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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)

If you liked the quotes, buy and read the whole book here.

“Professor At Large” Quotes

I recently read “Professor At Large: The Cornell Years” by John Cleese. Here’s the quotes I found most interesting.


“The first question to ask is, when does this decision need to be made? And that’s when you take the decision. Don’t take it until then, as new information, unexpected development, and – perish the thought – better ideas may occur.” (2)

“In the west today, hurrying has become a sort of mind–set; we do it automatically. Yet after decades of inventing time saving devices, we have less time than ever to do the things we want. So doing everything faster is not necessarily the answer. Nor, paradoxically, is it necessarily very efficient. Remember the old IBM maxim: don’t confuse activity with achievement.” (3)

As Thoreau pointed out, technology is simply an improved means to an unimproved end.“ (4)

He found that it wasn’t IQ, or any other kind of intelligence; it wasn’t how hard they worked. The only difference was that the most creative architects knew how to play with a problem. So when they needed a creative solution, they could switch their minds into a playful mode, where they would just fool around with the problem, chew it over, explore it out of pure curiosity, for its own sake, because they got really interested.” (13)

“So when we need to innovate, to create, we need to access our tortoise mind. And that involves nothing more complicated than giving ourselves permission to stop trying so hard. To forget for the moment what kind of answer we think we want and just let our brains go soft and chew over a problem in a slightly contemplative, open-minded way, to let the mind wander freely, explore associations and hunches, try things out – without worrying where it’s all going.” (13)

Pressure – whether it’s a shortage of time, constant interruptions, fear of not producing a result, or worry about the opinion of our superiors or colleagues – it’s pressure that stops us accessing our tortoise minds. Any kind of pressure forces the brain to focus more narrowly on finding a quick, articulate, and preferably clever-sounding solution. And the greater the pressure, the tighter the focus, the more narrow the tunnel vision, the more conventional the thoughts. So if we are to use our tortoise mind, we must, for the time being, avoid pressure.” (14)

“The creativity research I mentioned earlier shows that more creative people are better at tolerating the anxiety and discomfort of not resolving an issue straightaway. So just stick at it and try to get interested in the problem for its own sake. (15)

“It’s really as simple as that: when people feel free from pressure, free to say the first thing that comes in to their heads, free to play games, make jokes – when they drop their defenses so they’re quite thoroughly unselfconscious-they start being creative.” (17)

“If you want to write about ideas, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have much luck in the movies.” (38)

“It’s very strange to me that a lot of the very best people always have this feeling, “I got away with it.“ And I think the reason is this: if you are creative, you’re always, every single time, you’re going into unknown territory and you cannot guarantee that it’s going to work. Do you wanna guarantee it’s going to work? Then just use the formula. Just do something derivative, same as you did last time. It won’t be a disaster and, of course, it won’t be very interesting. But if you’re really trying to do something new each time, trying to stretch yourself, you never know when it’s going to be a disaster, so you always feel, I don’t really know what I’m doing. And if it comes off, you just feel you’re lucky.” (44)

“When you’re young and you haven’t written so much, you tend to really love what you’ve written. And when you kind of get old and tired and disillusioned and you’re about to die, like Bill and me, then it’s much, much easier to throw stuff away because you know you can easily write something else.” (47)

“I was trying to keep three threads of the story going at the same time and I put it on the page, cutting: ABC, ABC, ABC. Charlie Crichton said to me, “you can’t do that.“ And I said, “I can’t do ABC, ABC?“ He said, “no, no. You’ve got to go ABC, BC, AC. But you can’t go ABC, ABC, ABC.” (53)

“One of the problems with a lot of comedy that is written is that people write stories that could be dramas and then try and put jokes into them. So be very, very painstaking when you’re constructing comedies. Create funny situations, which will take much, much longer. But your reward is that the dialogue comes so easily because the situation’s funny.” (60)

“One of the greatest forms of dirt is negative emotions and habitual indulgence in them. The greatest filth in a man is negative emotion.” (88)

Somerset Maugham, the writer, said, “by the time you get to 50, you’ve either met everyone or they look like someone you’ve met.”” (94)

“Police were no better than any of us at telling whether people are lying because they think everyone is lying. And the reason they think everyone’s lying is that anyone being questioned by a policeman tends to be anxious, and they send out anxious signals and the police make the unjustified jump of assuming they’re anxious because they are lying.” (113)

“People at lower levels of mental health are very uncomfortable with ambiguity and paradox and leaving anything unresolved, any element of doubt. They like certainty and, with it, they like authority.” (151)

