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Three Invaluable Lessons For Creatives From Caine’s Arcade

OK – I’ll admit it. I nearly cried multiple times while watching the short film Caine’s Arcade. I’m a sucker for the beauty of pure, passionate pursuit. I’m especially prone to leap for joy when I see someone unexpectedly rewarded for their effort. I love a good underdog story.

All of that said, I think that this short film is much more than just a feel-good story. I pulled at least three solid, valuable lessons from this film that I plan to immediately apply to my work.

1. Boredom is more of a statement about the person than the situation. “Hey Caine…want to come spend the summer with me in the back of my barely-trafficked auto parts store?” For most kids this would be summer vacation equivalent of the kiss of death. There was no gaming system. No swimming pool. No television. A perfect excuse for “I’m booooooorrrred.”

But NO. Caine looked around and saw opportunity. Everywhere. Cardboard boxes, packing tape, gadgets and doo-dads. He chose not to be bored. It’s totally a state of mind.

My lesson: If I am bored with my work it is my problem, not the work’s. It is my responsibility to stay interested and forward-looking. Stop whining. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

2. Keep working while the world ignores you. How long was it before Caine had customer #1? How many entrepreneurs or artists would have given up by then, or stopped working at their craft and improving their skills? Caine approached his arcade with craftsmanship and fervor, and that’s what I aspire to do too.

My lesson: Attention is a secondary luxury to the artist focused on craft. It may come, and it may not, but devotion to craft is the one thing I can control.

3. Your craft will cost you something. Did you notice the prizes in the arcade? Caine’s own toys. His vision for his arcade required (demanded!) that he use all of his resources to make it work, and this meant forfeiting his own stuff for the sake of his vision.

My lesson: Ask frequently and answer honestly “am I really putting all of myself into this?” I need to make sure I’m fully backing that which I’m asking others to believe in.

These are just a few things I pulled from this gem of a film. PLEASE add to the list below so that we can all learn from one another. What lesson would you add? Please let us know in the comments.

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17 Comments

  1. Lola

    My husband and I had seen the film when it was first released and we happened to be traveling to LA a month or so later, so we decided to visit Caine’s arcade. Of course we got the Fun Pass, and played every game he had. Even after all the attention he’d gotten in the media, Caine was still a happy go lucky kid, who took me through every single game, showed me how they worked and even climbed inside some of the boxes/games to catch the balls I would throw at the targets, etc., even as the line formed down the block. His uncles and grandpa had gotten in on the fun too, and would work the “prize booth”. There was a couple of young girls, about 12 years old or so who worked for their school newspaper, and they interviewed us on our thoughts about Caine and what he was doing. He’d inspired other kids as well, which we thought was so cool. I still have my Princess Jewelry Set that I won, and I proudly display my cardboard Fun Pass on my desk to serve as a reminder of that creative kid. We also made sure to congratulate his dad on having such a creative and sweet little boy. Great article – thanks for reminding me of a fun time!

    Reply
  2. Paul Dillon

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Besides making me cry from happiness I am filled with joy! Awesome!

    Reply
  3. Chris Shumate

    I watched both videos on Caine. I am not too proud…I almost cried. How awesome that he inspired others to build their own cardboard arcade. It turned into a revolution. I’m planning to show this to my son, who’s 5, to see what ideas he may be able to craft.

    Reply
  4. Steve French

    To me Caine demonstrated that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. He prepared all summer with no customers. You could say he was lucky that someone came in, took interest and drummed up enough interest to draw a bunch of people to Caine’s Arcade. But I imagine Caine sitting in that lawn chair thinking about what he would do when customers came. How would he greet them, run the arcade, dispense the tickets, etc. After Caine pulled up and was so warmly greeted and celebrated, someone finally said are you ready to let us play some games? He was READY. He jumped in and guided, encouraged, hosted, sold… essentially becoming part of the experience. He prepared, was ready and when opportunity came his way he seized it.

