There is no Magic Bullet

I’ve spent my entire career looking for a magic bullet.  Yes, it’s true, I admit it.  It’s naive, it’s purposeless and the laws of physics pretty much don’t work that way. The kicker is that I know better.  Sorry, we all look for one, but there is no magic bullet.

bullet_5I’m not a behavioral PHD, but my personal feeling is that the reasoning mind works so diligently to find solutions to any problem put in front of it, that at any point, the mind feels that it will find a permanent solution and move on to solve something else.

Lets take something completely inane.  Say you have a coffee maker that you have to put water in every morning to make coffee.  You hate that. I know I do.  I just want coffee first thing, I don’t want any extra work to do.  Eventually, you’re in Starbucks and notice they never have to put water in their machine.  Why is that you ask?  simple answer: they have it hooked up to a water line.  You think, I can do that at home. So, you call a plummer, run a pipe from the main line (at great expense) to the coffee maker, problem solved permanently.  I will never have to put water in the coffee maker again.  You are totally satisfied, It’s a magic bullet. Until the coffee maker breaks. Then there’s a new problem. If I could only find a coffee maker that lasts forever and never breaks.  Good luck with that one, I’m happy if I find one that makes it to New Years from Christmas Day.

We look for the magic bullet everywhere.  The next project, the next relationship, the next business idea, the next job.  Nothing solves permanently.  At the risk of alienating my religious friends I’ll say that religion offers a magic bullet of permanent peace, permanent salvation, etc., etc.  But, as the saying goes: “Jesus Saves,” not “Jesus Solves.” No matter how committed you are, there is still a lot of work and adjustment to do while walking around earth.  Eternal life?  That sounds like a magic bullet.  I don’t know, I guess we’ll eventually find out.

images-1 Even the magic bullet in the movie JFK had a lot of work to do.  As Kevin Costner kept reminding us. “Back and to the left. Back and to the left.  That was one magic bullet.”  If the magic bullet itself has to work so hard to be magic, what makes you think there are any shortcuts for you.

Every project is another opportunity to advance your skill set.  It’s never a breakthrough in and of itself.  Your success is not just out of reach.  It’s happening right now.  Success is the never ending process of realizing there is no magic bullet. This project leads to the next project.  One challenge leads to another, so learn to take joy in the process of moving challenge to challenge. Do the best you can, find your way to the next one, and the next and the next.

Relationships are not any different.  You are finding the way to the next moment. But, what moment are you finding your way to?  Are you sculpting the moments or are you just watching them arrive and pass?

Since there is no such thing as a magic bullet, overnight success, perfect relationships, what are we to do to move things forward in our careers and life? The idea of creating conscious value.  If you ask yourself in any situation, job, task, relationship, am I creating value now?  The simple act of asking the question puts you much farther ahead than looking for a magic bullet.

You see, looking for the magic bullet is the act of looking for the world around you to bring something to you that will solve all your problems.  But remember, a bullet’s trajectory, no matter how magic, will eventually succumb to gravity and end up in the dirt.

Unknown-2Creating value is the act of bringing something to the world around you which is a far more powerful position. For to create value is to break through the challenges and the transience for one shining moment of clarity and success.  String together many moments of creating value and you will create a life well lived.

 

It’s All A Gift

MP900433167 (2)I heard something the other day:  “Successful people have learned to like the process.”  I think that’s true.  When I look back on my career, I see that in the early years as an actor and then as a producer, I spent most of my time frustrated, miserable, moody and depressed. If it wasn’t happening I wondered: why isn’t it happening?  If it was happening I wondered: why isn’t more happening?  I don’t remember ever being satisfied.  Quite frankly, I’m still not too sure that I’m satisfied. But, I have learned to like the process.

After all, lets face it, all of life is a process.  More than that, it’s all a gift.   No matter how you look at it.  If you feel God divinely put you here or if you’re an athiest who feels that our time on earth is the result of random consequence. Either way it’s a miracle that we’re here at all. So, no matter how you look at it, it’s a gift. The process is a gift.

So, how does one learn to like the process?  I think its about living in the moment. Granted, not all moments are created equal and some are just plain better than others, but when you think about it, this moment is really all you’ve got. It’s all that is truly real.  Where you’re going, the end result and your perception of all that has happened in the past, even if it JUST happened, is now in the past and relegated to a figment of your imagination.

Moments are like a grand puzzle.  If you’re concentrating hard on something it puts you in the moment.  Your concentration is the process of trying to figure out how the work you are doing in the now will fit into a larger canvas of the end result.

Now, keep in mind I did not say learn to LOVE the process.  There are some that love the process, but admitedy, the process is hard to love.  Just ask the artist who is suffering from writer’s block.  There may be parts of the process that you can love.  However, any process has moments of drudgery and frustration. It’s in that moment when you remind yourself that this moment connects to the next moment, so fully commit to this one.  Accept it for what it is and do the best you can to contribute something to the canvas. When you feel like you’ve made a contribution, you will like the moment. When you like the moment, you will begin to like the process.

