Interconnected

I’ve heard so much over the past several pandemic years about Individualism, as in, “I won’t wear a mask because it intrudes on my personal freedoms,” or, “it’s just the flu, why should I care if people get the flu?” or my favorite, “I don’t share my vaccination status with anyone,” which is just code for, I’m not vaccinated because Tucker Carlson thinks it’s the banks trying to control us.

I feel as if you are retaining your own agency in the decisions you make, but preserving it at the expense of the greater good denies the basic fact that every person on the planet is connected to every other person. For instance, the keyboard I’m writing on was imported by someone in an office somewhere. It was probably shipped on a boat that had a crew. Assembled in China by someone, who I hope was not a ten year old orphan. It’s made from plastic parts that started as oil, pumped from the sea by a group of oil riggers, and the oil is made from fossil remains of creatures that lived millions of years ago. There are about one-thousand other steps in between the fossil creatures and the keyboard my fingers are tapping on, one of which has a band-aid on it, that has a similar chain, because I have a cut on my index finger from an matte knife I was using, which also has a similar story.

As I was filling up Adrienne’s car yesterday with six dollar a gallon gas, I suddenly felt connected to people in Ukraine. The high price of gas is indirectly a result of the new US policy to not import oil from a Russia who is attacking Ukraine. In reality, we don’t import all that much oil from Russia. But, other countries do, so a multi country embargo of Russian oil affects global supply chains that eventually reach me. So, in one way or another, abstract or not, I’m connected to people in Ukraine, and Russia for that matter. Oh yeah, and common humanity, let’s not forget that, but we don’t primarily think that way. We think about how six dollar a gallon gas affects us. You can look around you at virtually everything in your range of vision. It’s undeniably the same.

It goes further. Biologically, our DNA is not much different from a fish. At one point a distant relative crawled out of the ocean and continued an evolutionary process that resulted in a two legged, upright oxygen breathing, Californian, sitting in his comfortable home office, pontificating about his singular world view. If that poor first fish, who lets face it, probably lived about five minutes out of water, knew that he gave his all so a million or so years later, I could idly tap away on my keyboard, he would have turned right around, swam back to the depths and found a fish poker game or something to occupy himself with, saying to his friends, “do you know what stupid shit I almost just did?”

Carl Sagan famously said “We are all stardust.” That goes for me, you, Ukrainians, Russians, the ten year old Chinese kid who I hope didn’t put my keyboard together and the fish. On an elemental level, we all come from somewhere else, likely “a galaxy far, far away.” We hurtled through space on a comet, imbedded in ice crystals, or an asteroid that contained our essence in micro-biomass, left over as a distant star exploded and took with it, a planet with rudimentary building blocks of life on it.

Yes, we are all stardust, which means we are all the other. We are all aliens living together on an unforgiving planet. It is unthinkable that, with a common biology that is easy to see if we choose to look at it, and heritage that is so easy to track, that we can’t look at each other and know we’re simply looking in the mirror.

Sometimes, I think it’s just that nasty survival instinct, and the biological imperative to pass down our DNA that makes us all see ourselves as separate individuals, void of commonality and irreversibly alone. We’re not alone. We’re not individuals. We’re all sown from the same seeds and interconnected in a universe that we are commonly a part of.

Mostly, we’re separated by ideologies. You know, those things that are completely man made and subjective? Ideologies really do cause most of the suffering in the world, stretching to gain resources, whether they be elements or attention. And who invented borders? There’s no such thing. They’re only on man made maps. It’s all one thing. We’re all one thing. At some point we just need to start acting like it.

Now What?

While Covid fades into the background, and at the same time doesn’t fade into the background, we’re facing the start of year three in our new reality. It seems like just yesterday, in February of 2020, when I was getting off of a plane from London, tired and happy after a successful sales trip, aware of this strange illness in China that I was sure would peter out like every Ebola and Sars scare of the last twenty years. I was confident that if it even made it to the US, it would only kill a few random, unfortunate schmucks in some Texas backwater, who somehow came in contact with someone who had eaten Monkey brains or stuck a Gerbil up their ass. I mean that’s how these things start, right? Then, I wake up two years later with a haircut like Doc Brown and an attitude like Ted Kozinski, and my only thought is, “what the hell just happened?” But, unfortunately, it also makes me wonder, “now what?”

