Thursday, March 27, 2014

James Cameron and Startup Founders



After listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger's audiobook "Total Recall", there's a chapter that goes into an amazing story of how incredibly ambitious James Cameron's vision of Terminator was. As a film director, James Cameron was extremely technical (he could make highly experienced lighting technicians feel like it was their first time doing lighting), knew all the equipment like the back of his hand, had a huge vision for the film, and ensured that everyone on the team had the vision crystallized in their minds. Incidentally, he could tell when there was too much lighting in one scene and took the small details very seriously.

He was a control freak. Naturally, I would assume that he had the same controlling approach to Avatar and Titanic, both largely successful box office hits.

Everyone loved working with James Cameron because he knew how to challenge his team. He knew how to set out and paint a grand vision -- and he definitely knew how to make it a reality. That said, when it comes to his films, it is his way or the highway. I can understand this since he wrote the scripts, pitched to studios, and got the funding necessary to make it happen. In one particular case, Arnold Schwarzenegger absolutely hated the line "I'll be back" -- it sounded too girly for a killer robot. James Cameron wrote the script as, "I'll be back" but Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to remove the contraction by saying, "I will be back" -- it seemed more in line with what a robot would say. In the heated situation, James Cameron ended the argument by saying, "Look, I don't tell you how to act and you don't tell me how to write. Just say the damn line."

Terminator went on to be a box office hit -- one of the most legendary films ever made in history and the line "I'll be back" became the most popular phrase in movie history. The thing about James Cameron was his intuition. He knew deep down what would be amazing for the people to see and what people want to see on the big screen.

Relating to startup founders, I think that a lot of highly successful startup founders have the same approach to achieving big goals including Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), and Thomas Watson (IBM). They had the ability to see into the future, paint a grand vision, share that vision with the team and challenge the team to make it a reality.

Personally, I have always been drawn to incredibly passionate, hard working people who want to make a dent on the universe -- to do something no one has done before. Generally, these types of people have ambitious goals and these goals have plenty of complex and large problems that need to be solved.

As Steve Jobs said, "Stay hungry, stay foolish". In my case, I'm always hungry for big challenges.
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