3 Lessons From That Guy Who Tweeted He’d Win an Oscar 8 Years Before He Did

Matthew A. Cherry predicted his idea for ‘Hair Love’ was Oscar-worthy — and he was right

Matthew A. Cherry poses with the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for ‘Hair Love’ at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 9, 2020. Photo: Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images

ItIt may have seemed like bravado when director Matthew A. Cherry — a former football player with a few music videos and low-budget indie movies to his name — told the world that he would one day be nominated for an Academy Award:

That was in 2012. In 2016, he again tweeted that bombastic prediction, along with a single image and a request: “Any 3D artists follow me? I got an Oscar worthy short film idea to go with this image. Get at me 😳”

Yesterday, Cherry was back on Twitter with two words: Nailed it.

And he had indeed nailed it: Eight years after his initial prediction — and after raising $284,058 for his movie on Kickstarter and landing actor, writer, and producer Issa Rae to voice one of the characters — Cherry took home an Oscar for his short animated film, Hair Love, about an African American father learning to do his daughter’s hair while her mother is in hospital.

The director used his Academy Award acceptance speech to promote the importance of representation in animation and to advocate for the CROWN Act, a law proposed in states across the country that would prohibit discrimination based on hair style and texture. “We want to normalize black hair,” Cherry said at the podium.

Here at Forge, we’re fascinated by the steps that lead to a success of this magnitude. It struck us that Cherry’s approach exemplified three tried-and-true strategies that we could all implement in our own lives. Here they are.

He called his shot

As Leigh Stein recently wrote for Forge, there’s real power in declaring your intentions, even — or especially — when you’re setting out to do something big.

Stein cites the example of Kim Chambers, who was severely injured in her early thirties and was told she might never walk unassisted. “As part of her rehabilitation, she started swimming — and went on to become the third woman in history to complete the Oceans Seven, a series of long-distance open-water swims,” Stein wrote. Chambers makes a public announcement each time she takes on a new swimming challenge and has said, “There is some accountability and a real joy of sharing this with people.”

So, call your shot. Even if it scares you a little to do it. It just might be the push you need.

He made a shitty first draft

That first picture Cherry tweeted wasn’t nearly as beautiful and nuanced as his movie turned out to be. But he took the risk of putting his idea out there, and that bravery paid off.

In her seminal book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, the novelist Anne Lamott explains the value of a “shitty first draft”: “All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.” (The essay is really worth a read or reread.)

Even if all you have to start with is a truly bad idea, put it out in the world, Stephen Moore recently argued for Forge. “By starting with the worst possible ideas, you disrupt your ingrained thinking processes and are suddenly free,” he wrote. It’s a way to trick yourself into getting started.

He believed in himself

Self-belief is the essential ingredient for success, as writer Darius Foroux has pointed out: “Let’s be honest, you have to be a little self-deluding to believe you can succeed in life,” he wrote for Forge.

Foroux quotes industrialist Henry Ford, who said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” Cherry certainly thought he could — and that became his self-fulfilling prophecy.

You can watch Cherry’s touching short film, in its entirety, here:

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