Events, just lead to more events. My 89 year old Mother, who is in the middle stages of Alzheimers, who calls my wife Mrs. Jacob, as she can’t remember her name is Adrienne, has no short term memory. But, she does remember certain things in detail from the distant past and tells them on repeat. She lives with us, so we are regaled daily with one or two of the same five stories. One of her favorites right now is the Kennedy assassination. She tells of how my sisters came home from school early, and as they burst through the door, announced that the teachers were all crying. But, then they noticed their Mother is also crying, and asking to the heavens “Now what?”

She goes on to explain that as they came out of a church vigil a few days later, she turned on the radio in the car to learn that Oswald had been shot and killed in the Police station in Dallas, and through more tears asked “now what?”

From her perspective and in context of the early 1960’s Cold War environment, now what?, was an important question. At school, they were doing drills where kids were instructed to get under their desks, to protect themselves in the event of Thermonuclear War, which when you think about facing Slim Pickings crashing through the ceiling riding an A-Bomb, yelling “Ye-Haw”, or more likely instant vaporization. Hiding under the desk would represent, in the words of Otter from ‘Animal House,’ “a stupid and futile gesture.” Or, perhaps the threat of some kind of military coup was possible. Kennedy was not in favor of Vietnam, while the Military Industrial Complex and the Generals were pushing it harder than day old Sushi. It doesn’t matter that Kennedy’s killing may have been the act of a lone madman, or more likely, an extremely high profile, audacious Mob hit. Events, just lead to more events.

If indeed, history is an indicator, we will just go on thinking there is a status quo, while in reality, that concept is purely a figment of our imaginations. The status quo of my pre-Covid travel schedule was no more status quo than walking around in a mask for the last two years, and holding my breath in stairwells.

So, now what? From where I sit, I see things happening in the film industry in real time. When Covid was a new phenomenon, and someone tested positive on a set, the entire project shut down. Then, came the pods of departments. When someone in a pod tested positive, the pod went home and they were replaced. Now, if anyone tests positive, they are sent home, and the production just keeps going unabated. The infected person comes back when they test negative. Events just lead to more events, and the only thing that changes is the pretext for what to do as the next event arises. That’s the good news.

So, now what? Actually, same as it ever was. Kennedy was replaced by Johnson, who was replaced by Nixon, etc… Millionaire Railroad Barons and private rail cars were replaced by Billionaire Tech Barons flying personal Rocket Ships in a space race of douchebagery. Lockdowns were replaced by masking and social distancing, replaced by vaccination, etc… The beat goes on.

It all just keeps going of it’s own accord. Everything arises, has its moment, and fades away as something else arises. The beauty and tragedy of life is impermanence. It’s comforting and terrifying at the same time as we ourselves are represented in that equation. Don’t bemoan what was, or worry about what’s coming with any more veracity than keeping a roll of duct tape in the house and a retirement fund. Look at what’s happening in the present moment and lean into it. So the answer to the question, “now what?” If you look around, the answer is right before your eyes. Do your best to enjoy it, and accept that it will change again before you know it.

Lest We Forget

Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on Pexels.com

As we creep up on a year of Pandemic, lets take a moment to look back on how far we’ve come in the last year. To say it’s a been a bit of a bummer, would be an understatement to the extent that they were playing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ as the Titanic went down when they should have been playing something more dire.

As anyone with a TV or Internet connection knows, the Pandemic still rages.  Despite the ongoing lockdowns in Los Angeles and London, the good news is that in the Film Community, protocols have by and large worked (apparently, we owe it all to Tom Cruise?) So, while there are shutdowns here and there, overall, the strategies discussed and deployed last Spring are still working for us.

