Lessons from Ray & David

I loved the movie Ray, not least for its wonderful lesson about staying power. Though Ray Charles faced any number of hurdles, some self-inflicted, he sustained largely by continually re-inventing himself in a fundamental way. To his handlers' and sponsors' chagrin he'd scrap a successful genre and try something completely different that had captured his fancy. This Saturday I went to see a magnificent show of David Hockney's portraits, opening in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. As with Ray, I was struck by the fact that Hockney had abruptly and radically changed direction on a half dozen, if not a dozen, occasions—and he too had left something very good-productive-lucrative behind, that had in no way petered out, to follow that new and untried path.

Though the sample discussed here is just two in number, I believe there is a significant truth at work. Those (individuals, institutions such as Apple) who have the nerve to move in a very new direction while the "cash cow" is still producing a vigorous torrent of milk mightily enhance the odds of lasting success.