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.
Based on my books in The Prolific 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 judges scene from Rounders:
Score when it matters. Mike knows the summer internship for a second year law student is crucial. Landing that clerkship could result in a job offer after graduation and help him hone the relevant skills to be successful in the long term. And so, he creates a stiletto moment. He takes advantage of an opportunity to concentrate his portfolio of talents into a tight little package that demonstrates the full firepower of his creative arsenal. Mike’s performance showcases his ability to negotiate a deal, take calculated risks, make a case for himself, monitor and leverage emotional information, entertain an audience, influence behavior and communicate clearly. All in less than five minutes. And as a result, he ingratiates himself to the judges, making himself a more attractive, likeable and memorable candidate for the internship. Jackpot. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my mentor. We were watching a playoff hockey game, when the defenseman from our team scored a goal with thirty seconds left on the clock. Which was an exhilarating moment, but the only problem was, our team was already down by five goals. Winning was statistically impossible at that point. That’s when my mentor looked over at me and said, you have to score when it matters. In sports, in business, in life, timing isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. If you want the world to say yes to you, you have to sing the song that is natural for you to sing, in the way that is natural for you to sing it, in front of the fans who most naturally need to hear it. How will you bridge the gap that exists between you and your potential audience?
Up the emotional and psychological ante. From a physical standpoint, I’m not interested in risk. I have zero need for speed. I don’t play extreme sports. I’ve never been in a fight. And I walk away from even the slightest hint of violence. But when it comes to emotional, psychological risk, I’m quite the daredevil. Relocating to a city with no job and no friends? Starting a business with no money and experience? Delivering a speech in front of four thousand foreigners? Walking into an office building and straight up asking the president for a job? Sign me up. That’s the kind of risk I can get behind. If betting on yourself is wrong, I don’t want to be right. As my favorite gambler once said, winning, losing, it’s all the same after a while, it’s the risk that keeps you going. Mike lives by this principle. As a lawyer, he’s constantly trusting his spontaneous instinctual abilities. And as a rounder, he’s constantly honing his emotional willingness to open himself to new possibilities. Even if that means looking ridiculous in front of his elders. And so, he bets on himself. Even in this casual, consequence free setting. Because he knows it keeps his risk muscle sharp. And because the minute he stops taking the creative risks that made him successful in the first place, he’s finished. How often are you tearing yourself away from the safe harbor of certainty?
Side window, not front door. When I relocated to a new city without a single business contact, the first thing I did was google around to find the coolest companies in the area. I spent a few hours each morning researching and locating a target list of companies that I felt represented the culture and energy I wanted to align myself with. Next, I emailed every single employee of these organizations and requested an interview with the president. But not as a potential employee, rather, as a professional journalist. After all, I had authored a dozen books, published a popular blog and wrote regular columns for dozens of publications. Why not leverage those assets to position myself in a completely different way? What’s amazing is, almost every company wrote back to me. More than seventy percent of them agreed to the interview. And half of them extended an open invitation to stop by their office anytime. This approach completely changed the dynamic of my introduction to the organization. It shifted my context from a needy job seeker into a friendly resource. And that presale position allowed me to connect with and engage the organization in a unique, personal and memorable way. Proving, that you can’t demand someone’s attention, you can only attract it by breaking their patterns. Carlin was right. When you enter through the side window instead of the front door, coming from direction they’re not expecting, you engage their imagination. Why do your competitors get more attention that you?
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