What Charlie Chaplin can Teach Business

One morning in Hollywood last week I strolled down a few blocks beyond Hollywood Boulevard with a few of my friends and we ended up at the

At the front door of the old Charlie Chaplin Studio in Hollywood old studios ran by Charlie Chaplin. The complex is currently owned by the Jim Henson Studios. They still shoot several Muppet programs there but these are mainly guest appearances and promotional shorts as the Muppet TV show is no longer in production.

On the front door of the studio is a simple and loving tribute to Charlie Chaplin. It is a life size painting of him on the door. Below in the still sturdy concrete are the imprints of the footsteps of Charlie and his autograph signed into the top step.  Chaplin has had a big impact on my life.  I enjoyed studying his hilarious comic style and his incredible gift of storytelling.  For many years Chaplin was the toast of Hollywood and he was loved across the world for his little tramp character.

The Chaplin character, on screen, faced many challenges and yet he stayed optimistic through the struggles. He inspired a nation and world that was faced with poverty and depression. Perhaps people who watched his movies found a spark of hope for a better life as they watched his feisty spirit race across the screen. His ingenious comic solutions to problems and adversity can motivate and inspire us too.

What can those who run a business learn from this legend of Hollywood?

1)  Perseverance. Chaplin on the screen never gave up. In a film about the 1849 Rush to Alaska titled, The Gold Rush, Little Charlie fought some big Goliaths, including a band of villains, a fierce bear, and a huge and very hungry man who at one point wanted to eat Charlie! This is the funny movie where Charlie  suggests that they eat their shoes, rather than each other, and the hilarious moment as the two are seen munching, like spaghetti, on shoelaces and attempt to chew a shoe sole that is as tougher than a $5.00 steak.  In other films he would inspire us as he helped a street orphan or rescue a distressed maiden. He even saved a country in his film about WWII entitled, The Great Dictator. In the end somehow Charlie persevered, found solutions and saved the day. That is inspirational.

Off screen Charlie Chaplin struggled with giants such as studio heads and others who would attempt to stifle his creativity.  After many disputes about creative outcomes of his films pressured by the studio heads on Chaplin’s artistic ability he finally created his own independent film company. He was instrumental in getting his friends Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford to join him in the creation of a new kind of film company – United Artists.  Its purpose was to put the artists and creators first in the creative business of film making.

2)  Vision. Chaplin was true to himself and his vision.  He had a clear vision for what he wanted to achieve and he did not vary from his mission.  If a film succeeded or failed artistically, he was where the buck stopped. He took the responsibility and along with that came great rewards.  In business we need to have a clear vision and take reasonable risks to achieve the goal. The outcome can result in the rewards that come with success.

3)  Optimism. Charlie Chaplin projected optimism in his films and this was encouraging to his audiences. Audiences were encouraged by this optimistic attitude. Everyone likes to be around those who are optimistic.  This attitude in us and our business will make us more appealing to our coworkers and customers.

4)  Excellence. Chaplin’s excellence in film making came from years of experience doing the sometimes difficult work of comedy in the comedy clubs of his day, the music halls. These variety shows were in theaters in the rough and tumble small and mid-sized villages as well as inner city factory areas across England.  This school of hard knocks taught him the skills needed to make an audience laugh. He instinctively knew what was funny.

Excellence comes from striving to do our best at all times.  We also need to continue to train and study to improve ourselves and our businesses.

I suggest that you might want to go and rent or purchase a Chaplin movie, laugh, and lift your spirits.  You may also consider ways to implement these ideas into your work.

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