3 Career Lessons From Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino has earned over $1.5b in career box office numbers, two Oscars, and 113 other awards. With his latest film, The Hateful Eight, getting three Oscar nominations, let’s see what lessons we can learn from his impressive career.

1. Collaborate With Great People:  

Tarantino is one of the best collaborators in the entertainment industry.  Look at all the actors who continue to work with him on a frequent basis: Sam Jackson has appeared in six movies, Zoe Bell has appeared in five, and James Parks and Tim Roth have both appeared in four Tarantino films.  According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,

groups of three to five people perform better than individuals when solving complex problems.

Bestselling author, Kevin Dalm, says that there are several things you can do to master the art of collaboration and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts:

“You need to choose participants carefully.  A successful collaboration begins with picking the appropriate people for the task at hand. Give careful consideration to the skills, experience, motivations, and compatibility of the people you invite to the group.

You also need to put method to the madness. Random brainstorms with little or no structure will exclude some from the process while allowing others to dominate the conversation. Outline in advance the people, processes and resources required so your participants are free to focus on the work and not the logistics.

Finally, make sure that you work with respect.  Few go into a collaborative project with intentions of being disrespectful; yet it often happens.  If everyone shows respect by focusing each minute of activity on the common objectives of the group, the required time will be short and the results will be plentiful."

2. Be A Sponge:  

Tarantino told the website, The Talks, “My head is a sponge.  I listen to what everyone says….When I go and write my new characters, my pen is like an antenna.”

Tarantino pull from what’s around him, puts his own spin on it and throws it on the big screen. He has famously borrowed from spaghetti westerns, pulp fiction novels and Hong Kong thrillers to create some of his most iconic films.

According to Dave Balter, the founder and chief executive of the Boston-based social marketing company BzzAgent, “there’s a misconception that the most successful business leaders achieve greatness because they’re insanely smart…But the truth is different. Most highly successful leaders really aren’t the smartest people in any room...

Great leaders are sponges.” 

He defines a sponge as “someone who is tirelessly driven to seek and absorb new information…someone who is highly curious, possibly even somewhat obsessive, about gathering data and learning from it.” 

He goes on to state that a great sponge does three things:

“First, they learn from mentors, advisors and peers: Sponges always surround themselves with people who can help them. 

They also study heroes. A great sponge will typically have one or two individuals he or she considers heroes and will soak up everything possible about that person

Finally, they read voraciously: Sponges tend to want to take in as much information as possible. And it doesn’t need to be about business. Sponges may devour fantasy or fiction.  It doesn’t matter. They feed on as much information as they can absorb.” 

3. Take Risks:   

“I don't ever want to fail, but I want to risk failure every time out of the gate.” Quentin Tarantino told the website 99u.com.

Tarantino is famous for taking major risks in everything from his casting to his choice of subject matter.  When he was casting Pulp Fiction, he had his choice of every major Hollywood actor, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Bruce Willis and Sean Penn to play Vincent Vega.  Instead, Tarantino cast John Travolta, an actor who was as cold as it gets at the time. The studio famously objected and Tarantino had to fight to get Travolta the role.

According to New York Times bestselling author, Andy Andrews, you should take risks for three reasons:   “If you want to want to live an extraordinary life, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone.  Risks also bring about change.  Finally, the more risks that you take, the less regrets you’ll have.”

So how do we begin taking risks at work?

You can start by taking a new risk every day.  Risk taking, like any skill, only gets easier the more you practice it.  You can also start to build a network of people who are already doing things that you want to try. They can show how they took risks that paid off.  Finally, stop trying to be perfect.  Remember your goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s to kick start your career.  

Vince Lombardi said it best, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.”

This article originally appeared in Forbes.  Click here to read the full article.