I hear excuses all day long. Especially in a city like LA where people, myself included, come up with the most creative reasons why we can’t make it to a friend’s birthday party or an event we meant to be at. Truth is, we all work too hard and cram so much into our day that we get tired, and that 2-hour trek across town plus 45 minutes to park is a scenario no one has the energy to tack onto an already exhausting day. And hey, that’s ok. When it comes to personal situations, our friends will either understand and/or eventually forgive us.
The issue is, especially in a city like LA, that far too often people feel this is an acceptable approach to handling professional scenarios as well. Backing out of projects last minute, not doing the work you promised, and sometimes dropping off the face of the Earth without a peep of communication. Because of [insert excuse here]. The sad fact is that this behavior is expected in this city. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “That’s just how people are in LA.” It makes me wonder how anything gets done. EVER.
Here’s how: reliable people team up with reliable people. Those we can’t rely on are never called again. Period.
I’m not intending this to be a negative article, nor do I want you to scream out “F#$% those people!” (Because we’ve ALL done this to others.) I simply want to create awareness of what this behavior actually does to the project, person and/or team you’ve abandoned, and how it’s not the clean getaway you think. I’ll also give you some advice on how to avoid being one of “those people.”
Are you ready?
Let’s look at an average day of a Producer, who does much of the hiring in this city. We wake up early, roll out of bed, grab coffee and sit down to work. We spend about 10-16 hours doing everything from writing contracts to creating schedules to booking talent, organizing a huge crew, being in meetings, looking for locations, taking phone calls, working with clients, solidifying plans, researching, emailing, you name it. Our days are packed full of organizational activities that all lead to an end product: a well-planned, successful shoot day. So what happens when we spent weeks, even months getting everything in place, and someone decides they don’t feel like showing up? It’s a stressful, insane scramble to fix it. We’re on the phone calling all of our contacts to help find a replacement. Everyone is waiting and we have work to do.
That’s just one example, and there are plenty of others. Point is, every time you are not accountable for the work someone is relying on you for, you’re single handedly crippling his or her business. If they’re smart (no matter how much they may like you personally), they’ll never work with you again. If they’re connected, word will spread and you may never work again.
Sure, there are valid excuses, and we must be open and understanding when someone truly has to bail. I’m also not indicating those who make excuses are “bad” people either because, most of the time, excuses stem from common circumstances we all have the power to avoid.
How do we avoid them? A few tips:
1. Don’t overcommit
For some reason, especially in the world of entertainment, we think we have to be a jack-of-all-trades because it leaves multiple avenues of possibility open. We commit to too many things at once because one of them might lead to success. The reality of it is, when you don’t have the time to focus and dedicate yourself to one or two projects at a time; you can’t do your best work. There simply isn’t enough time in the day, and solid work takes time. (Remember, you were hired to do that work). The result? Projects will fail, barely passable work will be delivered, we’ll be angry at anyone and everyone waiting on us, deadlines will be missed and we end up getting burnt out, quick. Once we realize we can’t possibly keep up with this break-neck speed, we make excuses to back out of work, leaving others hanging.
By simply taking on less work in the first place, all of the above can be avoided, and you’ll put out better work more often.
2. Be clear about what you want and DO THAT
If you want to be an actress, why are you writing a script? Sometimes we work on projects just because they are offered to us and it feels good to work. We don’t always consider whether the project is in alignment with our overall goals. When work and goals aren’t aligned, the passion for it will fizzle, and we’ll eventually get bored and make excuses to get out of it. What a waste of time and energy! Try sitting down for one day to really think about your career goals. Be super clear about what you want and write it down. I love vision boards because they force us to visualize our goals, and we have to look at them every day, reinforcing our choices. Then when opportunities arise, you can clearly ask yourself, “does this align with what I want?” If not, say no.
Bonus! When you focus on clear goals, you will manifest those goals. You’ll find yourself talking about what you want, others will hear, and it will lead to work and opportunities! If we are a mash-up of too many things, we aren’t giving the universe a clear direction for us and we’ll be spammed with unrelated crap.
3. Passive behavior serves no one
Master the art of saying “no.” Everyone wants a piece of you in this business, especially when you’ve achieved some level of success, and some folks feel guilty turning down work. Perhaps a friend needs our help, and how can we say no? Other times, we aren’t used to being in demand and we fear this will be the only work we’ll get. The truth is, you want to say no for a reason. You don’t have the time, you aren’t passionate about the project or you just don’t want to do it. If we move forward saying yes when we mean no, the result is the same: the person relying on us will suffer. Trust me on this one. You’re doing them a favor by saying no. Friends and colleagues may be bummed, and you may suffer through a guilt trip or ten; but in the long run, the requestor will end up finding someone else who is just as passionate about their work, and everyone will be happier – and hopefully more successful.
We all have different paths in life. No one should ever feel guilty for choosing to stick with the path laid out before him or her. Sometimes it takes a solid “no” to fend off the clutter that’s not part of your direct route. And in the end, that’s far better than making excuses later on.
4. DO THE WORK
No excuses. I just read an amazing article on one of my favorite blogs PositivelyPositive.com by Hailey Hobson that sums up my opinion on this topic quite nicely. She says, “Every single person on this planet is given the gift of life, but the vast majority don’t know how to show up. I hear it all the time: I coulda, woulda, shoulda. Don’t be that person living for the future, stuck in the past, or fantasizing about the person you want to be, think you are, or will become tomorrow. If you want to get it done, DO IT.
In other words, you are not only accountable for letting down others; you are accountable for letting down YOU. Don’t blame anyone else or fabricate excuses for not doing the work you want to do. If we really, truly want something in life, it’s up to us to make it happen.
It’s OUR responsibility to work hard towards our goals.
It’s OUR responsibility to hustle.
It’s OUR responsibility to be creative and live outside the box.
It’s OUR responsibility to deal with people being upset with us when we say no.
It’s OUR responsibility to sacrifice and to inspire.
It’s OUR responsibility to DO THE WORK. No excuses.
The life we want is full steam ahead. We can take a more direct route and make a lot less excuses on the way to our destination.