How To Succeed Without Really Trying

When I see Star Wars, the thing that amazes me the most is that there was ever a successful sequel.  In fact, I like Empire more.  While not all of the movies that followed were at the same level, nonetheless, the fact that any subsequent Star Wars movie has been at all good is remarkable.


Whenever I succeed, I wonder if my best work is now behind me.  Kurt Vonnegut once told his daughter he was tired of having to hit home runs all the time.  How is it possible to have any kind of success after you’ve already succeeded at that level?


I think that I’d have to keep a mindset in which doing the work was more important than having done it.  But that isn’t enough.  I am always concerned with the reception of anything that is going to be seen by the public, because otherwise there’s little motivation for me to do it well.


When I acted, I found it very difficult to leave a successful performance behind.  Yet I knew it was not only fruitless but dangerous to attempt to repeat my success.  The result was almost always a failure. 


What worked for me was to make it fresh every time.  I had to pretend like each performance was brand new, as though I had never done it before.  Then the impetus that created the successful performance created the potential for a new, separate success.


Of course, that’s no guarantee for generating successes.  It is instead a way to keep from trying to repeat a success, because that’s much more likely to be a failure.  The point is that each effort be as good as it can be, not as good as the last one was.


That’s what the world needs.  A manifestation of sincere, wide-awake effort.  Not ten Star Wars.


How many versions of Star Wars do you really want to watch?  Aren’t you glad Empire is a different movie entirely?  Have I succeeded at all with this, my…what is it, millionth blog post?

1 comment

  • Marilyn Feingold

    Marilyn Feingold

    Good advice, Adam. I will try and apply that philosophy to my paintings.

    Good advice, Adam. I will try and apply that philosophy to my paintings.

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