by Jim Hinshaw
Meet Lesley Paterson, she won a BAFTA (British Academy Film Awards, their version of the Oscars) on Sunday for best adapted screenplay but the BBC cut her acceptance speech from the program. They found time for inane interviews backstage, but not the story of how a 3-time World Champion Triathlete became a BAFTA winning scriptwriter.
Lesley is a triathlete, won lots of regional races, then graduated up to the big leagues, she was a world champion in 2011 and 2012. She raced some in 2013, winning silver in two world championships. She contracted Lyme Disease in 2013, shut her down in 2014 and early 2015.
On retiring as an elite sportswoman, she was asked “What’s next?“ She replied “I am going to move half way across the world from my home (in Scotland) to become a scriptwriter and win an Oscar. She actually called it out. We have all heard about the process of setting goals (write them down, share and then watch what happens), but she did more than most do with a goal. She moved thousands of miles away and called it out ahead of time. That was more than 16 years ago when she landed in LA and set out to make a movie based on the book ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’. It was a novel published in 1929, made into a silent movie in 1930. It tells the story of the author’s experiences in World War 1, fighting in the Imperial German Army. He passed in 1970, Lesley bought the rights from his estate in 2006. Over the course of 16 years, she pitched the idea to anyone who would listen, listen they did but no one was interested in a German language film about World War 1, without a star.
She used all her savings and remortgaged her house to keep her dream alive, but the dream was about to become a nightmare when she had to raise $10,000 by April, 2015 or lose the rights to the film. She was turned down by everyone she tried to borrow from, but fate played its hand.
There was a triathlon taking place with $10,000 prize money, Costa Rica XTERRA triathlon on March 29th, 2015. Exactly the amount she needed, she entered and began training. This is after she had laid out for two years, very little running, since she was still plagued by pain from the Lyme Disease. She went to work, swimming, bike riding and running. A Triathlon starts with a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride, then a 13.1-mile run. Some tough stuff. She trained on all three sections, getting her strength and coordination back.
Then tragedy! The day before the race she fell from her bike and broke her shoulder. Went home, told her husband she was finished and the movie was as well. He encouraged her, told her she had the best kick of anyone he had seen in the competitions. He talked her into going for it the next day. She was down but she was not out, she strapped up, took lots of painkillers, swam 1.2 miles using mostly her legs and one arm. At the end of the swimming portion, she was 12 minutes behind the leaders, which in that race is an eternity. Most of the swimmers use their arms to save the legs for the 50-mile bike ride. She couldn’t, only had one good arm. When she got done with the bike portion, she was in second place. Amazing. She finished the race as the winner, taking home the prize money which she had to send to the estate the next week.
She won the race, the film was funded by Netflix and won 4 Academy Awards here and the BAFTA in Europe. We watched it on Netflix, had subtitles on, was a good movie that showed the emotional struggles that men at war went through.
The real message here is one of commitment. Lesley showed us a new level of commitment, moving to a new country, cashing out her savings, trying to get a distribution package for a new version of a movie that had been made years earlier, with no major names in it. Then realizing that the option to make the movie was expiring, scrambling to find a way to get the money together, and then falling off the bike the day before the race! Still committed, she enters the race only able to use one arm and ends up winning. Wow. One week before the option expired. Gives me goosebumps.
The real question is: do your employees know you are committed? Would they say that you would do whatever it takes to move the company forward. In this economy, when we are not able to predict what will happen next in terms of weather, the competition or how the employees feel about their jobs, are they confident you will steer the company to a safe harbor, where they have a career that they feel good about? How about your family, are they sure you will do whatever is needed to get to a goal that you have for the family?
How about you? Will you do what is needed to overcome the obstacles that we find today in business, finding new ways to offer our products and services, fighting against the internet to maintain margins and profitability. So, take this story about a woman who set the bar high, worked hard for her dream and goal and successfully did what was needed to achieve that dream as a template for our lives today. We cannot know what will happen next, but we cannot let it stop us from pursuing our dreams.
Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.