Dry Spells [Film Friday]

People working in Hollywood are looking for work regularly: when a show wraps, it’s time to find a new job. Like all freelancing, entertainment industry folks run the risk of suffering weeks or months between projects. Even people who make as much as $10,000 per week file for unemployment between jobs. It’s crazy. Having had a steady paycheck for the last 14 months, I cannot imagine the day-to-day challenge of finding work. It’s a whole different world. For the people who work regularly, it can be great. For those who don’t, it can be hell. All you can do is get out, enjoy the California sunshine, chase personal projects, and keep busy. Learn to appreciate the dry spells. After all – the second you learn to love them, they’ll end, and you’ll be buried with work again.


Be Your Dream

Don’t wait until you’ve grown up to be who you want to be. I understand the value of working and learning under someone. But be careful doing that too well and for too long. Other people will have difficulty seeing your potential because they see you as an expert servant. Try to avoid being the best at anything out of line with your goals. Focus on your dream, and pursue it with a vengeance. Live it, breathe it, and ignore anyone who stands in your way. Break the hierarchy. Skip steps. Knock the ladder down. Do not compromise. Do not wait. Be who you want to be NOW.

Drive + Joy = Productivity

Sure, hard work gets things done. It takes drive, inspiration, and commitment to fuel hard work. But hard work alone cannot generate continuous, sustainable results. It takes a magic ingredient and one far too many large corporations fail to mix into the recipe: joy. Employees need to be happy, and you need to be happy to succeed. If a job is a constant influx of hell and bad tempers, people will burn out and crash.

It is not the employee’s responsibility to find or build that joy. In fact, most workers are too afraid to have fun in the office – like children kicking a ball around indoors, they are afraid they’ll get in trouble. It is the responsibility of the boss and the managers to enable an environment of fun and happiness. Not scheduled, forced happiness like luncheons or copy-room birthday parties. I’m talking arbitrary, unrestrained fun. Random field trips, marshmallow fights, grill days, action figure theft, whatever.

We purchased nerf guns for the office. Random shootouts happen daily now. I see endorphins flowing and smiles forming again. You’ll never know when you’ll get four inches of cold styrofoam to the skull. And I’ve gotten more done on one war day this week than all of the truce days combined.

Shape a culture in your office that enables and promotes joy. You can measure the results.

Decide What You’re Worth

Want to make more money? First, you need to believe that you’re worth more. If you believe it and exude confidence on the subject, everyone else will believe you’re worth more, too. Believe it deeply enough and you may not even need to ask for a raise.

It’s very helpful to know what you’re worth. To the dollar. Not some random number, no abstract figure counts – the exact amount to cover the cost of living the life you think you deserve. Add up your expenses, your lifestyle costs, your health costs, your travel costs. Cover your responsibilities. Price out your dreams and your hobbies. Set a structured savings plan and contingency for accidents. Add them all together over a year period. With simple math, you can conclude your annual salary. That’s what you’re worth. No less.

Be open to quoting that number to others, and do not be afraid to itemize the costs for them. If you can justify every price point and sell your needs, it will be difficult for anyone to argue. Make sure your employer understands this number. If it’s not possible for your company to match, find alternative means to cover the difference (freelancing, for example) – or find a different job.

Know what you’re worth. Believe you’re worth that much. Fight for it if you need to. Do not sell yourself short.

Give It Your All?

I respect people who devote themselves completely to a project or job. Without question, giving it your all usually awards you a competitive edge. But I worry about the limited investment driven people are able to make in other parts of their lives. If you invest 100% of your energy (and time) into a project, what is left for family, friends, or your own health? What about your personal life goals?

On this planet, we only have 23 hours, 57 minutes, and 4.1 seconds in a day. If you spend 18 hours working on your project, when will you see your children? When will you sleep or exercise? And when will you have time to chisel away at your hobby? For those of you who are working for the money, do you have time to spend or even manage the money you do make? If not, what’s the point? What’s the point of working that hard anyway? To do better? If your job is the most important thing in your life, then why let family or anyone else distract you? What’s the point?

I am all for investing yourself in your work. I work very hard myself. But I draw lines and live by rules. I will not let my job, or any project for that matter, take time away from my dreams. And I am actively optimizing my life to make more time with friends, family, travel, and personal projects.

Inventory your “all” and decide where best to map your energy and time.

Attitude Upon Completion

Nothing will ever be perfect, so get used to it. You can always do better. But you will make yourself sick and depressed chasing perfection through life. And you will pain the people who support and work hard for you.

Look back on your accomplishments and accept that you did your best work. Wear a smile on your face and offer thanks to anyone who helped you out.

