How 40 Years Of Star Wars Has Saved My Life

Star Wars has saved my life

Today is Star Wars 40th Birthday.

40 years since my life changed because of it.

I saw it over 30 times that first year.

I cried when the next movie, Empire Strikes Back, came out because it was a cliffhanger and I hated that I had to wait three years.

When “Return of the Jedi” came out, my friends and I convinced our parents to let us take a day off from school.

We got to the theater six hours early and were already about 100th in line. People had waited on line all night.

We snuck down in our seats and watched it three times in a row. I was in a glow when I left. I felt like a Jedi.

I don’t care if people hate, like, love, or are indifferent to the prequels or the sequel. I love them all. I love the books.

How did it change my life?

One word: SURRENDER.

I can put my best effort into something. And that’s all I can do.

Then I surrender the results.


Two steps to anything in life:

1) put in the best effort
2) surrender to the results.

Then repeat.

This has saved my businesses countless times. This has saved me so much anguish in relationships.

If someone leaves me when I put in my best effort, I just have to move on.

If someone abuses me when I put in my best effort, then I have to leave.

This has helped me prepare for speaking appearances where I was scared to death. This has helped me with deals, with negotiating, with skills I wanted to develop.

This has helped me meet new people I wanted to meet. It’s helped me every time in my life I have felt fear.

Best Effort + Surrender = The Force.

How do you put in the best effort?


i. find a mentor, real or virtual to model yourself after

ii. find equals to challenge you. On Steve Martin’s master class on standup comedy he says as the very first thing to do if you want to do standup comedy:

find other funny people and talk to them. Not for a few minutes or a few hours. But CONSTANTLY. Pitching ideas to each other, challenging each other, helping each other improve.

iii. find your minus.

I always make sure I lecture and teach whenever possible. I regularly give talks at Columbia or NYU, for instance, and other local conferences.

Why? Because it helps me solidify things I learn, it puts me in “beginner’s mind” so I can learn more from the point of view of someone just starting, and it helps me improve my own public speaking and teaching skills.

And then repeat “a” as much as possible.


I read everything I can about what I am interested in.

Even when I started at a job, I read everything I could about the history of the industry, the biographies of the executives, the history of the competitors, the science of the technology, etc.

When I was a kid and wanted to get better at chess, I studied every game I could get my hands on.

I skipped school and would read books on chess all day long. I don’t know if this was a better use of my time but I did get better.

Every time I get interested in something new, something that sets my chest on fire, I read everything I can about it. And if there’s nothing written on it, I write the book.

c. DO

Much more important than “READ”.

Too many people write or read and don’t do.

You can’t get BETTER until you DO.

When I started my first business, it wasn’t enough to know how to program and solve a hard problem.

I had to learn to do something I had never done before: sell.

To sell, you have to understand personalities, you have to learn what excites people, you have to over deliver, you have to understand competitors, etc.

Without DO-ing I would never have learned the critical parts of business. Business is at least 60% psychological (or 90%). I would never have known that.

I wanted to learn how to write better. I can read every book. I can read every book on writing.

I didn’t get better until I started to write. Until I told stories. Every single day.


I wrote a novel when I was 21. I got feedback from a professional novelist (“uhh….it has potential but write your NEXT book”).

When I played chess in tournaments I would take each loss and bring it to my instructor and he would break down each move where I went wrong. He’d set up similar positions and I would have to solve them over and over.

When Luke tried to lift his ship out of the water in “Empire”, he failed. He got immediate feedback from his instructor, Yoda.

The one advice every standup comic gives me: record each performance. Amy Schumer has said in an interview, she listens to her performances to find out if she should even pause 1/4 a second more at the end of a joke.


You can’t get better until you do something A LOT. There are shortcuts. But everyone good already knows the shortcuts.

There’s no hack to hack the hacks.

Talent is 5%. It’s the ignition that starts the car. But then you have to drive.


Star Wars is about surrender.

The hero, Luke, is reluctant.

But he surrenders to the fate around him.

Fate is about a future that is outside of your control.

Best Effort + Surrender = DESTINY

Star Wars concludes with Luke trusting everything he’s learned. His best effort. And having faith in it. Finally, not having faith in a system, or a teacher, or a fad, but HIMSELF.

It’s ONLY when he finally does that that he is able to save the Universe. He’s able to find his destiny.

That’s why I say Happy Birthday to Star Wars.

Because I learned how to put in my best effort.

I finally learned to surrender and trust myself. I have to re-learn this every day. Because I fail a lot when I don’t do this.

Destiny is more powerful than fate. Because you can’t control it, but you can surrender to it, and then it actually happens, whether you like it or not.

Star Wars gave me destiny. That sounds stupid. Like I’m a four year old.

I don’t care.

Happy 40th Birthday, Star Wars.

See Also:

– “How to Become a Jedi Knight
– “The Force Will Awaken in 2016
– My podcast with Cass Sunstein titled “The World According to Star Wars” (and my article that introduces it).
My podcast with Jim Luceno who has written many Star Wars novels. (the blog, “The Waiter’s Pad” has a good summary).

  • dunja

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  • Ted Scarborough

    Take “C”. Don’t be scared.

    • bscook111

      If you aren’t scared then you’ve not done your best.

  • mighty mouse


  • Talent is 5%. It’s the ignition that starts the car. But then you have to drive.

    Wonderful stuff. Entertaining article. Funny how after we jump around full of motivational energy and emotion, it ALL comes down to discipline and actually getting things done. Small steps, big steps, medium steps. We need to focus more on moving forward and getting sh%# done. Flying high on the motivational kite feels great until we wake up and realize we can’t float forever; we’ve got to do something: Thank goodness for boatloads of improvement.

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  • bscook111

    Someone ought show this to David Brooks and EJ Dionne.

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