Jim Henson, the genius behind the Muppets, wanted to work in television from the moment he saw his first image on the small screen. It was a new medium then and not many opportunities existed in the field. When the call went out for teenagers who could “manipulate marionettes” for Roy Meachum’s Junior Morning Show, Jim knew that this was the opening he had been waiting for.

So, this enterprising high school student checked out two books from the library, taught himself puppetry, and landed the job — for three weeks before the show was canceled for violating child labor laws!

This is just one fascinating anecdote from Jim Henson The Biography that has entertained me this summer. Henson was a master businessman as well as a creative genius but my takeaway from his story is to just start. The original Kermit wasn’t a frog, but rather a generic hand puppet made from his mother’s blue wool coat. Obviously, Henson continued to modify it and give it personality, but only after using the rough version in several shows.

He started doing appearances on others’ shows, before creating his own commercials, then worked on Sesame Street, then his own television show, and eventually branched out into movies. The evolution of his empire was incremental, gradual, and the result of much trial and error. He continually fought the “puppets are only for children” stigma, struggled to get funding, and had many setbacks during his career. But Henson always found a workaround or waited until the timing was right to try again and achieved great success as a result.

Henson made pieces of cloth and feathers come to life — as vividly as he did with his dream to work in television. Take a lesson from him and keep creating ways to get one step closer to your goal — even if the path isn’t at anything like what you imagined it would be.

Source: Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, 2013

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