An Interview with Jesse Schell

Haegwan Kim

Do you think yourself as a successful person?


Jesse Schell

That's a difficult question. I'm certainly pleased with the success some of my projects have had. On the other hand, I would say that more than half of the things I have attempted have not succeeded the way I had hoped -- some of them have been crashing failures. People always congratulate me on my success, but I seldom feel successful. I suppose it is like what the poet, Ben Okri, says: "The greater the will, the greater the secret failure." I certainly have big dreams about what I'd like to accomplish!


HK

For you, what is the most important thing to achieve success or obtain your objective?


JS

The most important thing is to create something great.


HK

There's always conflict between subjective success and objective one. Why your creation was highly acceptable for others, can I have your own opinion?


JS

When I have created things that others have liked, it is because I have found something that resonates with something important to them, sometimes something hidden.


HK

Could you explain how to find those things people usually cannot see?


JS

I spend a lot of time thinking about what is really important to people. What are the real motivations behind their actions? Why do they play sports, or send greeting cards, or watch certain television shows, or eat certain foods. When you understand what is really important to people, then you can find opportunities to deliver it to them with what you create. For example -- why do people keep building fireplaces in their homes, in this modern age? After thinking about it a lot, I think it is because fire is so very important to us as humans -- the discovery of fire changed us as a species.

It became innate to what we are, to who we are. And so, we are reluctant to part with fireplaces, even though they get in the way of the television. And in fact, it is possible the reason we like staring at television so much (especially at night) is because it is our modern day fire. Once I understood this, I knew that people who said, "television will not last in the living room, it will converge to the computer" were wrong. We want to stare at a flickering light in the heart of our home, and tell stories around it. And if the fire can tell the stories, that's even better.


HK

I'm impressed by your deep insight. However, if we all consider Darwinian viewpoint, don't you think there will be more serious 'natural selection'? I'm a bit afraid of Face Book, You Tube, and E-books and so on, those kind of things will replace all of our conventional 'fire place' (for example books, which we've used since history started) immediately for the next decade. I would like to ask your opinion.


JS

Natural selection takes a long time. And we've just discovered something that will change us more than fire did: The Internet.


HK

I see the point. Could I ask your final goal and how you are going to achieve it?


JS

My final goal is to understand the way the universe works, and to make it harmonious with itself. Everything I do is an attempt to move toward that goal.


HK

To consider all those, what is money for you? As long as you live in capitalism society, it is inevitable to eschew from this issue I guess.


JS

From my point of view, money is only useful because it gives you more freedom to build great things. If I could have the freedom, without the money, I'd take it!


HK

I would like to ask about people around you, what others affect your success? are they helpful? Or are they just harmful?


JS

I find it absolutely crucial to surround myself as much as possible with smart, creative people who are easy to work with -- people who love to collaborate and help others. And, given the choice between "smart and creative" and "easy to work with", I take "easy to work with" every time. It's important to have as many kinds of expertise as you can on a team, and to have people who aren't afraid to challenge each others assumptions.


HK

This is final question, could you give your advice for those who are struggling with finding their own success?


JS

The key to finding your own success is to be true to yourself. You must find something you genuinely care about, find a way to focus all your attention and effort on it, and work on it until it is truly great -- not in a way you can point to, or show, but in a way that you just feel. If you do all that, how can you not succeed?


Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games.

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