Monday, 25 November 2013

Learning From Failure: An Important Part of Success

"This organization does not tolerate failure"

Failing at something is often seen as a stigma rather than as a learning experience.  It is impossible to succeed at everything at life but the fault is to make any failure seem larger than it actually is.  Treat it as an opportunity for growth, as have these famous personalities!

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something.  But I can't accept not trying.
Michael Jordan

My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
Abraham Lincoln

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.
Bill Gates

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. 
Winston Churchill

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
 Robert F. Kennedy

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
Henry Ford

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.
Beverly Sills

Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I've met people who don't want to try for fear of failing. 
J.K. Rowling

When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important. 
Ellen DeGeneres

People think that the opposite of success is failure, but it's not. Failure is part of the process of success. 
Randy Gage

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success. 
Dale Carnegie


Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. 

Have you ever failed at something in your life?  Just like a child that fails at his first attempt at walking, it's persevering that overcomes all obstacles that may be in the way.

Steven Ratnik 

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Star Wars: Some Lessons From the Franchise On How To Achieve Success

Solo may not have been the success that Disney was hoping for but the franchise will come roaring back when Star Wars: Episode IX will be released in 2019.

According to,

"Star Wars: Episode IX will begin filming at London’s Pinewood Studios on August 1, 2018. J.J. Abrams returns to direct the final installment of the Skywalker saga. Abrams co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Terrio. Returning cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. Joining the cast of Episode IX are Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, and Keri Russell, who will be joined by veteran Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams, who will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian. The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher, using previously unreleased footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” says Abrams. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.” 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has grossed more than $600 million in North America and more than $1.3 billion worldwide.  After more than 40 years since Star Wars first opened, the franchise continues to enjoy enormous success.  Now on the heels of The Last Jedi, the trailer for the new film Solo: A Star Wars Story made its debut during the Super Bowl  on February 4.  Depicting the early days of Han Solo, the movie will undoubtedly be one of the years top-grossing films when it opens in May 2018.

To further add to the film's mystique, Solo:A Star Wars Story will have its world premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.  It's certainly a very prestigious venue in which to debut the film!


Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened on December 15, 2017 torave reviews (90%+ on RottenTomatoes) and it's expected to continue the latest string of successes for the franchise.

This new film will add billions in revenue to a franchise that began seemingly a long time ago with a film that many thought would never reach the massive success that it has since enjoyed.

It's hard to believe, but it's been 40 years since the original Star Wars was released in 1977.  Made for $11 million and debuting initially at only 32 theaters, the movie became a cultural milestone that spawned a franchise worth untold billions of dollars.  It's truly a remarkable outcome for a film set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...".

The Star Wars juggernaut showed it still has massive appeal as the new film ' Rogue One' grossed $530 million in North America and more than $1 billion world-wide.  Similar numbers are expected for the next Star Wars film due later this year.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, already the highest-grossing film of all time in North America, passed the $900 million mark in box office receipts.  The movie has also made more than $2 billion internationally.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens had the largest world-wide debut ever with an international gross of $528 million, beating the previous record set by Jurassic World.  $247 million came from the U.S. box office, also a record and a truly remarkable achievement.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on track to be the most successful film of all time and those receipts will easily be matched by all of the merchandising for the movie.  

Many important business lessons can be learned by the Star Wars franchise, one of the most successful in movie history and still going strong after 40 years.

According to, the Star Wars franchise has grossed $27 Billion Dollars as of October 2012 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens will add an estimated $10 billion more in box office and merchandising revenue.  Creator George Lucas has a net worth of $4.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine, mostly due to his sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney.

This all started with a science fiction movie that few took seriously when it was being produced.  George Lucas believed in it and did the work required to make it an overwhelming triumph in movie-making.

What lessons can be learned from his success?

1) Believe in Your Product

Lucas developed the idea for Star Wars when he was making his hit film, American Graffiti.  Made for $777,000, American Graffiti grossed $115 million for Universal Pictures, an extremely high profit margin.  Despite this, Universal turned down Lucas' proposal for the Star Wars movie.

One might see where Universal was coming from since directing a hit teen comedy or a cult film like THX 1138 doesn't necessarily translate to directing a hit science fiction movie. Like the record companies that turned down the Beatles, they failed to see a future moneymaker when they saw it.

Despite the rejection, Lucas kept working on his project and was rewarded when 20th Century Fox agreed to finance the movie.

2) Do The Work Without Reinventing the Wheel

Star Wars was a massive summer hit when it was released but it wasn't a groundbreaking movie in itself.  Lucas used comic books and old movie serials such as Buck Rogers as foundations for the movie's plot.  He would also use old-fashioned inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels.  If it worked in the past, it will work in the future - even in outer space.

For the dogfights in space, Lucas went through old war movies such as Battle of \Britain and used the aerial footage as a basis for the battles between the TIE fighters and the X-Wings.  The gunfights between the Rebels and the Stormtroopers wouldn't have looked out or place in any western or war movie.  It was all about rah-rah action with clearly defined good guys and bad guys.

