When I was twenty-one years old, fresh out of college and about to start my first job, my father gave me a handwritten list of instructions. The whole thing took up less than half a page, in my father’s neat engineer’s handwriting. It read:
RANDOLPH’S RULES FOR SUCCESS
- Do at least 10% more than you are asked.
- Never, ever, to anybody present as fact opinions on things you don’t know. Takes great care and discipline.
- Be courteous and considerate always—up and down.
- Don’t knock, don’t complain—stick to constructive, serious criticism.
- Don’t be afraid to make decisions when you have the facts on which to make them.
- Quantify where possible.
- Be open-minded but skeptical.
- Be prompt.
That original list survives, framed and behind glass, hanging next to the mirror in my bathroom. I reread it every morning when I brush my teeth. I’ve given a copy to each of my kids. And I’ve tried, for my entire life, to live up to all eight rules.
Randolph’s Rules for Success are wide-ranging, broad-minded, and idiosyncratically punctuated (my kids and I laugh about the missing comma in #2 all the time). They somehow manage to be both extremely general (“Be open-minded but skeptical”) and charmingly precise (I love how the succinct “Be prompt” ends the list—it seems like the most minor rule, but its placement implies the opposite). The conduct they prescribe is one of openhearted, hardworking rationalism: an ideal my father—a curious, decent, and devoted man—exemplified in his own life.
Randolph’s Rules helped me at school. They helped me in the outdoors. And they helped me—immeasurably—in my career. In them I see the basis for my practice of constant testing (#2, #6), my ethos of curiosity and creativity (#7), and my willingness to take risks in service of a goal (#5). I see the seeds for Netflix’s culture of Radical Honesty in #4’s admonition to stick to constructive, serious criticism. And of course there’s a direct path from rule #1—Do at least 10% more than you are asked—to all the espresso- and pizza-fueled late nights in the Netflix offices.
My father very rarely got to see the professional side of his son. Since my parents lived on the East Coast, they hadn’t really gotten to encounter me in my professional element. Sure, I’d hit my mom up for money in the seed round for Netflix. And I told them all about my work: at Borland, at Integrity, at Netflix. By 1999, when I came to New York to give a speech to a bunch of DVD executives and invited them, they knew that Netflix was successful and growing. But they’d never quite seen it in person. At least not until that night.
I remember being nervous. Also proud—immensely proud—to look out at a full auditorium and see my parents in the back row.
Afterward, my dad and I sat in the empty auditorium. The stage was bare in front of us. He put his hand on my shoulder and congratulated me, said he was proud. Then he told me that his doctor had picked up something strange in a cranial X-ray and that he was going in for a brain biopsy at Mount Sinai the next day.
My breath caught in my throat. My mother had already told me that he’d been acting a little funny lately—hence the visit to the doctor in the first place—but this didn’t sound good. I covered my anxiety the way I usually do: with a joke.
“You need that like you need a hole in the head,” I told him.
We had the same sense of humor.
My father died of brain cancer in March of 2000. It was an intensely painful time for me, and it happened largely in the background of the story I’ve been telling. Throughout 1999 and early 2000, as we were testing various aspects of what would become Marquee and putting the finishing touches on Cinematch, I was flying back to New York at least once a month, as my dad underwent treatment. It was the most time we’d spent together in years.
My dad faced his diagnosis with the same attitude he faced most things in life. He was open-minded but skeptical when given positive feedback about his progress. He didn’t complain. He was courteous and considerate to everyone he dealt with in the health-care system—doctors and surgeons, nurses, orderlies and assistants. And he was prompt to appointments and meetings.
When he died, I took about a week off to grieve with my mother in New York. Then I flew back to California.
But something was different from then on. My father’s death put things in perspective for me. It led me to evaluate what truly mattered in my life—what fulfilled me as a father, a husband, an entrepreneur. As a person.
I started to realize that the pride I felt, that night in the auditorium in lower Manhattan, wasn’t about the fact that the room was full, or that my parents could see how successful I’d become.
Well, it was partly about that.
But more importantly, the pride I felt came from the message I was giving that night: how the media landscape is changing, and what you can learn from the companies that are changing it.
My father died just days before the collapse of the internet bubble. As a value investor, he’d never understood the hype, never understood the frenzy. He would have been unspeakably delighted to have seen that he was right all along.
I wish he could have seen it. And I wish he could have seen us survive it. He never got to see us take the company public. He never heard my stories about taking a private plane to New York with my son in tow. He never got to hear me talk about the financial windfall of the IPO and all that it entailed for my family.
