Somehow — and they might be lying to me about this — but somehow, the year is over. What I mean to say is that this desk calendar I have is practically useless and I’ll be writing the wrong year on my checks until St. Patrick’s Day. I know, right? And I hardly noticed the 31st approaching so rapidly except for the usual influx of “year in review” or “resolutions for the new year” posts.
I’ve said before: I think resolutions are stupid. You’re coming off a gluttonous couple of months where you’ve been feeding yourself whole pies and sitting around watching Netflix all day long, only allowing yourself to do so because when January hits, you’ll be back on the wagon, one way or another. New Years resolution! A brand new me! Except no, that’s not what’s going to happen. Only about 26 percent of resolutions last past the 6 month mark.
But everyone loves to talk about it right now, so I may as well tell you what I think. And I think in the year ahead you could all stand to make some improvements to yourselves as editors and camera operators and producers. No, not just you. All of us. There’s always room for improvement, right? Nobody worth a damn would say they don’t need to improve.
But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about tech and software skills. There’s plenty of talk about that and you all know what you know and don’t know and need to know. I think that you (and me and all of us, but mostly you) could benefit much more from increased mindfulness in our contributions to the industry.
Like what? Like this.
Think before you blog/tweet/post. Whenever you’re going to jump into a conversation or post a thought you had, just consider this for a moment: does this tweet add anything new to the subject? Are you rehashing the same argument? Is your blog post contributing positively to the industry? I don’t mean to say you should only post glowing reviews, especially for products that cost real money and affect our livelihoods. But there’s a difference between a good bad review and a bad bad review, and I think we need more of the former.
Every time you post something, just think about how it may be perceived. If that’s the only thing a person has ever read that you wrote, what kind of impression does it leave?
Reduce your sarcasm. I’m a fan of dry humor in the right context. But sarcasm in text form is hard to decipher. And most of all, it goes with the point above: it’s often a weak substitute for a real thought or reaction, and probably doesn’t add much to the conversation. Instead of pulling out sarcasm, how about something more sincere, especially when you’re in the company of strangers and acquaintances.
Ask someone how you can help them. A lot of the conversation online is someone asking for help. Asking for feedback, testimonial or assistance, maybe here on the COW, on Twitter, or a Facebook group. A lot of the time it’s a question that’s been asked a lot because it’s someone who might be new to the industry or the online community. Instead of the typical “let me Google that for you, invalid”, how about you actually help them out, smug-free? Not everyone is in the middle of all this conversation every day, so they may not be up to speed on everything. People come from all kinds of backgrounds. If you can’t not be a smug replier, just move along.
Don’t complain. Online or in person, I’ve sometimes found myself in the middle of a conversation that was beginning to skew negative. Sometimes it’s the way a project is managed and our frustration gets the better of us. Or it could be negative feedback to something like a software update or the latest Apple computing device (what, that never happens!) Instead of joining in the complaints, change the sentiment. Look for a positive aspect. Call the crowd out for their nonconstructive whining. Or just don’t say anything. It’s hard to be positive (or even neutral) all the time, but it’s also hard to work around a chronic complainer.
For that matter, does everyone always need to know your every frustration or negative thought? It goes back to the first point: if this one thing were the only thing someone ever read from you, what kind of impression does it leave? Are you okay with that?
Be honest, but don’t be a jack-ass. I’ve known some people who thought of their cruel honesty as a badge of honor. They told everyone exactly what was on their mind and if it didn’t go over well, too bad. Honesty is important, from big things to small things. Discretion is important too.
Leave things better than you found them. Online or in person, when you enter a place and leave it behind, it should be better than you found it. When it comes to online interactions, this means not leaving a mess of arguments in your wake. In person, set yourself up so that you can always hand over your work with minimal effort. Either way, you don’t want your reputation tarnished by someone having to clean up a mess you made, literally or figuratively.
Let things go. Don’t hold grudges. If you feel a company or person has done wrong to you, let it go. Don’t whine about it, don’t tell everyone about your situation, and don’t bring it up every single day. Because even if the opposing party is in the wrong, YOU look like the d-bag. And holding on to stuff that happened is a great way to never move on to bigger and better things.
Give back. We’re lucky that we get to do this work every day, even if some days are annoying. Get some perspective by giving back to the industry in any way you can. Become a mentor, go to a high school or college, or make regular appearances in Basics forums to help out people who are just getting started. Volunteering your time to better the community improves everyone’s attitude — especially your own.
Try it for a day, a month. A daily affirmation. Think about your affect on the video production industry and ask yourself: is what I’m about to say, do, or type going to positively contribute to the conversation? You might be surprised at the things you don’t tweet and how much happier you are each day.
Or you might compartmentalize all that negativity and go bananas on me in six months, in which case I’m going to say bring it because it was worth the effort.