His film THX 1138 was a bleak film for adults about the future which had little action and sparse dialogue.  Star Wars, set in a galaxy far, far away, was a film for kids of all ages with wall-to-wall action scenes depicting the timeless battle of good vs evil- in this case, Luke Skywalker vs the evil Darth Vader.

3) Don't Be Afraid To Tinker

Luke Skywalker was originally supposed to a be a general and an older man.  Lucas thought better of it and made Luke a young man who was learning how to be a true warrior who would defeat the bad guy and save the galaxy, something than every male teen would want to identify with.  Lucas also changed his name from Luke Starkiller to Skywalker.  It was a subtle change but an effective one.

Han Solo was originally supposed to be a gilled alien with green skin.  Lucas wisely changed him into a good-looking quick-draw renegade loner who played by his own rules.  This obviously appealed to teen boys and girls who might have found Luke Skywalker a bit too square.

Stars Wars with an elderly Luke and a green alien Han Solo would have possibly made Universal Studios correct in their initial estimate of the movie's success. A bit of tinkering on Lucas' part turned the movie into a billion-dollar franchise.

4) Take Less Now For A Whole Lot More Later

When shooting on Star Wars wrapped up, Lucas was owed about $500,000 from Fox studio in directing fees, up from the $150,000 he made for American Graffiti. 

The film went over budget, from $8 million to $11 million.  When Fox executives were shown an advanced screening of the film, they weren't impressed,  Apparently several fell asleep.  Lucas' friend Brian De Palma said the rough cut was one of the worst things he had ever seen (said in jest but still a bit hurtful).

After all that, Lucas made a request to Fox executives, which went something like this:

Lucas:  About the $500,000 you owe me, let's make a deal that will save you some money.

Fox Executives:  We're listening.

Lucas:  I'll take only $150,000 if you give me the sequel and merchandising rights for the movie.

Fox Executives (thinking any sequels or merchandising revenue were a fantasy):  You got a deal.

What happened next, of course, is on par with Universal's decision not to be involved with the film in the first place.  Fox did save a few hundred thousand dollars but gave up billions in future revenue. They hoped Star Wars would at least make their money back but didn't anticipate the huge success of sequels like Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi or the enormous avalanche of products such as toy light-sabers and action dolls.  Merchandising revenue from movies was seen as being a given for a company like Walt Disney but not for a science fiction film with a cast of mostly unknowns.  Of course, Disney will now make billions in merchandising sales from the Force Awakens.

Sir Alec Guiness, ironically enough, was also paid $150,000 but he was additionally offered 2% of the producer's profits for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He didn't think much of the film, being a classically-trained British actor, but he signed on and would eventually make over $100 million!

5) Know Your Customers

The executives at Fox didn't like Star Wars when they saw the finished product.  They thought it was boring or hard to understand or packed with characters that were too weird.  Some fell asleep during the viewing.  This probably led them to accept the trade of money for future rights.

George Lucas, on the other hand, had a good idea what the general public wanted in an action movie, even if it was set in a far-off galaxy.  He also knew that even a character such as Chewbacca would be instantly beloved, given that he got the idea for him by observing his huge dog in the front seat of his car.

After all, what's cuter than your pet dog riding along with you, whether in a car or in the Millenium Falcon?

In hindsight, the success of Star Wars looks to have been a foregone conclusion but the steps in obtaining that success took both hard work and a lot of determination a vision through, no matter what the 'experts' believed.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

"The Medium Is The Message": It's Not Just What You Say...

Canadian philosopher and noted public figure Marshal Mcluhan coined the phrase 'The medium is the message' in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964.

According to the entry in Wikipedia, "McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study."

What Does It Mean?

Here is one way to look at it:

It's your friend's birthday.  How do you plan to wish him a Happy Birthday?  

The message is 'Happy Birthday'.

The medium determines how good a friend that person is.

There are different ways (or types of medium) to wish him Happy Birthday.

* You send a Facebook greeting - you post on his wall 'Happy Birthday'.

* You send a text saying 'Happy Birthday'.

* You give him a phone call to wish him a Happy Birthday.

* You drive to his house and wish him 'Happy Birthday ' in person.

* You drive to his house with Adele.  You moved heaven and earth to get Adele to sing Happy Birthday in person to him!

A text birthday greeting - very casual friend.

An Adele birthday greeting - best friend of all time!

The message 'Happy Birthday' is the same - the medium is the important part.

Another Example

A man wants to wish his wife a Happy Anniversary.

If he merely sends a text wishing 'Happy Anniversary" - big trouble!

If he hires Rod Stewart to serenade her 'Happy Anniversary' - out-of-the-world reaction.

If he says 'Happy Anniversary' with a kiss and flowers - also a very happy medium.

The same concept works with a marriage proposal.  A marriage proposal on bended knee with an expensive diamond ring or proclaimed on a scoreboard at a Major League baseball game is a lot different than a text message saying "Will you marry me?".

What Is The Message?

Pay attention to the medium.  In business, how a message is conveyed is the same as what the message actually is.  It works the same in social media.  A Tweet is different than a blog entry which is different from a Google+ update.

And so on.

Of course, a lot has been written about 'The medium is the message' in much greater detail than in this blog.

This blog was merely a medium!

So, listen to the message but also pay attention to the medium.

Steven Ratnik

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