I recently heard a podcast focused on George Lucas, whose name is synonymous with the most successful movie franchise of all time. Though I’m not a big Star Wars fan, after listening to Lucas, I was amazed at the insight he has gathered about filmmaking, yes, but even more: about life. Here are some things worth learning from Lucas that take us well beyond the silver screen.

1. Use what you’re given, even if it’s only 60 seconds.

“When I was in film school, the big issue was getting to make a movie: ‘When are we going to get to make a movie?’ Well, in my very first class, which was an animation class, they gave us 32 feet of 16-millimeter film, which was exactly one minute of film, and they said, ‘Here, test the camera. See how it goes up and down and what happens when you move the things around, and learn how to use the camera,’ this big animation camera. It was a giant crane. And I turned it into a movie. I turned it into a one-minute movie. I put a soundtrack on it. It got entered into a lot of film festivals.

“It won zillions of film festivals. It kind of revolutionized a kind of animation of what is — what then was called kinestasis, which is doing fast movements sort of over photographs and that sort of thing. And I said, ‘This is great,’ and all the other students said, ‘Well, how did you do that?’ I said, ‘I just did it. They gave me a little, tiny piece of film. I made a movie out of it.’ And I kept doing that, and all the other students would sit around the campus saying, ‘I wish I could make a movie. I wish they’d let me do this in this class. I wish —.’ You know, if somebody gave me a hundred feet of film, I made a movie out of it. And the other kids basically didn’t. They had the same hundred feet of film. They had the same camera, and they just said, ‘When am I ever going to get to make a movie?’ And I just kept making them.”

I’m guessing that first minute of film wasn’t his most impressive piece of work, but it was a start. Lucas took what he had, and he made something of it. The other students had the same 60 seconds, but what did they do with theirs? You may not feel like you have much, and you may be right. But what are you doing with the “minute” you do have?

2. Adversity always comes.

“You know, it’s not a matter of how well can you make a movie. It’s how well can you make it under the circumstances, because there are always circumstances, and you cannot use that as an excuse. You can’t put a title card at the head of the movie and say, “Well, we had a really bad problem. You know, the actor got sick, and it rained this day, and we had a hurricane,” and, you know, you can’t — “The cameras broke down.” You can’t do that. You simply have to show them the movie, and it’s got to work, and there are no excuses.”

3. No one does it on their own.

“And there’s no way of getting through any kind of an endeavor without help from friends, and trying to be the number one person, ultimately, is a losing proposition. You never know in life when you’re going to need help, and you never know whom you’re going to need it from.”


4. You can’t do everything, not even all the good things.

“And tons of opportunities coming your way, wonderful opportunities, and you just — but you can’t do them all. If you start doing them all, your life gets very unfocused. You get overwhelmed, and you collapse, basically.”

5. It’s important to choose what matters most (and, surprise, surprise – it’s not fame & fortune).

“But if you’re looking for fame and money and all those things, you’ll never find it, and if you do find it, you’ll never be happy. The secret, ultimately, which was the bottom line of Star Wars and the other movies, is, there are two kinds of people in the world, compassionate people and selfish people. Selfish people live on the dark side. The compassionate people live on the light side.

“And if you go to the side of light, you will be happy because compassion, helping other people, not thinking about yourself, that gives you a joy that you can’t get any other way. Being selfish, following your pleasures, always buying things and doing stuff, you’re always going to be unhappy. You’ll never get to the point. You’ll get this little instant shot of pleasure, but it goes away, and then you’re stuck where you were before, and the more you do it, the worse it gets.”

If anyone would know about the impact of having it all, I think it would be George Lucas. And if he sees the lasting power of compassion, and the fleeting nature of fame & fortune – well, then, there are some lessons there for you and me.

And these are just 5 that I pulled out. Listen to the conversation for more: how a car crash changed his perspective, and the surprising thing Lucas does when one of his movies comes out. Turns out: Lucas knows more than just movies; he knows a little bit about life, too.

One thought on “Lessons from George Lucas

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