Original + unique = some failure

Neil Simon

Neil Simon

Interesting two-punch quotes about success and failure, the topic of my forthcoming book, in today’s New York Times.

The “quotation of the week” is by Neil Simon, one of the most successful playwrights, whose play Brighton Beach Memoirs nonetheless turned out to be one of the biggest flops in Broadway history and closed after one week:

I’m dumbfounded. After all these years, I still don’t get how Broadway works, or what to make of our culture.


Jeffrey Katzenberg

Elsewhere in the paper, they interview Jeffrey Katzenberg, a very successful film producer, formerly at Walt Disney (Shrek, etc) and now at his own DreamWorks Animation:

In order to succeed at the high end of the movie business, you must be original and unique. Now if you were putting an equation up on the white board and you wrote “original + unique = what?” Then the answer would have to be “risky.” And if you said, “risky = what?” The answer would be “some failure.” It has to, by definition, just sort of in the most fundamental way.

Obviously, this applies not just to film-making or Broadway but also to (ahem) writing–a blog, an article in The Economist, a book. And to war (Hannibal and Scipio). And to love. And to science. And to …. life.

Kipling’s impostors are hiding in plain view, as it were.

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