Optimism, Cynicism, and Various Mountains

Last week about this time, I was in Cape Town, South Africa, standing on top of Lion’s Head, a small mountain that overlooks the city. The photo above is the view of Table Mountain from Lion’s Head. The scenery there is spectacular, and it was one of those moments when I found myself thinking that I’m pretty damn fortunate to have a job that pays me to fly to these exotic locations and shoot some brainfart I had a month previous.

You will have moments like this in your career. Sometimes they are moments on a shoot, when you’re traveling to locales and experiencing things you never would have the chance to by your own means. Sometimes it’s the excitement of coming up with a new idea, or goofing around with people in the office. Or just sitting there shooting the shit, feet up on your desk, trying to find inspiration while you talk about your favorite films. All moments when, if someone were to peek in, you’d have a hard time convincing them that what you do is “work.”

Of course, there are also moments when everything falls apart and you’re up to your earholes in bullshit and you haven’t slept and you’re missing your family and none of the douchebags around you get any of your brilliant ideas. Or they did get it, and now because the wind has shifted direction or the moon is in a different phase or someone’s wife’s sister made a comment or who-the-fuck-knows why now they just don’t get it anymore. Those moments when you’re thinking it would be well worth it to just tell everyone to have a nice life while you hitchhike across the country, never to be seen again.

This is just the way it is. There are plenty of reasons why our industry has more mood swings than a teenage girl. Too many crazy variables to list. But the thing to realize is that it does. One of the keys to having a long, successful career is dealing with these swings. You can be the most creative genius on Earth, but if you throw your bonsai plant across your office every time a client asks you to make the logo a little bigger, you aren’t long for this industry (possibly not this world).

The key to being happy in this crazy mercurial business is to remember, when stuff gets bad, as it will, that it will eventually get better. Be an optimist. But don’t do the opposite. Don’t ruin the good times with the knowledge that it won’t last. When you’re at the top, kick back and enjoy the ride.

This isn’t just a feel-good philosophy. It makes your work better too. Good ideas need fun. They are born of momentum. They thrive in an environment of optimism and good energy. So be optimist.


4 thoughts on “Optimism, Cynicism, and Various Mountains

  1. Very true. And another good reason why you should never leave a job when you're on a down cycle. It's always tempting when you're in those gulfs to start shopping your book around so you can tell your CD, your partner, and everyone you're working with, “So long, losers! I'm taking a real job!”

    If you're going to leave a job, leave while you're on top. Like Seinfeld.


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