    Reply
  5. Bill

    I’m late to the discussion but wanted to add that Caine wasn’t waiting to be stimulated. He created. Yes, it was based on real arcades but he used that framework to create his own. Creators will eventually be noticed but consumers waiting for their ‘ship to come in’ may never be rewarded.

    Reply
  6. Tina

    Thanks for sharing your insights about Caine’s Arcarde with us, they were really helpful for me. I’m in the “keep working while the world ignores you” mode right now, and sometimes just a little push can keep my wheels gripping the ground.

    Reply
  7. Kent Faver

    One of my fav videos ever and I really these ideas – none of which I have thought about before. I have also thought about this from Nirvan’s perspective. It seems he was kind of forgotten in this incredible success story.

    Reply
    • Todd Henry

      That’s a great point, Kent. I’d never really thought of that either, yet he was the catalyst.

      Reply
  8. Susan McIntire

    I too loved this video. Just a great kid. Sometimes I feel like Caine when I sell Art on The  Zoo Fence here in Honolulu and it’s like a ghost town but I keep showing up for the few meaningful conversations I have with people from around the world and the few sales.

    Maybe there are more productive ways I could spend my time, but I make the best out of it and I enjoy the connections I make, even if brief. I can go for hours without a soul to talk to but I’ve met someone who works for Tony Robbins who talked with me for like an hour, a producer for Lost, a woman in China who is hanging my picture in her entry way to bring good luck to all those that enter, a retired social worker who survived a brain aneurysm and is putting herself through cooking school at 72, tour bus operators, the gamut…And it’s such an honor when people want to hang my art and photos in their homes…

    I think the thing I can relate to with Caine is that unending optimism and desire to connect with and make people happy.

    Reply
    • Todd Henry

      I agree. I think that’s what connected with me the most, too. I loved the simplicity of his pursuit and that he was having an absolute blast in the process.

      Reply
  9. David Esrati

    And that people will respond to dreams- he’s got over $175K in a college fund already. It’s sad that Americans can waste $10 Billion on elections- instead of giving kids like Caine all the tools his creativity needs.

    Reply
  10. Beth

    I watched this movie a while back, at the end of a long day and it made me cry. I have been thinking about it a lot since. The creativity, the commitment,the patience of that kid! The image that stayed with me was him sweeping the path outside his arcade. No one there, but still he is out there with his broom, keeping his dream alive. That’s the hard bit isn’t it? To sustain the vision, to nurture the passion, to support your dreams while they are still bogged down in the mud. Before they get off the ground. 

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  11. Craig McBreen

    What a cool kid 🙂 I guess he’ll be running a giant amusement park of his own in the future, huh?

    From “Door handle for ’96 Corolla” … to a “Fun Pass with Caine” I like the claw machine too, but the best part … those tickets coming out.

    Bad thing is … at a certain point, kids start to develop self awareness which gets in the way of inventiveness and artisty. And we all know what happens when we reach adulthood … Booooring! Probably won’t happen to him. 🙂

    Anyway, it even had a Hollywood ending.

    Thanks, Todd.

    Reply
  12. bshawise

    Caine is my hero. I want to hire him to run a production studio called The Cardboard Arcade. The big lesson I think he teaches us is the golden rule of improv; always say, “Yes, and…”
    You don’t have to wait until you have all the various resources to do something. Want to make an arcade? Yes, and I have these boxes and markers. Want to make a fun pass? Yes, and I have these scissors and a calculator that I can use for the code. “Yes, and..” makes magic happen.
    -brad

    Reply
  13. Jeremy Mullens

    #4 – Stop and Smell the Roses.  What is this life worth living if you pass up an opportunity to enjoy anything that is home made.  Love this story – thanks for sharing Todd!

    Reply
    • Julia Tindall Bloom

      This is a great point. The filmmaker was paying attention and willing to stop and play with a kid – without that, none of us would be hearing Caine’s story and inspired by it.

      Reply

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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More

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