My Top 6 Inspirational Movies of All Time

In addition to my love of books, I love watching movies too. My rule is to never watch anything that has scored under 7.0 on IMDB (although I make exceptions for the occasional sci-fi flick). 

The movies I tend to remember the longest and have the most meaningful impact on me are often highly inspirational ones. Without further ado, here is the list of my top 6 inspirational movies of all time- please enjoy!

1. Gattaca

In a dystopian genetically engineered future that is frighteningly plausible, people are judged according to their gene potential and little else. Natural born children (without genetic tampering) are shunned by society and only allowed to pursue the most menial jobs and careers. Ethan Hawke plays an imperfect young man who refuses to accept the status quo and embarks on a dream to become an astronaut, with the help of a genetically perfect Jude Law who is bitter about the system. This movie epitomizes the power of the human will to succeed against all odds.

2. Any Given Sunday

In this American Football story, an aging team coach (Al Pacino) and quarterback (Dennis Quad) are pitted against younger, hungry foes that seek to replace them. There’s plenty of action and all out sports play, but it is was this hugely inspirational speech by Al Pacino during the final game showdown that I’ll always remember:

3. Glengarry Glen Ross

This has been the quintessential salesman’s movie for the last 20 years. The entire dialogue heavy story revolves around a group of real estate salesmen who are struggling to meet their numbers before the end of a crucial month, and the lengths that they go to try and make a sale. Anybody who has ever been out on the road trying to close sales will be able to relate to this movie. At one point a senior manager (Alex Baldwin) walks in gives them a brutal pep talk that is unmissable:

4. The Shawshank Redemption

This movie revolves around a man (Tim Adams) who is wrongly convicted of a crime, then imprisoned for a lengthy sentence. During his time in prison, he makes a best friend (Morgan Freeman) who helps him make his time more worthwhile. In the end, he’s able to mould his destiny and find happiness in the toughest of conditions. This incredible film holds the rating for Number 1 movie of all time on IMDB. 

5. The Concert (Russian)

This movie is pure magic. It’s about a retired and disgraced (but brilliant) orchestra conductor who hasn’t worked in the music business since Communism fell. His former orchestra is in tatters, most now poor and out of the business completely. He manages to sneak a big shot to play in foreign country and sets about frantically rebuilding his orchestra and getting to the show before the Russian authorities catch up with his plan. This delightful piece of filmmaking reminded me how we can (and should) never escape our passions in life, for it is in passionate work where we are at our finest. See the trailer here:

6. Rocky

What can I say about the movie Rocky that hasn’t already been said? It’s the story of a soon to retire, down and out boxer who never made it big in his career, despite possessing some talent. One day, he gets a wild card shot at the world heavyweight champion that nobody takes seriously except for him. Well, we all know the rest of this story.

It was in this movie that Rocky, lying in bed and feeling crushed by the magnitude of the task ahead of him, uttered one of my favourite lines of all time: 

"I can’t beat him. But that don’t bother me. The only thing I want to do is to go the distance, that’s all. Because if that bell rings and I’m still standing, then I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood."

The Rocky movies consistently display how the person with the most heart can win, in spite of the largest of obstacles. Rocky is the ultimate people’s champion and there is more than enough to love about this movie.

In fact, the story of Sylvester Stallone and how the Rocky movie came into being is an incredibly inspiring too. Listen to it here:

Tony Robbins Shares Rocky’s Story by supergrowth11

Lessons from Steve Martin’s Life in Comedy


This week I finally picked up Steve Martin’s brilliant memoir, “Born Standing Up”, and devoured the entire book in two sittings. His writing is witty, conversationally fluid, and punctuated with vivid stories that teach and entertain. His story clips along at a delightful pace, starting from when he was a boy working at Disneyland, to being all grown up and the most successful stand-up comedian in the world.

Even though I’m too young to have appreciated Steve Martin at the height of his fame, I found his story riveting, and highly instructive.

"Born Standing Up" is chock-full of lessons that entrepreneurs (and any innovator) can use to better themselves. Here are some of my notes from the book:

1. Start young. He started performing recreationally as a boy and by his mid twenties was a skilled comedian (if not yet a refined one).