But you know what? It didn’t matter. Because he got to see me onstage, talking about the thing I love: Solving problems. Team-building. Building a culture that works. How to refine your startup mentality.
He saw me doing what I loved. That’s what really mattered.
As you get older, if you’re at all self-aware, you learn two important things about yourself: what you like, and what you’re good at. Anyone who gets to spend his day doing both of those things is a lucky man.
By the beginning of my seventh year at Netflix, the company had changed dramatically. My role had changed as well. I still ran the website—continually tweaking how we signed customers up, what we charged them, how they chose their movies, and in what order we shipped to them—but I had gradually transitioned many of the other aspects of the company to more capable executives.
We had long since passed the one-million-subscribers mark. We had moved headquarters twice, as a swelling workforce successively burst our figurative seams.
We had finally figured out a way to get next-day delivery to the majority of the country, and the positive word-of-mouth that this generated accelerated our growth.
We’d gone public. With the money that provided—and our growing reputation—we were able to attract amazing people to come work for us. People who were stars in their field. People who had run their own companies, or had done the logistics for multinational corporations, or had built the infrastructure of the internet.
We were now deep in the throes of our battle with Blockbuster for rental supremacy. By then, Reed had started trotting out the familiar origin story for the company. Remember it? It went something like this: Reed came up with the idea for Netflix when he found an old rental copy of Apollo 13 in his house, went to return it to Blockbuster, and saw a $40 late fee. Then he thought: What if I never had to do this again?
If this book has taught you anything, I hope it’s shown you that the story behind Netflix was a little more complicated than that. And I also hope it’s shown you how useful narrative can be. When you’re trying to take down a juggernaut, the story of your company’s founding can’t be a 300-page book like this one. It has to be a paragraph. Reed’s oft-repeated origin story is branding at its finest, and I don’t begrudge him for it at all.
Is it a lie? No—it’s a story. And it’s a fantastic one.
The truth is, the patrimony of any innovation is complicated. There are always multiple people involved. They struggle, they push, they argue. They each contribute different backgrounds and inspirations: years in the mail-order business, a passion for algorithms, an enduring desire to do the right thing for the customer, an insight into the cost-effectiveness of first-class mail, a knowledge of the power of personalization. Yes, maybe even a late fee on a movie. And through a process that might take days, might take weeks, or might even take years, this group of people comes up with something new and different and great. And as you’ve seen, in our case the result was Netflix.
But that story is messy.
And when you’re talking to the press, to an investor, or to a business partner, people really don’t want to hear it. They want a version that’s neat and clean with a bow on it. Reed recognized that almost immediately, and so Reed came up with a story. It’s a great one: simple, clear, and memorable. That story captures the essence of what Netflix is about, and it solved a big problem for us.
That story gave us a narrative.
By 2003, Netflix had been around long enough to write its own story: David versus Goliath. And it was looking like David might have a shot.
Netflix had grown up. But so, I realized, had I.
I still loved the company. I loved it with the passion only a parent would know. I righted wrongs, dispatched enemies, and was always pushing the company even harder to succeed. But as quarterly numbers mechanically came and went each successive year, I slowly realized that although I loved the company, I no longer loved working there.
It turns out that I did know what I like, and what I’m good at. And it wasn’t a company as big as Netflix. It was small companies struggling to find their way. It was newly hatched dreams for which no one had yet discovered a repeatable scalable business model. It was wading into companies rife with crisis, to solve really complex problems with really smart people.
And I’ll blow my own horn here for a minute: I’m pretty damn good at it. Every startup has hundreds of things going wrong at the same time, all clamoring for attention. I have a sense of which two or three issues are the critical ones, even if they are not the ones screaming the loudest. But they are the issues that, if you fix them, then all the rest will take care of itself.
I have an almost obsessive ability to focus on those singular things—single-mindedly attacking them at the expense of everything else until I have wrestled them to the ground.
I have the ability to inspire people to quit their jobs, take a pay cut, and help wage an improbable battle against an apparently implacable foe.
These are critical skills for running a startup. They’re less applicable to running a company with hundreds of employees and millions of subscribers.
The time had come.
I think I knew that for a while, after the IPO. But it didn’t become real until the spring of 2003, when I asked to work on developing a Netflix kiosk with Mitch Lowe.
