I find myself glued to the screen. Looking, watching, waiting. I read the comments. I see what people are saying to each other. I feel the pain, the hatred, the sadness, and the pride. I feel my focus and attention moving from what I have control over to arenas I have no experience in and little say into how things should or actually work.
I see the world showing its true colors and it demands my allegiance, focus, and attention. If I don’t say something, I don’t care. If I don’t speak up, I have no voice. If I don’t show up now, it’s too late. The world is demanding; the sacrifices it expects are to be offered in real-time, all the time.
The battle is for my attention. To take me from where I can thrive and make a difference, and to send me into a fight I’m not prepared for. The battle is for my focus. To take me away from providing for my family, caring for my friends, and educating my students. The battle is for my mind. To flood my thoughts with things I must have an immediate opinion on. The battle is for my intelligence. I must deny what is true in order to find acceptance. The battle is for my ignorance. I must be educated in what is going on because the world does not sleep when I do. The battle is for my freedom. I am not afraid of a physical wall. What scares me are the walls around my heart, the walls around my mind, the walls that make me blind, deaf, and dumb to the emotions of others.
The battle is for my attention. And I am losing.
As 2016 draws to a close, the hot topic seems to be about social networks and their impact on the world. Recently, I have been toying with leaving Facebook. Not for political reasons or because of a lack of privacy, but because I don’t like how I feel after spending time on the social network. I feel that I have wasted time. I feel that I have seen a side of my acquaintances I didn’t really want to see. I feel further away from my friends.
As I thought about leaving Facebook, I worried about what I was going to miss out on. I worried that people wouldn’t be able to find out about the work I was doing. I worried that the videos I created wouldn’t be sharable anymore. I worried that my friends and I wouldn’t connect anymore.
Then I hit the button. All of those feelings were replaced with logical responses.
What am I going to miss out on? Friends and family will have to connect in new ways through text, phone, or face-to-face. I’ll have to actually go to family events or parties, instead of living vicariously through Facebook, if I want to participate.
How will people found out about my work? Facebook is not the only place to learn about me. I haven’t left social, I have a newsletter, and I have a public email address. Yes, I won’t be found on Facebook, but 99.9% of my work the past 10 years was not discovered there. Only a handful of videos really found an audience on Facebook. But those videos are in multiple places, not just Facebook. I’m okay with that.
Will my friends and I connect anymore? We never really connected on Facebook. Sure we had small conversations, but we didn’t go deep. And that is something that is valuable to me. My friends and I will need to connect in person or on the phone when it’s time.
It’s weird how addicted to Facebook I got. It was hard to say no, to turn it off, to think I was going to miss out on something. Ultimately, I became a junkie, looking for my next fix. Perhaps it is time for me to go to Social Media Anonymous?
As part of this year’s Design Week Portland, I dropped by several design agencies and film/animation studios in SE Portland. The level of professionalism and quality of work was off the charts. In one building alone, I visited over five studios that all looked and felt different. They all had their own identity. It seemed from the outsider’s perspective they had it all figured out.
It is easy when in these spaces to start comparing yourself to what you are seeing and experiencing and immediately discount yourself as anything but a hack.
But after I calmed down, I came to the realization: they aren’t my competition. The competition is in my head. I am competing against an ideal construct in my mind of what success looks and feels like.
What is the answer to this problem?
Every business book essentially boils down to the same wisdom. If you want to compete, you need to differentiate yourself from your competition. But this can be a trap and distract you from actually working.
As artists and creative professionals, they only way to compete is to create. The only way to differentiate is to work.
Who are you competing with? Yourself and the mental barriers erected to prevent you from doing the one thing that will set you apart: your work.
There is an illusion often presented as you learn a subject: you must wait to act until you know the basics. But I say, don’t wait and create now.
The basics serve as a foundation of knowledge, but how do you learn them? Do you wait for the gurus to enlighten you with their understanding or do you look to experience to guide you mistake after mistake, breakthrough after breakthrough?
Do you teach chord progressions and scales or do you teach someone to play Stairway to Heaven? Do you teach editing theory or do you have someone recreate Star Wars shot by shot with PLAYMOBIL® characters? Do you teach HTML and CSS or do you teach how to recreate a popular website?
I say don’t wait and create right now.
Take the initiative.
You have the Internet to guide you and teach you anything you could possibly imagine.
But you mustn’t wait.
You must create right now.
As an educator and life-long learner, I found these words in my introductory email so refreshing: “…as a member you are called to a higher standard.”
What does it mean to be called to a higher standard?
I must rise up to the challenge of learning and applying the knowledge presented.
