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Since that long-ago day when Thomas Edison created his first piece of film, movies have touched our hearts, made us laugh, scared us silly, and made us think. But the best movies are the ones that inspire us to do better. Each February, Hollywood celebrates the greatest films of the past year at the Academy Awards. And like previous years, you can learn a lot from 2012’s Oscar-nominated films. They’ll motivate you to be your best, especially if you are a small-business owner. Here are a few lessons from this year’s crop of nominees.
In an industry that relies on dead-body counts and low-brow humor to attract crowds, Ben Affleck went against the grain and created a smart political thriller about a little-known historical event. A lot of Hollywood insiders thought it would bomb, and they were never more wrong. Since its opening in October, Argo has grossed more than $126 million at the box office and received seven Oscar nominations.
Lesson Learned: Affleck proved sticking to your guns, working hard, and making a quality product can lead straight to success (and lots of statuettes too) despite criticism.
With apologies to Victor Hugo, here’s a branding tip from this film based on his novel: If you want customers to come to your business or buy a certain product, name it something that doesn’t make them think that they’re going to have a wretched, depressing time.
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Lesson Learned: Branding establishes your company’s voice (who you are and what you stand for), so be super careful when creating it. Also, never—and this can’t be repeated enough—never hire Russell Crowe to sing.
Named by the New York Times as one of the greatest political films of all time, Spielberg’s Lincoln focuses our late president’s fight to ratify the 13th Amendment. And what a fight it was. Lincoln faced opposition from Democrats who thought he was a dictator and inner battles with his own party—as well as himself.
Lesson Learned: Lincoln handled every problem with grace, humor and an unfailing commitment to do the right thing, whatever the cost. He also remained laser-focused on his objective, no matter what roadblocks were put in his way.
Life of Pi
Think business is tough? Then picture this: You’re on a boat on the way to your new home in Canada when a violent storm suddenly comes up and throws you overboard. Thankfully, there’s a lifeboat available. Only one problem: You have to share it with a ferocious Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Lesson Learned: Want to survive? Then you have to learn to coexist with even the most ferocious of predators. And under no circumstances, no matter how tough it gets, should you ever give up.
Whether you are feeling like your ship is about to sink (making you Les Misérable) or you have more enemies than Abraham Lincoln, remember this: Just like in the movies, you can create a happy ending by working hard, keeping your principles, and never, ever giving up.