2. Improve with repetition. He learned that it’s “easy to be great, but it’s very difficult to be good, all of the time”. Statistically, there will be magical nights when everything clicks beautifully. Manufacturing success night after night takes practice and hard work.

3. Experiment, make mistakes. During years spent on the road, he relentlessly experimented with new jokes and routines, taking risks and facing failures in an effort to create better material and improve his original act.

4. Success comes when you least expect it. After years of working at it and not yet becoming successful, he was resolved to quit the business and “find a real job”, a day before his big break occurred.

5. When you nail it, money pours in quickly. Once he become popular his fame swept the nation and he became rich very quickly. His career in comedy at the height of his fame also only lasted a few short years.

6. The journey is the special part. At pinnacle of his career success, he became uninspired and actually longed for his days on the road where his act was smaller and less scripted. The journey in getting to the top was where he experienced the most creativity and passion in career.

In addition to these powerful lessons, there are many stories shared that made me stop, think, and appreciate his character a little bit more. Here are a few:

- He used to suffer from severe panic attacks as a regularly. At one point, the onset of darkness was enough to bring them on.

- As a traveling comedian on the road, he developed a rule to not try to pick up waitresses in the venues he performed at for six months, but butter them up over that time instead. As he would return to each city many times over the years, his strategy paid off nicely.

- When he started earning millions, he elegantly describes his new position of wealth as “not having to check the prices of things”. I think it’s a great definition.

- At one point in the book, he states very matter of factly, that to him, “comedy is serious”.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the raw passion oozing out of every page. At the end of the book, I was struck by the realization that Steve Martin is far from done. He consistently strives to reinvent himself and push his art further. We all know that after stand-up, he had a very successful career in the movie business. I can’t wait for him to write a sequel.

What is Your Failure Rate?

Today I read a fascinating post by Internet entrepreneur Auren Hoffman that forced me to ask the question, “What is my failure rate?”.
Using brilliant logic that I wholeheartedly agree with, Auren explains why a high failure rate is actually a good sign- an extremely good sign. It sounds counter-intuitive, and it sort of is. But he’s dead right.

Take 5 minutes and read the post already. Then spend 5 minutes every day thinking about it, and acting your way into plenty of failures… and a few great successes too.

A Key Lesson for Fighters (and Entrepreneurs Too)


Today I came upon a memorable passage in a fantastic book called The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game by Sam Sheridan. Driven by interviews with the best competitive fighters in the world (wrestling, boxing, MMA etc), it’s chock full of insights on the mindset needed to be a champion.

For a person with no martial arts experience, this book would be interesting, but for others who have spent any amount of time training in the ring or on the mat, it’s mesmerizing. (Some years ago I trained in Muay Thai and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and my passionate interest for the sport of grappling and MMA has never left, so Sheridan’s book has been a rare treat).

The passage that I found so memorable was about the winner’s mindset of continuous progress even in the face of setbacks. In a chapter called “The King of Scrambles”, trainer extraordinaire Ricardo Liborio states: 

"Maturity is a big part of success in fighting, because it means that you understand the game—that losing is part of the game. It doesn’t mean to let yourself get conquered, but to know that you can win again, at the right time you can be great. The key to doing well in competition is to accept.

Accept that you can lose, you can not perform. Take this big bag of rocks out of your backpack, take the pressure off, and you’ll do better. Once you understand that, man, you can do well.”

Worth re-reading many times.

The Legacy of Steve Jobs: 7 Inventions That Changed the World


Like so many others, today I was shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Steve Jobs. He was the da Vinci of our era.

It’s staggering to consider the number of ways that Steve dramatically changed the world during his lifetime. Off the top of my head I can think of seven:
  1. Personal Computer (Apple II)
  2. Graphical User Interface for PCs (Macintosh)
  3. Animated Motion Pictures (Pixar)
  4. Music Listening (iPod)
  5. Music Purchasing (iTunes)
  6. Cellphones (iPhone)
  7. Tablet Computing (iPad)
Unbelievable. And this list still leaves out major leaps that he drove in our thinking in areas like design, advertising, and retail stores.
I am sure that the hero and legacy of Steve Jobs will continue to inspire people for generations to come.

