Whatever you think of Tyler Perry and his movies, you probably aren't alone.
His movies are divisive, his career as a playwright isn't widely known in the mainstream and his television shows have been short-lived. But if the New Orleans-born performer knows anything, it's the entrepreneurial hustle. He's always working, and it's paying off: Forbes named him the highest paid man in entertainment, having earned $130 million between May 2010 and 2011.
And in case that isn't enough to prove he's a success to even his harshest critics: He's joining the likes of Oprah by getting his own network.
Even if you're still not dazzled, when a man who can pull down $130 million a year speaks, whatever you think of his output, you might want to consider listening.
And on Thursday afternoon at the Arie Crown Theater, plenty of people were doing exactly that. Perry participated in a fireside chat-style Q&A with Tristan Walker, the head of business development at Foursquare. In just under 45 minutes, the multifaceted mogul touched on everything from his career arc to date to a challenge he gave himself this year: to work seven days a week since March until this coming weekend. (On Monday, Perry said in all seriousness he "will not even shower.")
Rather than rehash the entirety of his speech, I'll give you the boiled down version of the points he touched on.
Stay in your lane. Metaphors are a great tool to make a point, and Perry had no shortage of them. He used this one to explain that you shouldn't hop on every opportunity as soon as they avail themselves. "Don't buy that Cadillac until you can pay for it, not just when you can afford it," he said.
Sometimes you're holding yourself back without even realizing it. Whenever you get 99 percent through the door on a new lead and something stops you, "it's the one percent in the back of your head that messes it up… you get close and then sabotage yourself." In other words, make sure you've got your heart into whatever you're doing, but don't lose touch with the reality – even though, as Perry says, sometimes "the dream will start to believe for you." Even if things don't work out the way you want them to, "the smallest step is still a step forward."
You don't have to leave your backyard to find opportunities. Perry recalled how many people came to resent him for staying in the South to cultivate his success instead of going the more predictable routes like New York or Los Angeles. "People who run away and can't find it will be bitter and resentful towards those who stick around and tend the garden," Perry said.
Get on social media. It's "used for a lot of foolishness, but in the right hands at the right time, it can change the world."
When things were opened up to the audience, people inevitably used the opportunity to pitch him on products they're trying to get into the store. To clarify, the event was not open to the public – it was all entrepreneurs and a couple of reporters – so this was a little more surprising since these were vetted attendees. Anyway, one woman pitched him on her series of greeting cards for people trying to mend broken relationships and another hectored him at length to invest in her floss-pick carrying cases.
Perry's charm never missed a beat – he hugged one woman in the front row when she began to cry – and he explained that if you're going to go into business "you need to do something that everyone's gonna want… what do you want to do? What are you good at? Then think about what you love… that will be your vision of exactly what you need to do."
And, again, in case you're still skeptical of the man and his mission, he mentioned offhandedly that he "has made more African-American millionaires than all the major networks combined." That this is just one of the boasts he can make, again, speaks to the man, his influence and his drive.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.