Achieving Mastery

I had one of those slap-you-in-the-face realizations last night at Skywalker Ranch where I heard Martin Scorsese discuss his mastery in film directing. I was reminded of this lesson . . .

Great businesses are just like great films. They require:

1)      Great vision (in film, you must have a great story with a director that has the talent to interpret that story to the screen),

2)      Wise leadership with vast knowledge on a wide array of subjects to bring the vision to reality,

3)      An ability to absorb, adapt and change on a dime,

4)      Structure, discipline and the fortitude for longevity,

5)       Outside Counsel with a breadth of wisdom holding these ideals as the roadmap.

Of the hundreds of businesses I’ve advised or worked with, every issue really boils down to those 5 elements of mastery.

Think about it. To make your business great, you must have a great idea, service or product. Basic, right?

But to bring that idea to those who need it, a bold mastery in items #3-#5 must be developed – whether it’s a one person or 10,000 person business, it’s still critical to have mastery to overcome the roadblocks (or internal fears) holding a company back from success.


The Secret of Great Film Directors

Martin Scorsese told us about his development and interpretation of the book on the orphan, Hugo Cabret into his lusciously visual film “Hugo”, alluding to to a few dozen 1920’s era French artists, filmmakers, architects, and musicians who influenced his interpretation. That’s a mastery of extrapolating wisdom from the past on a wide array of topics to benefit his vision today.

Too many leaders focus only on their industry losing that wealth of knowledge from other fields outside their own (narrower) vision, limiting their capacity by not having outside counsel or guidance.

In my own presentations, I tell audiences that the secret to marketing (if there really is such a thing) is to extrapolate everything you see, know, hear and sense into how your experiences could apply to your business.


If you learned a great lesson from a book on Zen Buddhism, you might extrapolate how that principle of compassion could guide your business, as an example. If you saw a sign or an ad that really moved you,  it might be possible to extrapolate the feeling of that message into web content for your company.

Whether you like Scorsese’s films or not, his mastery of the art form cannot be disputed. His ability to lead teams of hundreds just to shoot and edit an entire film in just a few months is a staggering accomplishment. I don’t know any CEO’s who’ve built such a successful company from scratch – without an office, staff, management, or marketing – in under 6 months, and still have their funders trust their decision making in the process, with the fortitude to sustain that success for over 50 years.

The skills brought from film to business are impossible for most to understand. Costing $20,000+ per minute to create a film, the Director and leaders must use a mastery of extrapolation, wisdom based on experience, and quick decision making while upholding the greater vision – a critical lesson for businesses in today’s global economy.


A Death of Business: My Own Example

I transitioned my own business from film into business consulting after a drunk kid hit my car injuring my back so I could no longer work 20 hour days on location. Only after a decade, did I fully realize that I’d somehow corrupted my own greater creative vision, repressing the value of my film mastery and it’s value to business.

To me, that was a death of sorts: the loss of fully expressing in business advising a mastery of audience perception which I’d learned in film.


A Gift For You

I offer this example to help your own awareness – think about what you might be holding back that could far benefit your own market/audience.

Aren’t those bold messages the ones you remember? As creative beings, we respond to emotions, the same as in film. Apple’s “Think Different” campaign message succeeded because it was a rallying cry (emotionally) to people frustrated with old style computing.

More Bold Examples:

“Polar Bear Mounting Tape”

This ad stars a giraffe in a rather precarious position. Unlucky for the circling lions below, the giraffe’s stuck well out of harm’s way thanks to Polar Bear mounting tape.





Isn’t it really a disservice to our clients if we’re cheating our bolder mastery, even if we’re not aware of it at the time? That’s why I challenge CEO’s and business owners to look to the greater vision and stages of mastery if we are to flourish.



Quick Recap: Are You a Master?

1)      Have you read a book, article, or seen a video or film that inspires you to greatness in some way? Maybe you’ve instituted a higher vision or even rewards for creative ideas for your staff? Maybe you’ve inaugurated a recycle/reuse policy? Maybe you’ve stepped up to outreach to a new crowd of people who really need your wisdom, experience or skills?

2)      Have you improved one area of your leadership ability? Maybe you’ve inspired your staff or vendors to do better work? Maybe you’ve learned a technique to make more careful decisions? Maybe you’ve figured out some new work/life balance method?

3)      Have you made a change to incorporate your vision within the last 6-12 months? Have you launched a new service or product? Have you adapted to new market conditions, new operations or technology, or new marketing in the last 6 months?

4)      Have you improved your structure, organization or other efficiencies at work? Do you have better information reporting or more profitable operations from recent changes?

5)      Do you have guidance and wisdom from outside your company that helps you uphold your vision? Do you have someone you trust to help bounce ideas off when making important decisions? Do you regularly engage in training, leadership development, or even vision exercizes to maintain and improve your vaster visionary goals, not just daily task fulfillment? Do you dance, meditate, paint, take walks, or play music finding some way to stay joyful and creative over the long term while mired in your daily task list?

Resources For You

If you’re lacking outside counsel, we have lots of resources for you from leadership coaching for CEO’s in the $20 million range by founding members of Google,  to Executive Directors of non-profits; from workshops on blogging to dance and even “the artform of play”; from massage therapists to trainers, Enlightened Business Summits to printers, artists, bookkeepers or bankers; and after finally tapping into my mastery I now take leaders on guided consultative “Idea Lab” walks to ensure your vision, leadership, management, marketing and mastery don’t get derailed.

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