John Malkovich Has A Secret For Being Insanely Productive

My buddy Quinn shared a GQ article  with me in which actor John Malkovich shares some productivity principles. His advice was surprinsgly very very insightful and seemed to come from a place of wisdom/clarity. Take a read:


Malkovich—that guy’s got to be a machine, right? Nearly 100 films! The latest: this month’s BP-oil-spill thriller Deepwater Horizon. He’s a 40-year member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and is now directing the play Good Canary in London. He’s even got a fashion line! So you might be surprised to discover he’s a man who advises against ambition

Finishing Just Means Knowing When to Quit
Here’s how I look at work and productivity: It’s best to be restless. And to be able to leave things when you feel that you don’t have anything further to contribute. And then, on the other hand, there are things one believes one was completely done with, only to find there are new things to discover in them. I’ve had the opportunity to go back and direct a play, or act in a play, that I’d already acted in or directed. The play was the same, but my relation to it was not. In a certain way, you’re probably never really finished, but you also have to accept sometimes that you’re finished for now.


Don’t Listen to Compliments That Don’t Come From Yourself
You have to be able to tell yourself, “Listen, I thought that was a very bad, inadequate job I did.” Even if everybody else says, “Oh, I don’t think so. I loved it” or “I thought it was fantastic.” Even if a majority of people say that. You have to have your own barometer.


Know This: Multitasking Is Just Procrastination
The Internet gives you the sense of getting things done. We think we can accomplish a lot just being on it. And perhaps we can. But I think what the Internet does is it sort of pushes us on to the next thing. When people get an e-mail and they’re instructed that they need to do this or that, I wonder if they actually read it anymore—or if their eyes just glaze over and they go, “Whatever, I’ll get it later.” I think of it as kind of an information sickness.


Don’t Believe in the Power of You
People will say how your life goes is up to you. You know, the whole kind of Tony Robbins, walk-through-fire of it all. That’s all great—but maybe not realistic. For instance, I would have maybe preferred to be in the NBA or be a professional baseball pitcher. But I wasn’t good enough. No amount of exerting control over myself—or attempting to assert control over my destiny—would change that. I don’t know what I would’ve ended up doing if I hadn’t met the kids who had this stupid idea to start a theater—which turned out not to be such a stupid idea.


Be Less Ambitious
Accomplishment may be the result of ambition or drive. And I think I probably have lots of drive. But I don’t have any ambition. I never really had any. I don’t have a hugely high opinion of ambition. I think of ambition as the need to prove something to others, and the need to be recognized. A need for rewards outside of the work. Drive motivates you to do whatever it is you’re doing as well as you can. That’s an important distinction, and it always has been. It was as true 40 years ago when I started as it is now.


Definite Chief Aim

Today my good buddy Elbert came across Bruce Lee’s “Definite Chief Aim” and shared it with me. The “Definite Chief Aim” was a personal mission statement Bruce Lee wrote in January 1969 when he was 28 years old and a minor TV star in the United States. With his second child recently born and no financial security to speak of, the clearly determined founder of Jeet Kune Do decided to put his “Definite Chief Aim” down on paper:


My Definite Chief Aim

I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.

Bruce Lee
Jan. 1969

I think his words and history speak for itself but his clarity in his mission statement really, really moved and inspired me. I’m going to take some time to write down my own Definite Chief Aim and I implore you to do the same. Thanks Elbert

Deep Introspection

Every once in a while I like to ask myself a list of questions that I have to deeply think about and answer honestly. I tend to get lost in routine from time to time, so these questions help me to take a step back and re-assess myself and help me understand if I’m on the right track. Maybe they can be helpful to you:

  • What is your current situation right now?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How bad do you want it? Why?
  • Put together a plan for the short, mid, and long term future to achieve your goals.


Revisiting Goal-Setting

Goals – what kind of goals do you have? Short-term, long-term, financial, personal, health, etc.? I listened to a Jim Rohn speech this morning and he talked about how the size of your goals and the kind of goals you have affect your behavior. Jim says:

“Your goals affect your handshake. Your goals affect your attitude, personality. Your goals affect the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you dress. All day long we’re being affected by our goals.”

Creating goals and writing them down shows that you’re serious about improving yourself, and the only way to grow in this life is through constant self-improvement. Jim mentioned a great point in that passive hope is an affliction. Broke and homeless people hope, but nothing ever happens to them. Another Jim, Jim Carrey, once said:

“I don’t believe in hope. Hope is a beggar. Hope walks through the fire and Faith leaps over it.”

Hope doesn’t get you anywhere but planning does. And that’s where the importance of goal-setting comes in. I definitely always have goals on my list and on my mind 24/7, but it’s important to constantly look at how you’re performing against these benchmarks, discover what you need to change, and figure out how to keep checking them off your list. It’s not enough just to say “I want $XXX” or “I want to live in this kind of house.” Goal-setting is a disciplined practice of your life and definitely needs to be taken seriously. I’m going to look at all of my goals, both large and small, short and long term, and in all aspects of my life to recalibrate them. Let’s do this.

“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.”

– Jim Rohn

Keep Swimming

This will be a short post because I don’t feel like I need motivation today or something to “spark” me. It’s really one of those days where you just wake up and keep moving forward. Putting one foot in front of the other. I posted a short video a few posts back where Idris Elba talks about how sometimes in life you just need to keep your head down and keep swimming. If you keep looking up at the clock or counting how many laps you’ve already done, you may get discouraged and caught up in numbers. But he says if you just keep your head down and keep swimming with the goal of simply not stopping, eventually you’ll get to your goal. This just feels like one of those days where you just get up and say, “Let’s get to it.”