Punxsutawney Phil, Motivational Speaker

Groundhog Day. It’s a pretty ridiculous tradition, but it gave us one of my favorite movies.

Steven Tobolowksy plays Ned Ryerson, the quintessential “person who remembers you that you kind of wish didn’t.” This isn’t going to be about Ned though, this is going to be about a lesson from the actor himself, who plays “that guy” really well (shout outs to Jack Barker on Silicon Valley and Principal Ball on The Goldbergs). James Altucher interviewed him (podcast episode 291) and he told this story (paraphrased):

As a struggling actor/writer, Tobolowsky decided he was going to write a song for Willy Nelson to perform. He recorded the song on a tape, addressed it to Willy (he assumed the post office could figure the rest out), dropped it in the mail, and then for a while when people asked what he’d been up to, he casually mentioned that he’d been writing songs for Willy Nelson.  Needless to say, Willy never received the tape, and it never made him famous.

Tobolowsky put the story in his book, and later received a random email from the son of a director he previously worked with asking if he still had a copy of the song. Happy to oblige a fan’s question, he told him yes. To his surprise, the next message went something like, “well, I’m here in Brazil standing with Willy, and if you get me a copy, I’ll deliver it to him.” So yeah, that happened. Talk about closing a loop.

Tobolowsky goes on to tell Altucher that 95% of people who say they will do something never do it. If you just do “the thing,” you’re already in the top 5% of people. The payoff of just being willing to do it is that sometimes you get lucky. If you keep doing enough things to be in that top 5% in various categories, eventually something is going to click for you.

With that story in mind, consider this quote from Seth Godin: “Today’s Groundhog day, an oddball holiday built on the premise that winter’s a grind, that we want it to be over with, that our motivation is TGIF… The magic of the film, though, was realizing that our motivation is actually up to us, and that if we choose, we can change it. If we do, the world might change in response.”

In life, there is no test, there is no performance review. All we’ve got are our own motivations and intent. 95% of the world is living in the TGIF zone, happy to let the grind repeat over and over, February 2nd forever. All you have to do is do “the thing,” and sometimes a little magic like Willy Nelson hearing a song you wrote actually happens. The world just might change in response to your effort. Happy Groundhog Day, remember that tomorrow is February 3rd.

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