Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Things I learned from Jerry Weintraub

by Brittany Geragotelis

I recently picked up a book that I had bought my boyfriend as a present several months ago. It was called When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead and it told the stories of producing and managing powerhouse Jerry Weintraub. I originally bought it for my beau because it was about a producer and Matt has produced a few things in the past and has a tremendous love for film. Matt though, isn't really a book person, and still hasn't read it, and even though I have a to-read pile of about three dozen books, I decided to pick this one up.

Besides being a book lover, I'm also inspired by movies (Bring It On, Stick It) and TV shows (Hello, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). I think it's just one more way to tell a story and that's attractive to me. And of course, as we wait to see whether one of the major movie studios will pick up Life's a Witch, my interest in learning more about the film industry has been peaked. Lastly, I'm really trying to learn as much as I can about branding and marketing as I focus on building an audience for my book release later this year. So, I thought that When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead would be helpful in all these respects.

I was right.

Before I read the book, I didn't know all that much about Jerry Weintraub. I knew he produced a lot of movies. That was it. I didn't even realize which movies he'd done (FYI: he produced all the Oceans movies and The Karate Kid franchise), I just recognized the name and knew he was kind of a big deal. What I ended up learning about Mr. Weintraub and from him, was so much more though. The tagline for his book is: Useful stories from a persuasive man. And this is exactly what this book was. Through reading about his life, one can't help but learn a lot about business. And even though I'm not a producer or musical artist, there was so much advice that translated to my life.

Not to suggest that you shouldn't read the book for yourself (Because you really should. I don't care who you are, or what you do, it's worth the read), but I thought I'd give you The Top 6 Things I Learned From Jerry Weintraub.

1. "Work for the joy of the work." In the book, Jerry says that his father taught him this particular lesson. It started as a way to buy a particularly awesome red jacket (you'll have to read the book for more details on this), but passion quickly began to drive his professional endeavors. At one point he took his career in a completely different direction, stepping away from a business that was immensely lucrative and successful, simply because he no longer enjoyed the daily work it entailed. Not that he wasn't a hard worker--he was ALWAYS working--but he wasn't enjoying what he was doing anymore. So, he closed up shop and focused on something that made him happy. Surprise, surprise, he became rich and successful off of his next endeavor, too. And not surprising: he was happier for it.

2. "Do not get attached to the world as it is, because it's always changing." Although most people nowadays recognize Jerry as a movie producer, he started out in the music industry, booking acts for tours. One of the first significant things he did was see that the old model of how musical acts traveled and played at venues, was old. Smartly, he came up with a way to cut out the middle man and made a lot of people a lot of money. This angered the former gatekeepers, but it's his ability to change with the times that's served him so well over the years. And he not only changed, but led that change.

3. "Be willing to be lucky." Jerry was working in the mailroom at William Morris when he overheard a few young executives talking about an assistant job that was opening up at MCA. He took the information, contacted the man he'd heard was hiring, got himself an interview and landed the gig. He told his boss he could do a variety of skills, even though he couldn't, and managed to BS his way through it. When his boss eventually found out he couldn't do assistant work, he'd already proved his work ethic and drive so much that they bumped him up to an agent position and hired another assistant. As you read his life story, you see that this was often the case with Jerry. He was given a lot of amazing opportunities in his life--luck you might call it--the difference is that he took those lucky instances and used them to change his life.

4. "Interesting is valuable." While at MCA, Jerry tied up the phones one night, causing the president of the company to be unable to use the line. The president called him the next day and confronted him about the personal call (Jerry had been fighting with his girlfriend) and instead of making up an excuse, he told him the truth. It was because of the fact that Jerry zigged when others would have zagged that intrigued the president enough to meet him in person, which eventually led to a close personal and professional relationship. He learned that sometimes by doing the unexpected, the unexpected happens as a result.

5. "Potential clients will judge the health of the company based on your appearance." Though he couldn't afford it at the time, Jerry bought a Rolls-Royce and hired a driver because he figured that if he looked successful people would think he was successful. This fake it til you make it attitude is something Jerry used often. He made people believe that he could do anything--and then he delivered.

6. "Persist, push, hang on, keep going, never give up." So much of Jerry's success came after he was told "no." What separates him and others with big dreams is that he didn't take no for an answer. He was always moving forward and eventually turned every "no" into a "yes." It just goes to show you that rejection is often just the beginning. Imagine what Jerry's life would've been like if he'd given up every time he heard "no." Now imagine your life as a bunch of "no's" just waiting to be "yes's."

This is only six of the amazing lessons you can learn by reading Jerry's book...and trust me there are dozens and dozens more. Seriously, pick up your copy today. And if great advice isn't your thing, there's a lot of scoop on celebrities in there too (Hello Brad and George!).