The Heart and Soul of “Big” Success

The charming “Heart and Soul” melody plays a starring role in this delightful clip from the 1988 Tom Hanks movie, Big.

But there’s more going on in this magical scene than meets the eye.

The kind of magic that can lead to big success for creatives and entrepreneurs, without having to sell your soul or count on wishes to get what you want.

Big is the story of 12-year old Josh Baskin who makes a wish “to be big” to a magic fortune-telling machine at a local carnival. His wish to become something he isn’t comes on the heels of being humiliated by an older girl he’s trying to impress.

The next morning he wakes up in the body of a 36-year old man.

Josh quickly realizes he can’t let his mother see him like this. So with the help of his best friend, Billy, Josh rents a cheap room in New York and gets a low level data-entry job at a toy company to support himself.

While cruising the FAO Schwarz toy store one day, Josh has a chance encounter with the toy company’s owner, MacMillan, who’s checking out the products.

They end up playing “Heart and Soul” together on a giant electronic keyboard. Afterwards, MacMillan quickly promotes Josh to a kid’s dream job—testing toys and getting paid for it.

To Be or Not to Be Big?

Josh is thrilled with his “big” promotion and throws himself into his work. Thanks to a substantial pay raise, he’s soon able to leave the seedy hotel room and move into a huge loft he equips with the latest, coolest toys and gadgets.

But deadlines, a conniving coworker and a budding romance are bearing down on Josh.

His dream job quickly deteriorates into a disheartening, soul-stealing exercise in trying to change himself to live up to others’ expectations of who, what and how they think he should be.

Josh’s joy for his work all but disappears.

Before long, he’s consumed by his desire to return to the carefree life of a child. Each time they meet, he presses Billy to ramp up the search for the magic fortune-telling machine hoping they can undo Josh’s wish “to be big.”

The perks of his position are no match for Josh’s desire to be himself. Being big doesn’t suit him and he’s desperate to be a kid again.

How Josh Got the Promotion

Although Josh ended up being miserable in his new position, the way he landed it was magical.

In the FAO Schwarz scene, two key factors led to MacMillan’s enchantment with (read: “buying into”) Josh and offering him the promotion:

  1. MacMillan instantly likes and connects with Josh. He’s captivated by Josh’s guileless authenticity, his childlike zest for life, and his fresh, creative viewpoints about toys, which are MacMillan’s passion.
  2. Without conscious thought, Josh steps onto the keyboard and starts playing a piece HE knows and likes, a duet which gives MacMillan the [irresistible] opportunity to engage further with Josh in a playful, lighthearted way – on Josh’s terms.

The child in Josh – his “soul” – has a passion for toys. Going to a toy store and enjoying himself was in perfect alignment with who he really is.

He was around others who share his passion and found it easy to express his thoughts and opinions to MacMillan in an open and natural way.

Josh effortlessly closes the “sale” just by being himself.

Even better, he’s completely oblivious to the fact that a sale is even underway. No pre-determined strategies or tactics. No hidden agenda.

Pure magic.

Heart vs. Soul

Business experts agree that asking prospects what they want (or performing other types of research to determine that) then selling it to them is at the “heart” of business success.

In other words, if you’re not tuned into your prospects’ unique desires and needs, your promotional and other marketing content – as well as your products and services – could be missing the mark.

Yet now more than ever, creative and entrepreneurial types are tuning into the “soul” of their businesses – their unique desires and needs. They’re focused on being in perfect harmony with their values, unique talents, passions and a meaningful context for their work.

Most see the value of the “heart” perspective, but some struggle with it, or reject it fearing they’ll become a creative sellout.

How do you determine which perspective best fits you and your business?

Heart or Soul?

If integrating passions or purpose in your work isn’t a priority, then the “ask them what they want / sell it to them” approach (the “heart” perspective), is absolutely vital to the success of your business.

But if the “soul” of your business is your top priority, trying to succeed purely from the “heart” perspective could be detrimental to not only your wealth, but your health and happiness as well.

Unless you make a point to create, market and sell products in ways that are in line with your values, desires, talents, passions, purpose and natural personality, you’re going to hit some painful brick walls along the way.

Those brick walls come in many shapes and sizes, including poor sales; loss of passion for your work; feelings of emptiness; products and services that miss the mark with your prospects; and professional burnout, to name a few.

A Heart and Soul Duet

Many creative types want, but aren’t quite ready for a singular “soul” perspective when it comes to doing business.

You resonate with Josh’s ability to effortlessly make the “sale” simply by being himself. But you’re bogged down by years of programming that’s instilled a deep fear of being and trusting your natural self, or caused you to lose touch with your natural self.

If you have a deep desire to succeed from the “soul” perspective, but aren’t quite ready, playing a “heart” and “soul” duet is your best bet.

Answering these questions will help you get started:

  • Are you clear about your prospect’s biggest challenges, problems and underlying fears? Are you in tune with his aspirations and unique desires?
  • Will your product or service satisfy your prospect’s desires in a way that makes you feel good about yourself?
  • Will it fulfill the prospect’s desires in a way that doesn’t harm, limit or otherwise interfere with the greater good (other people and the planet)?
  • Will selling it serve your best interests, as well as contributing to the wealth, health or happiness of your customers?
  • Is it something you’d encourage your father, daughter, best friend or other loved ones to use, if appropriate?
  • Is it something you believe in, stand behind and have used or otherwise benefited from, or would use and could benefit from, if appropriate?
  • Which social venues are most conducive to your natural self and way of being? A blog? Twitter? Facebook? Forums? Live events or other in-person meetups?
  • Can you fulfill your prospect’s wants and needs in ways that are in harmony with your values, desires, talents, passions and purpose?

Create Your Own Melody

So what happens to Josh?

“Big” Josh’s misery causes him to fully appreciate the joy and freedom of just being himself. Ironically, appreciating and valuing the gift of being himself expands Josh’s capacity to feel more empathy for others.

If you’ve never seen Big, take time to watch it. It’ll brighten your day and help you (re)discover the wisdom of being true to yourself.

If you have seen it, watch it again if you’re not as successful as you’d like to be… and for the pure fun of it.

Unlike this inspiring movie-related post, I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it. 😉

Do you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to marketing and selling your products or services?

Do you sometimes struggle with expressing yourself authentically, or have concerns about doing it?

If you could only pick one, do you think focusing on the “heart” or on the “soul” of your business will lead to greater overall success? Why?

About the Author: Mary Anne Fisher helps entrepreneurs achieve wealth, health and happiness from a “soul” perspective. Get more from Mary Anne by following her on Twitter.

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Responses to this Post


  1. This story reminds me of some of the stories from a book I am reading called mischief marketing.

    So far it has real life stories similar to this about celebrities we know and how they got the dream job.

    Check it out for real life examples too.

  2. Such wise words here, Mary Anne. Just what I’ve come to expect from you.

    So much good stuff here, but what jumped out at me:

    “Unless you make a point to create, market and sell products in ways that are in line with your values, desires, talents, passion, purpose and natural personality, you’re going to hit some painful brick walls along the way.”

    It took me many years to get to that point, but, boy, does it feel good. Why are we so afraid to show others our “souls”? Because maybe we are afraid that they won’t like our real selves, I measn who we really are?

    This is a bit of synchronicity because I’ve been writing about this lately, too. I’m copying your questions to refer to from time to time. : )

    And it’s been a long time since I saw “Big.” Will have to rent it again. Isn’t there a silly string scene in it?

    Great job of getting me to do a little “soul searching.”

  3. I love “Big,” it’s one of my favor Tom Hanks movies. One of the things I love about it is exactly what you describe, the unconscious freedom of expression inherent in a child that he carries with him when he is made “Big” which gets him the job, and makes his new “girlfriend” think he’s more mature than hsi conniving co-worker. Isn’t that funny???

    This post is going to make me think about being true to myself in my business in a conscious way (unlike Hanks in “Big” where it was unconscious). I’m already doing something true to me, but I dont’ want to lose it.

    Thanks Mary Ann!

  4. @ Michael – Thanks… it does look interesting!

    @ Judy – Always glad to run into you, girl! As usual, you nailed it…

    I’ve found in my own experience and with clients that this hesitancy to “reveal” our natural selves – our “soul,” deepest passions, purpose, etc. – is always rooted in a struggle to fully accept, be comfortable with and feel self-confident in those aspects ourselves.

    There IS a silly string scene when Billy comes to visit Josh–love it, as well as the little boxing hand puppet clip.

    Thanks for your thoughtful remarks and insights, Judy. 🙂

  5. @ Fernando – You’re welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed and found the post helpful.

    Discovering, honoring and following the desired path of the truest “you” is the direct route to your happiest, most fulfilling, most successful and abundant life.

    Stay the course, Fernando! 🙂

  6. Fantastic! This is so well presented. I’ve been suffering the “heart vs. soul” dilemma for years, but have never been able to express it so well.

  7. @ FutureExpat – Thank you! I hope this helps resolve your dilemma. 🙂

  8. Alexei Vinidiktov says:

    Marie Anne, I just wanted to say “thank you” and report a broken link here:

    Unlike this inspiring movie-related post, I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it.

    The correct link is:

  9. Thanks, Alexei. The link is fixed.

  10. Love this post – the first 5 years of my business I was THE marketer… and last year was my best year yet. I injected me into what I was doing – but mostly twisted me around a bit to match what the client wanted… money success – which I needed to prove to myself I could do it.

    Now, I am stepping back a bit from the “what do they want” focus and letting more of the “what do I most want to express and be” come through.

    Initially my markers were: #1) Could I win the business – enjoying the challenge #2)$$$-made and #3) what impact I could make.

    I’ve totally flipped my ‘acceptance’ of gigs criteria to:
    #1) Do I feel excited and aligned around this project, these people, this company? #2) Can I add GREAT value (not just some value – but GREAT A++ value and #3) $$$$ to m be made

    I FEEL more successful NOW – with the 2nd set of criteria. I’m happier, feeling more creative AND making money.

    I LOVE your emphasis on Josh just doing what felt natural, true and in alignment for him, first. As I honor this for myself things just keep getting better and better.

    Thank you for this thoughtful and personally meaningful post!

  11. @ Alexei – You’re quite welcome… and thank you for reporting the link!

    @ Suzie – You said…

    “I LOVE your emphasis on Josh just doing what felt natural, true and in alignment for him, first. As I honor this for myself things just keep getting better and better.”

    THIS is truly where the magic lies – not only for you, but in the amazing work and products you’re able to provide for your clients, leading to greater success for you!

    You’re so fortunate to understand and have the courage to embrace this. Most people…

    *Haven’t fully grasped this (or resist it because they don’t yet “trust” it or their truest selves)

    *Feel unsure of who they really are (their deepest passions, purpose & desires)

    *Know who they are and what they want, but not how to go about aligning with those aspects of themselves when it comes to the operation and marketing of their businesses.

    I’m so glad the article struck a chord with you. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts, Suzie. 🙂

  12. @ Alexei – I’d like to point out that, while Mary Anne takes the credit for the great article, the broken link was my handiwork!

    Not the first time Tony’s been called in to fix my technical gaffes. 🙂

  13. Alexei Vinidiktov says:

    @Mary Anne – I must apologize for misspelling your name in my first comment. Sorry.

    @Mark – Things happen. No one’s perfect. 🙂

  14. This is *so* true, and something I’m evolving into as I become more and more confident that taking only the right, soul-fulfilling jobs (even when times are slower, and I’m starting to get nervous) is the ONLY thing I can do to keep my sanity.

    Once I take the soul-sucking job with a client that I don’t resonate with, it inevitably saps any momentum that I had, takes longer than it should have, evokes incredible anxiety and stress, and makes me unavailable to say yes to the right jobs.

    Definitely a lesson hard learned, and you’ve put it into words right here. 🙂

  15. @ Sarah – It’s definitely a difficult lesson to master – especially in today’s society wherein we’ve been “indoctrinated” to make most or all of our business- and career-decisions from a primarily money-based perspective.

    Ironically, the money tends to flow a lot easier (and faster) and happiness becomes an ongoing part of our work-a-day routine when those decisions are based first and foremost from the perspective of our truest selves and desires.

    Thanks a bunch for sharing your insights and experiences.