"You Can't Do That..."
I recently discovered a very funny clip of Matt Damon speaking with Conan O'Brien.*
Stick with me, there's a business-relevant lesson here, I promise.
In the clip, Matt and Conan are talking about Matt's stunts in his Jason Bourne films, which Conan tells Matt he really enjoys.
Then Matt tells Conan he's afraid of heights and that, with only a few exceptions, he's typically stayed away from doing any stunts that involve them.
But the really funny part begins at the 1:13 mark of the clip when Matt talks about a conversation he had years back with Tom Cruise, famously known in Hollywood as an adrenaline junkie who insists on doing all of his own death-defying stunts.
Matt was asking Tom about an astoundingly dangerous stunt he performed in one of the Mission Impossible films, and how Tom made it happen despite the risks involved.
It's better to watch it than read my summary of it, and I don't want to ruin the punchline for you... so I recommend you watch the clip before you read any further.
For those of you who decided not to take my advice, here's what you would have learned had you chosen to watch the video.
Matt reports that Tom Cruise told him, "I've been dreaming of this shot for 15 years, of this sequence, and I finally had a chance to do it."
And then Matt asks Tom, "So how did it come to pass?"
And Matt says Tom replied as follows: "Okay, okay, so I go to the safety guy and I tell him, 'this is what I'm going to do...' and I explain the whole gag to him. And the safety guy says, 'You can't do that because that's too dangerous.' And I'm like, 'Uh-huh, uh-huh...'"
Then Tom continues, "So I get another safety guy..."
When Matt delivers the punchline, the crowd laughs heartily at Tom Cruise's refusal to accept the well-intentioned advice of the person whose only job is to ensure the actor's safety, instead choosing to find someone who will allow him to do the stunt he wants to do.
Now, to be clear, I'm not saying you should get in the habit of ignoring expert advice, especially advice from experts hired to protect you from yourself.
And I'm certainly not saying you should surround yourself with sycophants who will simply agree with you, whether they believe in your ideas or not.
But this amusing Tom Cruise story does illustrate one fact of life:
There are people in this world who will tell you things can't be done...
... whether or not that's actually true.
Was it dangerous for Tom Cruise to run down the world's tallest building? Absolutely!
Would the studio have preferred if one of the world's biggest movie stars didn't want to risk his life for a stunt that wasn't absolutely necessary for the film? Probably!
But was the stunt impossible? Could it really, literally, not be done?
Obviously not... because it happened.
Tom Cruise understood the significant risks of what he wanted to do, and he accepted them.
And then he successfully completed the stunt, and the result was spectacular.**
It's certainly okay to decide you want to play things safe.
But "I choose not to do that" is very different from "it can't be done".
And the world gets changed by people who don't automatically accept "You can't do that" just because somebody says it.
* According to the Team Coco YouTube Channel, the clip is from the show that aired on November 4th, 2019... but I only found it recently.
** You can watch the sequence here. And when you do, remember, this isn't CGI: this is Hollywood royalty Tom Cruise actually running down the side of the world's tallest building.