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a script, shooting test footage or making the dreaded cold calls to hustle up work.  The moment is a beautiful thing.  Remember, you have a finite number of them.  The day will come when you run out of moments, so you might as well figure out how to fully engage and like as many moments as you possibly can.

My world can be a strange one.  I’m helping to build a company and I have great aspirations and vision for it.  But, it requires that I shape shift and I constantly find myself doing things that I am unfamiliar with.  The unfamiliar sometimes fills me with great doubt about my skills, with uncertainly and frequent paranoia. Those are moments when I don’t “like” the process.  Those moments are the ones when I just want to be an agent and do deals and help my clients reach their goals through closing the deal on the table, and I still do that everyday.  But, there is the realization that through investing in the process of building a more powerful platform and learning new things I am helping my clients in ways that I never could before.  It’s better for the company, the clients, the agents I work with and myself. If I commit to my process as entrpreneur AND agent we will all reach more of what we collectively aspire to.

At home we have a little white board next to the door.  Adrienne and I take turns writing on it little inspirational sayings that we come across.  Last week she wrote “Now is the only moment that lasts forever.”  She wrote that before she got hit on the big toe with a cast iron cassarole pot lid, opening up her foot and requiring an ER visit and some stitches.  Granted, that moment did seem to last forever, the swearing, the gushing blood, the hopping around.  But, the reality is, it didn’t last forever.  It also came and went. The three shots of Tequila helped move things along also, but the moment came and went.

So, what are you doing in this moment?  Whatever it is, it will affect the next moment and the next and the next.  It’s all connected. That’s why you need to use this moment to make a call, plan a spec shoot, take a photograph, tell someone you love them, write a blog post, write a scene, write some goals or learn something new.

It’s all about living with intention and being aware of the moment instead of rehashing the past or day dreaming about a future that is not based on right choices and hard work in the present. Intent will always put you in the moment, because intent drives you.

quote-William-Law-be-intent-upon-the-perfection-of-the-144583_1

 

The Favor Tree

freebiesThis post is long past due.  The subject is favors. How do I delicately approach this?  There is no delicate way.  If you ask for a favor be it professional or personal, don’t just be prepared to pay it back,  look for opportunities to pay it back.  If you grant a favor, don’t expect to be paid back, expect to never be paid back. Let me repeat, don’t expect to be paid back… ever.

When I was in my early twenties, it seemed one day every other weekend was spent helping a friend move.  It was a favor, you did it because when you needed help moving, supposedly your friends would free themselves up to help you and thats pretty much the way it worked out. It wasn’t exactly transactional, just sort

Probably about to drop the couch on a dog.

Probably about to drop the couch on a dog.

of understood if you’re there for me, I’ll be there for you, it’s part of friendship.  If my wife asks: Honey, do me a favor and grab the remote while your up, I do it because in any given situation she would do the same for me. These are not transactional favors, these are relational favors based on deep bonds.

In a work setting though, the wires become crossed. What is presented as a relational favor, as in, to build this relationship please shoot this (name your spec project here) thing for me. Oh yeah, and get your crew to work for free and your Mom to do craft service. This is not really relational or at least we don’t process it that way. Professional favors may seem relational, but the are really transactional.

When we do professional favors, we actually do expect something in return and why shouldn’t we? The problem comes when we never get paid back, which happens a lot.  It’s not that the person doesn’t want to pay back when they ask, they just go on to the next thing and never circle around again.  Or worse, they base most of their career on asking favors and tap you out as part of a long line of tapped out favors.  This of course requires that they  just move on to the next person that will do them a favor.  The account gets so long, no one ever gets paid back.

There’s also the person that once you do them a favor, they only come back for more favors.  The paying work that comes in goes to other people higher up the food chain than you that will help them get to the next level (or so they think.)  When they need a freebie again, it’s like somewhere in their mind they say, “Oh I know a guy that will do it, he did it for me last time.”

We have no money for crew, but it's just one shot.  It will be a short day.

We have no money for crew, but it’s just one shot. It will be a short day.

My biggest pet peeve are the celebrity favor askers.  the payment is supposed to be access to some celebrity or other that has more than enough money to compensate people in monetary terms, but feel they don’t have to because of the obvious benefits of just being near them. And it’s never the celebrity that asks for the favor.  It’s some hanger on that’s just trying to get into the inner circle. The way they see it is that they themselves are doing the favor you’re actually doing and they’ll be the one paid back someday by the celebrity. They won’t.

Now, having said that, there are people who do pay back.  There are even those who understand that if someone does a freebie, it takes two jobs at full rate to be even. The concept being 1 job at full rate makes the payback  job at half rate, thus another favor.

