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:

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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.

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