We had often tried to figure out how to compete with Blockbuster’s ability to provide immediate service to its users. Although Netflix customers had a ready supply of movies on top of their TVs, that was as close to instant gratification as we got. If a customer later decided they wanted something different, they were out of luck. But Blockbuster customers could just drive to one of their thousands of stores instead of waiting for the mail. It was our Achilles’ heel. We were deathly afraid that Blockbuster would roll out a blended model, combining online with retail. We knew that would be compelling for customers.
Mitch Lowe had been a relentless advocate for a kiosk solution, in which Netflix subscribers could use small outposts of the service to rent and return DVDs. Well before joining Netflix, he’d dreamed of developing the technology as a facet of Video Droid. And now it was looking like Reed was amenable to testing the idea out.
“Mitch and I found a great site for the test in Las Vegas,” I told Reed. “And I’m thinking I should be there with him. I need to focus on this. Maybe even exclusively.”
“That’s fine,” Reed said. “We can move all of your front-end stuff over to Neil. Combining the project managers and the front-end engineers under a single person will probably work better for everyone.”
“But if this doesn’t work…,” I said, watching Reed’s face as we both came to the same realization. “I’m not sure it’s fair to Neil for me to yank it all back six months from now.”
Reed swallowed and cocked his head. “Well,” he said, “I guess we’ll have to talk about severance. Just in case.”
There was an awkward pause, and then I couldn’t help it—I laughed.
Reed smiled warily.
“I mean, we’ve talked about this,” I said. “We both knew it was coming, sooner or later.”
And it was true: Reed and I had spoken often about how I was feeling. He’s too smart not to have noticed that my skills weren’t the ones that Netflix would be needing in the years ahead, and too honest to hide that from me for very long.
Now, though, he looked relieved. Under this arrangement, he wouldn’t have to have an uncomfortable conversation with me. He wouldn’t have to draft up another PowerPoint, craft another shit sandwich—because the decision wasn’t his.
I was working one last project. Then, if it didn’t work, I was leaving—on my own terms.
Six months later, I was back in Los Gatos, wearing the New Media Outfit one last time. Or at least a version of it. I’d kept the iridescent blazer, but I’d swapped out the khakis for jeans. And the moiré shirt was gone, replaced by a T-shirt.
If I was going out, I was going out comfortable.
Netflix had rented out the historic Los Gatos Theatre for my going-away party. The little company that went months without an office, ran up epic tabs at Hobee’s, and conducted our first meetings in a seedy motel conference room was now too big to assemble in any one place in the office. And to send off its original founder, another mass gathering at the picnic tables wouldn’t do. Instead, I was getting the red-carpet treatment—or at least the red velvet seat treatment. The Los Gatos Theatre is the kind of place with velvet curtains on the walls and real velvet on the seats. Like the Netflix offices, it has a popcorn machine in the front. But this one is the real deal, made in the days when popcorn was the only thing you could buy at the concession stand.
In other words, it actually worked.
As I walked up to the front of the theater with Lorraine and the kids, I couldn’t help but be struck by the sheer size of the company now. People were spilling out of the lobby and onto the street. I recognized most, but not all of them.
“Wow,” Lorraine said. “I knew it was big, but part of me still imagines you going to work every day with ten other people, sitting on our old dining room chairs.”
I laughed. But she was right. Things had really changed. The original team of eight now numbered in the hundreds. Our IPO had instantly netted the company nearly $80 million. Gone were the days of calling up Steve Kahn or my mother for $25,000. That initial investment from my mother had gone up nearly a hundredfold. She bought an apartment on the Upper East Side with it.
But gone, also, were the scrappy underdog days. I missed them. I missed the late nights and early mornings, the lawn chairs and card tables. I missed the feeling of all hands on deck, and the expectation that every day you’d be working on a problem that wasn’t strictly tied to your job description.
I’d felt that again, in a way, with Mitch during our stay in Las Vegas. We’d had a blast. For three months, we’d lived together in a condo in Summerlin, a community west of Vegas, near Red Rock Canyon. We’d set up a prototype kiosk in a Smith’s supermarket a few blocks from the condo, offering instantaneous rentals for Netflix subscribers. In true Netflix fashion, we hadn’t actually built an electronic interface for customers to use. Instead, we’d just employed our usual validation hacking—we built a miniature store inside the supermarket, where Netflix subscribers could pick from a selection of DVDs and return movies from their queue. Mitch had used a shaper in Santa Cruz to build a NETFLIX EXPRESS sign made from a surfboard, and we’d hung it from the ceiling of our little store. We weren’t testing whether or not a computer kiosk could work—we were testing how customers would use one. Would they pick movies up? Bring movies back? Just add to their queues?