The vaccines are out there now. My wife just got her 2nd shot at Dodger Stadium. I took her there last week, and I have never seen so many traffic cones in my life. While the rest of Humanity seems to be chasing Bitcoin, I feel like I missed out on investing in Traffic Cone futures. Also, If I could turn back the clock to the beginning of 2020, I would have heavily invested in cardboard boxes. I’ve have been able to retire on what has shown up at my house alone.

So, as we edge closer to widespread availability of vaccines and some semblance of normalcy lets take a moment to look back on the highlights of this past year.  Lets call it Covid Nostalgia.

1. The mute button on Zoom is your friend. Barking dogs, screaming children, or just your own inner screams of existential angst  finding their way to the surface are neutralized by this handy tool.

2. Mask Wearing.  At this point, who amongst us has not cleared a dresser drawer and dedicated them to masks?  Every style, pattern to entertain members of your immediate household, or the formal black cloth ensemble that goes with anything.  And, lets not forget the center console of your car that is filled with blue surgical masks, and the floor of the backseat covered with used and dead soldiers.

3. The Amazon Person.  While many packages just sort of appear, there are plenty of times you actually see them as they run by you in the driveway to place the package far enough away from you both to keep safe.  However, not far enough away so you don’t back over it as you take your car out of the garage.

4. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.  Admit it, you resent them a bit.  When they got sick, the shit really hit the fan.  That ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ was on everyone’s top 10 streaming movies to watch took the edge off a bit, but they will always be remembered as the Typhoid Mary’s of Spring 2020.

5. Politics.  Lets face it, it was the icing on the steaming pile of ‘The Help” pie that was 2020.  I don’t care where you come out ideologically, it was like watching a slow moving crash of two trains each pulling car after car of flaming dumpsters.  And when we thought it was over, we got weeks of waiting for resolution.  Then we got truly demented people storming the Capitol to take Congress hostage. Then, after the pissed off Senators railled at Trump for trying to kill them, half of them decided it wasn’t such a big deal, being in mortal danger and all. Trump himself turned out to be the Carole Baskin of politics. He didn’t feed Melania to the Tigers, only Democracy.

6. Black Lives Matter. I hope we’ve made some progress here, I really do. When you think about it, in a fair and just society, that espouses in it’s founding document “All men are created equal” it shouldn’t have to be a thing at all, but it is. I have no answers, I’m just trying to listen as hard as I can and be a positive voice.

7. Social Distancing.  I actually like it.  Those that know me well, will attest that A.) I tend to keep my distance anyways, and B.) unless you know me really well, don’t try to touch me. Needing six feet of personal space on every side pretty much puts me out of the Astronaut program, but, seeing their side of it, on the space station, my constant recoiling might well flip some toggle switches that backwash the sanitation system into the cabin.

8. Living in the Moment.  I did a lot of this.  While many days devolved into hand wringing and gnashing of teeth while I waited for the other shoe to drop, I actually made some progress.  I sat outside a lot, unless it was 140 degrees, like it was for a week in July.  I went to the beach four whole times.  I hadn’t been in like 10 years.  Also, chores around the house fit pretty well between Zoom calls, so there was an odd sort of balance that gave the day structure and a sense of productivity.  And in the end, the effects of the Pandemic on work and life were not nearly as dire as my mind made them out to be.

So, as we navigate past the year anniversary of this global tragedy, and into spring of 2021, remember one thing;  We’ve made it this far.  Though it felt as if the world was ending at times, it didn’t.  I’m not discounting the great tragedy that this has been, I’m saying that where there is reflection there is progress, and where there is a new sunrise, there is hope. Keep walking, keep smiling, and find a way to help someone less fortunate than you.

