Friday, October 22, 2010

Disobedience is Good - Two thoughts to live by

When I was growing up, I was taught to pay attention to rules; to ask before you do something; to try your best at what you do before you finish it; and these simple rules helped me to succeed in school, and I assumed they would lead to success in life.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

In the dog-eat-dog reality of the grown-up world, those who succeed are rarely those who wait for permission, or who do the most thorough job.  The winners are more often those who seize the moment, take action and get things done.

In the last couple of years, as I've tried to make a course correction in my own life and strive to make a name for myself as a filmmaker, I've had to fight against some of my ingrained tendencies in order to succeed.  Through this process I discovered two thoughts to live by that have helped me immeasurably:

1) Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
 As children, we are constantly reminded to follow the rules, ask before you do something - look to those in power for confirmation.  We look to our parents, teachers, coaches and later, our bosses asking them, "Is it okay if I do this?"  While this is good behavior as a child, it is not useful as an adult.

As an adult, this puts you at the whim of incompetent bosses, and arcane rules.  Yes, obviously you shouldn't break the law, but short of that, everything else is up for negotiation.  If you wait around and ask for permission to do something, the stock answer is almost always NO.  You will need to get around many NOs to succeed in what you want to do, whether that's make a movie, start a business, or plan a vacation.  Why place more phantom NOs in your way? You're a grown-up now - make a reasoned decision and take action.  If someone doesn't like it, ask for forgiveness after the fact.  More often, however you won't even have to ask for forgiveness as your actions will have proved that you were right.

2) Ready, Fire, Aim!
This was a huge one for me to overcome.  I am a natural perfectionist, which is what makes me a good editor.  I am paid to notice an edit that's 2 frames off, or a logo that should be eight pixels to the left.  However, as someone who is now trying to get my own projects done, this tendency can be crippling.

My natural tendency is to want everything to be perfect before I can accept it and send it out into the world - whether that's a movie, a business idea, or even a blog-post.  The problem with this however, is that those who get things done are rewarded more than those who do it better, but who take too long. The lesson for me is that good enough is good enough!

I spent many years coming up with ideas for movies, web sites and products and never finished a single one of them.  I would always be crushed under the weight of my own expectations - if it wasn't perfect, it wasn't worth doing.  I never wanted to hand in B- work, when I knew I could do an A.  But, you know what I realized?  The world gets by on B- work.  Heck, most people can barely do C level work, anything more than that looks like friggin genius level!

What Ready Fire, Aim! taught me is to do a good-enough job, get it done, get it out there, and make course corrections on the fly.  This is how the world really works.  Ever wonder why it seems you're always Beta testing software that you have bought?  That's because you ARE!  The software developer is fine-tuning their product with your help - yup, Ready, Fire, Aim!

When I made Enter the Dark, my main priority was to actually finally finish something.  I had to let go of a lot of things in order to do that.  One of them was my fear of rejection and putting something out there that wasn't perfect.  What I learned however, is that the process of completing this project, of making the movie, submitting to festivals, getting reviews, making connections, is WAY more important than having a finished perfect movie.  Enter the Dark is not perfect - far from it.  If I were to grade it, I'd probably give it a B.  But you know what, it's done, it's out there and I learned tons from the experience.  And people seem to like it.

Warts and all.

(p.s. - I'm going to post this blogpost without spell-checking it... so there!)


  1. Great advice, even when we know this sort of thing it's good to be reminded once in a while. If everyone would just get something done there'd be a lot more creative content out there.

  2. Still trying to jump that hurdle myself :\ sometimes it's easier being an editor than a creator, huh?