Paul Newman, one of the greatest American actors of all time, died yesterday at the age of 83. Newman was not only an absolute legend as an actor, but a great humanitarian and philanthropist as well (his Newman's Own food label, for example, donated all profits and royalties to charity, about $250 million so far). Newman always seemed like a truly nice guy who was unspoiled by his Hollywood-superstar status. I can't help but feel a sense of loss; certainly America has lost an icon today, but an icon and a symbol that shall long be remembered. I've seen most of Newman's films, but to me there are two that stick out: The Verdict (1982) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Here are a couple of clips below.
This is the case: a lesson in focus
In The Verdict Newman plays a struggling, down-on-his-luck lawyer who, facing impossible odds, repeats to himself the mantra "This is the case, there is no other case" as a way of getting himself to focus on the urgency of now — not his past successes and not his recent and numerous failures — as he fights to persevere and prepare his case. Even 25 years ago when I first saw the film this line stuck with me. Even if you are not a trial lawyer, there is an important lesson here for professionals of all kinds, and it is simply this: There is no future, there is no past — there is only this moment, there is only this case (or project or mission, etc.). The scene below is not about this mantra, but it's a great bit of acting and a reminder that pacing and the silent pause (eye contact, etc.) are a powerful part of your message no matter what kind of presentation or speech you are making. Sometimes silence is far more powerful than verbosity. (Note: turn up the volume on your computer to hear this scene.)
A dynamic duo
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a film I first saw as a nine-year-old (with my mother). This clip below features one of the most memorable scenes with a nice piece of subtle humor. Newman and Redford had great chemistry in this film (in 2002 I got to say hello to Robert Redford as we shared the elevator in building one of 1 Infinite Loop up to the 4th floor; Redford was on his way to meet with Steve Jobs).