Harvey Mackay: Business lessons from Ben Affleck
March 2, 2013
Watching the Academy Awards is like the Super Bowl for me. I never miss them. And that’s not just because I have a son who is a film director in Hollywood. I just love to go to the movies.
From a business standpoint, the three most important lessons that were presented at this year’s Oscars were delivered by one individual – Ben Affleck. Make that four, because he also talked about how you have to continue to work at having a strong marriage. Fortunately, that’s how I feel about my marriage, too, so I can second his opinion.
Affleck offered life lessons, to be sure, but every business can benefit from them as well.
This also goes for business partnerships. They take work to keep them thriving. You can’t just go through the motions and assume that everything will be OK.
The next great business lesson that Affleck touched on was the importance of mentoring and developing a network. As you might recall, he said, “I never thought I would be back here, but I am because of so many wonderful people who extended themselves to me, who had nothing to benefit from it.”
Affleck was referring to winning his first Academy Award in 1997 for best original screenplay for “Good Will Hunting,” which he shared with Matt Damon. Over the years, he has reached out to a lot of people in Hollywood to help him learn the movie business and advance his career. Members of the Academy were able and willing to help him, even though he wasn’t necessarily in a position to reciprocate.
I call that reciprocity without keeping score. Simply stated, it means, “What can I do for you without expecting anything in return?” No quid pro quo. If you live your life this way, two magical things will happen:
1. Over time, people will find ways to do remarkable and unexpected things for you that make your life easier.
2. When you’re knocked down for some reason, you are likely to find the most astonishing human network of support you could ever imagine.
Affleck’s next business lesson was that, “You have to work harder than you think you possibly can.” Success comes before work only in the dictionary. Hard work is not a bad thing. Sure, natural talent can make a big difference, but you still have to work hard at your craft.
Show me a .300 hitter in Major League Baseball, and I’ll show you someone who bangs the ball until his hands bleed trying to keep that swing honed. Ask any surgeon about how much sleep they got for the eight to 10 years it took them to get through medical school, internship and residency. Both these gigs take more than magic hands. They take lots of hard, hard work.
The next Affleck lesson was, “You can’t hold grudges.” Carrying grudges can be a heavy load. Just the thought of past pain pulls your energy down. Forgiveness is how you free yourself. You release your anger. You move forward. And you lighten up.
You will never get ahead of anyone as long as you are trying to get even with that person. Even if you do get even with someone, you have put yourself on their level.
Affleck closed his Academy Award acceptance speech with his final business lesson – and possibly the most important – when he said, “It doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life, because that’s going to happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up.”
Trying times are no time to quit trying. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it; so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many people have thrown up their hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success?
In business, prospects may seem darkest when, really, they are about to turn. A little more perseverance, a little more effort, and what seemed a hopeless failure may turn into a glorious success – like Affleck’s Oscar-winning best picture, “Argo.” It is perhaps more than a coincidence that the story line for “Argo” also echoed many of these lessons. If you haven’t seen this film, treat yourself to this deserving winner.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. He also spends about six weeks a year in Aspen.