Do not settle for less than amazing work. But be careful striving for more than that.

Perfection may be the path to ruin.

Mondays Should Die

You had an amazing weekend with family and friends. Parties. Activities. Errands. Rock and roll. Guess what? Back to work! It’s Monday time!

I hate Mondays. I am willing to bet you do not like them either. A great taste in your mouth soured by the burdens of a professional life. Most people have really rough starts on Mondays. Few deals get closed. Very little work gets done. Most people spend the better part of their day trying to switch into productive mode. After a short burst of personal time over the weekend, Monday rear-ends and whiplashes the hell out of you.

I say we kill Mondays. That’s right. Kill Monday. Embrace the three-day weekend. A day to be social, a day to do personal work, and a day to rest. Start the week on Tuesday and only work four days. Think you won’t get the same amount of work done? Just try it. I guarantee that you will fill the time with the same amount of work.

Worried you’ll miss customers or clients on Monday? Most people are preoccupied with their own hellish Mondays to care about your business, so no worries. And besides, if you set the expectations of outsiders by informing them that you do not operate on Mondays, they will catch on, deal with it, and not resent you. You do not want the complaining customers anyway.

But every week needs to start, right? So won’t starting the week one day later just shift the burden of hate to Tuesday? Perhaps. But have you ever heard of the work-life balance? Splitting the week nearly in half with weekend and work week will help balance the amount of time you invest in yourself and invest in your work. By the end of the long weekend, you will feel more inclined to pick up the pen again. After you are rested, caught up, and partied out, you will feel the need to get back to work. In fact, you may even WANT to go back to work.

And why not take Friday off instead? Since most employees are procrastinators by nature, Friday is valuable real estate for last minute productivity. And since other companies you do business with are probably procrastinating as well, there will be less friction if you continue to operate on Friday. While everyone else is working on Monday, you can take the time for yourself to recover from your weekend and rest up before a new week. A healthier team and a healthier life. 

Sound utopian? Maybe. But worth the experiment. When I run a business, I plan to give it a shot.

Do Not Bring Your Work Home

Hollywood is notorious for failed marriages. Why? To succeed in this town, you need to give it your all. Eat, sleep, breathe entertainment. Might sound fun on the outside, but it’s hell on the inside. In one year alone, I’ve seen families shattered, relationships severed, possessions seized, and health jeopardized. It’s the name of the game out here. When you’re working 14 hour days and competing with hundreds of extremely talented people and projects, how the hell can you do anything else with your life?

Outside the movie business, lifestyles are not nearly this extreme. Still, I hear horror stories of workaholics compromising their personal lives to submit to their jobs. Whether you are working 16 or 60 hours per week, it is important to separate your job from the rest of your life. If you do not, work can consume you. Depending on how you handle pressure, it may even destroy you.

When you come home at night, forget it. Stop thinking about your day. Leave it all behind. Worried you’ll forget where to pick up in the morning? That’s what to-do lists are for. Have a job where you are responsible for grading or reading or reports that need to be done outside of the workplace? Find another place to do them. Just do not bring them home. Do not bring your work home.

The level of stress work carries can hurt you, hurt your families, and hurt your friends. No one likes spending time with a wreck. And most people get bored with a wreck that drones on about his or her job. There’s more to life and the world than your job. You become really one-dimensional when that’s all you care about.

Where Did Apprenticeships Go?

Apprentice. Man and boy making shoes.

In the Middle Ages, master and apprentice relationships were integral to business. Aspiring youngsters would offer continuing labour and business support to veteran craftsman in exchange for lodging, food, and formal training. Before universities popularized, trade education stemmed directly from experience in the trade itself. As classroom education expanded, apprenticeships fell to the wayside. Can someone please tell me why? The mentor and apprentice relationship is no less integral to business than it was a thousand years ago. In fact, I think the relationship may be more important today – for both sides of the table.

The mutual benefits are endless, but here are four key points to whet your whistle (Note: I find “Mentor” more palatable than “Master,” but the same theory applies):

Mentors offer seasoned experience. Apprentices offer fresh perspective.

With years of service in the workplace, the mentor has war stories and lessons that can better-frame an apprentice’s education. More importantly, these stories are experienced firsthand. On-the-job training is far more vivid and dynamic than book studies because the stakes are higher. Apprentices get their hands dirty and glean a far more richer understanding of their craft in the process. Moreover, the education is reciprocal. Apprentices bring to the table a whole new way of thinking: contemporary models, innovative market approach tactics, modern brand image insights, and more. The apprentice speaks a fresh language mentors need to be versed in today to connect with the consumers of tomorrow.

