Archive for February, 2013

The Truth

Posted in A Note to Directors, Creativity, Got Me Thinkin', Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on February 27, 2013 by RobALott

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” -C.S. Lewis

Think about the most original artist you know.  Is what they are doing truly original?  Or rather, is it a complete commitment to the truth?

If there is, actually, nothing new under the sun, then all we’ve got left is to point to the truth and tell it.

Just telling the truth and being true to yourself will make you fresh and original by default.

Before You Speak, Ask Yourself These Questions Three

Posted in Got Me Thinkin', Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on February 25, 2013 by RobALott

Before You Speak, Ask Yourself These Questions Three

A Problem To Be Seized

Posted in A Note to Directors, Thoughts on Leadership on February 22, 2013 by RobALott

So, confession time. Sometimes for fun, as in, not for an assignment, but rather just because I enjoy it…I read business and leadership books. It both relaxes and energizes me.  I like it, ok? It’s who I am. Deal with it.

I am currently re-reading Good to Great by Jim Collins.  In Chapter 3, “First Who…Then What”, he talks about getting the right people in the right positions in your organization.  Later he also talks about putting the best people on the biggest opportunities and not on the biggest problems.

That last part has stuck with me, and frankly, has bothered me for quite some time. Here’s why.

A few definitions. (I didn’t look these up in Webster’s or anything. I think that’ll be clear.)

A problem is a road block. A problem is a negative to be solved.  And after it’s been solved, everyone involved can move on.  A problem has an end. Whether ending in solution, or compromise, or giving up, it has an end.

An opportunity is a launchpad. An opportunity is a beginning full of possibility.  It’s the spark. An opportunity needs a leader and a direction and has no clear end in sight. It’s the start.

As artists we are all sensitive to our work and how it is perceived.  Once I learned of this principle, I began fearing that my usefulness was limited to problem solving and not opportunity seizing. I also feared that the person doling out the assignments was also aware of this principle, thus my casting in the role or responsibility.

All of this is a product of assumption and self-doubt.  Neither of which have a helpful place in the back of an artist’s head. (Die Vampire! Die!)

This calls for a shift in view.

It has been said that every problem is an opportunity. I don’t know that that’s entirely true, but I do agree with the point.

What problems are you working on that simply need to be solved so everyone can move on?

But, then, what opportunities are masking themselves as problems waiting to be seized?

It’s hard to see the difference since oftentimes an opportunity has all the same challenges as a problem.

In my head, I see Opportunity pulsing toward the door, backpack on and ready to go with a big smile on her face.  While the Problem sits on the couch in his sweat pants, sad that I’ve just asked him to leave.

They are both going to leave. (After all, opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.)

Both are going to ask you to come with them as they go.

With which one would you rather spend the day?

It’s About Time

Posted in Got Me Thinkin', Thoughts on Leadership on February 11, 2013 by RobALott

I was introduced to this math recently.

What I’m about to describe is pretty extreme. Not many of us live at these extremes. Most of us have more margin than this. And if you don’t, you need to make some.  (But that’s another post for another time.)

So, check this out.

If you work sixty hours a week…

Now, I know for some of us, this is extreme.  But for others of us, this is the norm.  If this is normal, I would challenge you to look at how much work you are actually getting done in those sixty hours…really.

Ok, so if you work sixty hours a week, and you sleep for eight hours a night…

Ah, now I’ve struck the chord of extreme.  Some of you are reading this only now realizing that you were seven years old the last time you got a full eight hours. Be that as it may, let’s think in big numbers for a bit.

If you work sixty hours in a week, and you sleep eight hours a night, you would be left with fifty-two hours. Fifty-two hours a week that are all yours to do with as you please.

That’s a lot of time.

So, what are you doing with your fifty-two hours?

Malcolm Gladwell writes about the  Law of 10,000 Hours.  The principle that to truly become an expert at something you need to put in your 10,000 hours. I’ve heard some say that averages out to around five to ten years depending on your intensity.

10,000 hours. Now that’s a lot of time. Definitely an overwhelming number when you’re at the beginning.

But as I recall, I just gave you fifty-two hours a week (probably more) to get started.

What’s that thing you’ve been meaning to do? That thing you just haven’t had the time to get around to?

Now, don’t get me wrong. You need down time. You need time to re-charge.  That’s a nonnegotiable.

But, of the fifty-two hours that are completely yours to do with however you choose, what if just twenty of those hours were set aside every week to start and ship your latest idea?  Your latest challenge? your latest art? What if?

Suddenly, “I don’t have time” is no longer an excuse.



Thanks to Andy Stanley for doing the math.

To be Clear…

Posted in A Note to Directors, Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on February 6, 2013 by RobALott

“All outstanding organizations pursue clarity, passionately.  Lack of clarity comforts the mediocre.”  -Dan Rockwell

Of course, art is not science.  Artists live in the grey, in the hazy, in the unclear.

But your art is not aiming for mediocre.

So then, out of all that comforting grey, where are you being absolutely clear in your art?  Are you clear in your direction?  Are you clear in your vision?  Are there rules you will not break?  When it comes to your art, are there lines you will not cross?

Where are you clear?

Where are you lacking clarity?

Pay Attention to the Tension

Posted in A Note to Directors, Thoughts on Leadership on February 4, 2013 by RobALott

We’ve all been there. It’s in the final hours of tech week. It’s late. Everyone is tired. The coffee machine along with everyone’s words have long stopped working.

And the tension slowly but steadily begins to rise.

These people with whom you have spent the last number of weeks developing friendships and inside jokes all start to become short with each other. You are no longer saying what you mean, nor are you meaning what you say.  It’s bad.  And we’ve all been there.

First thing’s first. Remember that you do love and appreciate all these people, and they feel the same about you. So whenever possible, choose to make the choice that everyone gets a giant dose of grace and forgiveness. You know they didn’t mean it. So, let’s forget it and move on.

To be clear: This is not sweeping it under the rug. This is simply old fashioned forgiveness and understanding.

But what to do when the offense is too big, or the offender is too persistent?

A new choice must be made. The choice to bring all offense to light. To recognize it and put it all out there.

Was it you who did the offending? Put it out there. Own it. And apologize for it. As soon as possible.

(Read that last line again.)

I know it’s easier said than done. But as we all know, if it was easy everyone would be doing it. And we’re not in the business of easy anyway.

Was it they who did the offending? Start with forgiveness, but get it out there. And then own your part that caused the harsh action.

For some of you, this is easy. You love the confrontation and you love the tension. You are great arguers, so bring it on!

For the rest of us, our tendency is avoidance.  Fear of making things worse with a difficult conversation.  Fear of offending someone even more for calling them out on their offense. Or fear of awkwardness from admitting offense. We sweep it under the rug, we don’t talk about it, and we let the tension fester.

Tension and artistry do not mix. Not this kind of tension, at least. Tension must be brought to light. Lean hard into the tension and recognize it for what it is.

Tension is only strong in darkness. But once it’s out in the light you’ll find that tension loses all its power.


Some Extra Thoughts…

Try making this agreement with your cast and crew before the high stress arrives.

If you make a commitment with yourself and with your team to bring all offense to light and you know that eventually you are going to have to apologize for the harsh action you are about to take…it certainly will help you reevaluate your choice.