Monthly Archives: July 2010

Possibility


I’m really on the loose this week.  I’m in NYC with my son looking at colleges.  He’s 19 and ready to leave the confines of sunny LA (if you can believe that I’m talking about Hollywood like it’s a small town in Ohio) and move to Metropolis.
I lived in New York for a long time before moving west.  It’s nice to see it again through fresh eyes. His eyes.  The constant motion, the electricity and the all consuming energy. He can barely contain himself and it’s not just the novelty of the place.  He’s at the point in life where it’s all one great big possibility waiting to be realized, and I must say I’m jealous.  Not because I feel my possibilities have come and gone.  Believe me, that’s hardly the case.  I’ve got a lot of schemes left in me and I intend to use them all.  It’s much more about the excitement he feels being at this place in life.  He wants to study filmmaking, directing in particular.  He knows with certainty he wants to be here and nowhere else. He knows with certainty he wants to make movies and he knows  with certainty he’s going to make a mark on the world.
So, I thought, why can’t I feel that again?  That certainty, that artist’s “all in” mentality.  Then I realized, there’s no reason why I can’t.  I control my own feelings, right?  I can choose to feel that sense of endless possibility again. I can choose to push aside that voice of experience that says: we’ll see what happens. I can choose to wake each day with a fire in my belly ready to attack my ideas and see them come to life.  I mean really, where did it go? It’s still there, I just think the fire recedes over the years and is overtaken by concentration as you master the skill set of your craft.  It’s not that it isn’t there, it’s just a little covered over by the brine of a career.
So here’s my challenge: get excited about the possibilities ahead again.  Yes, that’s it.  The sum total of my lesson.  I can’t do it for you. Nor can I get you to change your thinking.  What I can tell you is that I’ve decided to do it for myself.  Just making that decision has me excited and motivated to try new things and push forward.  There are new deals and lots of financial possibility in this decision.  I’m thinking I’m going to need them, because I’m about to have a big fat tuition to pay.
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The Scariest Hill On Earth

Ellsworth Road, just mentioning the vast peak out loud brings back adrenaline fueled thrills and nightmares from my youth. It was named after Connecticut’s own Oliver Ellsworth (one of the writers of the US Constitution.) and the state’s first US Senator. This hill, for it was just that, although in my kid eyes it was impossibly large one, and the only one around,  so it might as well have been Pike’s Peak.  We would ride our bikes down in the summer and sled down in the winter before the plows came.  The evil part of this hill was this:  though the top of the hill was the end of the road in the middle of the neighborhood, meaning there was hardly any traffic on it, at the bottom there was a cross street named Riggs. There was no stop sign as it crossed Ellsworth, so cars coming through the neighborhood just barreled on by.  Riding your bike at top speed down the hill, as you approached Riggs, you had a choice:  try to be sure nothing is coming and charge through or hit the brakes and be safe.

More than once I laid down rubber on my bad ass Stingray banana bike right before ending up as a hood ornament.  More than once, my heart jumped into my throat.  Most memorably, the time a tough older kid named Dennis made me ride down on a skateboard.  Me, lying facedown on my belly, my nose inches above the pavement, and him on my back.  That time I forgot about the traffic, wondering how I was going to explain to my mother how my face got ripped off on Ellsworth Road.  But, I somehow survived that descent and many others.

Chief among our games on Ellsworth was to see how far you could coast without pedaling after crossing the dreaded Riggs.  We’d station a kid on the corner to make sure we could race through the intersection without braking. Then the rule was no pedaling, whoever went the farthest won.  As I was thinking about this week’s post, I thought about this game once again.

Momentum.  It’s hard to get it going, and much harder to keep it going.  Especially without pedaling.  When things are going well, the wind hits your face, all you hear is the whoosh in your ears and all you feel is speed.  The farther you go, you slow down almost inperceptably by degrees.  Before you know it, you’re moving quite slowly and not long after you’ve stopped.

Careers are like this.  Especially freelance careers in media and entertainment.  When you have a success or a series of successes, it’s easy to think the rush will never stop and the pace will never lessen.  But it does.  It’s the nature of gravity, friction and distance.  I heard the motivational speaker Brian Tracy once say: “You can only coast in one direction.”  Oh, too true.  I never once coasted UP Ellsworth Road.

The idea is to keep pedaling, even when times are good.  Find ways to keep the momentum going, even when you think you’re going fast enough already.  This is difficult when you are in the heat of one project, to be thinking of the next one, but it’s absolutely necessary!  You have to keep pedaling!

In my career as an agent, I’ve had far too many clients come to me after years of constant work and say, “I used to have momentum, but now it’s slowing down.”  When I ask who they’ve been in contact with lately, they reply:  “I’ve been working for years, I haven’t had time to keep contacts up, so now I don’t really know anyone. I’ve been too busy.”

Do you see why you have to keep pedaling now?  It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out or have been making money as an artist for 30 years.  You have to do the work of getting work constantly, everyday, and let’s be real, having a freelance job today only means you have to find one for tomorrow.

Here’s my challenge to you.  Make a list of everyone you know in the business.  Make a list of every producer, director, studio, gallery, ad agency that you want to get to know.  Don’t stop until you have reached 50 contacts on each list. Now, find a way to retain or regain contact with those you already know, and ways to make contact with those you want to know.  These lists are the bike. Now you need to pedal a little everyday.

