Why did George Lucas succeed where others did not?


George Lucas has achieved a phenomenal amount of success in his career and has left an indelible imprint in the minds of a great number of people from around the globe.

The movies that he has been involved with have been among some of the biggest successes of all time including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. He founded the Lucasfilm Company in 1971, which also paved the way for the revolutionary company Pixar, and his other company Industrial Light & Magic founded in 1975 was influential in the growth of the computer graphics industry. The Walt Disney Company acquired these companies for $4 billion in 2012.

While reflecting on the early part of his career George Lucas remembers two pivotal moments that enabled him to succeed where others fail.

‘I was a terrible student in high school, and the thing that the auto accident did — and it happened just as I graduated, so I was at this sort of crossroads — but it made me apply myself more, because I realized more than anything else what a thin thread we hang on in life, and I really wanted to make something out of my life. And I was in an accident that, in theory, no one could survive. So it was like, “Well, I’m here, and every day now is an extra day. I’ve been given an extra day, so I’ve got to make the most of it.” And then the next day I began with two extra days. And I’ve sort of — you can’t help in that situation but get into a mindset like that, which is you’ve been given this gift and every single day is a gift, and I wanted to make the most of it. Before, when I was in high school, I just sort of wandered around. I wanted to be a car mechanic, and I wanted to race cars, and the idea of trying to make something out of my life wasn’t really a priority. But the accident allowed me to apply myself at school. I got great grades. Eventually I got very excited about anthropology and about social sciences and psychology, and I was able to push my photography even further and eventually discovered film and film schools.’ – George Lucas

Another thing that Lucas had was the ability to get things done, while others would complain.

“The few who do are the envy of the many who only watch.” — Jim Rohn.

‘I decided to go to film school because I loved the idea of making films. I loved photography and everybody said it was a crazy thing to do because in those days nobody made it into the film business. I mean, unless you were related to somebody there was no way in. So everybody was thinking I was silly. “You’re never going to get a job.” But I wasn’t moved by that. I set the goal of getting through film school, and just then focused on getting to that level because I didn’t — you know, I didn’t know where I was going to go after that. I wanted to make documentary films, and eventually I got into the goal of — once I got to school — of making a film. One of the most telling things about film school is you’ve got a lot of students, in those days especially, it’s not quite so much today, but — wandering around saying, “Oh, I wish I could make a movie. I wish I could make a movie.” You know, “I can’t get in this class. I can’t get any this or that.” The first class I had was an animation class. It wasn’t a production class. I had a history class and an animation class. And, in the animation class they gave us one minute of film to put onto the animation camera to operate it, to see how you could move left, move right, make it go up and down. It was a test. You had certain requirements that you had to do. You had to make it go up and had to make it go down, and then the teacher would look at it and say, “Oh yes, you maneuvered this machine to do these things.” I took that one minute of film and made it into a movie, and it was a movie that won like, you know, 20 or 25 awards in every film festival in the world and kind of changed the whole animation department. Meanwhile all the other guys were going around saying, “Oh, I wish I could make a movie. I wish I was in a production class.” So then I got into another class, and it wasn’t really a production class, but I managed to get some film and I made a movie. And, I made lots of movies while in school while everybody else was running around saying, “Oh, I wish I could make a movie. I wish they’d give me some film.’ – George Lucas

Lucas explains more about his journey in his discussion with the Academy of Achievement.

George Lucas interview

Entrepreneur: George Lucas

Interviewer: Academy of Achievement

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