Can you forgive me for a momentary lack of loyalty?
For a second today, I abandoned my number one rule:
Never stop learning.
As you know, Tuesdays mean we have a guest speaker in class.
But I’m only human, and I made a mistake.
I momentarily caught myself thinking that I had nothing new to learn—mostly because I was missing being an extra in a movie to be in class—but nonetheless, I’m still embarrassed the thought even crossed my mind. How could I basically betray the whole purpose of my blog?
I’d like to think it wasn’t with pretentious way; thoughts like this aren’t a regular occurrence for me. But after three or four guest speakers combined with my circumstance, I started thinking: What does it even matter? Won’t their advice all be the same? To make connections? Work hard? To do our best?
Today, Amy Baer came to my rescue, and seriously proved me wrong. She completely flipped the table, and gave some of the most incredible advice I’ve ever received in my life. It was an absolute honor.
Amy Baer is a former studio executive (AKA the previous CEO of CBS Films and Executive Vice President of Sony Pictures…wowza) turned independent producer and founder of her own content company, Gidden Media. Baer and her Gidden colleagues, Chris Ceccoti (JMU Alumni…whoop whoop) and Jes Bikert, were kind enough to share a little bit of their stories and give us some insight into the professional world.
Amy started with my favorite thing to hear from people:
When Baer started her career, she was working at a desk. She began thinking rather quickly: ”How do I break out of this mold?” She was terrified that she would get comfortable; that she would become a career secretary. Working at a popular company, she realized that nothing about it was appealing other than the outside perspective; that the company was “cool” and “big.”
She said one day it hit her: “I’m not exactly sure what I want, but I know it’s not this.”
I think this is all something we can relate to—or will at some point in our lives—whether it’s a job, internship, relationship, or something of the sort. Here’s some freaking great advice from Amy Baer on how she handled it, and what she’s learned over the course of her career.
Before your happily ever after
One of the very first things Amy told us, is to tune in internally and really get clear on what we want to be doing.
“You have to be clear internally, because this is a noisy business.”
We know in our gut what kind of things we enjoy doing naturally; it’s instinctive. It’s pretty simple: you know what you like and what you don’t—whether you know exactly what you want to do with your life, or not. Don’t focus on the job title you want, or the position you crave. Focus on what you love to do.
Sounds easy, right?
But with your first few jobs, that might get put to the test.
You might have to try a few places or positions to figure out where your heart lies.
So onto the next chapter of life.
During your happily ever after
So you finally get your ‘happily ever after’ job.
Or at least—you think you do.
But the story isn’t over here.
The truth is, what we usually think is our end destination, is only the beginning.
The show goes on—and there might be a few plot twists along the way.
Here’s five things you may want to know.
1. Part of remaining happy in what you do involves holding near and dear what’s valuable to you. It’s unavoidable: at some point in your career, you will have to choose between what you value, and your job. At one point in her life, Amy got offered a great job opportunity with DreamWorks, but she had to watch another person get it because she didn’t want to move her kids in school. You will have to choose. And because of this, you won’t get every job. But you will ultimately get to keep and have what you love and value. As for Amy, she didn’t get that specific job. But in the end, she got the job. (I mean…she’s running her own company!)
2. Discover and create a safe space with a great group of people where ideas can be kicked around without judgment. The people in this environment should be encouraging, but everyone should constantly be pushing and challenging one another also. Jes loved a script they received about rice. It was a strange concept, but he went for it anyways. He told Amy to read it, and she ended up loving it too—all because she was open to it.
3. If you’re afraid, this business is not for you. Amy told us that we’re constantly going to be told our idea “won’t work.” She has received feedback on pitches multiple times: ”No one is going to buy this.” She told us, “Well that’s their opinion. Next phone call.” And even we you do get it—everybody falls flat on their face at some point. “Everybody. Everybody. Everybody,” she said. “And it’s not ‘if’. It’s ‘when.'” One or two or five projects are bound to be a bust. But there are one or two or five that won’t be.
4. If you’re looking for security, this business is also not for you. Things are changing, constantly. Nothing is promised. But the good news? There’s endless possibility. Especially in this day and age.
5. Beware of boredom. And most importantly, when you do get bored with what you’re doing, leave. Fear boredom like the plague. Don’t listen to the paycheck, or the voices that say, “This is what I should be doing next.” Hating or becoming disinterested in what you do everyday—and staying—is death on earth. You should love what you do, because it’s what you’re spending your life doing.
When you do come to that fork in the road, feeling unhappy or unsure about what you’re doing, really sit down and ask yourself this:
“Why am I doing this?”
Baer had to ask herself this when she found herself unhappy at one of her jobs. She remembered thinking, again,
“This is not what I want to be doing.”
She recalled her earliest memories of being happy. “When I was younger, I fell in love with the way I felt when I watched movies. I thought, ‘What does this job have to do with creative content?’ It didn’t. So I quit.”
When it came time for questions, I asked: “How do you know it’s definitely time to leave, or if you should stay a little bit longer to get the most of the experience?” Chris answered: “Ask yourself: ‘Am I still learning things? Am I growing?’ If not, it’s probably time to go.”
As we were about to move onto to the next question, Amy came back to me and told me something I’ll never forget—or at least something I never want to.
She told us to always ask ourselves:
“Am I serving where my passion is?”
And I think that pretty much sums up the entirety of the talk.
Go where you are able to serve your passion by doing what you love.
Go work happily ever after.
But like any old tale, we have to question it’s authenticity.
Is ‘happily ever after’ a real thing?
Maybe we’ll work happily ever after, and that will be the end of it.
But maybe we’ll spend our whole lives searching for what we love to do, finally finding it, and then searching and finding it all over again.
Like Brenna expressed in her guest post a few days ago, many fear being average.
But what I fear?
Finding something above average that I love doing, but never being satisfied with it somehow; always wanting more.
That idea is actually terrifying to me. But in a way—it’s inspiring. It’s fantastic. It’s whimsical. It’s magical.
A world of opportunity is a scary thing.
But it only means more opportunity for us to keep falling in love with different aspects and subsets and branches of what we love to do. It means we have the opportunity to constantly create different things, think in new ways, and continually change and impact our corner of the world. We just can’t fear the change.
So how does it end?
It looks like we’ll work happily ever after—
—until our next fairytale carries us away.