It’s my little bro’s birthday today. When I say “little”, I mean in age, for at 6’5, I am one inch his little bro. But, with nine years life experience on him, I’m hoping I can offer some insight about stepping out and taking charge of his work life.
I remember what it was like job hunting post-university in my early 20’s. The work you’re offered is usually far from where you want to be, with no clear path of the steps to attain your long-term goal anyway.
My first job was working in breakfast television as a production assistant. While it was reassuring to have a staff position, I only lasted a couple of months before I got itchy feet. I packed the job in and took off to Brazil, Europe, Africa.
I’ve always had the sense that time is limited. As time passes, I’ve also come to understand it as one of our most valuable assets. For me, it makes sense to take the risk to explore the world and find something I’m passionate about, rather than stay put and wonder what might have been on the other side.
When I returned from my world travels, it also made sense for me to go freelance, and in more recent years, start a business. The reward of owning my own time, choosing priorities, and being proactive in my growth, outweighs the consistency of full-time pay.
My bro is currently between government contracts and said he was waiting to hear back about the next one. But, he also made $500 this month designing custom drawers for a 4WD and reworking a Harley Davidson. That’s the origin of a business!
So on his birthday, I wanted to share 6 insights I believe are critical in taking a proactive attitude towards success.
1. Present your future-self to the people you meet.
Americans do this well.
I’ll meet a person at a function who will introduce herself to me as an actress. She’ll give me a card with a headshot and tell me about a recent film she was in. I know she works in a bar. That is her main source of income, but at this point, that is irrelevant.
Our common point of interest is making films, and the priority of our conversation should be working out if we have cohesive personalities, values, interests, ideas, sense of humor, etc. She would do herself a disservice if she opened with the line “I work in a bar, but I really want to be an actress”.
Other people often give us more credit than we give ourselves, so put your insecurities aside and just speak freely about your current work and aspirations. You might inspire your new friend.
2. People always want to put you in a box. That’s fine. Just give them 9 different boxes.
In my early 20’s, there was a brief time I was a “slashie” — writer/ director/ producer/ actor/ model/ TV presenter/ photographer/ cinematographer/ editor. I’m young; the world’s an exciting place; I want to try it all!
However, it gets darn confusing when you throw so many variables at someone. They’ll leave the conversation with less of an idea of how you might be of interest to them than when you met.
The fact is, in your early 20’s you’re probably going to have many different “hats”, or boxes, as you experiment and find what you enjoy doing. This is good! Even established entrepreneurs and businesses continue to diversify and experiment with new ventures. Just make sure you present each skill or business or idea with clear parameters.
Create different business cards and portfolio websites for each venture. You as a person are the umbrella to bring all those facets together, but you decide on a person-by-person basis the relevant identity to present. On social media like LinkedIn, present only your core role.
You’ll see I’ve reduced this website to two core facets: my direction of moving images and still images. Many of my other “slashie” skills and experience are now utilized under my umbrella role as a director.
My business advisor Monica Davidson gave me this advice, and it’s been instrumental in refining the presentation of my skills over many years. If you’re in Australia, I recommend her workshop for creative businesses: freelancesuccess.com.au
3. Create an online portfolio website.
Less is more. Present only your best work.
Search Engine Optimization aside, I think the initial value of a well thought-out website is not traffic from random strangers, but comes from the people you meet In Real Life.
You meet someone, they like you, you give them a business card. It looks good and stirs their interest. They look up your website. They’re impressed by a clear and simple demonstration that you can execute in detail the task you were discussing in person. Having this forward-facing entity establishes credibility and a history. They’ve already met you, and now trust you enough to hire you or buy your product.
For more detailed information on what to include (and what to leave out) from your website, read Matias Corea’s article on 99U about creating an online portfolio.
4. You already know everyone you need to know.
This is essentially refocusing the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” to understand that the people you need to know are already in your address book, not the cold-calls you think you have to make to powerful people.
In short, make a list of 100 people who have some level of mutual friendship/ acquaintance/ concern for you. Also list 40 goals you want to achieve, big or little, business or personal (it’s important to be specific). Then match the dots. Who can help you with what goal?
Your 100 people have their own network of 100 people, giving you potential access to 10,000 people. You only need 1 person to open the right door, so you have good odds.
Pride and fear keep us from asking for help from friends, but all successful people are able to ask for help. Whatever you truly want in life, it will always involve relationships. Instead of cold-calling strangers, it’s better to be “doing life” with your friends. Friends are naturally prewired with a desire to help you anyway, and you them.
This tip comes from Bob Beaudine who wrote “The Power of WHO!” (gotta say that like an owl). A random book I perused while subletting a stranger’s apartment in New York City.
5. If you want different results, try something different.
This one is simple, yet people continue with the same activities, expecting opportunities will magically shift in their favor with the passing of time. They won’t.
I mean, they might, but you’ll probably be dead by then. Rather than wait, take a calculated risk.
The important note here is that it doesn’t have to be seismic life-shift that turns your world upside down, like quitting a full-time job. Beginning small is the key! And, like Jullien Gordon in his talk “Side Hustlas” at TEDxMidwest delves into, start your venture as something you hustle on the side — in addition to your other job.
This brings us down to the question, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Maybe you are simply doing your job to make money. That’s great! However, in the long-term, even that money to sustain your life has to funnel into a more intrinsic value system to carry a sense of fulfillment.
6. Know Thy Self.
What do you want to do?
If you don’t know what you want to do… how do you find out?
I’ve always known I wanted to direct, yet it took a good portion of my 20’s to feel grounded in my craft. There’s always more to grow into, as well as the deeper question, What do I want the films I direct to be about?
I’ll leave this post with words from the late British philosopher Alan Watts, who asks “What makes you itch?”:
What would you like to do if money were no object? Do that. Become a master of it. Then you will get a good fee for it.
Happy birthday, bro! My prayer is you take that risk and try something new, that time be on your side, and that you sense fulfillment in what you do.