The Christian Bale Guide to Owning the Room

Lessons learned from “American Psycho”

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All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

Based on my books in The Prolific Series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the business card scene from American Psycho:

One good idea does not a career make. Patrick is a textbook perfectionist. In fact, after becoming embarrassed by the superiority of his coworker’s business card, he runs out murders a homeless man and his dog in an alleyway in a fit of frustrated rage. Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy. Proving, that perfectionists believe, whether they admit it or not, that there is no level at which they will feel safe putting things into the world, because there’s always something that’s not right about it. And so, they end up spending a ton of time perfecting what they do, and doing it over and over for years until they get it right. I have colleagues who write second, third, fourth and even fifth editions of their first books. And it drives me crazy. Because they’re just tilling the same earth. They’re not creating anything out of whole cloth, they’re just building a time machine and recycling themselves. That way, their idea never has to come to an end. But the reality is, you have to end something to get to the next level. As my mentor used to say, when you let go of what you are, you become what you might be. Perfectionism, then, isn’t a fear of failure or mistakes or criticism or rejection, it’s a fear of death. Because everything has a lifecycle. Everything dies. Even a good idea. And so, our job as creators is to land a good idea, follow it to success, celebrate the victory, then go back to the workbench and find another one to land us at an even higher level. Otherwise we’re just another one hit wonder. Are you working on one piece, or contributing to an ongoing body of work?

Too busy feeding the monster. Keep your overhead low, and you’ll never have to compromise. Because the risk is minimal. You’ll free up enough financial space to bankroll your capacity to experiment. And you’ll have the surplus energy to awaken alternative ways of thinking. Maybe even say no to the work that doesn’t serve your creative evolution. But live above your means, and you’ll price yourself out of doing interesting things. Because the risk is too high. You’ll be too busy feeding the monster. And you’ll expend all your energy keeping the furnace up to operating temperature. Making it harder and harder to do what you believe in. When I was just getting started as an entrepreneur, I lived with my parents for two years, eight months and twenty nine days. Which made it difficult to get dates, but it certainly kept my overhead insanely low. And so, this afforded me the opportunity to save money be brave and take chances and hone my craft and most importantly, fail quickly and quietly. All of which cemented the foundation from which I was able to acquire, perpetuate and expand new business. Had I maintained overhead costs of administrative items, office expenses and other indirect responsibilities, I never would have had the personal or financial resources available for the direct actions that led to business growth. What is the cost of the way you’re working?

Talent is not the measure of man. This movie perfectly epitomizes the sheer materialism, narcissism and greed of the eighties culture. But it also fetishizes success. To the point of pathological obsession. And it’s a reminder that, not matter what decade it is, we’re all still parishioners at the church of continuous improvement, worshipping at the altar of better, feeding our addiction to the pursuit of excellence. And it breaks my heart. Spend five minutes perusing the bestseller list, and it appears we’ve turned mastery into some kind of fetish. As if the sole purpose of existence was to become the best at things. I’m sorry, but there’s more to life than achieving supremacy. What good is putting in your ten thousand hours if it robs you of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living? What good is barreling down the road to greatness if you don’t even look around to take in scenery? Talent is not the measure of man. Enough with all the goddamn pressure and rhetoric on becoming a world class expert. Just express yourself. Honestly and prolifically. Forget about being good, forget about being number one, and just focus on creating an exhibition of love. That’s enough. You’re enough. All yardsticks are illusions. Would you rather be the best at what you do or the best of who you are?

What did you learn from this movie clip?

For a copy of the list called, “11 Ways to Out Market the Competition,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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Written by

Author. Speaker. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Founder of Pioneer of Personal Creativity Management (PCM). I also wear a nametag 24/7.

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