Moments of Conception 172 — The Flow Scene from The Hustler

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.

And so, in this blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today’s clip comes from the flow scene in The Hustler:

You have to
lose yourself to find yourself.
Since I was a kid, music was always my
gateway into flow. The inner sanctuary. The one thing that made every other
thing fall away. I may not have used the word flow when I was twelve years old, but all I knew was, playing and
singing songs was my optimal state of consciousness. The bliss station in which
action and awareness merged, my perception of time disappeared, the inner
critic went quiet, neurochemicals flooded my system and I transcended the inner
division between self and ego. Complete engagement, total immersion and pure
freedom. Music was what made me feel like the best, highest, truest version of
myself. And that was the irony. Only by losing myself did I find myself. Only
by letting go did I unlock the real me. But music isn’t everybody’s drug of
choice. Eddie’s gateway is playing pool. Long before researchers identified the
scientific principles behind flow, he understood it intuitively. Some things in
life are like that.
Easier to experience before they have been explained. And so, when he saw that everything was working for him, and
all of the sudden, he got oil in his arm, he didn’t have to look, he just knew.
That’s what made it great. But his girlfriend shared perhaps the greatest
insight of all. She reminded him that some men never get to feel that way about
anything. And so, any time we experience flow, even if only for a moment, we
should be grateful. It’s the optimal state of being for our species, and should
not be treated lightly. What experience
allows you both lose and find yourself?

You’re better because it took longer. There’s nothing more painful than being patient with a
dream. When you have this thing that sticks inside of you and says now, this
idea that you want to fly so badly that you would gladly tape wings on it, any
impediment to progress feels like a shot to the heart. You’re just so eager in
those early stages. You almost say to your dream, why can’t you come true faster? But nine women can’t make a baby in
one month. Which is usually a metaphor for the software development process,
but it’s equally applicable to the dream management process. I remember
listening to a fascinating interview with a successful comedian, who revealed that she
didn’t become successful until her early thirties. The host, however, told her
that she was better because it took longer.
Had she found her comedic voice too early in the process, she would have
bypassed the necessary existential, emotional and psychological work required
to get there. Had her dream been handed to her right away, she never would have
logged the thousands of hours it took to make something of herself. And so,
it’s the foundational development that becomes long term benefit of delayed
gratification. Which might be difficult to see with stars in your eyes, but if
it’s worth dreaming about, it’s worth waiting for. Don’t worry. You’re better
because it took longer. Are you willing
to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn?

The best technique is commitment. The Hustler was
published in the late fifties. Tevis’s book was the first and best novel
written about billiards in the four hundred year history of the game, and it
quickly won a respected readership and later an audience for this movie. More
importantly, the book and the film brought the excitement of pool to a new
generation, activating a revival around the country in the early sixties. And
so, we have to consider the story with a healthy dose of context. Because back
then, billiards wasn’t a mainstream dream. And that changes everything. For
example, when I started my career in the
publishing industry, not everybody was doing it. Because not everybody could do it. The digital revolution
hadn’t happened yet. But thanks to deflated industry ecosystems, massive advances in
technology, cultural shifts in taste, evolutions in genre and nonexistent
barriers to entry, now anybody can make
anything for nothing and win everything. Let me say that again. Anybody can
make anything for nothing and win everything. It’s both beautiful and
terrifying at the same time. Because when anyone can do anything, they
will. And when that happens, the
marketplace will saturate. Making it harder and harder to stand out. Yet
another reminder of the power of delayed gratification. Because talent isn’t
enough. When the pieces of the pie keep getting smaller as more people throng
to it, the best technique is commitment. What inspires your persistence and


What did you learn from this movie clip?


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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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