Change, Its What’s For Dinner

I saw a meme the other day about the Winter Solstice. It said ” Solstice 2020, the shortest day of the longest year ever.” I think we’re all feeling that way. No one saw this coming and I don’t just mean the Pandemic. Everything from the death of Kobe, to the BLM protests to the shutdowns, to the economic upheaval, to the nerve wracking and never ending election campaign. I’m still not sure if that’s over yet. Time will tell.

The old adage, ‘The only constant is change,’ is the ultimate dualistic message for sure, and I think it’s in the lexicon for good reason. While life bumps along, it’s hard to see that all the time, the whole time, everything is changing. Sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic, but always changing.

I take umbrage in that fact. We can long for the good times of yesterday or the good times of tomorrow, or we can realize, that life with it’s multitude of suffering and joy, is going right now. Ultimately, It’s not about the changes that happen, those are inevitable. It’s what you decide to do with the change that counts. And what you do with the change all around you is the discipline of staying in the present. The art of laying down building blocks that can help guide the changes where you’d prefer they go.

That said, it’s easy to overreact. It’s easy to implement change for the sake of change as opposed to the shifting environment changing naturally. While you can help guide change, it’s impossible to dictate its path in any reasonable way. It’s much like surfing. The wave you’re on is unpredictable and you have to flow with the changes that come naturally to the wave. There is no changing the wave, the wave will change as it changes, and it doesn’t know to care what you want. Your only responsibility is to watch the changes and do what you can to change with them. Your only choices are to stay on or bail out. Your only defense is to learn how to swim before you try to surf, not after you’re on the wave.

2020, this too shall pass. As it does, nothing will be quite the same as it was. That’s not only OK, but seeing how 2020 played out, I’m hopeful things won’t be the same. 2020 was a culmination of influences that had been brewing for years. Political polarization and neglect of climate science being the first that jump to mind. But, more than that, business practices, economic inequities and general modus operandi of ever more fragile layers of humanity.

We need to look at the changes around us and give the flow of change a chance to reinvent us before we retreat to old habits and modes of operation. I’m hopeful that in many ways, the influences that led us here will require change, and that change is insisting that we wake up, that we learn to swim before we try to surf again.

It is now a grand opportunity to reboot some things. It’s time to check in with our moral constitution, our ethics, and our integrity in terms of how we move through the world. How we communicate with each other, how we listen to the problems and concerns of others and how we exist together. Particularly with how our personal and professional environments mesh together.

I’m not immune to sometimes feeling like an expert at the status quo, and I too easily find myself falling into old patterns. But, lucky for me, I’ve noticed the landscape has changed, and not by just a little bit. As difficult as it can be, I’ll have to change with it.

So, what does this all mean in specifics? You’ll have to check back in with me to see. I’ve been thinking about the myriad of changes possible in my personal life and my professional life in Hollywood. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere, but there is a new wave coming. Surf’s up.

Wishing you happy Holidays and a glorious New Year.

Steve

Surge Protection

This morning a movie line jumped into my head. It’s from “The Four Seasons” with Carol Burnett and Alan Alda. Yeah, yeah, don’t judge me, weird stuff jumps into your head all the time too, and in the scheme of weird stuff that jumps into my head, this one’s pretty minor. “The Four Seasons” is your typical 80’s road movie about three couples who vacation together. At one point Alda and Burnett are having a marital dispute and she says; “Is this the fun part? Are we having fun yet?”

Don’t worry if you didn’t see the movie, that’s the sole highlight. Also, I have absolutely no idea why my brain chose to file that one away for 39 years to be recalled on an September day, during a pandemic, racial unrest and economic devastation, and temperature is so hot you can fry an egg on your forehead. I would have preferred to retain something more profound in its place, like a page from the Bagavadgita or anything Stephen Hawking ever said. But no, it’s a quote from a movie starring Carol Burnett, I probably saw stoned, because the girl I was dating wanted to and she was too scared to see “Apocalypse Now.” Which, incidentally, I saw by myself and specifically remember I was stoned. I remember, because right around the time the tiger jumps out of the jungle, into the camera, full screen, I told myself that a joint beforehand may have been a profound mis-calculation. It turned out that it was.

