyond the highest standards that you, the leader, set.” (152)

“When the bottom 20 percent is dissatisfied – doesn’t feel they’re a real part of your team, that is, appreciated – their comments, perspective, and reactions – their ‘bitching’ – is seen, heard, and absorbed by those who are positive and productive.” (156)

“As a leader you must have the strength to let talented members of your organization know you believe in them – nurture their belief in themselves, teach them what they need to know, and then watch what happens.” (161)

“Nobody will ever come back to you later and say “thank you” for expecting too little of them.” (161)

“The art of leadership requires knowing when it makes sense to take people over the top, to push them to their highest level of effort, and when to take your foot off the accelerator a little. If your team is constantly working on adrenaline, in a crisis mode, running as hard as they can, they become vulnerable.” (162)

“What’s difficult to do is recognize when extra effort, extreme exertion, working ‘as hard as possible’ starts to produce diminishing returns.” (164)

“You never stop learning, perfecting, refining – molding your skills. You never stop depending on the fundamentals – sustaining, maintaining, and improving.” (185_

“Achieving success in a competitive environment requires solving a very complicated puzzle. This is true in all big-time competition. The winners know how to get more pieces of the puzzle in place than the losers.” (192)

“The most talented personnel often are very independent minded.” (202)

“Finding yourself in a position where you believe your only option is to pull off a big surprise often means you haven’t prepared, haven’t done your homework.” (211)

“In your efforts to create interest in your own product, don’t get carried away with premature promotion – creating a pretty package with hype, spin, and all the rest. First, make sure you’ve got something of quality to promote. Then worry about how you’re going to wrap it in an attractive package. The world’s best promotional tool is a good product.” (218)

“Losing, however you define it, even the thought of losing, can become so psychologically crippling that winning offers little solace and no cause for celebration because you’ve imposed an internal accounting system on yourself that awards zero points for winning and minus points for losing.” (218)

“Either way, you are putting yourself on a slippery slope when you start believing that the outcome of your effort represents or embodies who you really are as person – what your value as a person is.” (219)

“If your hard work is coupled with intelligence and talent, you may win. If not, you go back to work and get ready for the next fight without feeling that somehow, having given it everything you’ve got, you are somehow inadequate as a person, that you didn’t measure up. You can’t let that happen to yourself.” (227)

“it was unpleasant to know that doing a good job in the NFL wasn’t much different from doing a bad job. Both will get you fired; the latter just gets you fired sooner. You know you’re there as a coach temporarily, only while you’re very successful, only when you do a fantastic job. Then you learn that even a fantastic job is inadequate. The norm becomes the impossible, and when you don’t achieve the impossible, your head’s on the chopping block.” (227)

“Commitments, publicly to their team, of high performance in the coming battle.” (240)

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“Poking A Dead Frog” Quotes

I recently read “Poking A Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers” by Mike Sacks. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. (Since this is an interview book, the person saying it is the underlined name above the quote). If you like the quotes, please buy the full book here.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.40.35 PM“Sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something than anyone else might reasonably expect.” -Teller

“All great comedy has managed to circumnavigate executive meddling. But this is easier said than done.” (xiv)

“Each came to this business primarily because he or she wanted to create the sort of comedy that they themselves enjoyed the most. For all of them – be they writers of sketches, graphic novels, screenplays, New Yorker cartoons, fiction, nonfiction, television, stand-up, the radio – success was a by-product, not the goal.” (xv)

James Downey
“I avoid anything I feel is a cheap laugh based on shock or just being dirty. You can always get a laugh, but you don’t want it to come at the price of your dignity.” (11)

(Sometimes the audience just wants to laugh.) “They do, that’s right. But sometimes writers overlook this. Not performers, though. If the audience is laughing, they’re happy.” (12)

“Writers are much more interested, and maybe even obsessed, with originality. We sometimes treat comedy as a science, where advances are made, and we must always move forward, never backward. So that once something has been done, it should perhaps be built upon, but never, ever repeated. For performers, the fact that something has been done before is, I think, neither here nor there. For writers, it’s a real problem, and sometimes we can tie ourselves up in knots worrying, ‘Is this too similar to that other thing?’” (12)

“I think we need to be ahead of our audiences, but not so much that we lose them.” (12)

“Unless you’re making an observation, and that observation is true – and I hope fresh – it’s not worth writing a piece.” (14)

“I’m less worried about a bad piece than about missing a great one.” (22)

Terry Jones
“We made it a point to end sketches when they might have just been beginning on other shows.” (25)

Diablo Cody
“Always be working on your own material. Write specs! Though I’ve been hired to write studio projects, everything I’ve ever gotten produced has been an original spec script that I just wanted to write on my own. I wasn’t being paid for them. Other people’s ideas are never as important as yours.” (31)

Mike Schur
“TV comedy writing is a team sport. That’s just the deal.” (34)

“Something David Mamet once said sums it up perfectly: ‘Doing a movie or a play is like running a marathon. Doing a television show is like running until you die.’” (35)

“The number of people watching TV on their own schedule, through Hulu or iTunes or whichever platform they prefer, is rising exponentially. And it’s never going back the other way.” (36)

