Three Lessons Learned From Roger Ebert’s Career

By now you’ve probably heard that Roger Ebert passed away yesterday in Chicago. Having dealt with cancer and health-related issues head on since 2002, there’s no doubt he made a mark in journalism and fought ’til the very end. Here are several things we can learn from Ebert’s illustrious career.

1. Become your own brand. Before this even became en vogue, Ebert was already doing it. When you thought of movie critics and columnists back in the day, there’s no doubt his name would come to mind. And depending on your generation, perhaps his show, Siskel & Ebert At the Movies, would come to mind. Or how about the ubiquitous thumbs up or thumbs down approach regarding a movie?

As per The New York Times obituary, President Obama said in a statement, “For a generation of Americans — especially Chicagoans — Roger was the movies. When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical.”

Again, he was a brand: “Roger was the movies.”

2. Pursue your passion. Ebert published The Washington Street News in his very own basement as a kid and delivered copies to houses in his neighborhood. Then, he worked at his school newspaper, edited his high school paper and by the time he turned 15, he raked in 75 cents an hour to cover high school sports for The News-Gazette in Champaign. And this was merely the beginning of his career.

The list of his accomplishments is endless, encompassing his column, books, and television shows but one accomplishment in particular to note is his 1975 Pultizer Prize for distinguished criticism. It was the first of its kind awarded and one of three given to a film reviewer since 1970, as per Time. In a word, wow.

Oh yeah, in 2005, he earned another honor as the first critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. the category was created in 1970. In 2005, he received another honor when he became the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

3. Blaze a trail and immerse yourself in your work. Ebert’s struggle with cancer altered his looks considerably and he eventually lost the ability to eat, drink and speak; he was fed through a tube for years. Despite his health issues, he continued to forge ahead and write. In fact, he even wrote a cookbook about meals that may be made with a rice cooker!

In 2010 he told Esquire, “When I am writing, my problems become invisible, and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.”

May he rest in peace.