3 min read

What It Took to Build a Worldwide Phenomenon

What It Took to Build a Worldwide Phenomenon
Image Credit: AP

It's one of the most successful movie franchises ever. Its reach spanned the world and changed cinema and pop culture forever. I'm talking, of course, about Star Wars.

You may know that I am a huge Star Wars fan. I grew up while the prequels were being released in the early 2000s. I loved watching the full saga, building Star Wars Legos, and playing with the toy lightsabers with those plastic extendable blades.

I recently got the chance to read George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones. It was amazing to learn about the story of George Lucas creating Star Wars and the business decisions he made that ultimately made him a billionaire.

I’ve boiled down the book into three key ideas below:

Discipline and Practice

Lucas described himself as a terrible writer. In 1974, he told the Filmmakers Newsletter, “When I sit down, I bleed on the page, and it’s just awful. Writing just doesn’t flow in a creative surge the way other things do” (page 167).

Despite his difficulties writing, he treated it like a full-time job and made a rule with himself to write 5 pages daily. He started each day at 9am and would sit until 5 or 5:30pm. Some days, he’d finish the 5 pages early, while other days he scrambled to finish in time. Lucas tracked his progress by hanging a calendar on the wall and marking it with an X once he completed the 5 pages each day.

Lucas took something that he wasn’t naturally good at and made it a strength through pure discipline and continued practice. He didn’t need motivation. He just showed up every day.

Ideation and Continuous Improvement

Lucas’ idea process consisted of casting a wide net. He would brainstorm countless character names, planets, and concepts. He would then mismatch different combinations into mini plots which eventually would grow into the story as we know it today.

For example, lightsabers were originally called lazerswords, Luke Skywalker started as a 70-year-old man, Darth Vader was a minor character, and Han Solo was an alien (page 180). “The Force” as we know it was originally called “The Force of Others” (page 189). And Darth Vader was never intended to be Luke’s father (page 213).

Lucas always carried a notebook with him for when ideas struck. And ideas came from everywhere. The name for the droid R2-D2 came from a film reel named Reel 2 Dialogue 2 (page 181). The word Vader originated from a schoolmate of Lucas named Gary Vader. Lucas loved how the word sounded. Plus, the word Vader coincidentally meant “father” in Dutch (page 213).

Lucas didn’t go with the first idea that he came up with. He continually pushed to make the characters and plot more enticing. In fact, he said that he was “never happy with the script” even after its success (page 214). Continuous improvement made Star Wars great.


Lucas bet on himself multiple times. He successfully negotiated the full rights to the sequels, television, publishing, and merchandising rights for the first Star Wars film (page 212). He knew what the Star Wars universe could be and believed in its longevity.

Additionally, Lucas financed the sequels, and ultimately prequels, himself without needing the studios’ help. He knew financing the movies through Fox would come at the cost of giving up creative control. Lucas wanted the authority to build Star Wars exactly how he envisioned it.

Lucas had a vision and knew it was on him to make it a reality. The decisions he made were a massive risk. If the sequels flopped, they could have bankrupted him. But Lucas saw it through knowing what we had was special.

There are many more themes in the book that I encourage you to discover. The first film came out in 1977 and we're still talking about Star Wars today. George Lucas' story is an example of what it takes to create something great.