Dealing with the Turkeys in Your Life

Early in my career as Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Akio Morita, the Founder and Chairman of Sony Corporation, asked me a very reasonable question about one of my divisions, Columbia Pictures, projections of success for its annual slate of movies we had scheduled. Together with my CFO, we responded that they can reasonably expect of the sixteen pictures on the slate, four would be genuine global blockbusters, four would be profitable domestic films, four would be cash break even investments, and four would be flops.   All reasonableness flew out the window as Morita’s CFO exhorted, “Guber-san, why do we have to make the flops?”

Wow!  What a strategy.  Just make hits!  Why didn’t I think of that?!!!

It would be great if we were all masters of our universes and could press a repeat button for success time and time again.  But, we’re not.  I know firsthand.  I’ve had movies, like The Clan of the Cave Bear, which was based on a #1 best-selling novel.  From what it looked like, only one person showed up at the theater to see it.  In music, my partner and I made the brilliant decision to simultaneously release solo albums by each of the four band members of the iconic rock band, KISS, believing we would make four times as much money as our typical single album KISS release. We shipped gold, the public returned platinum.  In television, flops included shows for ABC like Cupid where Jeremy Piven shoots the arrow of love into unsuspecting hearts.  It was my unsuspecting wallet and ego that were shot, instead.

I learned I wasn’t in charge of success.  I was in charge of the process that hopefully would yield more success than failure.

These turkeys were a constant presence and they seemed to breed especially forcefully in tough economic times.  I learned I wasn’t in charge of success.  I was in charge of the process that hopefully would yield more success than failure.  I began to be guided by three navigational stakes:

  1. My process and my diligence to execute was the best I could do.
  2. My attitude and determination to remain positive and confident was a critical catalyst for my success.
  3. My resiliency and ability to see failure as but a speed bump on the road to success allowed me to get back up when I was knocked down.

So, what does it all mean?  Maybe it’s save turkeys for eating on Thanksgiving and try not to create them.  Or perhaps it’s a reminder that turkeys are a part of life.

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