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The Resilience of Gene Hackman

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As controversial a discussion as it may be with sports fans, one could argue that Hoosiers is one of the best movies of all time. Its inspirational message alone should be reason enough to contemplate this suggestion. Yet, if you’re still not convinced, just look to the leading star for proof of greatness.

When we think of Gene Hackman, our thoughts immediately go into star struck tunnel mode. We begin filtering through his 40-year Hollywood career to pinpoint the best and brightest of his films.

  • Bonnie and Clyde, 1967
  • The French Connection, 1971 (Oscar winner)
  • Young Frankenstein, 1974
  • Hoosiers, 1986
  • Mississippi Burning, 1988
  • Unforgiven, 1992 (Oscar winner)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001

No doubt these movies (and many more) easily define his talent and success. But it’s the challenges and defeats he experienced prior to his movie career that proves just how strong his passion is and how far his perseverance goes.

consultants talk about Gene Hackman

© Flickr user p4444444rty

Hackman was abandoned by his father at 13. He left home at 16. His mother tragically died when he was 30. And, at 36, after 17 years struggling to create an acting career, his first big break was taken away. Initially cast to play Dustin Hoffman’s potential father-in-law in The Graduate, he was thrown off set before filming even began. Yet despite the rough road, he refused to breakdown in defeat. That same year he finally made his entrance into film by portraying Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde and the rest is history.

A story of Hackman’s life includes some great illustrations of some of the struggles he had before becoming the famous Gene Hackman we all know.

Not long after his parents’ divorce, Hackman signed up with the Marine Corps—“I was literally in high school in the middle of the week and in Parris Island, South Carolina, by the end of the week.” His five-year stint with those few good men took him, in the late ’40s, to Tsingtao, China, where one night the unit’s radio operator was injured and Hackman volunteered to take his place.

In the mid-’50s, Hackman went to New York to break in to acting for real. For a time he took odd jobs—as a truck driver, shoe salesman, doorman, and soda jerk. “One day I was working as a doorman at the Howard Johnson’s on Times Square, and my old sergeant came by, and looked at me. He didn’t even stop, but under his breath he said, ‘Hackman, I always knew you were a bum,’ and kept right on walking.”

Surprising as it may seem, these stories are not as uncommon as we may think. Influential folks such as Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, and Michael Jordan paved their way through failure to reach excellence in their careers. Like them, AccelaWork sees failure as an opportunity, not a misfortune. Despite what our society tends to believe, it’s okay to recognize that challenges and defeats in life can lead us in a direction toward better pastures.  To quote our ourselves:

Failure is simply information to try something different. No business or individual should expect perfection without trial and error. No system or approach, however ideal for the present moment, should be immune from refinement or reinvention. Mistakes are signposts along the roadway called improvement. While we will never reach that perfect destination, stopping and convincing ourselves we have arrived means we are stuck at permanent failure. Rewards come from taking risks, and risks from taking chances, learning lessons, and continuing onward.

Like this story and intrigued to read more? Consider reading Failure: The Secret To Success. Or reach out to our business improvement consultants for tips on how to bring more resilience into your life.

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