As you work for different people and organizations, or even start your own, you are only really guaranteed one thing: experience. I don’t say this as a negative thing, but rather as something to be embraced. Regardless of your success, it is helpful to reflect on what you have learned, and be more intentional about how you move forward in life and work.
This post is the result of my reflecting on some of the most impacting values I’ve learned in the last few years through various jobs. I have been fortunate to work under some great leaders, and this is a snippet of their legacies. They are things that I try to live myself, and what I look for in those I work alongside. My working context is within video production, but hopefully these ideas will apply in other contexts as well.
1) Learn how to learn
The goal here is to be able to learn any skill or ability within your trade without being taught directly. I attended a media internship that almost revolted against classroom teaching. Everything was hands-on, almost to a fault for those less motivated. The reason? No one will teach you so clearly & intentionally once you’re hired for a job. If you mess up, you don’t get a D+. You get fired. So learn how to learn the skill needed within your trade at any given time. This applies more and more as technology is quickly evolving. Once this skill is developed, many others will follow.
2) Glean constantly
Surround yourself with people that have more experience and passion than you. This is important, but needs to be done with tact. Start by being a fly on the wall. Watch. Listen. There’s a time to offer help and a time to be silent. Try to find out things like how people make decisions in a crisis. If you were to ask me, “How do you make decisions under a deadline?” I’m sure I would be tongue-tied, but hang out with me during one, and you’ll see. Some things must be experienced in order to be learned. So spend time around people experiencing.
3) Collaborate often
When collaboration is done right, there are so many benefits I cannot list them all. Working alongside someone whose strength is your
weakness area of improvement can make a big difference. Good collaboration can only happen when there is mutual trust. However, this doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. Enter conflicts with temperance. Defend your ideas without getting defensive, and listen to others ideas. Often the best solutions will be a blend of many ideas. Then everyone feels heard, and will engage more fully in the work. Working in a creative field, I love the subtle critiques my coworkers offer. It is invaluable having others from whom to bounce off ideas.
4) Be faithful in the small things
If you’re just starting out, then this is about showing that you can be trusted with small jobs, and therefore, may be given bigger ones. This was true for a make-up artist I met in Hollywood who said she spent 16 years working up to the position she now has. She slowly grew her skill and reputation and now works with major actors & models. However, being faithful in the seemingly insignificant tasks is really about doing whatever it is that needs to be done with excellence. The antonym for this value is entitlement. As soon as you think you deserve what you are longing for, let that be a red flag. Remember that faithfulness in the small things is the path to excellence in the big things.
5) Sweat & think
Working hard barely needs to be said. Yes, be a hard worker. Put in the long hours and give it your all. But there are many hard workers out there that are not successful. The world needs smart and hard workers. This one took me a long time to learn. I would pull all-nighters like it was my job (well, it sort of was as an edit assist). But I was doing it more than my peers. After a couple years of doing this over and over, I finally took a step back to assess my workflow. Turned out there was a better, faster way to do things. I implemented the more efficient methods, slept more, and almost instantly started getting assigned better jobs. Always look for more effective ways to accomplish things. Be a problem solver. Then your sweat can be spent on more important things. (The film, Urbanized, has some great examples on problem solving on city-wide scales.)
6) Keep your passion red-hot
If you begin to lack joy in your efforts, feeling burned out and bitter, then it is time to reignite the fire. Don’t quit in a moment (or season) of frustration with your work. The process of getting excited again may look different for everyone, but please be intentional about it. Your efforts are important in this world. People need what you have to offer. So take a camping trip. Go to a conference. Do a personal project that fuels your creativity without the outward pressure. Whatever it is for you, pause. Get refreshed. Return with vigor. Continue being awesome.
7) Know your vision
Why do you do what you do? What really drives you? The answer is your vision, and it should be crystal clear. Vision is bigger than the what or how of your work. It’s the why. The big picture. And it will guide how you make decisions about the course of your work. Don’t fret if you don’t know yours right now. It also takes time to figure out. I spent three years thinking and praying about mine before starting to develop it, and I continue to clarify it every couple of years. As John Maxwell says, “If you lack vision, look inside yourself. Draw on your natural gifts and desires. Look to your calling if you have one. And if you still don’t sense a vision of your own, then consider partnering with a leader whose vision resonates with you.”
WHAT ARE THE MOST MEMORABLE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED IN YOUR WORK?