Thursday, October 31, 2013

Learning from Steve Jobs

Lessons Learned From 4 Steve Jobs Quotes

Are there certain leaders that you find inspirational?  Steve Jobs inspires me because he faced tremendous adversity in his life, but he never gave up.  Jobs influenced the transformation of many industries including computing, telecommunications, entertainment, retail and digital publishing.
Steve Jobs was one of the pioneers of the personal computing revolution and is considered one of the prolific visionaries of all time. On top of building and resurrecting Apple AAPL +1.59% when it was about to go bankrupt, Jobs also co-founded one of the greatest animation studios existing today, known as Pixar.  Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, but he went on to start another computer company called NeXT Inc. immediately after that.  Over a decade later, Apple bought out NeXT Inc. and Steve Jobs was named CEO again in 1997.
Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple became the most valuable publicly traded company in 2011. But Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple due to health reasons in August 2011. He passed away nearly two months after that.
Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent out a memo to staff members saying “I hope everyone will reflect on what [Steve Jobs] meant to all of us and to the world. Steve was an amazing human being and left the world a better place. I think of him often and find enormous strength in memories of his friendship, vision and leadership. He left behind a company that only he could have built and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple. We will continue to honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to the work he loved so much. There is no higher tribute to his memory. I know that he would be proud of all of you.”
Throughout Jobs’ career, he participated in many interviews and gave a powerful commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005. As I pored through many of Steve Jobs’ quotes, I found four of them especially insightful:
Don’t Dwell On Mistakes
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations,” said Jobs in a quote within the book called “The Journey Is The Reward” by Jeffrey Young.  Throughout everyone’s career, mistakes will be made.  Do not dwell on the mistakes. Move on from your mistakes!
If you are a chef and your newest recipe burned in the oven, try preparing the recipe in a different way.  If you are a mobile developer and your app does not get any downloads, then scrap it and try something new.  If you are a stock trader and made some bad investment decisions, then find stocks that are not as volatile and find better ways to diversify your portfolio.
As a writer, I have created some articles early in my career that have gotten only a couple of hundred hits (if I was lucky). Recently I have written some articles that have received over a million hits recently.  I was only able to improve my writing by learning from my mistakes, getting feedback from my colleagues and learning from my competition.
Steve Jobs made many mistakes in his career while working at Apple too.  He oversaw several product failures like the Apple Lisa, the Macintosh TV and the Apple III.  He also made many bad managerial decisions. This did not stop him from building the most valuable company in the world.
Love What You Do
This past summer, Gallup released the results of a poll that showed 70% of Americans either hated their job or was “disengaged” from their work.  This sounds like a big problem, doesn’t it?  Most people take a job out of necessity rather than being passionate about that line of work. When Steve Jobs discovered that he was passionate about design and technology, he stayed focused on that industry.
Jobs once said “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
Sometimes it takes time to decide what you are passionate about.  The sooner you discover what your passions are, the faster you will find job fulfillment.  If you want to feel fulfilled in your current job, take on a project that you are passionate about on top of your daily duties.  Have a job that you absolutely despise?  I’m sure that has happened to all of us, but do not settle and keep your ear to close to the ground for other potential opportunities.
Distinguish Yourself
“We’re gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make ‘me too’ products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it’s always the next dream,”  said Jobs in an interview when the Macintosh was released in January 1984.
Distinguishing yourself is one of the most important aspects of your career.  If you simply become lazy and apathetic about your job, then the odds are that you will be laid off. You can prevent this from happening by dreaming bigger and work smarter. Trying something that is not part of the status quo can be a gamble, but it is better to reap the rewards rather than sticking to the norm.
Before Apple built a music player, there were already MP3 players on the market.  There were also many other types of smartphones on the market before the iPhone was built.  Clearly Apple was able to find ways to distinguish themselves, even though it was a big risk.  An Apple senior executive reported recently that the company spent over $150 million on the original iPhone and they put their best engineers on the project.  If you want to take a gamble on a vision that you know can be big, you should not hold back on some of your resources.
Acknowledge People That Helped You Succeed
As you start to succeed in your career, I believe you should acknowledge the people that have helped you get there. Building a career is difficult and you will constantly need to have people on your side.
When Steve Jobs announced his medical leave in 2011, his daughter Lisa was skeptical about visiting him since her relationship with her father was built on resentment.  Steve Jobs told his daughter many times that he wished he had been a better dad when she was younger.  Lisa knew her dad’s condition was not good so she made sure to visit and make reconciliations.  “I’m very glad she came.  It helped settle a lot of things in me,” said Jobs in his biography written by Walter Isaacson.
Steve Jobs was also visited by Google co-founder Larry Page shortly after that.  Page asked Jobs if he could receive tips on how to be a better CEO since he was taking that position from Eric Schmidt at Google.  Jobs said that his first reaction was to be dismissive of Page because he believed Google ripped off Apple’s products when building Android.
“But then I thought about it and realized that everybody helped me when I was young, from Bill Hewlett to the guy down the block who worked for HP. So I called him back and said sure,” said Jobs in the biography.  Jobs talked to Page about focus, choosing the right people, how to know who to trust and how to build a solid team.  Jobs also suggested to Page that Google focuses on five of their best products and cancel the rest because they are dragging them down.  “The Valley has been very supportive of me. I should do my best to repay.”
As you start to succeed in your career, it is important to remember who some of your biggest cheerleaders were. If someone recently hired you for a job that you wanted, make sure to thank the people that hired you. If someone helped you finish a project that you were frustrated with, then give them positive feedback to their manager or take them out for a nice lunch.
Are there any quotes from Steve Jobs that inspire you?  Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chaplin on PBS