Having watched various incarnations of favoring throughout my career, I’ve come to the metaphor called “The Favor Tree.”  It’s simple, the tree has leaves (favors you ask,)  if you ask people for a favor you must remove a appropriate number of leaves from the tree.  To keep the leaves growing you must water the tree (favors you give.)   If you never water the tree and you use all the leaves…. well, don’t bother asking anyone for favors anymore.

I water the tree every chance I get.  I don’t wait until it looks dry, I water it regularly to keep it healthy.  I want as many leaves on my tree as I can get, whether I need them or not.  I don’t worry about other people’s trees, that’s their responsibility.  If they forget to water that’s their problem and trust me, it will become a problem.

The saying goes “It’s not show friends, it’s show business.”  However, the Favor Tree allows friendship within business to flourish and grow if handled fairly and with integrity. If everyone pays attention to the favors they ask versus the favors they owe, we’ll all be friends.

So here’s the takeaway: Do favors, lots of them, as many as you have time for.  Don’t worry about getting paid back.  See it as watering your tree.  People outside of the favor tend to notice your watering and they are the people that will make note of the character required to put favors out with no guarantee of a return.

But, also be aware of who you do favors for.  If someone asks a favor and doesn’t look for opportunities to pay you back,  they probably won’t pay back the next time either.  As George Bush famously said:  “Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.

Unknown-1Don’t worry, I don’t know what that means either. You get the picture.  So endeth the lesson.

What’s In A Word?

imageWhat’s in a word?  It depends on the word really. I have a client who frequently tells me “I appreciate you.”  Remember, that I’m paid by this person for a service.  There’s no real reason why, in addition to showing me appreciation by paying me, he should tell me he appreciates me also.  But, he does and it always makes me feel good.  It also makes me like him a lot, think of him more often and go the extra mile.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  – Voltaire

I came to find out that this particular client is a cancer survivor.  Gnarly, should have killed him cancer. He sees life differently.  He sees business differently.  The formalities of the agent/client relationship don’t mean anything to him.  He sees the hard work and recognizes it in real time.  By that I mean time that neither of us will ever get the time back.  I speculate that this is probably because he has seen the boundary where time stops, and he may never get another chance to express to someone that they mean something to him.

I don’t crave appreciation, or at least I don’t think I do.  But, when I feel appreciated I know I like it.  And when someone actually uses those words “I appreciate you,” it’s so direct as to be disarming.  But, only because so few actually do it.  We tip, we bonus, we say thank you and those things are great, but I don’t think they totally fulfill us on an emotional level.

Saying to someone “I appreciate you” is getting naked.  It’s exposing yourself.  It’s like telling someone “I love you.”  Do they appreciate me back? Will they say so? It’s a risk, but telling someone how you feel about them to that depth is not about you, it’s about them. As a statement of true feeling, it’s unconditional. It just is.

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life.  Your willingness to put it into words is all that’s necessary.” – Elizabeth Cousins

Now, I don’t want everyone to start telling me they appreciate me.  That’s not the point here.  My point is that I have come to believe there is a place in business for telling people you appreciate them.  Not in roundabout ways, but honestly and in the most direct way possible. And not just to say it, but to really notice and really feel it.

Think about it.  Even the most grizzled Dolly Grip wouldn’t mind hearing how much you appreciate his hard work and expertise. If I had to say, I suspect most problems on the set boil down to crew members  feeling that their contribution (no matter how small or large) goes unnoticed or unappreciated. This tends to boomerang back in the form of slower working pace and a hesitancy to grant any favors beyond the shop rules.

We’ve all had teachers, parents or mentors that we felt could see us, really see us for who we are and what talents we bring to bear.  That propelled us forward and made us feel we have value.  And in turn made us valuable. That was them appreciating us.  How far would it go if we became the ones who lifted people up by telling them “I appreciate you.”image

On Moving Forward

“Oh, What Now?” “Egads,” or just “Errrrrargh!” These are but a few of my Mother’s expressions of frustration. Whenever there’s an obstacle, she’ll put all 4 foot 11 of her being into one of these exclamations. I frequently find myself doing the same. Not these expressions per se, mine are a tad spicier. OK, a lot spicier. more like a sailor whose arm has just been severed. But, you get the picture. It’s something we all do.

UnknownIf you are aiming high enough, there will always be something in your way. If your path is always smooth, you are either not trying very hard or you see dead people. In every endeavor, in your career or your relationships, you have a choice. You can retreat, you can move ahead or you can try to maintain your current position by standing still. The reality is that there is no such thing as standing still. At any given moment, you are either moving forward or backward.

Sometimes the obstacles are situations like lack of money. Sometimes it’s a business or personal relationship. But, whatever it is, fear is involved. Fear of failure, fear of confrontation or even fear of success.