But, back to Carol Burnett. The quote sarcastically acknowledges a fun time is not being had, but one could very well start again soon. Which brings me to an article I read this morning that really resonated with me, about ‘Surge Capacity.’

Surge Capacity is our ability to cope with emergencies and dire situations in the short term. Think someone having a heart attack near you, being in a car accident, even being evacuated for fire or storm. Surge Capacity helps you perform optimally during these events and reduces the possibility of panic by limiting your focus to the danger at hand. However, it is not meant to be used outside of temporary circumstances. You’ve probably already guessed the problem; for the last six months we have all been living in a state that is constantly triggering our Surge Capacity response. To make matters worse, there is no end in sight which Surge Capacity is not optimized for. Basically, it’s OK to have outside stressors that human physiology equates with survival. But, if the stress that your body equates with danger goes on too long, you start feeling worn down, your surge capacity depletes, and you feel both vulnerable and unfocused in general.

If you can get past the next level of depression that last paragraph incited in you, we can start to look at what strategies can be used to avoid Surge Capacity triggers.

1.) Turn Off the News: Unless there is a natural disaster near you or OJ is making a run for it in the Bronco again, do not have CNN or Fox News or MSNBC running for hours on TV. They are there to freak you out, they’re good at it, and they aren’t saying much that is affecting you in this moment. Turn it off. I scan the NY Times and the Boston Globe online in the morning and that’s it for the day. Since I live in LA, the only problems that need my immediate attention are likely to be earthquakes, brush fires and traffic. I have apps on my phone that notify me if there’s a local event of those varieties that I need to pay attention to.

2.) Sleep Hygiene: I know, I have trouble with that term too, but it’s a thing that’s real. What is good about limited social interaction is that you really can turn in at the same time each night, and get up at the same time every morning. If you have trouble sleeping in general as I do, try Melatonin Gummies. I take 10mg before bed and it works pretty well for me, and keeps me off the hard stuff. CVS has it in the vitamin section. Disclaimer: My wife tried it and after a few days it made her depressed. That can be a side effect, so keep an eye on it.

3.) Take Walks: Everyone from Einstein to Marcus Aurelius took long walks. It clears the mind, relaxes you, gets the blood pumping a bit, and being in nature, even just a lap around the neighborhood is very good for well-being. I do this, but not enough. I’m trying to improve.

4.) Sit Quietly for 20 Minutes: Call it meditation or prayer or breath control or anything you want. Just try it. There’s 1000 ways to do this that will fit in with your life philosophy. At the very least, set a timer, sit in a chair in a quiet place, close your eyes and count your breaths in and out to ten and back to one. Repeat until the timer goes off. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up from there. Don’t worry if thoughts come and go, just keep going back to the count. If you get distracted enough to forget what number you’re on, just start again at one. If I can do it, anyone can. When we’re stressed our breathing gets shallow. The increased oxygen alone of deep breaths will help calm your nerves.

There are many other ways that experts cite as ways to relax and keep focus. Journaling, gratitude rituals, hobbies, etc, etc, but I’ve never had much long term luck with anything but the big four I’ve listed above. They’re the most simple and the most actionable and even though we’re not at full capacity yet, I’m pretty damn busy, so no time for messing about. “Is this the fun part? Are we having fun yet?”

Be well, be safe.

Steve

Learning To Breathe

As the Pandemic has progressed, it has become natural to want things to go back to normal. We’re all tired. We spend so much time now, feeling like we have to keep our heads above water that we are not paying attention to a simple fact; It’s time to learn how to breathe underwater. I know, I’m going all esoteric, but that’s it in its purest form. We need to learn to breathe underwater because who knows when things will, if ever, go back to the way they were before Covid-19? The world has moved on already as the world tends to do. There’s no going back. If you’re waiting for things to get back to say January 2020, it’s going to be a very long wait. As in so many previous eras with significant challenges, it’s a matter of adapt or perish.