August 28th, 2006
Charlie Chaplin
About the Actor
Charlie Chaplin was one of the greatest and widely loved silent movie stars. From “Easy Street” (1917) to “Modern Times” (1936), he made many of the funniest and most popular films of his time. He was best known for his character, the naive and lovable Little Tramp. The Little Tramp, a well meaning man in a raggedy suit with cane, always found himself wobbling into awkward situations and miraculously wobbling away. More than any other figure, it is this kind-hearted character that we associate with the time before the talkies.
Born in London in 1889, Chaplin first visited America with a theater company in 1907. Appearing as “Billy” in the play “Sherlock Holmes”, the young Chaplin toured the country twice. On his second tour, he met Mack Sennett and was signed to Keystone Studios to act in films. In 1914 Chaplin made his first one-reeler, “Making a Living”. That same year he made thirty-four more short films, including “Caught in a Cabaret”, “Caught in the Rain”, “The Face on the Bar-Room Floor”, and “His Trysting Place”. These early silent shorts allowed very little time for anything but physical comedy, and Chaplin was a master at it.
Chaplin’s slapstick acrobatics made him famous, but the subtleties of his acting made him great. While Harold Lloyd played the daredevil, hanging from clocks, and Buster Keaton maneuvered through surreal and complex situations, Chaplin concerned himself with improvisation. For Chaplin, the best way to locate the humor or pathos of a situation was to create an environment and walk around it until something natural happened. The concern of early theater and film was to simply keep the audience’s attention through over dramatic acting that exaggerated emotions, but Chaplin saw in film an opportunity to control the environment enough to allow subtlety to come through.
Chaplin was known as one of the most demanding men in Hollywood. Regardless of the size the part, Chaplin walked each actor through every scene. Chaplin knew that a successful scene was not simply about the star, but about everyone on the screen. He demanded that the entire cast work together in every performance. Without this unity he could not express the subtlety of character that was so important to him. The only way to achieve that unity was to maintain complete control over every scene. This constant attention to detail ran many features over-time and over-budget, but the public reaction assured him and the studios that what he was doing worked. As his popularity increased he took more liberties with filming. Movies such as his 1925 hit, “The Gold Rush”, demanded unending reworking of scenes and rebuilding of sets.
Chaplin typically improvised his story in front of the camera with only a basic framework of a script. He shot and printed hundreds of takes when making a movie, each one a little experimental variation. While this method was unorthodox, because of the expense and inefficiency, it provided lively and spontaneous footage. Taking what he learned from the footage, Chaplin would often completely reorganize a scene. It was not uncommon for him to decide half-way through a film that an actor wasn’t working and start over with someone new. Many actors found the constant takes and uncertainty grueling, but always went along because they knew they were working for a master.
Though Chaplin is of the silent movie era, we see his achievements carried through in the films of today. With the advent of the feature-length talkies, the need for more subtle acting became apparent. To maintain the audience’s attention throughout a six-reel film, an actor needed to move beyond constant slapstick. Chaplin had demanded this depth long before anyone else. His rigor and concern for the processes of acting and directing made his films great and led the way to a new, more sophisticated, cinema.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Taking Shape

A listing of my chapters.  I've added a few since the last time.  I may move them around a bit until I think it's just right, but who knows?