We’d spent a lot of time in the supermarket that summer, usually at night. In the summer, that’s when people in Vegas go grocery shopping. It’s too hot during the day, and people work weird hours at the casinos. At one in the morning, we’d watch the cocktail waitresses, dealers, and strippers try to use our pseudo-kiosk. We’d wander the aisles with clipboards, asking questions about how they felt about being able to return and rent movies at the grocery store. If they weren’t Netflix customers, we tried to convince them to sign up—and if they didn’t want to, we listened to their reasons why.
We learned a lot. Most importantly, though, we learned that the kiosk idea was a winner. People loved it.
I was sad when the three months in Nevada were over. I’d grown accustomed to going mountain biking in the predawn hours, taking early evening hikes with Mitch, or just sitting around the deserted condo pool in the afternoon, talking about business and life. Mitch was excited to show our findings to Reed. He thought that the tests had proven that kiosks could be an intermediary solution to our immediacy problem—when one-day shipping wasn’t fast enough, maybe a kiosk could bridge the gap.
But upon our return to California, Reed hadn’t agreed.
“It’s expensive,” he’d said. “Once you go kiosk, you’re in the hardware business, and you’ll have to hire and manage a whole fleet of people all over the country to stock the kiosks. It’s a good idea, but our focus is better spent on our core business.”
“The Canada Principle,” I said.
It’s a great principle. But it left me out of a job. Kiosks were a no-go. That meant that I was drawing up my severance package.
Mitch, for his part, used the tests from our three months in Vegas to start another little company. You might have heard of it. It’s called Redbox.
So there I was, sitting onstage at the Los Gatos Theatre, looking out over a sea of faces on my last day at the job. Lorraine was next to me. So was Logan, in his IPO blazer and loafers. Morgan was trying to keep Hunter—five years old now and much more mobile—from taking off his shoes and throwing them into the audience. She wasn’t succeeding.
“It’s sort of crazy, isn’t it?” I said to Lorraine as Reed made his way up to the microphone. “I mean, this has kind of been our life for the last seven years.”
“I hear the post office is hiring,” Lorraine said with a smile. “They need a guy out near Missoula. You game?”
I stifled a laugh as Reed cleared his throat and started on his speech. It was, in true Reed fashion, concise. But it was also heartfelt and genuine. He gave a miniature history of the entire company, highlighting my role in the early days. He spoke eloquently about our working relationship, and how it had evolved over time. He ended it by thanking me and inviting several of my colleagues to the stage.
What followed was part of a grand Netflix tradition. You know how some people say they want their funerals to be celebrations? How instead of a wake, they want a parade? Well, that’s how things were at Netflix. When someone left the company, the party wasn’t a sad occasion. No dirges were played. Instead, it was more like a roast. There would be a succession of speeches—but the state of the art was to deliver your farewell as a limerick.
That evening, the limericks were long, inexpertly rhymed, and raunchy. I had to cover Logan’s ears a couple of times. But I was crying laughing.
Eventually it was my turn. My speech that day was off-the-cuff, so I can’t reproduce it here. But it was about how much the company and the team had meant to me—how fortunate I felt to be a part of something that was truly changing the world. I thanked my colleagues, thanked Reed—thanked everyone in that room who’d made Netflix what it was.
And then I ended with a poem of my own. It was the only part of my speech that I typed out. Unfolding the paper and clearing my throat, I began:
I’m a little surprised, if I may
By the tone of the rhymes here today
I expected some toasts
And instead I got roasts?
Well, two can play that game, I say.
I went on, roasting many of my colleagues, most of whom had already read poems about me.
Then I got to Reed.
And Reed, well, the guy can’t be beat
Whether pitching to us or the Street
But that late-returned movie
Apollo 13? Fooey!
It was actually Teen Vixens in Heat.
Roars from the crowd. I looked at Reed, who was laughing and shaking his head.
I was winding up. Just one more stanza to go. I found Patty McCord in the audience and winked at her. Then I took a moment, surveying my audience of friends and colleagues for the last time, and smiled.
I read the last words on the page:
Lastly, Patty, who’s mad ’nough to spit
Because of that last “iffy” bit.
I’ve been dying to roast her
Since the “shorn scrotum” poster
And hey, you can’t fire me: I quit.
Wait—the story doesn’t end there.
You’re probably used to reading that by now. But it’s true—because the Netflix story is far from over, of course.