Learning all the set protocols is learning to breathe underwater. Adjusting to a new marketplace where most projects are made for streaming while the world figures out the future of Movie Theaters is learning to breathe underwater. Making Advertising while sports are an on-again-off-again affair is learning to breathe underwater. Of course, your kids attending school at the kitchen table is probably more like learning to breathe while someone holds your head underwater, but you get the picture.

It’s a brave new world out there. We’re all learning to do our jobs over again in many ways. Embrace it. It’s just what we have to do now.

Here’s an article from The NY Times last week about the adjustments made on Jurassic Park – Dominion. It’s the 200 million dollar movie learning to breathe underwater.

Vancouver continues to lead the way in North American Production hubs. They are committed to getting back to work safely and were questioning protocols early on. They reached an agreement on protocols with the Studios over the last week. Here’s the latest on learning to breathe underwater from the Great White North:

http://www.btlnews.com/featured/vancouver-back-to-work/

“Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” – Marcus Aurelius

So, pining for the past, which is not coming back around soon if ever is not the answer. If it’s not essential to going back to work so we should put it aside. It’s time to lean into where history is taking us. Wear a mask, know the protocols. Many people in different departments are taking the same online class that Covid Officers are completing to be Certified, because, more information is better. 

If you have a desire to be Covid Certified, here is a resource for that:

https://healtheducationservices.net/training/c19co-officers/

As we start to travel again, it’s good to see what to expect at airports, not only today but three months from now, as they find more effective scanning and disinfectant technologies:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/2020/08/the-future-of-flying-is-going-high-tech-due-to-coronavirus-cvd/

We can look at it all as an annoyance or hope that things will go back to normal. But, the better strategy is to re-educate yourself on what you need to know to work effectively in our chosen field. Yes, so much of the new world involves things that don’t pertain directly to the technical art of filmmaking. But, if they are what we need to learn to continue to tell stories, so be it. If we need to grow gills, we’ll do it.

Be Well, Be Safe,

Steve

Normal

Aurora 4What do you accept as normal? It’s funny because just about everything we accept as normal at one time was considered abnormal. Everything from premarital sex to lack of gun control is normal now. In the 1940’s and 50’s most people really didn’t have sex until they were married. As recently as the 1970’s there were strict curbs on gun possession and types of weapons available.

But, now, and for a long time now, both hooking up single and wanton gun violence are considered the norm. Why? We get used to things that we don’t reject with enough collective force because we become distracted by other more pressing problems, and then either they have an inherent justice that makes them acceptable, or in other cases, greater forces are able to oppress us with the status quo.

As we know politicians are pros at distracting us with shiny things. Trump has made a career and now a Presidency out of a never ending game of three card Monte. He does something outrageous and the cover for it is something more outrageous. The daily shifting of the narrative is now normal.

My statement here is not a judgment about sex or gun violence. What’s the big deal about sex anyways? Consensual sex is the major component of the human experience. It’s natural, it feels good, everybody seems to like it. You just have to be aware that there may be unintended consequences and accept responsibility for yourself. And guns? I’ve given up on that at this point. If massacring a classroom of 1st graders didn’t get the society to do something significant, then you have to figure the debate is effectively over. Our collective will is weak and we’ve decided money is more important than the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, of not just 6 year olds, but all of us.

But, the thing about normal is this: What’s normal for the United States is not necessarily normal in other places. For example, if Sandy Hook had happened in France, millions would have been in the streets and they would have stayed there until something was changed. They would have changed their whole government if necessary by the sheer veracity of their Frenchness. That’s just the way they roll.

I was just in Iceland. What’s normal for the Icelandic people is far different.   There’s 350,000 people living in the country and it takes about 4 hours to get from end to end. Once you’re outside Reykjavik, the economy seems to be overwhelmingly focused on sheep and horses. So, of course it’s different. They are concentrating on community and sticking together, because they depend on each other to get by.