The Art of Selling by Alec Baldwin

This legendary, hard-nosed speech on selling by Alec Baldwin comes from the classic movie Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s one of my favourites.

Life Lessons from “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch

All achievement in life begins with the spark of inspiration. If motivation keeps the internal fire burning while pursuing a goal, inspiration is the matchstick. And as the old saying goes, “You can’t light a fire with a wet match”.
Last night while doing a little reflecting, I remembered the incredibly moving talk by Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University in September 2007 titled “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. The lecture was part of a tradition at Carnegie Mellon for retiring professors who were to give a lecture on whatever they wished to share with students as the last lecture they gave before they died—metaphorically speaking of course. The cosmic irony in this case is that Prof. Pausch had terminal pancreatic cancer at the time of his lecture (he passed away several months later).

The cancer did not stop him that day. His lecture was so profound that it ended up being watched by millions, converted into a book, and for a two hour presentation—it changed the world. 
Here’s the video which I highly recommend:

To me, some of the most memorable life lessons that he shared were (my favourites in bold):
  • Always have something to bring to the table- it helps (i.e. be good at something).
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  • Leadership is a highly valuable skill. In Star Trek, Captain Kirk was far from the smartest officer- but he had the skill of leadership.
  • When you want something from someone, try to ask them at a time when they can’t say no.
  • If you wait long enough, people will surprise you (i.e. if you’re pissed with someone now, eventually they will show you their good side).
  • When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it.
  • Don’t complain. Just work harder.
  • When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.
  • Be prepared, because luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
  • Brick walls are there for a reason. They help us to prove how badly we want something. They are there to separate us from the people who don’t really want to achieve their goal badly enough.
Randy Pausch’s last lecture will always be special to me, as a source of valuable lessons, and a personal inspiration. 

What “The Fighter” Can Teach Us About Persistence

This morning I had the pleasure of watching “The Fighter”. It’s a movie based on the true life story of Mickey Ward, an older down on his luck boxer from relatively unknown Lowell, Massachusetts, who overcomes a barrage of obstacles in and out of the ring to eventually accomplish his dream.

Mark Wahlberg does a fantastic job in the lead role of Mickey Ward, but Christian Bale’s portrayal of his drug using brother Dicky Eklund is simply mesmerizing. He is truly one of the best actors out there today. The Fighter is nominated for several Oscars, and I for one hope that it kicks ass on the night at the Academy Awards. Check out the trailer:

I love inspirational movies like this one. The Rocky series, Men of Honour, Iron Will and even The Shawshank Redemption are also great examples.

In these stories lies the truth that, with relentless hard work and unshakable persistence, Man can rise above his circumstances to achieve his dream, whatever it may be. Everybody knows somebody who can attest to this principle personally- the person born in poverty who is rich today, the fat kid in school who is now fit and slim, the entrepreneur who lost it all and made it back.

Movies like these are great as a source of motivation for entrepreneurs and athletes alike, for a few key reasons:

  • The odds of success are clearly against them.
  • The job requires a huge amount of sacrifice and hard work to get anywhere.
  • A dogged persistence toward a beholden idea is sometimes all that keeps them going.

What are you waiting for? Go and watch The Fighter today. And be inspired!

10 Success Principles From Mark Cuban That Made Him Rich

Mark Cuban is certainly one of the more outspoken dot com billionaires. I like the fact that he writes regularly for his blog, and has done so for years. Like many who have achieved remarkable success, he has a lot of important lessons to share.
After reading Mark Cuban’s very long, insightful post titled “Success and Motivation”, I distilled these 10 powerful personal pointers from it:

1. Be hungry: He always dreamed of massive success and wealth. Even from a young age.
"I drove by big houses and would wonder who lived there. What did they do for a living? How did they make their money? Someday, I would tell myself, I would live in a house like that. Every weekend I would do it."
2. Have a courageous vision: He always knew that he would start his own business (in spite of some self-doubt), and he did. (Remember courage is not the absence of fear, it is the ability to pursue a course of action in spite of fear).
"If I ever grew up, I hoped to run my own business some day. It’s exactly what I told myself every day. In reality, I had as much doubt as confidence. I was just hoping the confidence would win over the doubt and it would all work out for the best."
"I’m always afraid of failing. It’s great motivation to work harder."