Reed is still there, still CEO and chairman, still having the time of his life. Unlike me, Reed is not only a phenomenal early-stage CEO—he’s as good (or better) as a late-stage CEO. He’s taken the company to heights I could only dream of. We’re still good friends. He tells me that occasionally he gets angry emails from people who’ve been cut off in traffic by someone with a NETFLIX vanity plate and assume that it could only be him.
After a few years off, Christina founded an exercise company called Poletential, which runs empowering pole dancing exercise classes for women in Redwood City. Can’t say I saw that coming! But her dedication, organizational genius, and commitment to women’s health has inspired thousands of people to nurture their bodies and minds.
Te went on to take the VP of marketing position at several companies, including MarkMonitor and Recurly. She still has her Boston accent.
After Netflix, Eric Meyer took a position as CTO at LowerMyBills, taking Vita (and eventually Boris) with him. Now he’s VP of software at Align, a huge 3-D printing company.
Boris eventually became a CTO himself, first at ShoeDazzle and then at Carbon38. Vita lasted a few more years as a technologist before changing tracks entirely and getting a doctorate in psychology. Last I heard, she was a postdoctoral fellow at USC.
After Netflix, Jim Cook spent a couple of years at WineShopper before finally getting the CFO job he’d always wanted, at Mozilla. He was there for almost fifteen years.
Steve Kahn didn’t stay in that trophy house for long. He’s now down in San Diego pursuing his dream of being a professional photographer. I have two of his photos prominently hanging in my house.
Corey Bridges is the only one of us (besides Reed, of course) who stayed in the entertainment business. He spent years doing marketing strategy for James Cameron, before striking out on his own, forming his own consulting company.
Suresh Kumar is still at Netflix, twenty-one years later. He’s currently an engineering manager, and he still has that silver dollar from predicting the hundredth order.
And Kho Braun? I have no idea where Kho Braun is.
Netflix has gone on to do many things in the years since I left. As I write this, the company has just passed 150 million subscribers, with customers in nearly every country in the world. Netflix makes its own TV shows, produces its own movies, and has changed the way people consume entertainment. It introduced the concept of binge watching, and is a popular euphemism for getting laid.
I know that the stock market is never an indicator of real value—but I can’t help but note that as of this writing, the little DVD-by-mail company that Blockbuster could have purchased for $50 million is now worth $150 billion.
And guess where Blockbuster is?
They’re down to one last store. It’s in Bend, Oregon.
I keep thinking I’ll make a trip to pay my respects, but I haven’t found the time.
I can’t take credit for all of Netflix’s successes in the years after I left. But even though many of the company’s initiatives took place after my watch, I think it’s clear that a lot of them have my fingerprints on them.
So many aspects of the corporate culture spring from the way Reed and I treated each other and the way we treated everyone else. Radical Honesty. Freedom and Responsibility. Those were there from the beginning—in the car on 17, in the Hobee’s dining room, in the first days in the bank vault.
So was Netflix’s emphasis on analytics. It’s what happens when you put a guy with direct marketing experience into a car (and then a conference room, and then a boardroom) with another guy with a brilliant math mind.
Reed brought the drive for scale. I made sure that we never stopped focusing on the individual customer. And both of us came to realize that how we treated individual customers was as important at 150 million subscribers as it was at 150.
Netflix has thousands of employees now. It’s been sixteen years since I pulled out of the parking lot for the last time. But whenever I come across a news story about their movie deals, read an interview with Reed, or just fire up an episode of Ozark at home, I feel a thrill of pride. That was my company, I think—and it still carries my DNA. The child may not look exactly like me, but it definitely has my nose.
And when I’m not binge-watching Netflix or writing this book? You can’t ever stop being a startup guy. After leaving in 2003, I knew I didn’t have it in me to immediately start another company—I’d wait until 2012 for that—but I also knew I couldn’t walk away entirely. Instead, I realized that I could get my fix by helping other founders of young companies make their dreams come true. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve helped scores of startups as a CEO coach, invested in dozens of others as an early-stage investor, and mentored hundreds of young entrepreneurs from all over the world. As I did at Netflix, I still get to wade into a crisis and help solve complex problems with smart people—only now, I get to go home at five o’clock, while they stay up all night actually making those things happen.
Sometimes you have to step back from your dream—especially when you think you’ve made it real. That’s when you can really see it. In my case, I left Netflix because I realized that the finished product of Netflix wasn’t my dream. My dream was building things. My dream was the process of making Netflix.