They don’t understand what’s going on in the US at all. Why would they? They have no context for living in a society of 330 million people. By their standards we’re incredibly abnormal. By our standards they are quaint at best. But, which is normal? It depends on your circumstances and context.

But, what about shifting normal? First, you have to discover the baseline of your reality based on the world directly around you. Then you have to examine it versus what will give your life meaning and what is acceptable or unacceptable to your circumstances. If you can’t reconcile what your meaning is with the baseline, you need to shift your “normal.” Every gay person who has ever come out has had to do this.  To further that thought, marriage equality is in that space between abnormal and normal.  After a time it will enter the normal sphere fully, just as marriage between races has.

Decide what is your normal. But, at the same time, realize that others have their normal. Normal is not the exercise of getting all of our ideals to match up. Normal should be not getting sucked into a status quo that excludes some and silences others, but that is often exactly what happens in the pursuit of “normal.”

If you know me well, I certainly hope that you don’t think I’m normal, because I don’t think I believe in it any longer. Hopefully, you think I’m too complex and hard to pin down to think I’m normal. As I look back, I realize I’ve changed so much over the years that I could never be considered normal from a simple congruency standpoint.

In actuality, normal is and should be considered the process of change. Abnormal is feeling that the status quo is appropriate, that everything is fine the way it is. That nothing ever really changes. Abnormal is demanding that everyone should agree with you.

Normal is the realization that the only constant in the world is change. Normal is evolution. Normal is knowing that everything, including you and I are temporary. Temporary problems, temporary raptures. In the end it will all pass away and be replaced by something new.  Take it all in and go with it, because that is the only normal offered to any of us.

Painted Tigers

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“There was a hermit monk living in a cave in the mountains of Japan.
He was a talented artist, and over time he painted a picture of a tiger on the wall of the cave. He was extremely meticulous in his work, and it took him several years to finish. When it was finally done, the tiger was so realistic that when he looked at it he became frightened.”
Excerpt From: Goldstein, Joseph. “Mindfulness.” 
How much of our day is spent on “Painted Tigers?” In this Zen story, the monk becomes frightened of his own creation.  But, not just his creation, what the creation represents.  If it is indeed an image that becomes real in his mind, it could certainly eat him now or if he stays in his cave, it could eat him in the future.
Can an image kill you? Of course not, or can it?
What you hold in you mind, an image from the past that hurt you, an image that makes you apprehensive of the future will define your reality.  I’ll take myself for example.  Cold calling artists I would like to work with fills me with dread.  Why?  Any time I reach out to someone I do not know already, who doesn’t know my work, there is always the possibility of rejection, and that is a painted tiger.
I remember all the times I called people in the past and they rejected me – painted tiger.  Never mind that I’m relatively successful and I have also reached out with great success.  But, in the moment I don’t remember the successes, only the failures. Rationally I know why, because they cause psychic pain!
Our minds are optimized for two things: to seek pleasure and to avoid pain.  Of the two, avoiding pain (like being attacked by a Tiger!) is the stronger of the two instincts, and on a primal level your mind doesn’t differentiate between a tiger and a phone call. So, it becomes easy that in our attempts to avoid pain we paralyze ourselves.
The kicker is that paralysis also causes pain. The pain of failure and regret for having not acted in the first place.  It’s a vicious cycle. But, even as the cycle may have started many years ago with real pain, it is now and into your future only being perpetuated by a painted tiger.
You have a choice: You can continue to stare at your painted tigers and scare yourself into inaction. Or, you can choose to see it for what it is: an image from your past that is ruining your present and future.
By doing so, you paint over it and reclaim your power.  What are your “painted tigers?”  Declaring them publicly is a way to cast them aside.  Feel free to use the comments to share.

Values

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What do you value? Your family, wife, kids, friends, filmmaking, your career? All of the above? In what proportions?

In your work, what value do you provide? Are there multiple elements to your value? In what proportions?

Most importantly, what are your “values?”  I would argue that values inform what you value and the value you provide, and all of their proportions.  Your values, or “how you see the world” or “what you stand for” tells the world everything it needs to know about you.

