Clinging to the Magic: 5 ways Dreaming Drove Steven Spielberg’s Success

“You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll be waiting.” Hook

Steven Spielberg is the man behind the curtain of some of the most cherished movies of all time. When I hear his name, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for some of my favorite movie characters and scenes — especially those flashes of my favorite rugged archeologist discovering artifacts, cracking whips, and wooing the ladies. To this day, I can only do one of those three things (I’ll leave it to your imagination which it is). And is there anyone who doesn’t get goosebumps when they hear the haunting theme song of Jaws? Talk about feeling like a killer shark might attack you even on dry land.

Spielberg is one of those people who never stopped looking at the world with an almost childlike enthusiasm. He’s the first to admit it, quoted in countless interviews saying that it is the pure love of movie magic that keeps him going, and therein lies his secret to staying one of the top film directors and producers in modern history.

I’ve rounded up some of the greatest takeaways from Steven Spielberg’s example of excitement and energy. Use these 5 tips to capture the magic in your industry and propel your business to achieve the dream.

“They’re heeeere!” Steven Spielberg’s finest 5 tips for making magic:

1. Walk a fine line.

One of my favorite Spielberg quotes is, “There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.” When it came to censorship, Spielberg found himself on the front lines more often than he might have hoped, fighting the good fight and doing all he could to deliver his artistic message in its purest form. There’s something to be said for his fighting spirit — when it comes to delivering your best product, there’s not a lot of room for compromise.

I pride myself on being an innovator, which means I have to be willing to take risks. I learned pretty quickly that I needed to be comfortable following my own vision and trusting I would have an audience interested in my message who could see the potential of what I offered. So far, that fearlessness has paid off. If you find yourself holding back in delivering your message for fear of backlash, take a cue from Spielberg and try a little less self-censorship. Chances are, you’ll learn how to walk that fine line with ease in no time flat.


2. Don’t dream it, make it.

“You shouldn’t dream your film, you should make it!” Wise words from a top director, right? Put down the pen and quit outlining all the pro’s and con’s of making a big move — just take the leap and brace yourself for the fall or the upswing. No matter how it turns out, you’ll learn from those experiences and drive yourself to deliver more the next time you jump off the edge.

You don’t have to be a movie mogul to know that you don’t get anywhere if you don’t act on your ideas. I wasn’t even out of elementary school when I took a $2 bag of dum-dum lollipops and set up a trading post. I sold those suckers at a quarter a pop or three for 50 cents, and of course I made a killing (for a kid anyway). It’s not rocket science; you can create a successful business doing damn near anything if you have the courage to act on your ideas.

3. Dream for a living.

If you’re not passionate about your product, quit. Really… I’m not even almost kidding. If you don’t have a genuine enthusiasm for what you’re working on, there’s no point in trudging through another day. Spielberg has handled the up’s and down’s of his directing career by holding onto his excitement for the final product. He’s humbled by the opportunity to “dream for a living” and doesn’t forget it for a moment. As an entrepreneur, neither should you.

Once upon a time, I created a massively successful business, but the product I was generating and the work I was producing wasn’t where my heart was, and I woke up hating what I did every day. Deep down, I knew that no amount of money could bandage how unhappy I was doing the work I was doing, so I left. I started something new — something I knew I would continue happily doing even if I never made a dime. Thankfully, I’ve made a lot more than that, but it’s not accidental — people will always be happy to pay a dreamer for their big ideas.

4. Find the magic in every project.

Spielberg has said, “Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic — no matter what the movie’s about.” It can be hard to find the sparkle in a project that is turning out to be good and not great, but try to find the edge that made you passionate about the project in the first place. Even if that initial allure has been buried by months of mindless toil, the magic is still lurking there somewhere.

When I find myself working on a project that is rapidly losing its luster, I take a break from that project and instead just brainstorm any ideas I can come up with for an “ideal product” instead. I’ll talk about what it is and how it works, how it changes customers’ lives, the kind of effort it would take to make it happen — literally anything I can think of for a newer, shinier product. Then I go back to the project I’ve been struggling with, and compare notes. There are almost always ways to connect the dots between my fantasy project and the very real one I’m already committed to making successful. If you’re in too deep to see any more magic, try digging yourself out with something brand new and then finding what the two have in common.

5. Cling to a childlike enthusiasm.

“When I grow up, I still want to be a director.”Steven Spielberg

No one likes a cynic. Whatever it takes to avoid becoming jaded and maintain childlike wonder for the world as long as you possibly can. Learn to live in the moment. That sort of attitude and energy will broaden your horizons, which can only benefit your business.

It can be so easy to be blinded by the bright lights of opportunity. I know I have had plenty of times in my career when I felt like I was “too big” or “too grown” to geek out over every little success, but when you stop celebrating the small stuff it quickly crushes your enthusiasm for the work. And if that wasn’t lame enough, it’s only a matter of time before that attitude starts creeping into the big stuff. Before you know it, you’re a certified cynic. I’ve learned that staying humble is about way more than proving to everyone else that you don’t have a big head; it’s about staying grateful for every break that comes your way. That’s not for anyone else’s benefit; that’s for your benefit. Don’t forget to marvel in the wonder of everything you’re accomplishing.

Final Thoughts:

  • Walk that fine line. Fight the good fight and push the boundaries of what’s accepted. Produce something you are passionate about. It may not be mainstream, but chances are good you’ll find an audience who sees your vision.
  • Don’t dream it, make it. If you never act on your potential, you will never see any results. Don’t waste your whole life thinking about your dreams, actively chase after them. It’s the only way to achieve anything.
  • Dream for a living. If you can’t stand what you do, stop doing it. You must be able to find some passion in your work if you have any hope for success and longevity.
  • Find the magic. Even when it’s something with very little sparkle, spruce it up and make it shine. Find the connection between your passion projects and your current activity to find ways to make the less impressive work mind-blowing.
  • Cling to childlike wonder. Stay amazed. You’ve come a long way, and you should be grateful for every little thing that has brought you to where you are now. Avoid adopting the jaded attitude that can grow from steady success.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Follow Steven Spielberg’s advice in pursuing your dreams, and you’ll need a bigger boat for all that extra business you’re driving. You’re never too old for dreaming, and according the director extraordinaire, dreaming is the key to momentum and relevancy. Attack every project with the same enthusiasm you had for your startup projects, and hold tight to the magic that makes what you do special. Just like Spielberg, your dreamer’s heart partnered with your entrepreneur’s drive will launch your business to extra-terrestrial status.