Leaving allowed me to keep building things, and help others with the process of turning their dreams into reality. And moving on to my next stage has given me the time to pursue the other things in my life that are important. Even though I don’t have a W-2 job anymore, I’ll never stop being a type-A person. I still make obsessive lists of things to be done. Only now, the only things on my lists are things that I put there. I follow my passions: mastering the perfect cappuccino, growing my own grapes and making my own wine. Understanding the evolution of Roman church floor tile.
(I know, I know. Once a dork, always a dork.)
I’m really proud of what we accomplished at Netflix. It’s been successful beyond my wildest expectations. But I’ve come to realize that success is not defined by what a company accomplishes. Instead, I have a different definition: Success is what you accomplish. It’s being in a position to do what you like, do what you do well, and pursue the things that are important to you.
By that definition, I’ve done okay.
But success could also be defined a bit more broadly: having a dream, and through your time, your talent, and your perseverance, seeing that dream become a reality.
I guess I’m proud to fit that definition as well.
But do you know what I’m proudest of? I’ve done all those things while staying married to my best friend and having my kids grow up knowing me and (as best I can tell) liking me. I just spent two weeks at the beach with Lorraine, Logan, Morgan, and Hunter. Doing absolutely nothing. Just enjoying their company.
I think that’s the version of success that Randolph’s Rules point toward—that my father always wanted for me. Fulfilling your goals, making your dreams a reality, nourished by the love of your family.
Forget money, forget stock options.
Okay, one more time—the story doesn’t end there.
Because now the story is about you.
Flip your book over. Read the title again.
“That will never work.”
That was the first thing out of Lorraine’s mouth the night I told her the idea for Netflix. She wasn’t the only one. I heard that from dozens of people, dozens of times.
(And to be fair to her, the idea as originally conceived wouldn’t have worked. It took years of adjustments, changes in strategy, new ideas, and plain old luck for us to land on a version of the idea that worked.)
But everyone with a dream has had that experience, right? You wake up one morning with a great idea that’s going to change the world! You can’t wait to run downstairs and tell your husband. Explain it to your kids. Run it by your professor. Or burst into your boss’s office to lay it all out for him.
What do they all say?
That will never work.
By now, I hope you know what my answer to that line is.
Nobody Knows Anything.
I only get to write this book once. And I’d feel like I missed an opportunity if I ended this story without giving you some advice.
The most powerful step that anyone can take to turn their dreams into reality is a simple one: you just need to start. The only real way to find out if your idea is a good one is to do it. You’ll learn more in one hour of doing something than in a lifetime of thinking about it.
So take that step. Build something, make something, test something, sell something. Learn for yourself if your idea is a good one.
What happens if your idea doesn’t work? What happens if your test fails, if nobody orders your product or joins your club? What if sales don’t go up and customer complaints don’t go down? What if you get halfway through writing your novel and get writer’s block? What if after dozens of tries—even hundreds of attempts—you still haven’t seen your dream become anything close to real?
You have to learn to love the problem, not the solution. That’s how you stay engaged when things take longer than you expected.
And trust me, they will. If you’ve read this far, you’ve seen that the process of turning a dream into reality has a dramatic arc—it isn’t quick and it isn’t easy, and there are obstacles and problems along the way.
One of the things I learned from William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade—aside, of course, from Nobody Knows Anything—is that every movie begins with an inciting event, one that sets the plot in motion. The protagonist of a film has to want something—and for the film to be interesting, there have to be obstacles between the protagonist and what he or she wants.
In my own case, there were quite a few obstacles—or, in screenwriter-speak, complications—between the dream of Netflix and its reality. But the great thing about having a dream is that you get to write your own story. You’re both the protagonist and the writer of your movie.
And your idea is your inciting event.
I trust that at least a few things I’ve said have made you think about an idea that you have. Something that you would like to accomplish. A company you want to start. A product you want to make. A job you want to land. A book you want to write.
Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder of Atari, once said something that has always resonated with me. “Everyone who has taken a shower has had an idea,” he said. “But it’s the people who get out of the shower, towel off, and do something about it that make the difference.”
Maybe you’re already thinking about whether you could apply some of the tips I’ve given you to make that dream come true. Maybe you’ve gotten the confidence that there is a way to take those difficult first steps toward making your dream a reality. Maybe you’re ready to get out of the shower, towel off, and do something about it.
In that case, my job is done.
From here, it’s all up to you.