So, what are your values? What are the principles that guide your life.  Mine are: honesty, loyalty, hard work and humility.  You see, knowing this about myself helps me color inside the lines.  When I fall outside my values (and I often do, especially the humility one) , knowing that I have contemplated and articulated the things that are my guiding principles will instantly set me straight.  In any situation, I am either walking with integrity in my truth or I am not, and if I’m not,  it’s up to me to get back on the right side of my values.

It’s good to take stock. Do you value honesty, yet find yourself lying a lot, even about little things, even if to just spare other’s feelings?  Doesn’t matter, you have to call bullshit on yourself and get back to where you’re supposed to be.  You may have to fess up, make amends and now try twice as hard.  It’s worth it.

It’s also OK to have a values wish list that you are working towards.  On mine would be “no-ego,” but I’m so far from it that anyone who knows me would do a spit take at the very mention of no ego and Steve in the same sentence.  I wield mine like a Sith Lord with a double sided Light Saber.  It doesn’t mean I can’t aspire to it, notice where the line is and work towards getting and staying on the right side of it.  That’s how you start to develop better habits.

So, think about it and as an exercise in getting on the same page with yourself.  If you dare, state them in the comments below.  What are your values? Whatever they are, know that they will directly affect what and who you value AND the value you provide.

Scarcity

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I think we’ve all heard at this point about how what drives us are the opposing elements of love and fear.  That we are fight or flight animals that at our core are driven by our survival instincts.  All of this is true.  All of this is fact.  It’s the mere functioning of our primitive brain.  But, one thing that always gets lost is that in the modern world, in our modern brain, most of our fight or flight responses are being translated into what we don’t have and how to get it.

Do you want to know why you are worried about getting enough work?  Lack of resources = financial scarcity.  Lack of good projects to work on = creative scarcity.  Lack of a good partner that shows you the love and support you need = emotional scarcity…  and on and on.

It’s so easy to blame others for all of this.  Dr. Brené Brown states: “Blame is the discharge of pain and discomfort.” Look what’s happening in our country right now.  Nationalism and Populism depend on creating divisions  between people based on finite resources and scarcity.  So, those exploiting that ideology for their own gain begin by blaming the “other.”  Mexicans will take your job. Muslims will take your safety. Transgenders will take your children’s innocence. While none of this is true, the easiest way to manipulate people is through scarcity, and it’s all around us.

Tune into a shopping channel sometime. Always on the screen are the amount of time left on the sale and how many units there are left to buy.  It’s designed to manipulate with the idea of finite resources and to create the anxiety of being left out.

Scarcity is rarely anchored in the moment.  If you are hungry right now and have no food that’s one thing, but I can’t imagine anyone reading this is in that position.  Scarcity as we experience it has a context based on the past or future.  Just take the White Supremacists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us.”  That’s not a fear based in the moment. To be replaced in the future assumes you are currently holding some position. They’re fearful they’ll be left out someday?  That they’ll somehow be replaced at some point down the road?  It’s idiotic.  No wonder they’re anxious. They are focused on a dark, completely undefined future of scarcity, not what is good right now.  At the very least, in the present they have those groovy white polo shirts and khaki pants uniforms. that’s something, right?

So, what’s the antidote?  What would happen if we stopped listening to the shrill drone of marketers, politicians, reality television and social media?  All of the forces saying:  “you are not getting enough” which is really code for “you are not enough.” The answer is simple: it would force us into the present where, if you look around, you’ll find plenty of abundance and much to be grateful for.

Each of our mind’s create the Universe we live in. Focus your mind on the abundance and love you have right now, not on the ambiguous scarcity you may or may not experience in the future. Or, equally important, don’t dwell on the things you lacked in the past.  There is nothing you can do about that anymore.  If you can bring yourself to the present moment, you’ll feel better and you’ll be able to think more clearly about what really matters.  I promise.