Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!
This is my last post in 2020, so it’s the perfect moment to declare how fucking shitty this clusterfuck of a year has been. There. I said it. And feel free to say the same. Nobody is listening, so shout it out, it really helps.
I would love to predict that 2021 is going to be all peachy and easy — but I won’t. We’re not out of the woods yet. January 1st isn’t going to be the end of all our sorrow, and it might take months for things to normalize. So yeah, hang in there, and feel free to yell curses at the sky. But then — and this is important — get back to it.
Good stuff doesn’t happen in perfect circumstances. Every crisis is an opportunity. Change comes with friction, and friction can be unpleasant. Surely we could wait until the great unpleasantness has passed, but we won’t.
We are artists — when the shit hits the fan, we live-stream that shit and make a bundle. Like Paul Verhoeven, Prince, and the cast of Friends did. Whoops, did I lose you there? That was unexpected, so let me explain and fill you with hope for the future.
Back in 1990, director Paul Verhoeven was filming Total Recall in Mexico. The filming was a disaster as the whole crew got food poisoning — except Arnold Schwarzenegger who was lucky enough to have brought in his own food and water. Now Verhoeven was in a tough bind but he didn’t want to postpone the production, since it was a huge and expensive operation.
So he found a solution: he hired an ambulance to be present on the set during filming. In between takes the paramedics would administer fluids and medication so that he could eke out and keep directing. This guy was literally vomiting and shitting himself. He had every excuse to walk away and everybody would’ve understood — but he didn’t. Circumstances be damned, he persisted.
The producers of Friends also showed grit when they needed to change their opening credits. They didn’t have the budget to realize their original plan: a rooftop party in New York. Although the series was set in New York, it was filmed in LA and all the actors and crew were based there. So in a pinch, they needed something that could pass for New York, cheaply.
They finally found a fountain that worked and decided to stage the bulk of the intro around it. So they headed out at 4am into the freezing water with no guarantee of success — at this point only the pilot had been signed.
The crew was tired, cold, and at the end of their rope. Did they walk away to their trailers, or demand a reshoot in the morning? No, they jumped back in the water and persisted. It sealed a bond that set the tone for years to come.
Back in 2016, legendary musician Prince was supposed to perform at the opening of the Super Bowl. Everything had been planned and prepared for… except for the weather.
That morning, unexpectedly, it started raining and it became clear it wouldn’t stop. That meant the stage would be slippery, storm might rage the arena, the dancers might slip and fall, and there was the risk of electrocution when the stage equipment would get soaked.
The organizers called Prince and told him the risks and how bad the rain was getting. Prince’s reply was swift, epic, and full of confidence:
“Can you make it rain harder?”
You can watch what happens in this 8-minute video, and find a new appreciation for artists who defy the odds and embrace the elements.
Next year isn’t going to be easy. This year wasn’t. We could all be excused for locking ourselves away and giving up. But we won’t. We’re going to get back to work, give it everything we got, and do our very best work. Not because the circumstances are perfect, but despite them. And with that, I wish you a happy new year.