“I Go to the Hills, when my Heart is Lonely”

Cliff Kurtzman, overlooking Zion National Park, July 2014.

“Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream.”
–The Sound Of Music – Climb Every Mountain

“You can CHANGE LIVES in two minutes,” my friend Sam Horn wrote this morning (her full note is embedded later in this post, below). She’s right! It just takes a fraction of a second to knock over the first domino in a chain reaction that can change your life or the lives of others. Yet it can take days, weeks, or even a lifetime to set up the dominoes necessary to allow that chain reaction to occur.

The Domino Principle provides a framework for taking control of our lives and businesses, navigating the present, and shaping an exceptional future. But in order to shape an exceptional future, we first must visualize what we want that future to look like, and how we might create a path leading us to that future. And we must do so in a world that often places significant obstacles in our path.

Doing that requires perspective.

We can acquire perspective by rising to great heights, in both a literal and a figurative sense.  When Sir Isaac Newton, in a 1676 letter to Robert Hooke, wrote “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants,” he was acknowledging that his greatness was only possible by building on the works of those who inspired him.

In watching the 2015 Academy Awards this past Sunday, I was moved by the stories of two people who rose to great heights and became Giants. Giants who inspired me, and I hope inspire you as well.

“When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself,” The Imitation Game Screenwriter Graham Moore told the audience, “because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong. And now I am standing here.

“So I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she’s weird or she’s different or she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Yes, you do. You do. Stay weird, stay different. And when it’s your turn to stand on this stage, pass the message along.”  Watch it here:

Graham Moore knew it was his opportunity to seize the moment, and knock over dominoes that would continue to fall far into the future. As Sam Horn notes in her post below “As speakers, even if we only have a few minutes, we have an opportunity and an obligation to honor our audience and the moment by saying something relevant and resonant, something that adds value and elevates everyone in the room (along with those watching from afar or in the future.)”

Knocking over that first domino isn’t always easy, and Moore’s moment nearly didn’t come to pass… Graham was quoted in Variety: “‘Imitation Game’ Screenwriter Graham Moore’s Heartfelt Oscar Speech Almost Didn’t Happen” as saying “It says I have 10 seconds left. I had this moment of kind of quivering and I thought, ‘I could just walk off the stage right now,’ but then I thought, ‘When am I ever going to get a platform like this again?’”

Read Sam Horn’s full post for her take on the importance of being prepared to seize the moment:

But Sunday the Academy Awards didn’t only belong to Graham Moore. Julie Andrews may be incomparable, but on this night, Lady Gaga vocally surpassed her and sang a Sound of Music medley like an angel!

Letitia McKelvy Madigan noted the irony of the situation in a comment on Facebook: “She is awesome live! But who would have thought in a show with tasteless moments like the host in underwear and low-class introductions such as “eat her with a spoon” about Reese Witherspoon that the one show of class came from Lady Gaga!!”

Check out Lady Gaga‘s Oscar performance here:

Lady Gaga has built a brand around being the patron saint of misfits… a misfit herself who believed she could make it when no one else did.

Did all this happen by accident? No, months of preparation went into 4 minutes and 18 seconds that were intended to take her already stellar career to the next level.

In the article “Lady Gaga’s ‘The Sound of Music’ tribute at Oscars took 6 months of daily vocal rehearsals,” Oscar’s producer Neil Meron noted that “She [Lady Gaga] said that if she pulls it off, it’s going to change the focus of her career and she pulled it off.”

And Time Magazine noted in its story the following morning, “Lady Gaga’s Performance at the Oscars Could Redefine Her Career,” that “For a star whose career has long been about making herself the center of attention, Gaga’s ceding attention to something else was a major step forward.”

As Evan Rudowski wrote on Facebook: “There are certain people who push themselves to take crazy risks because they know that something big may happen. They visualize it, they prepare, and then they go for it. It’s hard to imagine a crazier risk than trying to sing ‘Sound of Music’ live in front of 35 million people, plus Julie Andrews. Lady Gaga prepared every day for six months to do this. There is a reason she is so successful, and it isn’t luck.”

“It’s hard to believe that 50 years have gone by since that joyous film was released. I blinked, and suddenly here I am,” Julie Andrews noted, visibly moved by Gaga’s performance:

Lady Gaga holds a special place in my heart… I last saw her perform live when she visited Houston in April, 2011. A group of my smart, beautiful and entrepreneurial “Blonde Ambition” friends were visiting Houston at the time for a conference, and I rented a suite at the Toyota Center for us to enjoy the concert:


The friendships and bonds we made that night have held strong through the years. Perhaps it is time for a reprise. Gaga returns to the Houston area on April 24 with  Tony Bennett on their “Cheek to Cheek” tour. The tour kicks off in April and matches pop superstar Gaga with one of the all time singing greats in Bennet as they perform classic standards from their latest album. The tour comes to: Austin, New Orleans, Spring TX, Vancouver, Concord, Los Angeles, New York City, Highland Park, Wallingford, Atlantic City, Bethel and Rochester. Tickets for the tour can be found in the MyCityRocks Ticket Exchange (MyCityRocks is another venture which I also own).

As I sit here right now, typing this post on my Macbook Pro, both of the above life stories remind me of the story of Apple Computer. In 1997, the company itself was on the suicide watch list, and then everything started to turn around. This month Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, surpassed a market cap of $700 billion. The seminal 1997 “Think Different” advertising campaign was one of the major turning points in the company’s history, signifying that Steve Jobs and his innovative vision had returned to Apple after leaving in 1985.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”  — Apple Inc.

And as for me, I do sometimes head for the hills, when my heart is lonely, or I am looking for inspiration, and a chance to see just a bit farther.

See you on the summit!


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Cliff Kurtzman
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