Mark and Jay Duplass have made careers making TV and movies, mostly on their own terms. In their book, Like Brothers, they tell the story of how when they were just starting to generate some buzz, the industry representatives would tell them “the cavalry is coming.”
In theory, “the cavalry” meant others were going to come in and help. Usually, it was about money and distribution. When you don’t have either, those things seem like everything, at least it did to these aspiring young creators (and who can’t relate to that?). In theory, the cavalry and success show up after you’ve proven yourselves. In practice, well, they learned a different lesson.
Time and time again, they’d make something, be told the real help was finally about to arrive… and then it wouldn’t. They made a reputation for making films on a shoestring budget (their Sundance-winning short, This is John, cost $3 to make). They learned to bootstrap, and they learned how to capture their own style of magic on their own terms. Even when more traditional deals started to come along. They opted for their own path, signing one of the early deals with a little (at the time) company called Netflix.
The Duplass brothers took the stairs and not the elevator. Not because they wanted to, but because at each successive floor the elevator wouldn’t let them on, so back to the staircase they’d go. Eventually, they realized the cavalry wasn’t coming. It never really was coming. It didn’t have to come because they realized, “we were the cavalry.” And yes, they made some Tony Robbins jokes about even saying it because they’re humble, but still, it was the truth.
We can’t do most things all by ourselves, but we can take most things pretty far with no more than a core group of motivated people. There’s nothing wrong with taking the stairs, so long as we keep figuring out how to get to the next floor. We can build our own cavalries.
The Duplass brothers are a great example of how to work in a partnership and succeed in business (and life too). Like Bothers is probably one of the sleeper/undercover business books of the year. Check out the book or their interview with Brené Brown on her podcast (ep. “The Power of Paradox”).