I heard a while back that NASA is proposing to send a spaceship light years away. They are suggesting what is called a perpetual motion rocket engine to power the craft.  This engine will use small thrusts of fuel, fired at timed intervals.  A seconds long burst of thrust from a nuclear engine once every day.  The idea is that over time, all these short bursts add up and the ship is going very far and very fast. The ship never coasts, it’s propelling itself a little each day.

That is pretty much the concept I’m proposing to you.  A small burst of thrust everyday to create huge momentum to gain speed and distance for your career.  Start doing this today, because I can tell you from experience that if you stop pedaling on Ellsworth, you can only coast to halfway between Newport Avenue and Four Mile Road.

Elementary School: Your Very First Career


When I was in 4th grade, my math teacher was Mrs. Macy.  She wasn’t very nice.  I was having trouble locking down the concept of multiplication.  One day (and I swear this happened,) she told me “You are stupid and you’ll never get this.” She was right, I never did.  Not in her class anyway.  My parents got me a cute tutor over the summer and with a little practice I did get it.  But, to this day I remember her words, and I have long since made peace with them.  I had other teachers who questioned my intelligence, who told me “I was lazy, flippant, rude, loud, dumb” and too many other adjectives to list here. Teachers who did more damage than they ever could have imagined.

Don’t wring your hands on my account though, that’s not my purpose here.  It’s not like I grew up in Darfur. It was West Harford, Connecticut and it was pretty cushy.  But, as I was thinking over the weekend of the kinds of things that hold people back in business, good old Mrs. Macy popped back into my mind.

There’s so much emphasis in business coaching on our “money wounds.”  That is, how unhealthy views our parents had about money when we were growing up can shape our own views  and can cause some unhealthy habits.  That has its place in breaking through into better business, but Mrs Macy reminded me of an issue that looms as large. It strikes me that school gives us our very first business training. Think about it.  It’s transactional, if you produce really well, you get an A, not as much a B, etc.  You have a boss who determines how well you are doing and ultimately what grade you are paid with.  There are company policies, co-workers, etc.  That being the case I can’t believe for one second that how successful you are (particularly in grade school) doesn’t shape your beliefs about yourself in the business world and greatly influence your business aptitude, your success, failure or stagnation.

When I think about myself and what challenges I’ve overcome, I have to say they are definitely tied to my school experience.  In business, I’ve always been sensitive to unreasonable criticism or personal attacks from those above me.  Though, as an adult I have had a zero tolerance approach to it, I do think that’s why I chose a long time ago to work for myself as an entrepreneur.  Also, for a long time I felt that I had at best, an average intellect. I thought for a long time, my success was due to being clever.  It wasn’t until I had many business victories that I realized I was smart.  Smart enough to establish and run a thriving company which certainly takes better than average intellect.

So here’s my question. Are there wounds from school that may be holding you back in your career?  Think back on your school experience.  Like myself, did you have an abusive teacher or two?  Did you have more than average trouble with the other kids resulting in a lack of trust of co-workers?  Were you in trouble a lot? You get the picture. The crazy part of all of this is: I remembered Mrs. Macy’s BS for a long time.  Then one day I realized, I was 9 years old at the time.  I put her at around 60.  That means 42 years later she’s probably been dead a long time now and most likely forgot what she had said to me by the next day.  But, since I was a kid and she was the boss, it became part of my education.  I memorized it and referred to it often.

I thought about this, and an interesting metaphor popped into my head.  I shared it with my wife Adrienne who didn’t think it was so interesting.  But, then she came up with a brilliant one.  By, the way, I’ll be pushing you towards her blog very soon which will deal with the many aspects of reinventing yourself.  She’s beautiful, talented and really smart, you’ll love her work as I do.  OK, here’s what she came up with:  Say someone has built a sand castle on the beach.  That castle is huge and is something negative about you.  The tide is coming in.  You have a choice:  You can let the water come in and wash it away and out to sea, or you can make a stand as kids often do and feverishly dig a trench in front of it to preserve it from the surf as the tide comes in.  Obviously, you are going to say let it wash away, but is that what we do?  Not always.  Often we take feedback we got as kids and keep replaying it to ourselves for our whole lives! Then, for some reason we feel need to protect it as it becomes part of our identity.

But, consider this: while we’re feverishly digging that trench, there are other castles, huge beautiful castles, made of positive, wonderful things people have said to us or about us just a few feet away that are getting washed away while we protect the big ugly castle. I have news for you, the surf coming in farther means the tide is rising.  The tide is your life and when the tide is all the way in, it’s over.  So there is a bigger question of how are you going to use your time here?  Feverishly digging to prove some stupid math teacher from 40 years ago right?  Or, using your energy to build a career, a business, a present and future?  It’s your choice. If you dare, take a moment, close your eyes, see the castles placed there by teachers, parents, other kids, whomever.  Now, for once and for all watch them be washed away by the sea until you can see only smooth glistening sand where they once stood.  Do it as often as you have to until you can truly say it’s gone, in the past, over.

I actually owe that tired, old, half crazed math teacher a thank you.  Though she could have taught me to not believe in myself, she ended up doing quite the opposite.  She made me teach myself to move past old psychic wounds and let belief in my intelligence come from within.  That freed my mind to create, build, grow and prosper.

And don’t get me started on Miss Borassa or Mr. Hagan.

Quote Of The Day

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
– John F. Kennedy

Quote Of The Day

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Quote Of The Day

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
– Jack London

Quote Of The Day

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan