Edward Norton
Actor and Philanthropist
02:00

Innovators: You Will Feel Terror

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Twenty years into his acting career, Norton still feels like an "idiot" and a "fraud" whenever he begins a new project. This sensation is similar to what all innovators face, he says, and you have to learn to push through it.

Edward Norton

Edward Norton is an actor, director and philanthropist. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards, for Best Supporting Actor in "Primal Fear" and "Birdman", as well as Best Actor in "American History X."  His other notable films include "Fight Club" (1999), "25th Hour" (2002), "The Incredible Hulk" (2008) and "Keeping the Faith" (2000), which he also directed. Norton is also known for his work on environmental and social issues like renewable energy and low-income housing. In May 2010, Norton co-founded the website Crowdrise, an online platform that harnesses the power of social networks for charities.  

Transcript

Question: What have your experiences of building a website and being an actor taught you about innovation?

At the beginning, when you start that process, I think it’s 100% certain that it will feel completely half-baked. You will always be looking over your shoulder waiting for somebody to call you out and say, you’re a fraud, you’re an idiot. Like, this is not going to work. getting used to that sensation is a good thing. I’ve been acting professionally for 20 years and I still start things and basically wait for somebody to go, wow! You really don’t know what you’re doing. You really suck. 

You have to anticipate and embrace the inevitable sensation of fear, like, you will feel fear for sure. And you will feel risk. None of those like daydreams where you imagine yourself of a movie of your own success, like, just happen without that zone and period of risk and terror. Like, terror. Existential sort of horror and certainty that you are going to fail. I don’t think it ever goes away. The only thing I think happens is that you get used to the sensation.  You can get to that point where you say, oh yeah, this is that phase where, you know, I’m sweating out three t-shirts a day because I think we’re about to go off the cliff like every six hours. And that’s okay. You’re like, you know, I’ll buy more cheap t-shirts and just, you know, wait it out.

And sometimes you’re not wrong, sometimes you do crash and fail. But that’s okay too. I think a lot of people just balk at that sensation and I think you’ve got to push through it.

Recorded December 9, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd

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