I'm fortunate to know a number of incredibly successful people. I always learn at least one thing from conversations with them: a tip, a strategy, a new approach... there's almost always one thing I can apply to my life.
But this time I walked away wondering what hit me.
After I got off the phone with Dany, I immediately started to rethink my entire approach to my goals, to my business, to how I make decisions... I can honestly say I will never again look at those aspects of my life -- or my level of productivity -- in the same way.
And I feel sure you won't either.
Dany Garcia is the founder of The Garcia Companies, a talent and media management holding company that oversees Seven Bucks Productions, a company she co-founded with management client and business partner Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to manage brands, talent, and projects.
Clearly, she knows what she's doing: at an estimated $64 million in earnings this year, The Rock is Hollywood's highest-paid actor.
And if that's not enough, she's also a professional bodybuilder and a wife and mother. (See what I mean about productivity?)
To make it easier I created the numbered headings that appear in bold; text under each are Dany's words:
1. Always think about your audience or customers -- and about yourself -- before you start anything.
A lot of people in the entertainment business start with a genre. We work in a different way.
First we think about whether one of our core team members get really excited about the project. Is there something we experienced, something we lived... does it speak to the culture of the Seven Bucks production team... and will it help us not just play the game but also change the way the game is played?
We try really hard to avoid one-off projects that won't allow us to grow.
Then we think hard about how the audience will experience it and how they will feel. It can be pure enjoyment, or historical perspective, or cultural shifts, or genuine emotions... but bottom line, will this project move people and make some type of difference in their lives?
If the answers to those two questions are yes, then we dive deeper into the project.
We're always looking for an authentic voice that we can relate to and that will speak to people. For example, with Clash of the Corps, I was a drum major, my brother and sister were drum majors...
When you find those things, it's easy for you to get excited about the opportunity.
2. Think of your business as a separate living entity.
The best projects and businesses are living entities. As entrepreneurs, we like to say our business reflects us, but a better approach is to treat your business as something separate that you have a passion for and want to see grow and flourish.
For example, the best movies are always made by people who aren't just looking for money but are genuinely invested in ideas and emotions and the purpose of the movie.
You need to be detached enough to be excited about the project and want to see it succeed, not just you. That's a very different approach compared to an ego-driven project.
One of Dwayne's keys to success is he can detach his ego completely and care solely about who has the best answers. He's extremely coachable: he's really coachable in wrestling, as an actor he's really coachable... he's totally detached to the ego side of decision making.
When you're talented and coachable and willing to find the best answer, no matter who has it or where it comes from... that's extremely powerful.
3. Find ways to lean in and double down on who you really are.
Say our client is an actor deciding whether or not to do a certain film. We don't just focus on the money. There are other things that may be more important to the client: a particular performance, building a relationship, getting an opportunity to extend social-media reach, getting the chance to grow and develop... there are many different ways to win.
As soon as we get to the essence of what a client likes and what they're invested in, we double down on that. We lean in to what our client needs. We don't try to change our clients to meet "what the industry wants."
When you try to change people, they're not fulfilled because they're moving away from who they really are. When you support who they are and help them express that, decisions are a lot easier to make.
Of course the same thing is true for everyone: when we know what we really want, choices become much more binary because each decision either takes you closer to your goals... or it doesn't.
4. Stay creative and flexible by always focusing on solutions.
Don't get too attached to a particular process because processes always change. What matters most is the ability to create solutions.
When you focus on solutions, you automatically become more flexible because you're constantly staying creative.
That's why we look for clients who want to have ownership; if something is created for you, and you're always being told what to do, you'll always feel at least somewhat insecure because you don't know how -- or why -- things happen. The people we work with look at things differently and are very open to doing things differently.
If you love processes, develop processes that help you find creative solutions. A rigid process won't always lead to a great outcome, but a search for solutions almost always will.
And never forget that unless a solution serves all of the other pillars in your life, it's really not a solution -- so keep searching.
5. Always think about building an enterprise, even if that enterprise is just you.
If we talk to a prospective client and they only want to work on television, they're probably not the best match for me because I look for people who also want to extend into film, or digital, or possibly start their own production company... I love building an enterprise.
I want to help our clients build a foundation that allows them to transition to other things -- and other solutions.
The same holds true for all of us. Whatever you decide to do should not exist in isolation but should be a piece of a larger puzzle.
Don't think about laying a single brick: think about building a foundation.
6. Don't pitch -- develop solutions for other people's needs.
The standard way people pitch is to walk into a room where there is no relationship and present an idea. It should come as no surprise that few pitches are successful.
Instead I spend a lot of time trying to understand what the networks or studios need. My goal is to always present something that makes the best sense for them. We don't just want to advance Seven Bucks, we want to advance our partners. We see the people we work with as partners with whom we will try to do something special.
So don't focus on what you need. Before you walk into any room, make sure you know what the people in that room need. That way there's never a cold entry.
And that way your pitch actually becomes a conversation because you come in with a plan, you already know how you can work together... do a lot of work ahead of time so you can share what you're excited about and why it works for your potential partner.
Do enough work ahead of time and sometimes you won't even need to pitch.
But at the same time, stay detached. If in spite of all your hard work what you propose isn't accepted, be open. Say, "What are you guys looking for? How can we help?"
That creates a much better experience for everyone -- and builds a relationship that will make people excited to hear what you propose next time.
We understand the HBO catalog and its level of quality and prestige. Rock and a Hard Place is a quality project, one we were working on with 44 Blue Productions, and one Dwayne was extremely invested in and was willing to commit to appearing on in front of the camera.
Going into the room we already knew it was a project that would help HBO and support the quality of work they seek. And we knew we could "eventize" the documentary, something we pioneered and are uniquely able to do. (Jeff: In a nutshell, "eventizing" is using social channels to post behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the set to create fan awareness long before a film opens -- and to show why the project matters so much to the talent, which helps fans become emotionally invested in the talent and the movie. And since The Rock has over 10 million Twitter followers, almost 60 million Facebook fans, and 65 million Instagram followers...)
Add all that up and Rock and a Hard Place was an easy conversation to have.
7. Seek to always make decisions at the most effective level.
I've worked hard to train myself to take action and make decisions at the most effective level possible. I want to make one decision that sets up 1,000 decisions. I want to make one decision that sets up three months of work.
When you make a big decision, many of the small decisions melt away because now the path is clear: your path, your team's path... you don't have to wonder or decide what to do because you know what to do.
8. Realize that work ethic will always trump talent... but you still have to work smart.
There are millions of talented people who are still stuck in the same place. Talent is important, but talent without work ethic is almost worthless.
But don't just blindly grind. Grinding without purpose is destructive. Something will give.
Work should flow and make sense and be almost elegant. That's when you know you're working hard at the right things.
9. Accept that you can't do it all -- but also that you can do a lot more than you think.
I've never been one to say you can do it all. I have no desire to do it all.
But I do have a desire to do what I want to do. My day supports doing things that I'm excited about. The key is to do things that support and serve the other things you do.
For me, bodybuilding serves my business: I'm a competitor so I eat very clean and I'm very strong and that gives me a sense of confidence and self-discipline that translates to any project. My business serves my family, as a provider and a role model, and bodybuilding does too... and my family gives me the support and motivation to be a better businesswoman and bodybuilder.
Ultimately, each goal and each pillar of my life serves the others.
When your goals don't serve each other you will always feel overwhelmed. When you consider an opportunity, make sure it serves where you want to go and where you want to be. If it doesn't, pass on it.
Sometimes saying no can define an actor's career; the same is true for all of us.