Chapter 1 Chaplin, Kelly, Jobs:  Brief Biographies
Chapter 2 Early Influences
Chapter 3 Hard Work Pays Off
Chapter 4 Timing is Everything
Chapter 5 Rapid Rise to the Top
Chapter 6 Leveraging Fame & Fortune
Chapter 6 The Media
Chapter 7 I’m on Top, Now What?
Chapter 8 The Right Team
Chapter 9 Running a Tight Ship
Chapter 10 Missteps
Chapter 11 Loyalty
Chapter 12 The Next Big Thing
Chapter 13 Creative Freedom
Chapter 14 On Hard Work
Chapter 15 On Politics
Chapter 16 The Competition
Chapter 17 Effects on Those Closest to Them
Chapter 18 Continued Innovation
Chapter 19 The End
Chapter 20 Legacies

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chaplin Tries Ex Girlfriend in City Lights

Unsatisfied with the work of Virginia Cherrill as the blind girl in the last scene from City Lights , Chaplin fires her just as the shooting of the movie is almost complete because she took some time off one day to get her hair done. He brings in Georgia Hale, his leading lady from The Gold Rush, to try in the final scene where the blind girl, now cured, realizes the tramp is the one who helped her to get the sight giving surgery. Still unsatisfied, he brings Virginia back to shoot the scene and he takes the final shot of the movie as no actress could give him what he wanted. Watch here as Georgia tries to provide Chaplin with the performance he wanted.

Georgia Hale from the Gold Rush 1925

Click below to see Georgia's performance as the now cured blind girl.

Click here

Chaplin: The Ultimate Perfectionist

Chaplin showing why he was a perfectionist: In “the Flower Girl,” scene from City Lights 1931, he enters and exits an expensive parked limousine in a traffic jam to avoid a motorcycle policeman. There in front of him is a beautiful flower-selling Blind Girl (Virginia Cherrill). She hears the limo door slam, assuming he is a rich millionaire. She offers him a flower, a boutonniere - his first reaction is a flirtatious one (before he learns she is blind). He is smitten by her and gives her his last coin for the single flower for his buttonhole. [According to Guinness World Records, this sequence took 342 takes to make - the most retakes for one scene.] This is a rare glimpse of Charlie Chaplin (Official) at work taken by a friend on the set with a camera. Chaplin was very secretive about his methods and this scene was crucial to the entire movie where the blind flower girl must perceive the tramp as a millionaire instead of a poor tramp.

To watch this scene on YouTube click below.

Click here

Chaplin behind the camera

Chaplin taking the flower from the blind girl.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gene Kelly in All of His Movies Set to Music

Kelly Does Chaplin

This little clip shows Gene Kelly in the movie An American in Paris from 1951, doing a little dance number with some French children.  He's showing them how he dances and near the end of the clip, does a little homage to Charlie Chaplin.  A little girl yells, "Charlot" which was what the French called Charlie's tramp character.  I just love the connection of Kelly to Chaplin.  In my book, Bold, Brash & Brilliant,, I look for any connection regardless of how small.  They were both geniuses, workaholics, taskmasters and control freaks, but they produced the best product on the market for their chosen craft.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gene Kelly: A Brief Bio

Gene Kelly was embarrassed when his mom sent him to dance classes.  Although he was small for his age, the 8-year-old fought back when neighborhood bullies teased him for being a sissy.  By the time he was a teen, he realized good dancing attracted girls, so he continued the lessons.  After Kelly entered college in 1929, he and older brother Fred worked up dance routines to earn money by winning talent contests and performing at nightclubs. The family opened a dance school in 1930, and Kelly taught there while earning a degree in economics at the University of Pittsburgh.

Yet crunching numbers didn't grab Kelly. Dancing did.  And soon enough he started racking up huge numbers as one of the top movie stars of all time.  The American Film Institute ranks Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" as the best filmed musical, with "An American in Paris" at No. 9.  Kelly (1912-96) was the son of Harriet and James Kelly, a phonograph salesman for Columbia Records who lost his job at the onset of the Great Depression.

Kelly's Keys

Top musical director, dancer and choreographer.
Overcame: Ridicule as a child for learning to dance.
Lesson: There is nothing that can't be improved.

"I find it almost impossible to relax for more than one day at a time."  The family stayed in financial step with dance studios in Pittsburgh and Johnstown, Pa., and when Gene graduated from Pitt in 1933, he taught there full time.  Bigger Dreams In 1937 he moved to New York City to become a choreographer. Failing, he returned to Pittsburgh, teaching dance steps for a local company.  Feeling that provincial experience wouldn't count for much, he aimed once more for New York, wrote Clive Hirschhorn in his Kelly biography.  This time Kelly bought a one-way train ticket in August 1938. In three months he landed his first Broadway part and impressed the producer, who put him in eight routines in his next musical — and hired him to choreograph "Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe." Soon he was dating cast member Betsy Blair.

