March 16, 2023

Let someone else play that game, that’s not what I do


We all need to foster our own vocabulary for achievement and identity.

One that empowers us to define success in our own way and by our own standards. Where we choose the language that epitomizes what we love and how we want to live.

Without that intention, we end up living with other people’s biases. And wake up one day wondering why we resent the world so much.

My screenwriter friend loves to talk about this intention. One of his philosophies for choosing potential partners is, a fast no is second to a hard yes.

Dan says that if people respond to movie pitches with vague, aimless, wandering, noncommittal language like maybe, soon, or let me think about it, he immediately moves on to someone else.

Because in his experience, that uphill creative battle won’t be worth fighting for the next three years of his life. If he’s going to invest a significant amount of time, money, energy and social capital into making a film, then it needs to be a hard yes from the get go.

That level of excitement will carry a production during the inevitable setbacks and delays of the filmmaking process. Hard yes, then, is my friend’s filter for a greenlit project.

However, if he gets a fast no from someone, that’s the next best thing. Dan says a fast no means the person he’s pitching isn’t trying to please him. That person knows who they are. They set healthy boundaries, respect their own and other people’s time, don’t vacillate, and know how to make crisp, prompt decisions.

People like that are rare, so when you meet one, stay close. Because you’ll probably end up collaborating with them down the road.

Whereas partnering with dilly dalliers who debate and seek more and more information to the point of paralysis is expensive and exhausting.

What kind of language do you use as a filter? How do you make sure your decisions are aligned with your values, standards and identity?

To me, it all goes back to the concept of, what do you not do?

That’s something my mentor taught me many years ago.

We are defined by what we decline. Saying no is the fundamental human beings have of differentiating ourselves. We need to be able to look the world in the eye and say, you know what, thank you, but let someone else play that game, that’s not what I do.

Even if our reptilian brain hisses at us to avoid missing out on some opportunity because it think we’ll be shunned by tribe and left for dead, we recite our own definition of achievement and identity. We uphold our values because it makes us feel proud, healthy and empowered.

Next time you’re faced with a significant decision about a new project or a potential partner, start with the right intention. Learn to differentiate between your own standards and other people’s biases.

Guard yourself against those who want to hitch a ride on your passion train without paying the proper toll.

And once you finally get wherever you’re going, let yourself to define success in a way that matches your picture of personal fulfillment.

To what degree is your life tailor made to your own sensitivities?