011 The Success of Jim Henson

Learn about two things Jim Henson did to make it possible for him to achieve success…


I still remember when Jim Henson died. I was 8 years old and I felt devastated when my parents told me. Growing Up, Sesame Street and The Muppet Show were a big part of my life and my favorite toy was a stuffed Kermit the frog that I would always carry around.

The next day after he died, the Toronto Star newspaper had a big picture of Jim Henson surrounded by his muppets on the front page, and I clipped that out and kept that for a long time on my bulletin board. It’s amazing when you can grow up and find out things about a person that makes them even seem more remarkable, and in this case Jim Henson definitely fits the bill. If you hear from his colleagues and co-workers, you’ll often hear how soft-spoken he was. Oftentimes at meetings, people would have to lean in because he would barely speak about but whisper.

And when it comes to sales, we often don’t think of salespeople as being very soft-spoken. But Jim Henson was able to sell his Muppet Show, Sesame Street and characters to a wide variety of buyers.

There’s a couple of reasons from reading about Jim Henson that I think were why he was able to succeed without being the stereotypical salesperson. First one was that he definitely believed in what he was doing. He was a very strong visionary and he was also very good at his craft, the puppeteerian.

The Muppet Show was rejected for, I think, 9 years before it was finally picked up and that’s a long time to keep going with hope that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, one of the networks that rejected him is known for saying, “Why would adults want to watch puppets?” I know in my own life that if I don’t believe in what I’m doing, it’s definitely a lot more difficult to keep going.

I remember at one job I was working at, I’ve been working there about 6 months and when I started, I was pretty excited about starting because it was a new start-up and the founders had previously launched and sold a big business in Victoria, where I was living at the time. So I was excited to work for them, but it turned out that the work that I was doing was just not interesting for me. They were just wanting to make silly quizzes for Facebook and basically advertising supported sites that were tricking people into clicking on ads, or deceptively trying to get money from them.

And I remember sitting at breakfast table one morning and completely not interested in going to work. I sat there for maybe 20 or 30 minutes, thinking, “I just do not want to go to work today.” It was the only time in my career that I can recall being that down about work, and luckily I quit about a week later and felt much, much better about it.

The second thing that Jim Henson had going for him was his huge network of support around him. He’s known for having a famous manager, Bernie Brillstein, in Hollywood, who very much complimented Jim and would very much support him throughout his career. I think they worked together for over 20 or 30 years, which is remarkable partnership for a Hollywood star.

In my own life, I’m lucky and grateful to have the support of my wife. I know I had started on projects. Before getting married, I’d started and attempted a few projects that didn’t really go anywhere. In fact, I always regretted that I gave up a little too early and didn’t stick with them enough. Because after shutting them down, sometimes I would be talking with people about them and they would say, “Oh, that sounded like a great idea, it sounded interesting.” Whenever someone would say that, I would always feel this twinge of regret that maybe I gave up a little too early.

But since getting married, I’ve been lucky to have the support of my wife where she’ll say stuff like, “Well, you know, if this doesn’t work just try something new and keep going until you get success,” or even the fact that I’m currently taking 6 months off to work on touching base, thought I’ll go full-time.

And I think for when it comes back to Jim Henson, the support that he was able to surround himself with is no more evident than at his memorial service after his death, where thousands of people turned up and in one of the final acts of the memorial service, all of the puppeteers come on stage and sing a final song as a tribute to Jim Henson.


If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you,
Hard enough, and long enough,
Before you knew it, someone else would think,
“If he can do it, I can do it.”

Making it, two whole people who believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believe in you,
Hard enough, and long enough,
There’s bound to be some other person who believes in making it a threesome,
Making it three…
People you can say, believe in me.

And if three whole people,
Why not four?
And if four whole people,
Why not more,
And more, and more…

And when all those people believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believe in you,
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason you yourself will start to see what everybody sees in you…

And maybe even you, maybe even you…
Can believe in you…too.

Published by

Matt McCormick

Matt is the host of "7 Minute Sales" - a podcast from the perspective of a developer-founder who is learning to sell and market more effectively. Follow my journey and lessons learned at blog.touchingbase.io. Matt is also the founder of TouchingBase.io - A Better Follow Up System for Gmail.