This has been said often but still not often enough.
2day's nugget: "Success brings with it the fear of blowing it. With more to lose, there's more pressure not to lose it" via @ThisIsSethsBlog
— Peter Kaufman (@Dealfatigue) March 9, 2014
If you want to get anywhere in any aspect of the entertainment business you need friends in high places.
But this business is a business. Friends can easily become enemies even if you make business decisions that in any other context might be appropriate.
This is true for most business cultures but it’s all the more acute where, as here, there’s a high concentration of emotionally driven, exceptionally creative (but oftentimes, profoundly insecure) people all fighting for far too few opportunities. With that kind of competition, you may feel that you need all the edge you can get; sometimes, unfortunately, even at the expense of your friends.
Sheer tenacity will get your foot in the door. Talent will keep you in the room. But the only way to succeed in this business – and be able to maintain the momentum to remain successful over the long term – is to have friends that you can count on professionally; that make you feel safe creatively; and that make it possible for you to do your best work consistently.
It takes a village.
That’s the rub.
It’s always personal.
Most if not all negotiations are a combination choreographed dance, manipulation and fear of loss. The latter stems from our own inbred animal instincts which exert a strong influence over negotiations; even those where one side objectively has more leverage than the other.
From knowledge comes strength and while you can’t entirely eliminate fear from negotiations, the zen of knowing that it’s there minimizes its influence.
We spend an inordinate amount of time in service of our fear to our detriment. One of Seth Godin’s recent posts sizes it up nicely:
. . . . Chipmunks, wolves and other wild animals rarely get jealous. The number one emotion among wild animals isn’t vanity or happiness: it’s fear.
Fear is everywhere in the animal kingdom, because fear is a great way to stay alive. Fear is hard-wired into successful species… it doesn’t need to be taught. . . . An entire portion of our brain (the same brain the lizard has) is dedicated to fear. And it can’t wait to spring into action.
If your fear keeps you alive, embrace it. The rest of the time, the best strategy for success is figuring out how to ignore it, befriend it or use it as a compass to find what matters.
Seth’s use of fear as a compass really resonated with me. If you’re acting in the service of your anxiety then you’re probably not going to get the best result.
* Are you filling in awkward silences?
* Are you (pre?)-negotiating against yourself by offering an alternative fallback position before the other side has considered (and possibly accepted or rejected) your proposal?
* Are you being aggressive enough and asking for the Cinderella Deal or are you being too aggressive at the risk of killing the deal?
Here’s the litmus test:
If you’re ignoring your fears and taking a position that can be taken with reason, then chances are you’re being authentic and forthright. Your negotiations will, if not accepted, be perceived from the other side as strong if not tenacious and of earnest good will.
If not, then you’re not.
I recently called four actors about a potential gig on a television series.
Only one of them got back to me. Four days later. By email.
All of them, without exception, regularly complain to me about the lack of work in L.A. and now, all of them, without exception, were missing an opportunity to work in their field. Worse still, I might not call them next time.
It’s possible that the opportunity wasn’t right for them.
Or they each had scheduling conflicts.
Or, they each just got in their own way.
Call it audition fatigue. The continuous, consistent rejection inherent to the profession is bound to erode the motivation and enthusiasm of even the hardiest of thespians.
I’ve seen the same self-defeating behavior in lawyers, agents, production executives and other so-called “suits” in the business. Recently, I received a resume by email in response to an opening with my law firm. The resume arrived in a word.doc format which when opened, was covered with very visible, “red-lined” changes clearly revealing that the job seeker’s CV was based on someone else’s resume.
If you’re going to take all the time, effort and expense of putting yourself out there, you might as well follow through by taking just a bit more time and a bit more effort to do it right the first time (in the above case, by removing all the metadata before sending or better yet, attaching a .pdf file to preserve formatting). In the short term, that old saw is true: you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Marc Andreesen, co-founder of Netscape and developer of the first widely used web browser recently raised similar concerns in his blog:
Opportunities that present themselves to you are the consequence — at least partially — of being in the right place at the right time. They tend to present themselves when you’re not expecting it — and often when you are engaged in other activities that would seem to preclude you from pursuing them. And they come and go quickly — if you don’t jump all over an opportunity, someone else generally will and it will vanish.
I believe a huge part of what people would like to refer to as “career planning” is being continuously alert to opportunities that present themselves to you spontaneously, when you happen to be in the right place at the right time.
* A senior person at your firm is looking for someone young and hungry to do the legwork on an important project, in addition to your day job.
* Your former manager has jumped ship to a hot growth company and calls you three months later and says, come join me.
* Or, a small group of your smartest friends are headed to Denny’s at 11PM to discuss an idea for a startup — would you like to come along?
I am continually amazed at the number of people who are presented with an opportunity like one of the above, and pass.
There’s your basic dividing line between the people who shoot up in their careers like a rocket ship, and those who don’t — right there.
Marc was lamenting the road not taken; I’m more concerned with the road taken badly. At the end of the day, your success and certainly your capacity to even understand what success is in this business or any business is based more on your motivation than raw talent. Anyone who has watched this season’s lineup of mediocre TV programming or been forced to watch Norbit knows this to be true.
The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.
To be fair, Andreessen has likely never tried to break into the entertainment business and probably can’t appreciate its unique challenges. But certainly Steve Martin has. In a recent interview on Charlie Rose, Steve Martin waxed philosophical about how to succeed in this business:
When people ask me how do you make it in show business or whatever, what I always tell them . . . and nobody ever takes note of it cuz it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, here’s how you do this. But, I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If somebody’s thinking, “How can I be really good?”, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.
Hey, it’s worth a shot.