Live & Learn: Lessons from James Franco

1 03 2011

This past Sunday evening, James Franco and Anne Hathaway co-hosted the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, celebrating excellence in acting, film making, music and much more.  The two actors starred in a variety of different promotional commercials leading up to the big event, poking a little fun at the ways each were preparing for the show (everything from learning ballroom dancing to avoiding wardrobe malfunctions to the practicing of voice and diction.)  Here’s one of the videos:

After the awards were given out and the after-parties had ended (well, today IS just Tuesday….they may still be celebrating), I started thinking about how impressive each actor was in their respective films.  But, what about outside of the movies?  How do these people stay on the cutting-edge of the art form?  I did some digging and was delighted to find a great story in what James Franco is doing to keep himself in tip-top condition.

You see, regardless of how many golden statuettes are on the mantle, Franco (like any good actor or job seeker) keeps learning.  He doesn’t stop his personal and professional development just because he “made it.”  He keeps pushing himself to be better.  Another actor, Carrie Fisher once said, “There is no point at which you can say, “Well I am successful now, I might as well relax.””  I completely agree with her (Princess Leia is a smart lady.)

I could make a list, highlight the top 3-4 points of what I took away from all of this, but I think it all comes down to a core principle.  Never stop learning.  Franco continues to develop his skill, pushing the envelope and stepping outside of his comfort zone.  Not only was he in a movie this year, but he stepped into unknown (and to be honest, not so glamorous) territory with his TV debut on the soap opera, General Hospital.  You see, while many actors who have made it as big time movie stars view television as beneath them, Franco saw this as an opportunity to understand something foreign to him.  Soap operas tend to film with a one-take approach, meaning you have one shot and then the director moves on.  In movies, the same scene, even the same few lines could be repeated for sometimes 20 or more takes.  On top of all this, Franco went back to school last year and graduated from UCLA and he’s currently studying at both the Rhode Island School of Design and working on his PhD in English literature at Yale.  That’s what I call dedication, discipline, and determination.

“I just know there’s a lot I want to know. And, also, I’m energized by doing various things, and when I cross these different disciplines and mediums, they inform each other, and give and get energy from each other, and inspire me.” – Franco, as quoted in The Star-Ledger

I’m not endorsing James Franco or even suggesting that he’s perfect.  But I think we can all learn from his dedication and determination.

Here’s my challenge to you: Learn something new every day.  It doesn’t have to be something big like “learn to speak Chinese”.  Set tough, yet attainable goals for yourself.  Keep learning and keep growing.  I’ll leave you with this quote that I came across recently (it fits perfectly):

“The unfed mind devours itself.” –Gore Vidal

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