Popcorn, Passion and Petrol (Diet for Dreamers)

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The road to success is often long and bumpy. The journey necessary to fulfill dreams or achieve goals can take years. Many people start out on their “quest” strong and full of hope. But somewhere along the way, long before they arrive at that special place they desire to be, whether it’s a level of skill or scholarship, a career position or an accomplishment, they run out of steam. Like a car that’s out of gas, they begin to coast; their progress slows, their enthusiasm wains, until eventually they pull off to the side of the road, often just a few “miles” short of their destination.

As these people stand next to their stalled dreams, as others speed past them — all the way to the finish line. Why do some give up when they’re so close? What enables others to complete the journey? Simple. The ones who don’t make it, who give up and stop moving forward, failed to refuel. Those who made it all the way not only refueled, but they also had the right fuel. Faith is one such fuel. And there are others worth discussing, but today, however, we discuss just one … with an encouraging success story.

We may be tempted to think of the late Orville Redenbacher as the goofy-looking guy in horn-rimmed glasses and nerdy bowtie who pitched popcorn on television for several decades. But he was anything but goofy. The glasses and bowtie were affectations he adopted for his TV ads. This prosperous popcorn patriarch had both business savvy and the determination not to quit. He also had the right fuel needed to make it all the way to the top of the popcorn heap. High test gas. Premium petrol. Rocket fuel. Redenbacher was passionate: he had an enthusiasm, a zeal, a fervor, a preoccupation — perhaps even a mania — regarding one single thing. He had passion for popcorn that began early and lasted to the end. It fueled his tenacity and ultimately his success.

Redenbacher was born in Indiana, July 16, 1907, and grew up on his family’s farm, helping out with assorted chores. As a teenager he’d finish his work early so he’d have time to work at his side business, selling — what else? — popcorn from the back of his car. When he graduated from high school he was in the top 5% of his class. He then attended Purdue University, where he ran track and performed in the Purdue All-American Marching Band. In 1928, he graduated with a degree in agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production. His obsession with popcorn was far from over. And he’d trained for it.

Redenbacher spent most of his life in the agriculture industry. He served as a Farm Bureau extension agent, and even sold fertilizer, but popcorn was never far from his thoughts. In his spare time he continued to dabble with the food and, in 1951, he and friend Charlie Bowman purchased an Indiana seed corn plant. Over the next twenty years, the two men experimented with tens of thousands of hybrid strains of popcorn. They eventually settled on one they named “RedBow,” which had all the perfect popcorn qualities they’d long sought.

In 1970, when Redenbacher was 63, the two entrepreneurs finally launched their popping corn. Orville hit the road as the official pitchman, appearing on talk shows and in commercials. By the mid 1970s, Redenbacher and Bowman had captured a third of the unpopped popcorn market. The rest is food history, but clearly, Redenbacher’s passion for popcorn sufficiently fueled him for a journey to success that took about fifty years — from selling it out of the trunk of his car, to pitching it on national television.

Are you passionate about your dreams? If not, you may wish to ask yourself why. Passion can keep you on track. Passion keeps you going when the road gets bumpy. Passion helps you make it all the way to the finish. And if you’re NOT passionate about something, is it really worth pursuing? For the long haul? If you believe it is, then get passionate about it. Otherwise, discover your passion in life, and start pursuing that instead.

Passion is a vital fuel for the journey. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

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Rejection Giant! (Encouragement for Creators)

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If you’ve faced rejection as a creator, then you’re part of a special club with a membership list that staggers the imagination, because every successful artist, writer, musician — and absolutely anyone else who’s ever tried to get somewhere in this life — has faced his or her share of rejection.

Here’s the story of how one man with a big vision overcame rejection and some incredible obstacles to create something that’s been  enjoyed by millions.

David Puttnam had been a producer in the film industry for not quite a decade, working mostly on documentaries or smaller movie productions. Sometime around 1980 he came across a true story that captured his imagination. The British producer thought it would make a good movie, but it would be one of those quiet little films: about the human spirit, about dreams, about overcoming prejudice and physical adversity.

Puttnam felt he could produce his little movie for under $6 million, and he started looking for a studio to back the film. Here he encountered the first of many obstacles he would need to overcome to get the project off the ground: All the major UK studios turned the project down! Puttnam says he reached a point where he was “thinking of pulling the plug. That, or remortgage the house.” Then, in 1981, the Egyptian shipping magnate Al Fayed agreed to put up half the money. Fayed joked to Putnam, “You’ve been fairly around the track before you get to Egyptian shipping lines.”

David Puttnam

Puttnam was on his way, or so he thought. All he needed now was an American studio to bankroll the rest of the film project. So the producer went out and hired Hugh Hudson to direct his movie. Hudson had never before directed a feature film, but he had been an ad man and had done a few documentaries; and he was excited about the new opportunity. Sound promising? Hang on. Hudson started his new job by casting a handful of virtually unknown actors for all the lead roles.

Meanwhile, Puttnam had been combing the U.S. for weeks, searching for a studio to back the rest of the film. Another stretch of hard road: “The American studios rejected it,” Hudson once stated. “Because the two main characters barely meet. There is no shoot-out at the end.” Puttnam added, “I remember sitting … in a hotel room almost weeping. It seemed impossible to get anybody to understand why this was a film worth investing in.” Finally, Twentieth-Century Fox stepped in with the rest of the money.

First-time feature film director Hudson then shot the movie in 10 weeks, and he managed to do it for only $5.5 million. Happy ending? Not yet. The producer Puttnam now faced an uphill slog to find a studio willing to distribute the movie. He remembers how the production head of one U.S. studio slipped out of a screening to go to the bathroom and never came back. “We never saw him again.” But Puttnam didn’t give up.

He did, however, finally reach a point of desperation. Seemingly out of options, Puttnam offered the film as a made-for-TV movie. Ironically, the head of a major network “turned it down flat. He didn’t want to buy it at any price.” But sometimes a closed door is a good thing: “We were saved from going to TV because they didn’t think it was good enough.” That’s when Warner Bros. offered to distribute the film theatrically.

Putnam’s little movie, directed by a newbie, starring a cast of unknowns, featuring the story of two men who were all but forgotten, opened at a single venue in New York, the 700-seat Guild theater. Its first week, the film made $70,000. Compared to the box-office receipts of today’s big-budget movies, that may not sound like much, but remember, this was the take from a single theater! Soon critics were praising Puttnam’s tale of the 1924 Olympic Games, word of mouth from satisfied audiences spread like wildfire, and the movie went on to gross over $75 million worldwide. But the coolest thing, from an artist’s standpoint, is that Chariots of Fire was awarded 4 Oscars, including the Best Picture of the Year!

Facing a giant? Take courage!

So ask yourself, do you feel like an artistic “David” facing a Goliath of rejection? Pick up your creative slingshot and take aim, dear friends.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)

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