Mentors offer inexpensive education. Apprentices offer inexpensive labour.

As a mutual service favor, very little money trades hands. A mentor can staff his or her growing business with a zealous and thirsty student without the burden of salary; an apprentice can get invaluable hands-on experience without the burden of tuition. More often than not, the education from a mentor is far more in-depth, targeted and pertinent than from a classroom teacher. You get more value for less spend.

Mentors offer relevant trade skills. Apprentices offer relevant modern skills.

Unlike the intimate hands-on apprenticeships of old, modern internships are often more clerical with little exposure to the higher workings of a company or trade. A true apprenticeship can bring students closer to the skills they need to grasp and aim to learn. In exchange, apprentices can introduce mentors to new methods for leveraging technology, connecting with people, and creating product. The opportunities are boundless with both new and old at the helm.

Mentors offer a name brand. Apprentices offer brand vitality.

Through years of service and loyalty, the apprentice will embrace the mentor’s brand. With that brand comes the mentor’s network and resource pool, saving the apprentice a lot of time and money developing his or her own from scratch. Brands are noteworthy bullets on resumes and form the connective tissue of the business world. In return for the mentor’s gracious stamp of approval, the apprentice will forever carry all the philosophies adopted and lessons learned from the mentor. The mentor’s reputation will live on through the apprentice.

The only potential risks I foresee in apprenticeships are compatibility and working pace. Some people cannot see eye to eye and lack patience for one another. Compatibility can be offset by both formal and casual interviews, along with recommendations and referrals. And unlike the Middle Ages, I do not think it wise to start apprenticeships too early in career development; an apprentice needs strong theoretical introduction to a trade first before asking a mentor for valuable time.

If you are a seasoned professional, I highly encourage you to take on an apprentice. If you are a student, develop relationships with professionals in your field of interest and ask permission to shadow them. Listen well to each other. After a while, you will both learn a lot. I guarantee it.

5 Ways Standing Improves Office Culture

Drew MoxonToday’s guest post is by great friend and fellow USC classmate Drew Moxon. Drew is an entrepreneur and interactive storyteller, currently working as a Producer on the Gears of War franchise at Microsoft Game Studios. He is a master at connecting people and using technology as a social lubricant. Today, he offers a particularly progressive idea on updating the workplace:
Enter Drew Moxon:

There has been much to-do recently about the health benefits of standing while working. The body is not used to sitting for such long periods at a time, something we never had the evolutionary need to do until the widespread use of personal computers. While standing at work can be great for you physically, its impact on business culture – your organization’s psychology – can be even greater.

I’ve been standing at work for just over a month now, and the change in mindset that has accompanied the new physical routine has possibly outweighed the health benefits. Along with increased energy (slouching in a chair has this incredible power of sucking the life out of you), here are some of the behavioral improvements it can yield in an organization:

 1.  A mobilized workforce is more likely to solve problems socially

Standing-working encourages social behavior in the workplace by eliminating barriers to moving around – mainly the physical and psychological act of standing up. Most times, an issue is easier to resolve in person than it is over email or IM. Yet, when we have the tools right in front of us, which is more likely to be the norm if we’re already sitting? Walking over to a co-worker (or two or three) can save you time, de-clutter your inbox, and strengthen your team.

2. Increased movement cultivates a proactive culture

Email allows us to put our issues in someone else’s court temporarily – it’s not in my inbox, so I don’t have to worry about it yet. With more movement and in-person interaction also comes the idea that you are responsible for gathering any information necessary and getting buy-in from others.

3.  Activity becomes transparent

When everyone is sitting at their desk all day, activity appears the same; a top-performer is nearly indistinguishable from an underachiever. When movement is encouraged, however, it quickly becomes apparent who is actively engaged in their work and who is not. Seeing your coworkers move around and socialize can encourage you to do the same.

4.  Face to face correspondence thickens social bonds

Because of the nuances in body language, facial emotions, and spacial cues that internet communications lack (even video to an extent), we are not only able to communicate more effectively, but also fraternize more regularly.

5.  Freedom of movement, freedom of thought

When a team is able to flow organically according to in-the-moment needs and unconstrained by their desk chairs, many more ‘innovation moments’ happen – when you run into a co-worker and discover something that can be improved by working together. Having the ability to easily walk away from a problem you’re stuck on and approach it from a different angle presents a huge advantage.

There are only a few of us standing professionals. Imagine your workplace with the whole team standing, bustling around like an open-air market. What impact would it have on your organization’s culture?