“at the bottom level, Christ’s teachings are seen as extremely important rules which must be kept precisely because focusing on the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law, is characteristic of behavior at lower levels of mental health. At the middle level of mental health, people pay more attention to the spirit then they do to the letter of the law… At the top level we can read these and understand better how our minds work and what we need to do to make our minds work differently if we are ever to be transformed or reborn. We’re helped to “repent” in it’s real meaning of “rethink.”” (157)

“Robin Skynner felt that, unless there is something greater than you that you subscribe to, you are always going to stay at a lower, narrower, more selfish level and be less happy as a result.” (160

“Do you know that during the doctors’ strike in New York a few years ago, the death rate went down? …When cardiologist leave the hospital and go to conferences, the death rates at the hospital drop.” (206)

“33% of the American population believe that they are going to be billionaires within the next five years.” (208)

William Goldman:
“That fear of having it be over permeates everything in the entertainment business.” (23)

“When you write… You have the power to publish what you want. It’s your baby. In a movie, it’s everybody’s. So essentially, no matter who you are, you have no control.” (25)

So “kill all your darlings“ means once you’ve figured out what your story is, you must protect it to the death.” (27)

I then try and write very briefly 25 or 30 words, which I’ll put on my wall, which is the spine of the piece, which is the story. In other words, the King movie opens with Jimmy Caan finishing a novel, getting in his car in Colorado, driving, getting caught in a storm, having an accident. So I wrote, “blizzard.“ That’s the first five or eight minutes of the movie. Then I wrote, “rescue.“ That’s when Kathy Bates comes. And then I work down and, once I have that thing on the wall – I tape it to the wall, literally –that’s the movie. The rest of it then becomes a matter of rote work. The hard part is reading and rereading or researching and trying to figure out what is the story we’re trying to tell in this case.” (31)

“Movies are not about snappy dialogue. It helps if the people are supposed to be intelligent, but that’s not what movies are about. Movies are about making the story work on camera-making it be as surprising and interesting as you can for the audience who has come for the night.” (32)

“If you can make the last minutes of a movie a crescendo-I don’t mean a bloodbath, I mean a crescendo-you’ll have a hit.” (33)

I think we were all strange, you know, nerdy. And I think, suddenly when people tell you you’re wonderful, you want to believe that so badly and, in Hollywood, you do and your careers are over.” (45)

“if you don’t need to know that, get rid of it. Movie writing is about connectives: this scene connects with that scene connects with the next, and there’s a kind of inexorable thing that happens as it rides you along toward the climax of the movie. That’s hard to get right. Anything that stands in the way, you’ve got to get rid of. Sometimes your best writing is what stands in the way of it.” (46)

“There’s a book I always talk about that is the most simple piece of storytelling, the little engine that could. Somehow, in that little children’s book, we all want the toys to get across the mountain. That’s all we have to do: get people involved with wanting.” (51)

“I think if you don’t have the audience caring, wanting the story, it doesn’t matter how wonderful or what else it is.” (52)

No screenwriter has ever had control. If you want to become a writer-producer or a writer-director, it would be different.” (52)

All I ever worry about when I’m offered something is, “can I make it play? Can I figure out a way to tell the story? Would I want to see this movie? Would I be excited or pleased or whatever it is by it?“ If those answers are yes, then I’ll say, “yes, I’ll try and write the movie for you.“ (54)

“Movies don’t require brilliant dialogue. It just has to be solid and tell the story. Movies are not about dialogue. It’s one of the great myths. Screenwriting is not about dialogue.” (60)

“I tend to write for dead actors… It gives you a fix on the character your writing.” (63)

If you write a good line at the end of a scene and the secondary performer has that good line, don’t do that! Rewrite the scene so the star has that good line.” (69)

A great producer told me, “add 1/3 for the shit.“ That’s a line about stars. If you’re going to have a star, he’s going to cost you.” (71)

“Remember this: stars have no flaws. I’ve written this and written this. They are perfect. A star will not play flawed. They will not play flawed.” (71)

Stephen Ceci:
“Pretty much every public figure, people rate them as being more attractive after they’ve seen them a lot than they did the first time they saw them.” (108)

If you liked the quotes, buy the book here.

“Everything Is F*cked” Quotes

I recently read (the kindle version of) “Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope” by Mark Manson. Here are the quotes I found most interesting.

