When I wake up on Thursday mornings the first thing I do is check my email for the weekly 3, 2, 1 newsletter from James Clear – 3 Ideas from him, 2 quotes from others and 1 question. On February 13th his second idea was this:
“Whenever you see an overnight success, your eyes deceive you.
What you are witnessing is the hour of opportunity unleashing the potential energy of previous choices. It was not one decision, but the accumulated power of all that came before.
The fuse was lit on a loaded cannon.”
Before the holidays Joseph Carrillo and I had the pleasure of working with Emile Mosseri, orchestrating his score for Minari, an American drama film, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. This film is Isaac’s childhood: a Korean-American family who moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. We went to a test screening of this at A24 before we started working on the score and I knew it was a winner. The story is amazing, perfectly captured and edited and the score is absolutely wonderful. And it did win – both the Audience and the Grand Jury award at Sundance.
It was after the award news came in that I learned from Emile how this was Isaac’s fifth film, and he was around my age, in his 40s. The other films had not done much and he was so discouraged pre-Minari he had considered giving up a career in film. But then he turned his sights on this film, his own story, and poured decades of skill development and lessons learned into this project. It was far from overnight success.
We hear this story time and time again. This was the story of the Mad Men series. For memory, the show-runner had carried the script around with him for many years before his pitch was finally picked up. And then there is the Mad Men star Jon Hamm’s journey which you can read about here – very similar story
But the take away should not be “just hang in there, one day it will happen to you”. Good fortune doesn’t come for everyone. There is no guarantee it will come at all but the one thing which will help steer it your way is making the most of every opportunity. Doing the work. Learning the lessons.
Because here is another story that we hear less as it is such a bummer, an ugly headline: people finally getting the opportunity they had always hoped for, and completely screwing it up because they have absolutely no idea what they are doing! When you have that big moment, that is not the time to be learning how to do the essentials of the job. You need to know that already!
Whatever project you have right now, whatever opportunities – however humble – that are currently on your plate, make the most of them. Use this time to learn how to create a great work flow, be efficient, communicate well and most importantly: create things you are proud of. Do your best work! Now is your boot camp. Now is the time to equip yourself with every tool you will eventually need in your tool belt. Because if you do get that big gig, there is going to be a steep learning curve regardless. There will be challenges you cannot currently anticipate. You will not have the bandwidth to deal with that AND everything you should have already known.
Load your cannon so when the opportunity suddenly arrives and the fuse is lit, You Are READY!