“TV comedies only work long-term if the characters are three-dimensional and great.” (42)

“Shows get picked up based on their pilots, which is directly analogous to judging a book by its first ten pages.” (42)

“TV is about presenting an inviting world in which audiences want to invest their time, regularly, over many years. Jokes help because, you know, they make people happy. But what makes people love a show, and get attached to it, is great characters having great adventures.” (43)

“Television is not about quantity anymore; it’s very much about quality – and specificity.” (44)

“The most valuable and unteachable asset in a comedy writer is a unique voice. That is my top priority in hiring people-does this person sound like everyone else, or is there something about how he or she puts words and sentences and ideas together that sticks out?” (47)

“Complacency is a classic mistake. Some people get to a certain point and go, ‘Okay, I’ve figured it out!’ Writing isn’t a thing you figure out – ever. My favorite things I’ve ever written, I hate.” (47)

“To stay vibrant and successful, you can’t ever feel like you know what you’re doing. Your attitude has to constantly be, ‘Who is this rank amateur, and how can I teach him how to write?’” (48)

“No writer should ever breathe easy. You should constantly figure out how to write better stories and better jokes, more three-dimensional characters, how to change what isn’t work. If you don’t, you’re gonna lose your touch.” (48)

Todd Levin
“A desk piece must be generic enough to accommodate all kinds of jokes, familiar enough to require very little setup, and fresh enough that it hasn’t already been attempted in more than a half century of late night comedy.” (52)

“Never underestimate the importance of carefully weaving your own voice into your submission well enough that it cannot easily be separated from your ideas. That’s the balance that I think is important to strike: supplying something familiar that no one ever saw coming.” (57)

Henry Beard
“You hate to admit it, but it’s all luck. It’s just really all luck.” (73)

James L. Brooks
“If it’s good, you will be noticed. If you’re an actor, you need other people in order to act; a director needs other people in order to direct. But writers can be alone in a room and do what they do, without any help. It’s all in their hands. And sooner or later, someone will give it a read.” (82)

Peter Mehlman
“The (Seinfeld) writers would come up with their own storylines, and then we’d pass them to Jerry and Larry, who would either accept or reject them. If you couldn’t come up with story lines, you were let go. But there was no one room in which the writers had to sit and write and pitch out ideas.
You know, having a writers’ room is very conducive to getting nothing done. You get a lot of people in there and you go off on tangents and people are going to the bathroom and going out and getting coffee. Everybody just wants to get out of that room.” (109)

Paul F. Tompkins
“If you approach everything from a pure creative angle, the work and employment will take care of itself.” (113)

“Just be around and engage people in a pure way and you’re going to get more work that way.” (113)

Adam McKay
“We always try to make our movies one-third satire, one-third parody, and one-third original storytelling.” (118)

“Del Close had a key tenant: always go to your third thought.” (123)

“Now, filmmakers can record the laughs from a test audience at a screening, and we can then cut to the rhythm of those laughs, the rhythm of the audience. We synchronize the laughs with the film. We can really get our timing down to a hundredth of a second.” (130)

“There’s no greater comedy killer than receiving a note that says a character’s not likable enough. The second you see someone write that, you know they don’t know a thing about comedy. The entire game is to make your character as awful and irresponsible as possible, while still keeping at oe in the pool of his still being a human being. I mean, that’s the game. That’s the game you’re playing. The more despicable your guy can get away with behaving while still remaining on the side of the audience, the funnier it’ll be. Seinfeld is the greatest example of that ever.” (131)

“I wasn’t as obsessed with “Why didn’t aht sketch get in?” Your first couple years, you think everything should be perfect. Once you let that go, it’s a really fun show to work on.” (134)

Bruce Jay Friedman
“A more accurate term (instead of black humor) would have been tense comedy-there’s much to laugh at on the surface, but with streaks of agony running beneath.” (151)

“I’m hesitant to begin a short story unless I know the last line, or a close approximation of it.” (170)

Gabe Delahaye
“I was once told, ‘You aren’t good at writing, but if you can get over that, then one day maybe you will be okay at writing.’” (203)

“Write what you think is funny. This does not mean anyone else will agree, but if you write what you hope others will think is funny, you have already alienated at least some readers.” (204)

“If you are lucky enough to get an audience for your comedy, be nice to that audience. You are lucky to have them.” (204)

Glen Charles
“There’s a sadness to all the characters. Someone once described Taxi as being a show about hell. All of the characters were essentially stuck in a very bleak environment, struggling to get out.” (216)

“We had a rule that if writers were pitching jokes and two writers came up with the same punch line at once, it was gone.” (221)

“Every show has a voice. The better the show, the better the voice.” (228)

Joel Begleiter
“I think it’s easier to get one of those gigs on pure merit (late night writer) than it is to get a traditional sitcom writing job.” (231)

“We receive SPAM e-mails all day long at the major agencies from writers who have bought e-mail address lists. They are deleted immediately. There’s not even the slightest consideration. I don’t read the letters. When a client has referred a friend of theirs, the letter is not necessary.” (233)

