The other day I was watching a show where famous people painted their portraits while giving an interview.
This week it was the Australian comedian, musician and director; Tim Minchin.
It was big in the UK. It is big in Australia. I don’t know how well known it is in the US, but it was also one step away from nailing Hollywood. Then everything was ripped away.
This is the story:
At the peak of its comedic success in the UK, Dream Works came up with the opportunity to direct an animated film that follows Bilby and Kangaroo’s adventures in the interior.
Tim seized the opportunity and assembled an all-star Australian cast for the voices, which included: Hugh Jackman, Ben Mendelson, Damon Herriman, Jackie Weaver, Naomi Watts and Margot Robbie.
Basically the best of the best of Australia’s best actors, and enough star power to make the film an instant hit.
Tim talks about time and the attention that is given to him.
3 and a half years, with “half-hour meetings just to discuss the dust on the texture of a leaf”, gold “the color of the red earth in the Australian outback”
I have no doubt that it would have been a huge success, but three and a half years after production, Universal Studios took over DreamWorks and Tim got a phone call.
A suit, on his first day, called Tim and said:
“They didn’t know if it was going to be a success or not.”
So they just killed him. And that was that. All that work, it’s gone.
Tim reflects that there were two things he’s struggled to come to terms with since then:
The first thing was dissonance.
He couldn’t understand how an outside power could take away his art. I imagine this is how people feel when they build a business on Disgracebook, only to have it destroyed for no reason.
The second thing he struggled with was all the things he said No to during that time.
His family, numerous tours, basically withdrew his comedy career just as it was peaking to put everything into this project, only to have it erased on a phone call from someone he didn’t even know.
This is a major achievement.
Opportunity cost is everywhere.
Every time you say Yes to one thing, you say No to an infinite number of other opportunities.
Remember the story Jim Carey tells about his father, who was a very funny guy and could have been a great comedian.
“My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t think that was possible for him, so he made a conservative decision. Instead, he got a secure job as an accountant and when I was 12 they let him leave that job for sure, and our family had to do everything possible to survive. I learned many excellent lessons from my father. One of the most important was that: you can fail at what you don’t want. We are going to risk doing what you love. “
Wise words, indeed.
I think doing what you love rather than what’s safe is a solid sentiment for 2021 after the year we’ve all had.
I think Tim Minchin would agree, but could add:
If you build something, create something, invest in something, make sure you own it so it doesn’t end up as a costly failed opportunity.