How May I Help You? If I worked at Starbucks, instead of writing people’s names on their coffee cup, I’d write the following: One day, you and everyone you love will die. And beyond a small group of people for an extremely brief period of time, little of what you say or do will ever matter. This is the Uncomfortable Truth of life. And everything you think or do is but an elaborate avoidance of it. We are inconsequential cosmic dust, bumping and milling about on a tiny blue speck. We imagine our own importance. We invent our purpose—we are nothing. Enjoy your fucking coffee. Location 123-126

The opposite of happiness is hopelessness, an endless gray horizon of resignation and indifference. Location 153-154

Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness, and depression. It is the source of all misery and the cause of all addiction. This is not an overstatement.4 Chronic anxiety is a crisis of hope. It is the fear of a failed future. Depression is a crisis of hope. It is the belief in a meaningless future. Delusion, addiction, obsession—these are all the mind’s desperate and compulsive attempts at generating hope one neurotic tic or obsessive craving at a time. Location 158-162

Studies done in more than 132 countries show that the wealthier a country becomes, the more its population struggles with feelings of meaning and purpose. Location 326-327

The wealthier and safer the place you live, the more likely you are to commit suicide. Location 249-250

Hope doesn’t care about the problems that have already been solved. Hope cares only about the problems that still need to be solved. Because the better the world gets, the more we have to lose. And the more we have to lose, the less we feel we have to hope for. Location 255-257

To build and maintain hope, we need three things: a sense of control, a belief in the value of something, and a community. Location 257-258

And we usually don’t lie out of malice—rather, we lie to others because we’re in such a habit of lying to ourselves. Location 703-704

Wherever there is pain, there is always an inherent sense of superiority/inferiority. And there’s always pain. Location 727-728

Leaders need their followers to be perpetually dissatisfied; it’s good for the leadership business. If everything were perfect and great, there’d be no reason to follow anybody. Location 1471-1472

Success is in many ways far more precarious than failure. First, because the more you gain the more you have to lose, and second, because the more you have to lose, the harder it is to maintain hope. Location 1514-1515

By experiencing our hopes, we lose them. We see that our beautiful visions for a perfect future are not so perfect, that our dreams and aspirations are themselves riddled with unexpected flaws and unforeseen sacrifices. Location 1515-1517

The only thing that can ever truly destroy a dream is to have it come true. Location 1517-1518

Ideologies, because they’re constantly challenged, changed, proven, and then disproven, offer scant psychological stability upon which to build one’s hope. And when the ideological foundation of our Ideologies, because they’re constantly challenged, changed, proven, and then disproven, offer scant psychological stability upon which to build one’s hope. Location 1690-1691

Thus, began the stupid dick-measuring contest also known as human history. Location 1723-1724

We’ve got it backward: everything being fucked doesn’t require hope; hope requires everything being fucked. Location 1752-1752

Hope is, therefore, destructive. Hope depends on the rejection of what currently is. Location 1755-1756

A friend of mine once described parenthood as “basically just following around a kid for a couple decades and making sure he doesn’t accidentally kill himself—and you’d be amazed how many ways a kid can find to accidentally kill himself.” Location 1890-1892

then they won’t actually trust you. The most precious and important things in life are, by definition, nontransactional. And to try to bargain for them is to immediately destroy them. You cannot conspire for happiness; it is impossible. But this is often what people try to do, especially when they seek out self-help and other personal development advice—they are essentially saying, “Show me the rules of the game I have to play, and I’ll play it,” not realizing that it’s the very fact that they think there are rules to happiness that is preventing them from being happy. Location 1955-1958

Becoming an adult is therefore developing the ability to do what is right for the simple reason that it is right. Location 1965-1966

This is essentially what good early parenting boils down to: implementing the correct consequences for a child’s pleasure/pain-driven behavior. Punish them for stealing ice cream; reward them for sitting quietly in a restaurant. Location 1992-1994

Graduating to adolescence requires trust. A child must trust that her behavior will produce predictable outcomes. Location 2007-2008

the problem with hope is that it is fundamentally transactional—it is a bargain between one’s current actions for some imagined, pleasant future. Don’t eat this, and you’ll go to heaven. Don’t kill that person, or you’ll get in trouble. Work hard and save your money, because that will make you happy. Location 2122-2124

The Blue Dot Effect suggests that, essentially, the more we look for threats, the more we will see them, regardless of how safe or comfortable our environment actually is. Location 2251-2252

Developmental psychology has long argued something similar: that protecting people from problems or adversity doesn’t make them happier or more secure; it makes them more easily insecure. Location 2268-2269