The responsibility is on me to go beyond what I know to grow into what I can be.
Growing in the knowledge presented reflects upon the instructor as much as the student.
The standard is not the end, it only reveals what is next.
“I think cinema resonates with a piece of our brain that is way, way in the back. Because the way you watch a movie is not the way we watch life. When you go to a mall, yes, you’re absorbing, subliminally, Drink Coke, and Buy this, and Buy that. But cinema is different because when you go to a theater, it’s like you are going to church. You sit in a pew, and you look at an altar, and the reception is completely different.” — Guillermo Del Toro, Cabinet of Curiosities
I’ve always been to some extent intrigued by spirituality. From religious icons and stories to the manipulation of senses in order to subvert the pulls of modern life.
As I read Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I found the quote above that compared the spiritual and mythical nature of cinema to the realities of life and marketing and it got me thinking about the spirituality of marketing and how culturally our faith in the market and Capitalism has replaced our trust in the divine.
For some, marketing and advertising is their church. The temple in which they weave stories of redemption and sin. Instead of martyrs, saints, and sinners, we have products, services, and competition. “You have sinned,” if you use this brand. “Your life will change forever,” if you use this other brand. We have labeled the promise of eternal salvation as impossible and those who believe as childish. And yet, we label the smooth words of advertising as truth.
As marketing continues to take on the appearance of cinema in order to become more entertaining and to subvert the radar people have for an ad, will our brain in the “way, way back,” as del Toro writes, be rewired and repurposed for the greater good of selling vacuum cleaners and insurance? Will the worth of our individual lives be measured by how much we buy?
Why do movie trailers reveal everything?
Why did Fringe reveal that Leonard Nimoy was in the episode, so that you are expecting him at the pivotal moment at the end?
Why do TV showrunners let people know what’s going to happen to characters in advance?
Do we need to be told what is going to happen so that we watch?
Why can’t there be more mystery and surprise with modern media?
Some examples of shows and movies doing it right: The Leftovers on HBO. I have no idea where that show is going. It weekly surprises me and keeps me coming back, hoping for answers. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens announced an enormous cast and has left many out of the trailers including Luke Skywalker (supposedly, there are a lot of wild fan theories).
Think about your own marketing. Are you creating room for surprise and mystery or are you just telling people what to expect?
If I were to draw a picture of what it takes to make it today in a creative or technical field, it would look a lot like this:
People who are making it in today’s world are constantly learning, but they don’t keep the results to themselves. They share their successes and failures. They can relate to others and others can relate to them. They aren’t creating in isolation, they are building a community and are a part of a community. They produce new work as a result of all the effort they put into their work. They inspire others to follow this model, which then causes the process to start all over again.
It is easy for me to measure the value of spending several hours at a time working on a project. These marathon sessions usually result in finished products. They are heroic in my eyes; epic and often necessary because I neglected the value of compounding time.
Let’s assume that a project takes 10 hours. There are two ways to approach this project: 1) Sit down and tackle the project all in a day; or 2) Work on the project for 2 hours a day for 5 days.
The procrastinator in me is used to tackling a project in a day. The end result is good. But it could be great if I valued the concept of compounding time.
Allowing myself the freedom of spending time to think about the project means that it will not be a by-product of a single gut reaction. Each day, something more will be revealed as I use my daily mental power to think through and solve problems.
Multiply this effect across multiple projects and the result is sustainability. Imagine finishing 5 projects in a week as opposed to burning out after two because the marathon sessions took a lot out of you?
This concept applies to not only time, but money and exercise. Is it better to save $10 a week without any problems? Or dramatically save $100/month, maybe, when the circumstances are right? Is it better to exercise every day for 10 minutes as opposed to waiting for the day when you can devote 30 minutes or even an hour?
Do the little things consistently and you’ll outperform the dramatically inconsistent over time. The tortoise and the hare.
I enjoy hearing the excuses people tell themselves for not attempting to learn or do something.
For myself, I fear the lack of perfection. This causes procrastination and the occasional bout with depression and frustration. I battle through these feelings because I want the outcome, even if it isn’t perfect.
I recently heard a new excuse: “I didn’t learn that because I didn’t want to become lazy.”
This person chose to not learn something because it was a perceived shortcut and could have led to laziness.
All I heard was an excuse.
Laziness is usually the result of inaction of any classification, not shortcuts. I say try the shortcut, learn it, be it, do it, because you will get to know two things even faster: 1) How much you don’t know; and 2) What you need to do next.
Don’t fear becoming lazy.
Fear the lack of action.