Get inspired with a sneak peek of MasterClass online courses from experts across industries.
April 19, 2018
7 min read
Shonda Rhimes had to start over twice when delivering her Grey’s Anatomypitch. NBA player Stephen Curry wasn’t a top recruit for college basketball. Aaron Sorkin wrote his first movie on cocktail napkins.
Despite setbacks, these talented individuals are now leaders in their fields, taking time to share their stories and success tips with those who aspire to the same level of greatness. Each of them is an instructor of a MasterClass online course, and over several hours of streaming lessons, they relay their knowledge thoughtfully and intimately.
Their secrets aren’t always directly related to their craft, however. In many cases, they dispense wisdom about everything from brand-building to reading contracts to finding your passion. The ideas they impart upon viewers prove that many mental aspects of success are universal, across fields and generations.
Read on for snippets of MasterClass lessons from Rhimes, Curry, Sorkin and others.
1. Stephen Curry, NBA basketball player for the Golden State Warriors
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On staying calm (before a game) and preparedness
“I’m not nervous because I put the time in on the backend to prepare myself to be ready for those moments, I don’t just show up expecting to be great and not have anything to back it up. The preparation I put into it, the mental and physical sacrifice that goes into what I do as a basketball player allows me to be ready for those moments and to meet the storm with the ultimate calm, cool and collectivism that I like to have about taking advantage of those opportunities. So you have to put the time in and that will help you be ready for whatever comes your way during the games.”
2. Werner Herzog, filmmaker and screenwriter
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On negotiation skills
“Make yourself familiar with legal basic concepts. It’s not that you have to learn every term. You have to understand the concepts. … You have to know what you’re getting into. You really have to know. I had a contract offered where it said ‘work for hire,’ and I said to the attorney, ‘work for hire’ is unacceptable for me, because it means that I have absolutely no right. I can be fired at any moment and replaced by anyone at any moment. My footage can be used because I have nice landscapes. It can be used in a perfume advertisement, for example. It can be butchered. It can be spliced into YouTube clips. You can do anything you want. The attorney was sitting in front of me and he just was completely frozen. I said, ‘can you at least nod?’ He did not even nod. But I knew, I knew if I signed ‘work for hire,’ it meant a lot of consequences where I have no position at all.”
3. Gordon Ramsay, seven-star Michelin chef, restaurateur and TV personality
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On finding your passion
“Finding your passion in life is the most important thing you can do. Stop worrying about a bonus and a financial security. Find a passion, because everything falls into place once you got that track set to climb the ladder and you’re passionate about it. Being a chef, for me, was not about flipping burgers and dressing Caesar salads. For me, it was about getting to the very top. There is always a struggle to perfection. I don’t give a shit what anyone says. Whether you’re an athlete, Olympic gold medalist, an NBA star or a soccer player, there’s a struggle. There’s a behind-the-scenes thing you never see. There’s a huge struggle. It’s character forming.”
4. Shonda Rhimes, TV producer and screenwriter
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On making a good impression when you’re new to an organization
“If you’re new in a writer’s room, and you don’t know what to do or say: One, be the person who holds the marker and stands at the board. That is always a great way to go because it makes you seem energetic and that you’re doing something. Two, try to talk. Try to say at least one thing a day. Three, make sure you’ve read the writer’s room notes from the night before and be the person who, when someone asks ‘what did we say?,’ reminds everybody what was said. Try to be useful, try to be helpful, be kind, be nice and be the first one there and the last one to leave, always.”
5. Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter, director, producer and playwright
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On writing and tapping into your creativity
“Writing and painting a fence are two different things. Painting a fence may be backbreaking work, but first of all, you know what you are supposed to do: You dip the brush in the paint and you paint, but mostly you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It may be a long way away, but you can see where it ends. What you don’t need when you’re painting the fence is to be in a good mood. You can be in any mood you want and the fence will come out the same. When you’re writing, you need to be in a good mood. You need to have energy, you need to feel entertaining and that’s when you’ll do your best writing.”
6. Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer and inventor of the wrap dress
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On connecting with your customer
“I have always been connected to the customer because I was so proud of the first customers that I met — they were actually paying and buying what I made. It made me feel so special and so privileged, so I was so interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ After that, it was always about pleasing them. Paying attention is one of the most valuable things and one of the most compassionate things you can do. Pay attention to who you are talking to, listen to what they say, then you can learn. Paying attention is a way to connect. If you open yourself, then [customers] will open themselves.”
7. Serena Williams, world’s number-one ranked women’s tennis player and winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles
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On working with loved ones
“A good way to play hard against your friends or sister or brother, or someone you really love and care about, is to just think about the future. That’s what I did. I could never play against Venus when I was younger. It was always very difficult, and even today when I play against Venus, at times I do have a little fear, and I’m like ‘What’s going to happen?’ But then I do this, this little trick I do. In 10 years, it’s not going to matter — no one is going to remember this match, no is going to think about it. If so, they’re definitely not going to be angry about it. So I always think, ‘OK, 10 years from now, what are they going to be thinking about this match?’ Then that relaxes me and helps me play against anyone, whether we’re really good friends or I’m related to them.”