Filmmaking (and “the Biz” in general) is not for the faint of heart. There’s no clear path to success. Those who “make it” do so through a wide variety of methods, and success does not necessarily equate to happiness. Countless stars have fallen by their own hand even at the height of their success, leaving many of us baffled. And, countless independent artists suffer unhappiness because we aren’t more “successful.”
Yet, in the film and television industry, especially with the power and reach of the internet and the evolution of new media, it’s hard to say what success actually is — how do you even define it? Is it getting paid to act, write, direct, etc.? Having a million subscribers and/or views on Youtube? Crushing the goal of your crowdfunding campaign? Getting cast in a network television show or blockbuster movie? Making your living through your art? Or, perhaps, doing what you love everyday, even if that includes getting paid to teach music or wait tables while you have the flexibility you need for your artistic work? Something else? Who knows? My definition of success is evolving. Overall, it’s safe to say that success, like beauty, is in the eye of beholder.
This is liberating because it means that YOU can (and should) define what success is for you. When we let others define what success looks like, we can become convinced that we’re not happy with something, when, perhaps, we are.
A friend of mine shared this quote:
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Theodore Roosevelt is credited with this quote, and I find it quite relevant in a world of social media that begs us to compare our life “status” to that of others and to consider how we measure up as we weigh our value in accordance to the number of Facebook friends/fans we have or Twitter followers, RTs and the like.
In an industry in which success seems so fleeting and can be measured in such vastly different ways, I suggest keeping this quote front and center (tape it on your bathroom mirror).
It can be easy to look at what a fellow indie filmmaker or actress friend is doing and view them as more “successful” and to wonder what we’re doing “wrong.” Yes, sometimes this is helpful as we learn from the strategies that work for others, but often it just steals our joy. We are each SO DIFFERENT. Our goals, life situations and priorities vary. Comparing our careers and lives to the careers and lives of others is sort of like comparing apples to oranges — no, actually, it’s much more like comparing apples to lobsters — it makes no sense. Yet, we do it all the time and thus, allow our joy to be stolen away. We steal it from ourselves every time we think we’re not good enough, have not accomplished enough, are not “successful” enough.
As a filmmaker, my medium is stories. This means, I’m kind of obsessed with them, and one of my favorite books about storytelling is The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, which grew out of a PBS documentary in the late 80s called Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth.
Filmmakers are essential mythmakers and many of us make films for the same reasons that storytellers told myths: to illuminate truth as we seek to understand ourselves and our place in the world. We’re not just searching for meaning, but are telling stories about the experience of meaning. We want to influence the world. We want change. We want to breath life into something and make the impossible possible.
Campbell stresses that to do all of those things we must become alive ourselves. We must be fully alive if we are to bring life to others and change the world. We must “follow our bliss.”
We can’t do that if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. They haven’t walked in our shoes and we haven’t walked in theirs, so judging our success in accordance with someone else’s is completely illogical and can keep us from seeing ourselves fully and completely — it can distance us from the joy that is present to us in our daily lives. It can keep us from seeing our own successes, like a kick-ass audition (whether we get the part or not), a film festival acceptance, our recent draft of a screenplay, an upcoming film shoot, another Youtube view, the recent download of our feature on Amazon, or even just getting up that day (sometimes that is a MAJOR success) or getting our children to school on time (another HUGE success). The success list actually goes on and on when we unplug for a second, take a few breaths and look at our lives with fresh eyes.
Don’t let comparison steal your joy. Don’t let Facebook keep you from your bliss. You deserve better than that — and the world needs you at your most blissful. Find your joy. Follow your bliss and share it! Celebrate your latest success with us — share something you’re proud of in the comments or by tweeting it at me @IndieJenFischer and @MsintheBiz — I’d love to RT and celebrate with you!