Our primitive brain and our instinctual responses equate any failure or confrontation with survival. Any change in the status quo will trigger our brains into fight or flight mode. With that trigger comes release of adrenaline and increased heart rate. Even thinking about an obstacle that will create change will pull that trigger. The net result is stress, and that stress is what makes us freeze. And in our frozen state, we think we’re just standing still or delaying. But, the world keeps turning, which means we’re being left behind by the simple laws of inertia.

The fear of success is even trickier. So many people think that means you’re afraid to be richer than your friends or more successful than your parents resulting in them seeing you as suddenly different. But, I don’t think that’s it. Being successful means increased work, increased commitment, constant thinking, constant doing and constant expense of energy. The thought of working harder and maintaining forward momentum can be exhausting in and of itself, never mind actually doing the work. So, many people just curl up on the couch instead and watch the world spin. But, they also wonder why they don’t get anywhere.

Put the fear aside. Put the triggers aside. Put aside things, relationships and habits that no longer serve you. Put your laziness aside and move forward. What you will find is that the process of moving forward is invigorating. it doesn’t sap your energy, it increases it. If you can get through the fear, you’ll find your mind engaged. You’ll wake up excited at what can be accomplished and what you can create today.

Say it with me: “Oh, what now? egads, Errrargh.” Your frustration means you’re passing obstacles and moving forward. embrace it, have a life well lived.

The Law Of The Lid

Can lidI’m having to take a hard look at this lately.  In John Maxwell‘s ‘The 21 Irrefutable  Laws of Leadership’ The Law Of The Lid’ is the first Law.  It states that: an organization can only go as far as its leaders ability or capacity to lead.  Where the leaders boundaries are, so are the boundaries of the organization.

So, how do you push the boundaries? In Seth Godin’s ‘The Icarus Deception’ he makes it simple. He says, take a look in the mirror. If you just look at you for a moment, cut out blame, circumstance, self imposed limitations and the myriad levels of crap we heap on ourselves, there is a moment of clarity. The moment is simple, it says clearly: it’s all on me, I am both the problem and the solution and I have a choice. I can move forward, create, learn and lead…. or not.

No matter where you are and what you do, you are leading. Even at the most basic, you are leading yourself. You are leading your career, your personal life, your relationships.  If it’s not working, it’s you.

Godin_Slide

Vision

seurat 005“A vision’s just a vision if it’s in your head. If no one gets to see it, it’s as good as dead.” I don’t remember very much from my acting days, but I remember that line fron ‘Sunday in the Park With George.’  The show is about the agony of producing art, in this case the painting of Georges Seurat. It’s about an obsessive painter who shuts everyone and everything out to produce his masterpiece “Sunday On the Island of Grande Jatte.”

As I think up initiatives for my business and try to organize all the possibilities of growth, I’m reminded of this. I can come up with anything. But, can it be executed? How do we move forward? How hard will it be to implement? Do we have the time? Do we have the money? The difficulty of any of my ideas are in those questions, and any of those questions can stop me in my tracks.

At this point I can pretty much say it’s not fear that holds me back. I’ve learned to take risks and I know how to hedge my bets. When something seems uncomfortable, it usually means it’s worth doing as it will stretch my limits or the limits of the business. I would say what stops me tends to be my perception of the enormity of the task. So, how do you ever start?

Break it down: Chunks are better. Any plan can be broken down into chunks. Recently, I read “The Spirit of Kaizen”  by Robert Mauer. It’s central premis is that we often don’t enact plans and dreams because our survival instinct immediately gets overwhelmed at any large changes to our routine. Large changes to our routine equals danger to our survival instinct. Survival instinct is controlled by our primitive, non reasoning brain. It’s all about fight or flight and it doesn’t know the difference between being chased by a bear or embarking on a new set of goals. But, if we break any difficult change or plan down into smaller individual action steps, our brains see a rabbit not a bear, and are fooled into not questioning our risks, new behavior and decisions.

Get inspired: Constant learning is the hallmark of all achievers. If you don’t have time to train yourself to succeed, what is it you have time for? Watching ‘The Bachelor’? Putting positive examples and new concepts into your head can inspire you, and give you examples of determination that are incredibly motivating. Read business books, tech manuals, anything new in your field.

Start Now: Do something great. If you can’t think of anything great, do what you can think of, it may turn out great. If it doesn’t turn out great, dont be afraid to try again. As the old Chinese saying goes: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

imgresBack to Georges Seurat. He invented an impressionistic style called pointillism.  He used small dots of different colors that fused to make new colors when viewed at a distance.  The same idea as the RGB color matrix used in LED television screens.

You have to think of your goals that way.  The goals for your relationships, your business, your health all fuse together to create a balanced, full life.  The small chunks all put together will get you to where you want to go.