Scarlett's Way: Scarlett Johansson, Star of This Summers the Avengers, Has a Never-Fail Method for Achieving Lasting Happiness: Pick the Most Difficult and Painful Path Possible, and Proceed

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THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF CHALLENGE-SEEKERS.

The first kind, and you probably know people like this, deliberately make their lives more difficult. They violate the "rule of too," as in, taking on too much, too soon, too often. At work and home, they like you to think they can do it all. The rationale is that they'll be recognized as stars or superhuman workhorses. Success, to them, is ultimately about being recognized for all they endure.

Then there's the Scarlett Johansson method: "I'm always interested in doing something that I don't think I can survive."

Let's be honest: When you see Scarlett Johansson, you don't initially think "workhorse." She's stunning and has an air of calm. There's as much serenity and smarts in her smile as there is sexuality. (Woody Allen has famously called her "sexually overwhelming" while simultaneously lamenting that she's wittier than he is.) She answers my questions in a very casual way, yet with an undeniable intelligence. That's the thing: She makes success look effortless. Yet. she's the first to tell you that nothing she does in her search for fulfillment is easy.

"Being happy, at least in my experience, takes work. It doesn't necessarily sit well when you say it like that because it seems like happiness shouldn't require work. li should be easy. I've found that it's actually quite difficult. There's a challenge to in h requires self-reflection and lot Of work to find out what it is that makes you happy. I'm not just talking about We fact that, oh, a perfect tuna fish sandwich makes me happy. Obviously."

She pauses.

"Though it does."

We laugh at this because, hey, who doesn't like a good tuna fish sandwich? But here I get my first peek into why she seeks out tough challenges as a matter of course. The reason has nothing to do with an attitude of self-flagellation or attention-seeking through martyrdom. Instead she understands that it is a fact of life--and the burden of everyone in pursuit. of happiness--that a perfect tuna fish sandwich doesn't make itself. So let's talk about the work.

Johansson has worked for more than half her life. She's 27, so that's a significant statement about her youthful ethic. She grew up in New York City, and as a kid in the '90s she accumulated experience with prestigious directors the way a young girl today might collect Justin Nether posters. Rob Reiner (North), Robert Redford (The Horse Whisperer) and the Coen brathers (The Man Who Wasn't Then.) all cast her in films before she was old enough to drive.

That's telling. She spent her formative years in the presence of a lot of people who don't shy away from creative challenges, who in fact seek them out. She got to see first hand they how the execute a project, push through adversity and lead a talented team to a worthy end point.

She was shown at a very young age the inherent. possibility of things that seem quite impossible to everyone else. That's a huge factor in why she embraces her "doing something I don't think 1 can survive" approach, and why she doesn't sell-destruct in the process.

Johanssorfs breakout role came in 2003 when soon-to-be-acclaimed director Sofia Coppola (daughter of acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola) cast johansson in Lost in Translation opposite Bill Murray.

The world suddenly knew about Scarlett Johansson.

She's worked steadily ever since and has earned the mantle of "Woody Allen muse." joining Diane Keaton and a handful of other great actresses the director has hired multiple times.

But Johansson has done sonic growing up recently., and the projects she's done in the past three years have been different than the challenges that came before. She's consciously sought them out--not because they would be fun or make her wealthy--but because they would push her to the edge of her physical and psychological capacities. Why? She's learned the secret gift inherent in challenges: happiness--true, lasting happiness. …