This piece was originally published on Entrepreneur.
I’m not sure if this will finally be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year, for The Revenant, or if newcomer Brie Larson, in Room, will trump perennial favorite Cate Blanchett for the latter’s role in Carol. What I can tell you is that people are inspired by movies and jazzed by Hollywood’s award season. But what does that have to do with business?
The answer: inspiration. Where do your business ideas come from? From a variety of sources, I bet. Whether it’s a personal experience, a business experience, a billboard you saw when you were driving down the road or something your significant other said at the grocery store: Inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources.
So, whether you feel like “the king of the world,” or believe that you “could’ve been a contender” or consider that you should “always be closing”: Entrepreneurs can draw a lot from movies. And as we approach Hollywood’s biggest night, the Academy Awards, here are a few movie lines that have inspired me throughout my own career:
1. ‘The Godfather’ (Best Picture, 1972)
“Great men are not born great, they grow great.”
Isn’t that the truth! No one is born with massive amounts of knowledge. If you’re smart enough, you acquire some of that knowledge along the way. If you’re one of those people who think they know it all, I’ve got news for you: You don’t! That is the first obstacle you must overcome, your own arrogance.
Throughout my career, I’ve been called pig-headed, even irrational, but I haven’t been bothered by it. In fact, I’ve welcomed it. Why? Because I’ve been smart enough to learn a few things along the way and use that knowledge to grow.
As a young entrepreneur being shown the ranks, I sat in meetings where my boss would say things like, “Because it’s always been done that way.” If you expect to be in business a long time, this is one surefire way to cut that shelf life short. And it’s not a good mentality to have if you want to grow and be great. Nothing beats experience.
2. ‘All the King’s Men’ (Best Picture, 1949)
“To find something, anything, a great truth or a lost pair of glasses, you must first believe there will be some advantage in finding it.”
“Advantage” is the basis of any entrepreneur. The road to entrepreneurship is paved with roadblocks and potholes galore. We all know that, but one thing we entrepreneurs have in common is the belief that we will find success.
We have this dream of the company that we want to build and shape. We have a vision, and we’ll work ourselves to exhaustion trying to make our dream a success, regardless of what the naysayers say (because they will say something about why you won’t succeed).
You will find that your business success will not come from any trophies or titles. It will come as a reflection of your truth. Your vision becoming a reality will be the measure of your success, and throughout this process you must stay true to who you are.
What made you become an entrepreneur in the first place? Let that serve as your true north. Being authentic is the key to success — it has been for me. That and my belief that I can make a living doing something I love doing.
3. ‘Rocky’ (Best Picture, 1977)
“Nobody is going to hit as hard as life, but it ain’t how hard you can hit. It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
You just read that quote in Sly Stallone’s voice, didn’t you? That’s okay. I did too. Rocky is speaking some truths here. Life is hard enough as it is, but there will come a time where life will knock you flat on your rear end. You must get back up! You must!
Life as an entrepreneur can be lonely. Not everyone will understand your drive, your vision or your passion. There will even be times where there won’t be anyone in sight to help you up after life has knocked you down. In my own life, one of my biggest business “knock-downs” involved pheasants.
Those stupid birds taste delicious but have got to be some of the stupidest birds on the planet. I love pheasant, love hunting them, so at first I thought, What could go wrong? After all, I am passionate about this venture, and I’m pretty good at business. Little did I know that a prairie storm would wipe away my newest venture.
In fact, the pheasants huddled together and drowned in the storm. And I lost everything. Needless to say, the true takeaway here is that, when life knocks you down, you should get up and hit it back harder. Just don’t expect soaring music when you run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
4. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (Best Picture, 2004)
“It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”
Once again, the life of an entrepreneur can be lonely. You have your dream and vision, but there are people who are incapable of visualizing your dream or are so jealous of your success that they will plant seeds of doubt in your head. Don’t let them. Haters are gonna hate, so let them! People will tell you how you should do things.
Tell ’em to shut up! Write your own story. If others want to write a story, let them write their own.
Your business will need to reflect your vision, not anyone else’s. So, stop listening to other voices if you want to be the best “you” possible. It’s your dream, your vision.
5. ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ (Best Picture, 1962)
“Big things have small beginnings, sir.”
Don’t ever think you’re too big for your britches. When you give yourself the title of “CEO,” that doesn’t mean you’re not going to end up cleaning your own bathroom or taking out the trash. If you’re not willing to do something, how can you ask your team to do that same thing?
As CEO of a company, big or small, it can be really easy to lose perspective and let our titles define us. A CEO cleaning his/her own bathroom? Unheard of in some cases. However, I see it as a positive. Why? It keeps entrepreneurs grounded.
For me, humble work reminds me that I come from humble beginnings and that I need to be able to do everything I can for my company to succeed. It also allows me to stay connected, in some visceral way, to all aspects of my business. Disconnection can be a lonely island of entitlement, and you must find that balance between pushing forward and staying grounded. While I encourage everyone to “think big,” I also warn, “Don’t become too big.” That can be a major turn-off for many.
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What movie inspires you to forge ahead? Which one dared you to put into motion your dream of becoming an entrepreneur? One thing is for sure: Nothing will happen if you don’t at least attempt to get things started. As Master Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”