Sunday Snippet: Steven Spielberg on Listening

“My parents taught me how to listen to everybody before I made up my own mind. When you listen, you learn. You absorb like a sponge-and your life becomes so much better than when you are just trying to be listened to all the time.”

Schindler’s List. Jurassic Park. Saving Private Ryan. Raiders of the Lost Ark. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

You can’t have a discussion about American cinema in the last 30 years without mentioning Steven Spielberg. He may have really exploded on the scene for his sci-fi efforts — like Close Encounters of the Third Kind — but Spielberg has proven that he can be just as effective with more dramatic works like The Color Purple and Amistad, plus more recent works like Lincoln. And let’s not forget that his work extends beyond directing. He’s also a producer and a screenwriter, working on such films as Poltergeist, Gremlins, Back to the Future, and Super 8.

Spielberg has been able to prove that his films can be a critical success (his films have been nominated for over 100 Academy Awards), but they are also a commercial success. The movies where he is involved have grossed an average of $236 million, raking in over $8.5 billion overall. The most successful to date was 1993’s Jurassic Park, which had a worldwide gross of $970 million.

Of course, he couldn’t have possibly achieved this kind of monumental success on his own. He had to listen. He had to learn. He had to evolve as a movie professional. And this is the sentiment expressed in the quote above. In Hollywood, it’s not surprise that everyone wants to be heard. Everyone is trying to get noticed, so they focus on “trying to be listened to,” but they must also remember to listen themselves. That’s how you learn. That’s how you grow.

Does this mean that you necessarily have to believe everything you hear? Does this mean that you should follow the instructions of others as gospel? No, not at all.

It’s important to still formulate your own opinion and to still make your own decisions, but you can first arm yourself with the knowledge of others and leverage their experience in your favor. You can learn from their mistakes without having to make the same mistakes. You can survey all the information that you gather and make a more educated choice.

Sometimes, we worry far too much about what we want to say. Sometimes, we just need to stop and listen.