I had a conversation once with my friend and mentor, actor Will Smith, about what it takes to become successful. He told me that many people trying to make it get frustrated and dont give themselves over to the process of success. He explained: The distance between you and success isnt necessarily a yard--its an inch. But to get that final inch is excruciating. You have to stay committed.
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Ive worked in entertainment for 15 years, ever since I was 18 years old and I have discovered real success is a process and cannot be produced overnight. In film, the process of working on a script is called development. Any movie that becomes great has to go through rigorous development, which can often take years to complete. There are some scripts Ive been developing for countless years and they still arent ready to be produced.
In business, Ive discovered that sustainable success is also built on this development process. Critics complain that the quality of movies in Hollywood is diminishing. I can assure that no one wakes up and says, I want to make a bad movie today yet one of the reasons cinema quality may have deteriorated is because the development process is rushed. It takes time for raw ideas to form cohesively into a clearly-shaped vision. The same is true in our life and careers.However, we live in a world obsessed with instant success.
YouTube and reality TV have rebooted the idea of success to the point its unrecognizable. I landed my first internship in the film industry back in 1996 while I was still a freshman business major at the University of Southern California and since that time, things have changed so much I can hardly believe it. Today a poisonous idea persists that you can become famous overnight. In this line of thinking, fame equals success. We have become impatient with the process because we see fame as an end in and of itself. There are no overnight successes; everything comes with a cost.
In entertainment, until the past 10 years or so, most actors, writers and directors followed the same basic career track: learn your craft, work as much as you possibly can, pay your dues, make contacts and try to be in the right place at the right time when the right opportunity comes knocking.
It wasnt easy, and it wasnt supposed to be.
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The difficulty of sticking to a plan that could take 20 years to pay off meant that for the most part, the people who finally made it possess the commitment, dedication,and skill set necessary to have long-lasting, high-quality careers. Its akin to the painstaking training that world-class athletes of any sport endure; by the time youve gone through the work and struggles to become a champion, youve also developed the wisdom and discipline to sustain that high-level of performance. The culture of overnight celebrity undercuts the process of development that we all must undergo in order to achieve lasting success.
Then theres that word: success. Its a funny word with a lot of definitions. For some people, success means a lot of money. For others, it means fame. However, I believe true success is much more than fame or fortune. Success is confidence and contentment in the person you were created made to be. Success is living a good, just and honorable life. Success is discovering and living in your purpose.
Money, fame and position can represent the trappings of success, but shouldnt be the definition of success. Ive seen too many people who have all the trappings but cant rest at night; real success should give you peace. Most successful movies are built on great characters. Same with our life, real success is all about having character built on strong morals and genuine integrity.
There is a lot of temptation for professionals in every industry to take the quick and easy path to success--to violate our values for a promotion or because no one will ever know. This is always a recipe for disaster in film and also in business. Maintaining the integrity of a film during development is key--this means not trying to turn a script from something it is (i.e. a drama) into something its not (i.e. a comedy). We all have ideals and beliefs that are the foundation of our integrity, yet we have a tendency to abandon what we believe in just to achieve results under the pressures of our jobs.
If you will do anything you can to succeed, even if it means betraying every principle and ideal you possess, in the end you might survive, but itll cost you more than you ever thought. By taking short cuts you are more likely to betray your own ethics and the people you care about and in the long run and increasing your chance of failing in the long term and possibly ruin your chances for success in your chosen field for the rest of your life. Sure, there are ways to work the system and take shortcuts--but take heed: the odds of that movie failing increase dramatically. And in the end, who really wants to rush a movie into production to only see it fail at the box office?
Dont take shortcuts. If you want to be true to your beliefs and who you are, then shortcuts do not exist. When you rush the development process in your career, you miss the opportunity to allow your character to develop. It takes time to learn how to manage people, make decisions and resolve conflicts. When you get something too soon or that you didnt work for, you wont know how to value or maintain it. And there is nothing in this world worth giving up what you believe in. Box office blockbusters like Lord of the Rings, Spider-man and even Twilight spent years in development and the process ultimately produced huge results. Go through the development process in your career, as difficult as it is because in the long run, it will work out and your success will be much greater than any movie Hollywood could ever produce.
Commit to the process of success, no matter how long it takes. DeVon Franklin, Author of Produced By Faith: Enjoy Real Success Without Losing Your True Self