3. Do something you love: He loved working in the computer business.
"More importantly no, most importantly I realized that I loved working with PCs. I had never done it before. I didn’t know if this was going to be a job that worked for me, or that I would even like and it turns out I was lucky. I loved what I was doing."
4. Focus for long hours at will: He setup his own company from scratch when he was 24. He enjoyed working so much (and was also highly motivated) that he would stay in the office until the morning.
"I would get so involved with learning a new piece of software that I would forget to eat and look up at the clock thinking it was 6 or 7pm and see that it was 1am or 2am. Time would fly by."

5. Persist- never ever quit: After his secretary stole $83k out of his $85k business bank account, he picked himself up and decided to just keep going. 
"No one was going to cover my obligations but me. I had to get my ass back to work, and do so quickly. That’s exactly what I did."
6. Read more than anyone else: He read every book, magazine, and manual he could. He used it to increase his knowledge and get more business ideas. He called it the “knowledge advantage”. He still reads for 3 hours every day. He also read everything relevant to his industry.
"Everything I read was public. Anyone could buy the same books and magazines. The same information was available to anyone who wanted it. Turns out most people didn’t want it."

7. Learn from the elites: He watched Michael Dell and Bill Gates closely (in terms of how they ran their businesses). He watched the movements of other great companies, and emulated where he chose to.
"Watching the best taught me how to run my businesses."
8. Work harder than others: "There are no shortcuts. You have to work hard, and try to put yourself in a position where if luck strikes, you can see the opportunity and take advantage of it. I would also say it’s hard not to fool yourself. Everyone tells you how they are going to be ‘special’, but few do the work to get there. Do the work."

9. Be prepared to sacrificeI went seven years without a vacation (from the time I got fired from a job, and started MicroSolutions). I didn’t even read a fiction book in that time. I was pretty focused.”
10. Create conditions that help you get lucky"In Business, the odds are a little different. You don’t have to break the Mendoza line (hitting .200). In fact, it doesnt matter how many times you strike out. In business, to be a success, you only have to be right once. One single solitary time and you are set for life. That’s the beauty of the business world."
"No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because…
All that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.”

Tech Titans Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos Address Ivy League Students

For those youngsters seeking from wisdom from the tech titans of industry, I highly recommend watching these two inspirational addresses to ivy league students.

Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech in 2005:

Jeff Bezos’ Princeton graduation speech in 2010:

5 Powerful Long Quotes for Entrepreneurs

When considered thoughtfully, powerful quotes can be truly inspiring. 

Longer quotes generally contain more meaning and depth than one liners, although one liners often double up as useful rules of thumb. I’ll look into that in a separate post.

There are a few long quotes in particular that I have found myself reading over and over again through the years, providing a well of perspectives from which I draw motivation. Here are 5 favourites:
1. "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt (US President, 1901-1909)

2. "Entrepreneurship is a game of risks versus rewards. It’s you against the world, with the odds in the world’s favor. It’s exciting, frightening, frustrating and fulfilling — sometimes all in the same day. In an increasingly paternalistic civilization, it is one of the few remaining endeavors where a small group, banding together in common cause, can apply their skill, savvy, guts and determination to changing the world, and see it happen. For those who are up to it, it’s the only game there is."
- Peter H. Schmidt (Co-Founder, Lifting Mind)
3. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” 
- Michael Jordan (Legendary NBA Player)*

*Hat tip to Jamie Quint for first leading me to this one.
4. "Defeat is a state of mind. No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality. To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary, and its punishment is but an urge for me to greater effort to achieve my goal. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth."
- Bruce Lee (Martial Artist & Actor, 1940-1973)

5. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
- Steve Jobs (Co-Founder & CEO, Apple)
And finally a bonus quote that I found in the introduction of Guy Kawasaki’s popular book on entrepreneurship, “The Art of The Start”.

6. 'Many years ago Rudyard Kipling gave an address at McGill University in Montreal. He said one striking thing which deserves to be remembered. Warning the students against an over-concern for money, or position, or glory, he said: “Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.” ' 
- Halford E. Luccock (Professor of Homiletics, Yale)