Last week was a tough one for me professionally. I felt like I was wronged. I was mad. Hurt. Frustrated. Then, my beautiful wife took me aside and did what only a spouse can do so well: knock some sense into my head. (But in a loving kind of way).
She sat me down in front of our TV and played a scene from “Seabiscuit.” (She knew that that would resonate more with me as a filmmaker then just a straight lecture.) In this scene, Seabiscuit’s jockey Red (played by Tobey Maquire) was given strict instructions from his trainer (played by Chris Cooper) to keep his focus on the gray horse, and make a break for the finish line when the time was right. During the course of the race, Red was bumped by another jockey. Red began to see red! He was infuriated. He lost all focus and started bumping the other jockey and horse. He would go on to lose the race.
Afterward, his trainer laid into him. “What were you thinking!? We had a plan.” All Red could keep saying was “But he fouled me!” His trainer would then say, “So!” Then Red would say again, “But he fouled me!”
Last week, my wife was the trainer and I was Red. My feelings and emotions were so strong, I briefly lost focus. The scene she played for me rang so true.
From this mini ordeal, I learned a number of valuable lessons. Some you may find surprising.
- Use prudent judgment: when growing a studio, there will come times when you’ll need to give responsibilities to employees or contractors that in some way may leave you vulnerable. This may include access to key clients or vendors, looking at your finances, etc. This is a part of any business. Don’t let fear stop you from doing that. But, just use prudent judgment as to whom and when you let that info out. One well known videographer in my industry once said in his first U.S. seminar, “I taught my editors everything they know, but not everything I know.” Interesting. Something to think about.
- Keep your eyes on the prize: inevitably, you will run into snags or situations in business that may throw you. It may be a competitor getting a strategic relationship or releasing a new product or service that gives them an upper hand. Whatever it is, don’t take your eyes off “the prize.” Keep your focus on “the gray horse.” It could be very easy to emotionally react and start doing things that may not necessarily be good for your business. Never make key business decisions in the heat of emotion.
- Keep a loose grip: some people hold onto their business so tight that they cut off “their own circulation.” That is to say, you should be open to what God (or whatever it is you believe in) has in store for you. Life is always changing. Always moving. As Yoda says, “Always in motion is the future.” Nothing you have now is the end all be all. In business school, it was my dream to become a management consultant and land a job with the likes of McKinsey or Bain. I ended up becoming a real estate appraiser. Boring. But, that lead me into exploring my artistic side and taking film courses. Now I own my own business and get paid to do make mini-movies. Much better than working 80 hours a week crunching numbers and statistical analyses (IMHO). Be prepared to accept what life has to give you. Be ready to accept that you may have to close one chapter in your life (a business or relationship) so that a new and even better chapter can start.
- Remember the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat your neighbor they way YOU want to be treated. If you want respect from your employees, given them respect. If you want colleagues to give you referrals, do the same. Even though I’m a Christian, I believe in the idea of karma. In fact, there are even biblical allusions to the same idea. That you “reap what you sow.” “What goes around comes around.” Treat all people in business the way you want to be treated.
- FORGIVE: a lot of people quote the golden rule, but there was another mandate God had… forgive. The Lord’s prayer speaks of forgiving our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. This is one of the hardest things to do. To forgive those whom you feel have wronged you. I can’t tell you how important this is, in business and in personal life. No matter what faith you claim. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. I’ve seen in my own industry grudges held by people for years and years. This anger and grudge eats away at the joy you can have in life. As much as a transgression may hurt, holding onto it and letting it fester in the long run will hurt even more (watch “Meet the Robinsons“). Forgiveness not only allows you to move forward, it allows you to grow, not only as a businessman (or woman), but more importantly, as a person. Again, if I may borrow from “Star Wars,” “anger only leads to the dark side.” Don’t give in to the dark side, young padawans.
In the end, I’m not seeing “red” anymore. I still call the person involved a friend and wouldn’t have any problem offering support and advice should the opportunity arise. Bottom line, my response to the situation is changing and I’ve learned some valuable personal and professional lessons. How about you?