Tag Archives: Action

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.

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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.

What I learned In Rehab

My post op nurse taking advantage of my inebriated state.

My post op nurse taking advantage of my inebriated state.

No,not that kind of rehab. Physical rehab. A week ago I had shoulder surgery. I’ve had a torn Labral tendon for a while now and bursitis.  I’ve been telling the world, it was the result of saving a horse from a terrible fall and I thought it was. The truth turned out to be not quite that heroic. The surgeon got in there and found that the damage was a result of over use and maybe, and I mean maybe a few sports injuries from when I was a kid.  Mostly, it’s a natural degeneration of the tendon over a lifetime.  The bursitis, just bad luck I suppose. So, I’m not a hero. Just falling apart a bit.

The Doc said in his office the procedure was no big deal. As he walked into pre-op   and there I lay with an IV hanging off my arm, a pain block needle just having been extracted from my neck and fresh from having been told they would be putting in a breathing tube, I questioned his definition of no big deal.  He said “the procedure was no big deal for him. It’s an easy fix.  Not so much for me though.” He clarified that indeed this was major surgery. That it was going to hurt for a while and it would be a long road back.

I woke up in an immobilizing sling. My arm clamped into one position, it was pretty unclear to me just how long I was going to be in this thing and what exactly lay ahead for rehab.  Earlier, a nice fellow had come by with my prescribed “cold machine.” A unit complete with 6 feet of tubes that pumped constant cold water into a pack that was part of the immobilization rig. Deeee-lightful. I looked like a defective astronaut that they picked for a suicide mission.

My 3 day stay on the couch. Thank you fat Chargers fans, or I would have had no wardrobe.

My 3 day stay on the couch. Thank you fat Chargers fans, or I would have had no wardrobe.

The first few days were really bad. Very painful, lots of painkillers and pretty much propped up on the couch hooked up to my machine, wearing cut up XXXL San Diego Chargers tee shirts and watching football.  Now I like football, but after watching 4 games in a row on Sunday, it was getting boring.

Well, it’s a week later, after a post op visit to remove the surgical wraps, getting some exercises to start my rehab, I’m feeling a lot better. I’m out of the rig and into a sling. I can sort of use my right arm again and I had my first pain free night last night.  So, after shaking off the cobwebs, I can gather my thoughts again and let you know what I’ve learned. As always, as in life, so it is in business.

1. Have great people around you. Without Adrienne taking care of me through this, I’d be dead.  I didn’t have to look around for help, ever. She was always right there anticipating what I needed and pushing me to get better. She’s the best nurse, and dead sexy.

2. Do your research.  My doctor is great, he’s the orthopedic surgeon for the LA Kings and the Olympic Volleyball Team. He’s great at fixing you. He also works with pro athletes that know when they get hurt and need surgery, it’s going to be a big deal. What I realize now is that it was my responsibility to know just what was coming, not his to spoon feed me.  The internet was right there, I could have Googled “just how bad is this going to be?”

3. Do the work. The past few days, I have really pushed myself. Making sure I did my rehab without fail or excuses.  I have over done it a few times and gotten wiped out. But, I’ve found the right pace now and and am getting steadily better.

4. Be thankful for the experience and grow from it.  I don’t take as good care of myself as I could. While this injury wasn’t necessarily connected to not taking care of myself, if I exercised much more regularly and watched my diet better than I do, perhaps I would have been more in tune with my body and felt this coming much earlier.  Maybe even avoiding surgery all together.

getting better

getting better

Well that what I got right now.  A new year starts and though a bit gimpy, I’m fresh off a great life lesson and ready to start anew.

F#@$ The Status Quo

Steve-Jobs-Apple“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Apple Inc.

I love good advertising copy, and this is about the best there has ever been, with the possible exception of “That’s a some spicy spicy meat-a-ball.”  Apple built a whole brand on taking the assumptions of design, product lines and marketing and throwing it all out the window.  I don’t believe for a minute they were certain any of their ideas would work. But, they were certain that doing things everyone else’s way would be boring and unfulfilling. So, they were willing to take risks, and as they say: with great risk comes great reward.

More than this, they were unwilling to sit on their laurels.  They kept moving forward. For them, the status quo doesn’t exist. They continually stay out in front, finding new areas to compete in and developing products that people want.  What’s interesting is that the products are not even necessarily the best products out there, as other companies catch up and eclipse them. But, with a culture of constantly moving forward, of bucking the status quo, they are looking to eclipse themselves as a daily practice and many of us are willing to go along for that ride.

As I was contemplating this today, I received an email from Linked In asking if I wanted to follow Ari Emanuel, CEO of William Morris Endeavor. I found his philosophical statement so compelling I signed right up.  There was so much I wanted to say on this subject, but found that Ari just summed it all up.

timthumbFrom Ari Emanuel’s Linked In profile:

“Next” doesn’t sound like a motto to live by. It doesn’t make for an epic battle cry or moving political campaign slogan. But it was – and still is – an Emanuel family mantra that my father used every day when I was growing up. Sitting around the kitchen table after school, my brothers and I would spin our day’s success stories. Our father’s response? “Nu” (Hebrew for next).

So why am I telling you this?  Who gives a shit what my father said?  I’m sharing this with you because it’s a philosophy that has carried me from the family dinner table to where I am today.  While I acknowledge that you can learn a great deal from historical precedents, I think we all spend too much time and energy looking backward.  The successes or failures of your past don’t define you.  It’s the ability to turn the page to the next, better chapter.

Take my career as an example.  If I had paid attention to my “career indicators” – bad grades, dyslexia, ADD, non-Ivy League school (I could go on, but my parents would prefer I didn’t) – who knows where I would be.  Certainly not here, sharing my opinion on life.

And when a few of my colleagues and I decided to leave one of Hollywood’s most established talent agencies to start our own, above a burger restaurant, there were plenty of reasons (families, mortgages, expense accounts) to stay put.  But we weren’t satisfied.  We could see that the business was changing.  We knew that in order for our clients to play in this new landscape, we had to form an agency that fit our vision of the future. Even when Endeavor became a formidable competitor to the Big 4 talent agencies, my father’s voice once again rang in my ears.

What was going to be the next great leap forward for our clients and our company?  The answer was merging our startup with a 100+ year-old institution, a risk that many warned against, citing countless failed mergers.  Again, it was that same question: “What’s next?” It forced me to keep moving forward, and now WME is just getting started.

My point is, if you’re looking for an excuse to fail, you will always find one. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem celebrating the wins.  They instill the confidence that propels us forward.  Just don’t trip on your victory lap.

To some, “next” may come off as a dismissal. To me, it’s the catalyst for endless possibilities.  As an agent, my job is not done when the deal is closed. It’s about constantly watching  the road ahead.

OK you’ve heard enough from me…..next.

– Ari Emanuel

That’s a pretty awesome statement. One can argue that perhaps Ari’s next with the William Morris merger actually propelled Endeavor backwards and made just made them into another iteration of the big 4.  But, that would be missing the point.  Wherever the “Next” took Ari, it took him in a direction that will spawn another “Next” and another and another….  Some will go forward, some backward.  But to have the opportunity to move forward, you have to risk going backwards sometimes.  To do nothing, to stay put is just maintaining a status quo.

What’s your status quo? How can you shake it? Can you gird your loins and take a step forward with the risk of taking two steps back?  If you can’t, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what you’re afraid of. And, if you’re afraid you’re not alone. Being afraid doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart. But, move anyway….. and move now.