Hating Everything the Most Doesn’t Make You the Best

My friend Peter is very opinionated. Sometimes he seems like a crank. I used to think he hated everything. Then I realized he also loved some really bad things. And some really good things. I noticed a method to his madness: he said he liked the things he liked, and he said he didn’t like the things he didn’t like. It didn’t matter to him what other people thought. I respect Peter’s opinion. I don’t always agree, but I very much respect it.

There are other people I know (who shall not be named) who think that everything is shit. At least, they SAY they think everything is shit. With those people, I don’t care about their opinion. Two reasons, really:
1) I already know what they think about whatever. They think it’s shit.
2) They’re lying.

I don’t think anyone actually hates everything. But I do think in a creative industry where it’s important to have high standards, there can become a kind of competition. A pressure to have the highest standards. And who has the highest standards? The person who doesn’t like anything? They must have the highest standards, right?

It can seem like that person’s opinion would become the most important opinion in the room. Because if they ever do like something, it must really be good, obviously. But that’s not true. First of all, to my point above, hating everything makes your opinion irrelevant and people start disregarding it altogether. Second, that “everything sucks” attitude is usually the result of trying to win the non-existent high-standards contest, caring too much what others think of what you think, or just an unfortunate psychological predisposition. All of those are bad.

Don’t love everything. Everything is not good. In fact, most stuff is not good. Have high standards. But base those on what you think (maybe with some good reasons as to why you think it). Don’t worry about what other people think you think. And don’t try to impress them with your mythically high standards.  Don’t be a hater.

* Peter is not a crank. He’s a great guy.


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.