What we find, then, is that our emotional reactions to our problems are not determined by the size of the problem. Rather, our minds simply amplify (or minimize) our problems to fit the degree of stress we expect to experience. Location 2271-2273

Nobody is fully happy all the time, but similarly, nobody is fully unhappy all the time, either. It seems that humans, Location 2344-2345

Regardless of our external circumstances, live in a constant state of mild-but-not-fully-satisfying happiness. Put another way, things are pretty much always fine, but they could also always be better. Location 2345-2346

Human perception and expectations warp themselves to fit a predetermined amount of pain. Location 2361-2362

Because you can’t get rid of pain—pain is the universal constant of the human condition. Therefore, the attempt to move away from pain, to protect oneself from all harm, can only backfire. Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering, rather than alleviating your suffering. It causes you to see dangerous ghosts in every nook, to see tyranny and oppression in every authority, to see hate and deceit behind every embrace. Location 2390-2393

Not only is there no escaping the experience of pain, but pain is the experience. Location 2407-2408

Living well does not mean avoiding suffering; it means suffering for the right reasons. Location 2416-2416

Our tolerance for pain, as a culture, is diminishing rapidly. And not only is this diminishment failing to bring us more happiness, but it’s generating greater amounts of emotional fragility, which is why everything appears to be so fucked. Location 2531-2533

Meditation is, at its core, a practice of antifragility: training your mind to observe and sustain the never-ending ebb and flow of pain and not to let the “self” get sucked away by its riptide.
Location 2544-2546

The pursuit of happiness is, then, an avoidance of growth, an avoidance of maturity, an avoidance of virtue. It is treating ourselves and our minds as a means to some emotionally giddy end. It is sacrificing our consciousness for feeling good. It’s giving up our dignity for more comfort. Location 2611-2613

No matter how much wealth is generated in the world, the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our character, and the quality of our character is determined by our relationship to our pain. Location 2625-2627

He saw marketing as an incredible new tool that could give people the feeling of having freedom when, really, you’re just giving them a few more flavors of toothpaste to choose from. Location 2813-2815

More stuff doesn’t make us freer, it imprisons us with anxiety over whether we chose or did the best thing. Location 2837-2837

The only true form of freedom, the only ethical form of freedom, is through self-limitation. It is not the privilege of choosing everything you want in your life, but rather, choosing what you will give up in your life. Location 2843-2845

Even if all the problems of today get magically fixed, our minds will still perceive the inevitable fuckedness of tomorrow. Location 3165-3165

Don’t hope for better. Just be better. Location 3169-3169

“The trick is you bite off more than you can chew . . . and then you chew it.” Location 3239-3240

“Digital Minimalism” Quotes

I recently read (the kindle version of) “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” by Cal Newport. Here’s the quotes I found most interesting.

As Dave explained to me, his own father wrote him a handwritten note every week during his freshman year of college. Still touched by this gesture, Dave began a habit of drawing a new picture every night to place in his oldest daughter’s lunchbox. His two youngest children watched this ritual with interest. When they became old enough for lunchboxes, they were excited to start receiving their daily drawings as well. “Fast-forward a couple of years, and I’m spending a decent chunk of time every night doing three drawings!” Dave told me with obvious pride. “This wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t protect how I spend my time.” Location 489-493

Thoreau establishes early in Walden: “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” Location 546-547

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Blaise Pascal famously wrote. Location 1131-1132

Storr notes that the need to spend a great deal of time alone was common among “the majority of poets, novelists, and composers.” Location 1140-1141

Three crucial benefits provided by solitude: “new ideas; an understanding of the self; and closeness to others.” Location 1153-1154

Experiencing separation, he argues, builds your appreciation for interpersonal connections when they do occur. Location 1157-1157

Regular doses of solitude, mixed in with our default mode of sociality, are necessary to flourish as a human being. Location 1164-1165

The urgency we feel to always have a phone with us is exaggerated. To live permanently without these devices would be needlessly annoying, but to regularly spend a few hours away from them should give you no pause. Location 1345-1346

They found, for example, that if you increase the amount of likes or links clicked by a standard deviation, mental health decreases by 5 to 8 percent of a standard deviation. Location 1624-1625

The idea that it’s valuable to maintain vast numbers of weak-tie social connections is largely an invention of the past decade or so. Location 1796-1797

A life well lived requires activities that serve no other purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates. Location 1911-1912

You can’t, in other words, build a billion-dollar empire like Facebook if you’re wasting hours every day using a service like Facebook. Location 2291-2292