Use The Difficulty (Michael Caine Edition)

Michael Caine’s famous for his acting chops, but the source of his chops (and his fame) traces down to one expression:

Use the difficulty. 

Early on he had an actor block his stage entrance with a chair. He was, probably a little nervy, and tried to explain he couldn’t get through. The other actor told him, 

“Use the difficulty. If It’s a comedy, fall over it. If it’s a drama, pick it up and smash it.”

As he’d later explain it, “There’s never anything so bad that you cannot use that difficulty. If you can use it a quarter of one percent to your advantage, you’re ahead. You didn’t let it get you down.”

There’s a few things going on here that really hit me hard. 

The medium is the message (again and again). If you know the type of scene you’re in, comedy or drama in this case, you know the tone to take with the action. How often can we use the setting or scene or platform in response to a difficulty? When ever should we not?

It’s being curious about something that seems boring at first. Finding the tension in it. How many times have I shut my brain off to a mundane workflow or a checklist at work? An extra minute on why it matters can make all the difference. Finding the tension so often = finding the difficulty.

The difficulty is what makes it interesting. Not just overcoming it either. The surprise of it’s appearance is offering us the gift of an improvised response. If we’re surprised, so is everyone else. If they’re surprised and it’s on theme, it’s MAGIC. 

The difficulty is also what keeps other people out. Most people won’t get past the chair. Most people won’t try to surprise the surprise. This is the opportunity. Take the shot. 

If the difficulty is going to show up anyway, why not use it? 

h/t Sahil Bloom