Then came Kelly's big break.  He landed a spot in the Rodgers and Hart musical "Pal Joey" in 1940, and that shot him to stardom.  Cast member Van Johnson recalled: "I watched him rehearsing and it seemed to me there was no possible room for improvement. Yet he wasn't satisfied. It was midnight and we had been rehearsing since 8 in the morning. I was making my sleepy way down a long flight of stairs when I heard staccato steps coming from the stage. I could see just a single lamp burning. Under it a figure was dancing: Gene."  Kelly's early career lesson is that practice can lead to a bigger stage.  Arthur Freed, the top musical movie producer of all time, according to the documentary "Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer," saw "Pal Joey" and loved it.  He introduced Kelly to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer honcho Louis B. Mayer, who promptly offered him a contract — and was astounded when Kelly told him he first wanted to finish the stage run of "Pal Joey" in October 1941.  When it ended, Kelly married Blair and moved to Hollywood.  His first movie was "For Me and My Gal," with Judy Garland.  Kelly proved to be a stickler, insisting on redoing dance routines. That caused tension with the director, but all was forgiven when the film became a hit in 1942. 

Two years later Kelly starred in "Cover Girl" opposite Rita Hayworth. By then, Freed was giving him creative control over his career, and the star showed what he could do with it in 1945's "Anchors Away" alongside Frank Sinatra. They rehearsed for eight weeks. Kelly ordered 73 takes of one scene.  With creative control of the dancing, Kelly insisted on having much of it shot in New York. "He was one of the very few musical directors who shot on location," Peter Smith, chairman of the department of theater arts at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., told IBD. "That was revolutionary, since everyone else was simply using sound studios."

Joseph McBride, the screenwriter who wrote "Into the Nightmare," said: "Kelly's everyman qualities and athletic approach to dancing were a complete contrast to Fred Astaire, his only peer, who projected an aristocratic demeanor and seemed almost magically ethereal in his dancing. Kelly's Irish-American upstart's charm and regular-guy image helped audiences identify with him and made his very masculine style of dancing popular, transforming movie musicals forever."

Smith added: "When you think of Astaire, you have an image of a very sophisticated, white tie-and-tails persona. Kelly wasn't formally trained in some ways, so he developed his own set of skills and was really a genius at choreography. Prior to him, male dancers all looked tall and lean, but Kelly opened the door for shorter, muscular guys. Without him, I don't think we would have musicals like 'West Side Story.'"
Kelly's career in film is a reminder that boundaries don't hinder the fearlessly creative.  Hurdles And Huzzahs
Kelly hit his share of bumps, as with "The Pirate" in 1948, but he quickly bounced back with "On the Town" the next year — and with something even bigger in 1951.  That's when he starred in "An American in Paris," which won the Academy Award for best picture. Also at the 1952 ceremony, Kelly landed an honorary Oscar for his contribution to filmed musicals.  "Kelly was the consummate artist who pushed himself very hard and expected the same of his colleagues," Earl Hess and Pratibha Dabholkar wrote in "Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece." "They found him to be a powerhouse of energy, creative ideas and almost overwhelming self-confidence. But he was also very fair and considerate and ready to drop his own dancer numbers from release prints if he believed the overall good of the film would be served."

Also in 1952, Kelly co-directed, choreographed and played the lead in "Singin' in the Rain."  Besides being many critics' favorite musical, AFI ranks it the fifth best movie of any kind.  "Its impact on American popular culture after its 1952 release grew over the course of half a century following its initial release," said Hess. "The movie garnered more fans with the advent of each new generation, and the spread of color television in the mid-1960s gave average viewers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of its original glory in their living rooms. The 50th anniversary of the movie led to a digitally renovated version of the film being shown in 2002. While the initial release had only been in eight other countries, it was eventually translated into many languages for a worldwide audience."


In December 1951, after shooting "Singin'," Kelly went to Europe and sank into three movies that turned into shipwrecks. Also, his marriage fell apart, and by the time he returned to America in July 1953 the heyday of the movie musical was over.  With MGM under a new penny-pinching boss, there were no more location shoots, so 1954's Scottish fairy tale "Brigadoon" was filmed on a sound stage and Kelly had little control over the unhappy result: The movie lost money, and the critics ripped it.

Kelly had enough of MGM by 1957 and left to direct Broadway plays and Paris ballet. He appeared in a few films and on TV in the 1960s, winning an Emmy for directing the 1967 kid movie "Jack and the Beanstalk." The same year, he directed a movie smash, "A Guide for a Married Man," starring Walter Matthau. But two years later his "Hello, Dolly!" flopped.  Then in 1974, Kelly helped narrate the surprise hit "That's Entertainment!" Moviegoers got into the musical highlights, so two years later he directed a sequel, coaxing an aging Astaire out of retirement to perform song-and-dance duets with him.

Then came the crown of his career, wrote Hirschhorn: "No honor Gene received throughout his lengthy career could match the glittering annual Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 5, 1982, when together with Lillian Gish, Benny Goodman, Eugene Ormandy and 95-year-old stage director George Abbott, he was one of the recipients of an award for a lifetime achievement in the performing arts."  Kelly's last on-screen appearance was to introduce "That's Entertainment! III" in 1994. Kelly died two years later at 83.
He continues to have an afterlife on sites like Gene Kelly Fans. 

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