That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today's clip comes from the classroom scene in Twenty One:
The product of picking a good system. I love this movie because it’s not about luck, it’s about math. That’s why every artist should watch it. Because luck, more often than not, is simply a matter of volume. Basic probability. For example, if you pick from a bag that has forty red marbles and eighty blue marbles, which color are you more likely choice? Blue. Because there are twice as many. And so, the goal for creators is to build a system that increases our number of blue marbles. To pursue a conscious strategy that makes it easier for luck to find us. Jonathan Mann creates and publishes a new song and video each day. He’s been doing this for years. And due to his vast quantity of material and speed of composition, he’s built a massive body of work, earned critical acclaim and secured his career as a working professional songwriter. That’s not luck, that’s volume. In his career, each song is another blue marble. Mann has anchored what he creates to probability. His success is a product of picking a good system and following it until luck finds him. It’s an inspiring reminder that our economy rewards generosity. That there is no gift if there is no art. And that giving the first creation away makes the second one possible. If you work that way, there’s no need to gamble. Have you chosen a system that vastly increases your odds of getting lucky?
Overcoming emotion with statistics. Artists tends to be emotional, impulsive creatures with a hypersensitive relationship to the world and a penchant for exaggeration and drama. But as the professor explains, if you don’t know which door to open, it’s best to keep emotions aside and let simple math get your ass into a brand new car. Our version of simple math, then, is getting our units up. When in doubt, create. Because on the neverending list of things to do, creating more real work, executing more actual product and shipping more lasting value, in the unique way that only we can deliver, is always the our best bet. Again, simple probability. If we want to be in the right place at the right time, we need to be in a lot of places. Consistency plus volume. It’s the only surefire path to creating a market wide hunger for our work. Even if we aren’t necessarily creating all day, as long as we’re creating everyday, art won’t take as long to pay for itself as we originally thought. Conroy once wrote that he used books as instruments to force his way into the world. Perhaps each creator needs their own version of that to let the best have a real chance at them. When you don’t know which creative door to open, what’s your default strategy?
Mentoring is the real jackpot. Ben solved the statistics problem flawlessly. Then again, it could have been a fluke. One answer does not a genius make. So the professor investigates further. And after noticing a stunningly high score on his latest term paper, he connects the dots. He’s found a winner. His next card counting superstar. And so, he coaxes him into join his blackjack team. And the rest is history. What’s interesting is, Ben’s character was based on a real student. A kid whose extracurricular gambling antics afforded him the opportunity to launch several startups, develop an engineering software product and work as a consultant to professional sports teams. All because the professor saw something in him. That’s another form of luck. Finding mentors at a time in your life when you’re capable of listening. Encountering guides that give you new contexts from which to relate to the world. Of course, it’s not entirely luck. There has to be something about you that will allow great mentoring to happen. If you were starting your career over again, in what area would you want more mentoring?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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