Marc Maron
“You never know when success is going to happen. It’s not a meritocracy; so much of it is about some weird shit aligning that’s usually out of your control, and you catch your break. And a lot of people don’t ever catch it.” (237)

George Saunders
“At the highest level, revision is about anticipating what most writers would do and then asking: Well, is there anything deeper or better or livelier that I could make happen?” (251)

“Start with the idea that all of our enemies get up in the morning feeling like they’re out to serve good. That’s a more realistic and effective view of evil, I think, even just in terms of how it actually occurs and also how one might start to defend oneself or work against that evil.” (255)

“The thing is, writing is really just the process of charming someone via prose – compelling them to keep reading.” (260)

Byrd Leavell
“Don’t even submit to an agent. you are just going to get rejected anyway. Because these days the idea isn’t enough. Going to publishers with ‘I’ve got a great idea for a humor book’ is about as useful as tweeting your breakfast menu. No one cares. Especially not publishers. All they care about is platform. They care if you’ve written something really, really funny and it’s gone viral and five thousand people have commented on it. They care that your product is the perfect thing to turn into a book that works in the market. They care how many readers you can make aware of your book when it is finally published. You have to show agents that you can do all of these things, and then, and only then, do you get to show them how good your book is.” (264)

Dave Hill
“Because I wrote only for wanting to crack up my friends, and I was cracking myself up in the process, it worked. It was the first writing packet I ever wrote that I had any fun doing, and that’s why I was able to make it good. Normally, you put pressure on yourself. And as soon as you think that you absolutely have to do a good job on it, you’re in trouble.” (266)

“Once I was truly at the point where I was not trying to get anyone’s attention, that’s when I got everything I wanted, including a manager.” (266)

“It’s going back to not really giving a shit. Do your best to entertain yourself. Or entertaining the fifteen-year-old in you. Or just creating something that you want to see exist.” (267)

Tom Scharpling
“If you know how to build jokes, you can write any other genre, including mystery and horror.” (272)

“They weren’t attempting to win a huge audience. But they stuck with it, they eventually found their audience, and it’s what they needed to do. You have to trust what you’re doing. There’s something running through everybody that others will eventually respond to.” (279)

“Look, you couldn’t pay me to listen to their music, but I still feel like I have more in common with Insane Clown Posse than I do with someone who just sits on the sidelines and shits on other people’s work and who never puts themselves on the line.” (284)

“”TV and movies are such collaborative mediums. You have to be ready to not have everything go your way – even if you’re in the top position.” (285)

“You have to appreciate the journey. You can’t control where you’re going to end up. You better appreciate the experience; otherwise you’ll never be happy.” (289)

Jon Wurster
We’re so ingrained to think that we have to do things the exact way of the status quo, but 80 percent of the status quo is miserable, you know? Everything came together for me when I stopped caring about it.” (287)

Patton Oswalt
“Have trust in amusing yourself.” (326)

“Just keep going onstage.” (326)

Daniel Clowes
“I’ll receive a lot more of a reaction when something appears on a small website than I will when something’s published in a major magazine or newspaper. The easier it is for a reader to contact you, the more responses you receive.” (334)

“The people who make the decisions in Hollywood are never the oddballs or creative types, so you have to tell them what they want to hear. It didn’t take long for us to start saying things like, ‘We want to make another There’s Something About Mary.’ We had no intention of doing that, but you must at least make the effort to be reassuring.” (343)

“I learned to get rid of everything that doesn’t work, even though I might have spent a long time on it.” (346)

Adam Resnick
“It was done for the wrong reasons-by everybody. And it was a valuable lesson – never do anything just for the opportunity. Always go with your gut – your original instinct. But then again, my gut fails me constantly, so maybe there is no lesson.” (381)

“You can’t think logically when it comes to something you’re passionate about. All you can do is keep trying. And write a lot of projects you’re not passionate about to pay the bills.” (386)

“If you’re in this business and you can cover your overhead by writing exactly what you want, you’re living the dream. And if you’re getting rich by writing what you want, you’re in an enviable position. But for most writers, it’s usually a compromise.” (387)

“What the show really hangs on are the characters and what kind of a life they have. I’d much rather see a writer come up with, ‘I knew somebody like this.’ Or, ‘What would it be like if these three people got mixed together?’ At that point, you can then ask, ‘Okay, what’s the best context for them to be in? What situation?’” (391)

Dan Guterman
“The nice thing about working aloud, where you’re basically talking out every line of a script, is that it kept the show from sounding overly written. When you write alone, and have all the time in the world, you end up rewording sentences, editing and re-editing clauses, playing around with syntax-and your jokes tend to stiffen up as a result. They sound labored over. Your writing is more prone to feeling unnatural. The oral process at Colbert was great at preventing that.” (413)

Alan Spencer
“Now the marketing people come in and tell the executive what projects to make.” (425)

Mel Brooks
“Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve started with characters. I learn what they want, what they need. Where they need to go and how they have to go about achieving that. I listen to them. You can’t just have pure action.” (438)

“Movies to me were much more lasting. TV happens too quickly, and most is never remembered.” (444)

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