Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 165: Do not fall back

I think it was Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing) who said that, as a filmmaker, you don’t want to have a career choice to fall back on because you’ll only fall back on it when the going gets tough.

I had this very same conversation with a close friend of mine this morning. Said friend has an important life-event coming up on the weekend and, going against my own philosophy of life, I asked her what he contingency plan was, should things not work out the way that she intended? For some reason, I was aghast when my friend put me in my place by telling me that there was no need for a contingency, things were going to work out.

At the risk of sound a tad like Carrie Bradshaw, I wondered: “Have I got to the stage where I’m happiest, when dispensing medicine to others yet resiling from taking it myself?”

Another case in point: my niece/goddaughter has had dreams of dancing professionally, since anyone can remember, has put in the years and hard yards on the amateur dramatic scene in the UK, has done the BA in whatever strand of performing arts it was at University and was then offered a place at a great and illustrious contemporary dance school in London. Everyone around her went into a tiz about London and money and this and that and it got to the stage where it infected her and her belief in her dream (I use the word “dream” cautiously these days as it seems that it’s become a dirty word since the advent of every reality TV show and every contestant whose “dream” it is to.....fill in the blank).

Many around my neice/goddaughter were counselling for caution and encouraging the idea of teaching and other such contingencies; I understand that, I know that those suggestions are well-meant and I’ve blogged about that here before. But, at last, I saw a purpose in me being the godfather (I do have something in common with Pacino after all). In short, my advice was to ignore all that hoo-ha, to embezzle, steal, beg or borrow the money and get on with the dance career. I’m pleased to say that she started at that very dance school last week (well done to family members who’ve backed her financially).

Let me bring Winston Churchill into this. I was listening to a podcast of the BBC Radio 4 show, ‘Great Lives’ last week (I cannot recommend the Beeb’s podcast too highly) where someone, in referencing Churchill, described the greatest quality of a leader as being: “the ability to inspire others to be the best that they can be”. You only need listening recorded speeches of the Prime Minister who saw England through it’s darkest hour to know that he had that facility in spades. However, I don’t know whether Churchill had a contingency plan if the defence of Europe went to cock?

Another version of this snippet of advice came from a successful woman-in-business who counseled other young women never to learn to type; her reasoning was that once people know you can type, they’ll give you typing.

And another one: any great salesman who fancies moving up in the world, to maybe a management or marketing position, should stop being a great salesman. No one wants a great salesman to be doing anything other than achieving great sales figures.

Screenwriter and sometime teacher, Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) was quoted in the book “Tales from the Script’ as saying “I always tell my students ‘don’t have a backup a younger person, I intentionally never developed another skill that I could fall back on, because I didn’t want to fall back on anything.”

Day #165 Tip: “No”
What we say “no” to, is, arguably, more important that what we say “yes” to.

A couple of months back, I was down to a shortlist of two for a part-time position that would have saved my butt from financial destitution and put something other than chick peas on my daily menu. There would have been a great deal of creativity in the job, but not really the kind of creativity I left the world of business and commerce for. I wanted the gig, yet didn’t want it. The company in question did me the favour of cutting me out of the running.

My life is still okay, I’m not on the streets, it’s not all chick peas and maybe I was right to keep saying “yes” even when I really meant “no”, who knows? The leap from “belief” to “faith” is one that I can get skittish at, but the best encouragement I’ve found is when I watch those around me - the people I have faith in - having faith in themselves. Their faith inspires my faith; my neice/goddaughter, my friend who has an important event on the contingency, no backup, no to “no”.

I got two “no’s” on development funding for a treatment recently, but, unlike the past, I’ve decided not to consign this little gem to the bottom draw. I’ve just been inspired by a two-hour meeting with the director, been encouraged by a friend/producer who has faith in me, and now we’re off to listen to the two august bodies that said “no” to us; not to argue with them or to defend our position or to complain, but to learn everything that we can from their respective responses that might help us move onward and upward.

George Michael may not be right about many things, but he is so right, when it comes to matters of “faith”.

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