For the first time we can see some light at the end of the Covid tunnel. I am looking back at everything I did along the way, and what may stay with me forever. It is not all the virtual capabilities I built. Nor the philosophical musings about interconnected nature of the world. May be a few things I learned about my family watching them up close. One thing that will stay for sure is the Audible series I heard about Hitchcock’s life will stay with me for ever.
It took me solid 4 months to get thru all 29 episodes in the series, view the recorded interviews on YouTube and watch many of the movies mentioned in the series. Over 100 hours !! The episodes contain the back stories for each of the movies, choices Hitchcock made, experiments he tried, resistance he overcame from the studios, reaction from the critics and finally the response from the audience. Of course, his personal story of brilliance, boldness, partnership with his editor-wife-thinker Alma Reville, pettiness and abusive behavior all mixed together and running in parallel.
In time Hitchcock is recognised as a true genius and ‘director’s director’. His movies even after 50-70 years feel slick, scary and funny. Yet, Hitchcock’s cinematic journey had rejections and resistance from the system every step of the way. Studying his movies and movie making I now see Hitchcock more as an entrepreneur, than a movie director.
His first two full length movies were stalled by the distributor (the famous W. Woolf) for their ‘odd angles and shadows’. Infact, Woolf continued his battle with Hitchcock, even after his early successes, holding onto the core argument that movies need to be closer to plays than re-invent story telling. Producers and distributes fought Hitchcock hard on his experiments with moving cameras and zoom shots, as they may ‘confuse the audience’. Note … ‘moving cameras and zoom shots’ as they objection, as they became the classic Hitchcock trademark eventuallly !!
Every new experiment he did and every attempt to re-draw the limits met with rejection in his time, but in time became game changing innovation for all movie making. After one of his greatest hits of all time, North by Northwest, Hitchcock was unable to get a single producer to support his idea for the movie Psycho. Like a true entrepreneur, he invested most of his personal money the age of 60 to produce Psycho – to reap 5X return on his investment !! Psycho consistently rates as one of the greatest movies of all time.
Hitchcock never won an Oscar. Constantly battled studios and ctitics for every innovation he attempted – many of which are now considered turning points in the evolution of cinema. The ‘director’s director’ ….
Surprising isn’t it. Or is it?
Recently enjoyed watching the new web series on Amazon Prime – The Family Man. Am a big fan of this new ‘no holds barred‘ style of movie making in India. The once called ‘alternative cinema‘ is now mainstream.
The most entertaining part of the series was Manoj Bajpayee playing the role of Srikant Tiwari, leading a double life of a middle class family man and a world class spy of a super secretive National Intelligence Agency. Bajpayee brought an original character alive. Wonder how much of the character was a creation of the writer and how much was an interpretation by the actor.
Manoj Bajpayee is a winner of two national awards and four Filmfare awards. Yet, he was rejected for admission by National School of Drama four times.
Surprising isn’t it. Or is it?
I started investigating the phenomenon of rejection by a system. Gijs van Wulfen wrote a nice post on Great ideas that were originally rejected. The quotes he collected in the article are very amusing. Here are two
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” H.M. Warner (Warner Brothers) before rejecting a proposal for movies with sound in 1927
“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” A Yale university professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express (FedEx)
There are many learnings one can take away from these stories of rejection. We can all take the learning from the tale of the relentless spider that inspired the Scottish King Robert the Bruce to fight back by ‘trying again and again‘.
Personally, I have tried that tack. Doesn’t give me enough reasons to try again, when you are staring at failure. It’s hard to over come the emotional distress, not blame yourself or believe the rejection to be true feedback.
Is there something else that actually goes thru the minds of these rejected disruptors, than “let me climb back like the spider“? While I am a entrepreneur of failed enterprises (there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur, as the root word in French entreprendre means ‘adventurer’), I’ve spent most of my professional life working with or around entrepreneurs. This insight comes from observing them up-close.
In Carlo Rovelli’s book The order of time (of which I wrote What if time is neither linear nor absolute?) there is fascinating discussion on the paradox of the accepted notion of NOW and HERE. Say you are watching a distant galaxy thru a powerful telescope. What you see happening NOW is in reality an event from the past that you get to see now, as even light travels at a finite speed and it took time for that event to reach you. Like thunder is heard with a lag from the lightning that you see first. This is logical if you accept the science behind it, else it is a mystery or a paradox.
Wonder if that is the same phenomenon at play here, when any system rejects new ideas or new people. The system makes decisions based on what it sees HERE as NOW. Events a little further away from HERE are perceived to be NOW, but they are actually from the past. The future for HERE may be already happening THERE and NOW. For a variety of reasons information and signals from THERE don’t get HERE fast enough or clearly enough to everyone. When we travel from HERE to THERE instantaneously, there would be a different NOW than you see from HERE.
May be you see and feel it THERE and HERE clearly as one. But the system doesn’t. So may be rejection is just a reflection of this gap. Between your THEN-THERE, their THEN-THERE and NOW-HERE. That’s the opportunity. That’s the arbitrage. That’s what I have often seen entrepreneurs get excited and motivated about – the lag.
Are you currently rejected by your system? Your school. College. Company. Team. Boss. Organization. Family. Investor. Customer. Potential Employer. Publisher. Casting director. Don’t fret or fit in yet. Await.
You may be holding an invitation to a future, most don’t see as yet. May be it is good news and permission to play for the future NOW-HERE.
The other question worth discussing is how to get everyone to experience THEN-THERE as real as NOW-HERE – so you can influence stakeholders.
A very counter intuitive strategy to convince people and why evidence is not enough is outlined in this wonderful NPR episode of Hidden Brain thru the story of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. As Shankar says in the episode we need to “look at how information and misinformation spread in the world of science and why evidence is often not enough to convince others of the truth“.
During the Middle Ages, word spread to Europe about a peculiar plant found in Asia. This plant had a long stalk with heavy pods attached. When you cut those pods open, inside you would find a tiny little lamb. This creature, half-plant, half-animal, came to be known as the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. Various travel writers wrote that they had either heard about this or that they had eaten one of these lambs. And many of them said they had sawn the kind of downy wool from the lamb. We live in an era of science, of evidence-based reasoning, of calm, cool analysis. But maybe there are vegetable lambs that persist even today even among highly trained scientists, physicians and researchers.Story of the Vegetable of Tartary, Hidden Brain, NPR
For many trying hard to be neutral bystanders or disgusted by the bizarre world of ‘alternate facts‘, ‘fake news‘, ‘filter bubbles‘ and ‘rabbit holes‘ the episode and conversation with Cailin O’Connor (mathematician, philosopher, Asst. Prof at UC Irvine and co-author of The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread) encourages you to be a unemotional student of this dark phenomenon, and apply those principles to spread good ideas !! Won’t go into them here. Listen to the episode.
So in summary …
Expect systems to have delayed perception of other realities. Interpret rejection of your ideas based on other realities as a fall out of that gap, rather than the idea itself. See the gap as your opportunity to benefit from. Bizarre world of disinformation teaches us valuable lessons on influencing opinions. Realize that human beings aren’t always convinced by facts, but by stories and influencers.