There Is No Plan B

Even though I have no intention or any ambitions of ever “making it” in Hollywood, I’ve always looked up to Matt Damon. Truthfully, I’ll watch almost any movie that he’s in. With rare exception — I’m looking at you, Suburbicon — I’ve almost never been disappointed. From Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan to The Martian and the Bourne series, he’s done very well for himself. Okay, so Downsizing was pretty weird too.

I recently came across an episode of Off Camera with Sam Jones where he had Matt Damon on as his guest. They talked about his career and how he’s had the great fortune of working with so many incredible directors, from Martin Scorsese to Steven Soderbergh. Naturally, the conversation also drifted to the “overnight success” of Good Will Hunting and Matt’s “pre-success” years coming up with Ben Affleck.

Now, I perfectly understand that this blog is about professional blogging and running an online business, but there were at least three key messages that we can take away from Matt Damon’s approach to his profession. And they’re actually a lot harder to internalize than you might think.

Only One Way to Go

As early as his freshman year of high school, and maybe even before that, a young Matt Damon had his heart set on “making it” as an actor. He may not have known exactly what that meant at the time, but he made the steadfast decision that this was what he wanted to do with his life. Sam Jones asked if he had any sort of backup plan, or if he had a “if this acting thing doesn’t work out after eight or nine years” kind of idea in mind.

For Matt, there was never a plan B. He was going to make this work, no matter how long it took or how hard it was to get there. Part of this kind of mindset is understandably delusional, of course, but you can say the same kind of thing about trying to carve out your own living on the Internet too.

This isn’t what “normal” people do, because “normal” people take on a more conventional path, seeing how they can be a good employee. But being a good employee isn’t necessarily what will make you a good entrepreneur, just as it isn’t necessarily what will make you a big Hollywood actor.

Instead of applying the traditional 80/20 ratio of the Pareto principle, Matt Damon applied the 100/0 rule. This was all or nothing, and nothing wasn’t an option. He was going to make it. And he did.

No Overnight Success

If you dream of becoming a Hollywood superstar, understand that almost no one is an “overnight success,” even if the media may present them in this fashion. When Good Will Hunting came out, everyone called Matt Damon and Ben Affleck an “overnight success,” but both of them had been hard at work for years already at that point.

They were already a part of the union for several years. This was just the project that propelled them into the spotlight, allowing them to break the surface.

Even though Good Will Hunting may have put them on the map, they had already been around for a very long time, working hard on their craft. Professional blogging or running any sort of online business is much the same way. If you’re trying to “get rich quick,” this is not the path to take. Online success is not a spontaneous experience. It doesn’t happen overnight.

You may have heard of a concept called the ramp. Basically, your growth may not look like much for some time. And then, one day, something hits big — a YouTube video, an Instagram post, it could be anything — and everything “seemingly” changes overnight. Of course, you know it didn’t. You’ve been at it for some time already.

Just Don’t Do It

During his conversation with Sam Jones, Matt Damon said (at least) one other thing that really surprised me, at least initially. He said that when someone asks him if they should go into acting, he basically always says, “No.” He tells people that they should not pursue a career in Hollywood. No, it’s not to deter competition. And no, it’s not because he doesn’t love the work that he does; he really does enjoy his acting life.

Instead, what he said is that if someone chooses not to pursue acting just because one person told them it’s a bad idea, then that person will never make it anyway. Acting, much like blogging or entrepreneurship, is not an easy gig. It’s a rough life, filled with disappointments and failures.

On the flip side, if the person hears someone say “no,” if the person has several people in their life who try to deter them, and yet they continue to persevere and fight through the adversity, then they’ll have a much greater shot of actually making it. Anyone can do it, but not everyone is willing to actually do it. Are you?