How Organizing Principles Guide Your Life

What movies, magicians, and a legendary writer taught me about finding a clear path to success

Todd Brison


Image purchased by the author via iStock

Movie season is like Christmas in the Brison household.

Every year, we line up the best picture nominees, grab a pile of snacks, and sit down for waves of spine-tingling inspiration and gut-wrenching despair.

The Sound of Metal took both of those emotions to a new level. The story of a musician going deaf coupled with exquisite sound design made the movie hard to watch in the best possible way.

The story behind the story is even more fascinating.

Riz Ahmed’s — the film’s lead — wore custom inserts that emitted a constant high-frequency pitch. When you see him in character shaking his head and pulling his ears, it wasn’t him faking deafness.

He could feel it.

“[The inserts] don’t even allow him to hear his own voice,” the film’s director reported in the New York Times. “He’s reacting to a very physical process…it’s what gives rise to a loss of balance and real loss of control.”

Secrets like this make movie magic seem like simple smoke and mirrors, and similar legends are littered throughout Hollywood. Hugh Jackman disobeys doctor’s orders and sings his guts out to earn a green light for The Greatest Showman. Makeup artists for Dallas Buyers Club turn Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto into haggard AIDS patients with only $250. Daniel Kaluuya turns a casual table read into a screaming session and convinces producers to add an extra million dollars to Judas and the Black Messiah’s budget an extra million dollars.

A bedrock for great art is poured long before cameras roll.

There’s a scene in Christopher Nolan’s film The Prestige where two young magicians are studying an older craftsman.

The elder enchanter hobbles around stage, wrinkled face and bent knees, humbly performing simple tricks. With each new stunt, the crowds politely applauds.

Then, there is the fishbowl trick.

Strong men set the big aquarium on a small table. One orange goldfish swirls around in the water. Silence fills the stadium…