Environment is EVERYTHING.
No-one wants to really confront this, but it’s really simple. We become the five people we hang out with.
And these five people may well be the biggest five reasons your career is not going where you thought it would be going when you began your journey.
Uncomfortable, I know.
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure these five people love you, and you love them too. I am sure they also tell you how much they want you to succeed, and they really most likely mean it too. The problem is they are probably not driven like you are. They don’t have your standards.
How often have you heard ‘Come on, take a break, you are all work and no fun, chill out for a while, have another drink…’ or worse ‘why are you chasing that dream again…?’ or ‘when are you going to get a real job’.
I have heard these things said to me many times as I suspect you have too.
And again, it’s usually said out of love.
When it happens to me it often slows me down from achieving my goals, or I relax a little and lower my standards, telling myself ‘it’s just for now… I will get back to it one day, someday’. Of course the road to ‘one day, someday leads nowhere’. And on that road there is plenty of traffic too. In fact it’s almost gridlocked with people working on their dreams ‘one day, someday’. Continuing the analogy, that’s why there is so little traffic ‘on the extra mile’. You want peers who will drive you onto that ‘extra mile’.
Those of us who have been lucky enough to be part of large scale events like making feature films will know the value of outstanding peer groups.
I recall on my first film, after six weeks of shooting the team had gone through so much and had bonded so deeply that none of us wanted to go back to the ‘real world’. We instinctively knew that in returning to our old peer groups would cause us to drop our standards. There is something miraculous in being pushed through the pain by our peers, and when it happens, we all know it, we can see it, we can feel it. And it’s awesome. It’s one reason filmmakers so often want to get back on set and working with an outstanding crew. Some call it hard work, I call it the desire to be among people who have outstanding personal standards.
So why do those around us, those who apparently love us the most, behave in this way and try and hold us back?
Simply put, while they do love you, deep down, they also know that you have the capacity for success. And if you achieve that success, they are afraid they will get left behind. If you do leave, they will feel a sense of loss. They will feel pain. This isn’t usually a conscious process for the people around you, but it is at work.
So what is the answer?
Develop a new peer group who will hold you to OUTSTANDING standards. Then make those people the ones you hang out with.
I am not saying abandon your old friends or your family, but can you reduce time spent with the ones who hold you back with their low standards? Some other friends you may chose to completely remove from your life. You will know in your gut who these people are.
You can also bring your existing peer group up to your standards. It’s harder to do this, but it is possible. And in some instances, this could be much more rewarding, being a leader to those who are closest to you. That’s truly extraordinary.
And when it comes to family? Listen, love your family of course.
But choose your peers… or at the very least, lead your peers and inspire them to raise their standards.
This was one of the core messages in my opening presentation at the London Screenwriters’ Festival last year. Each year I see amazing, passionate, driven screenwriters who come back because they get to reconnect with a peer group that’s nearly 1,000 strong now – a peer group with OUTSTANDING STANDARDS. And I wanted the LSF newcomers last year to waste no time in diving into this new family where anything seems possible. Hell, it all seems inevitable when hanging around these guys.
The peer group energy at the LSF causes a transformation in attitude, experience but most of all ambition. The whole event crackles with possibility.
Standards are raised.
Peers hold each other to account.
This is the cauldron where success is forged… ‘I dare you to succeed’.
But I also get that you may not come, and that’s OK.
Either way, DO consider this message.
Your life and my life is short, your creativity like my creativity needs to be expressed in order to find fulfillment, and the only blocks we have are the ones we created ourselves by lowering our standards and settling for less. Are you making a living or designing YOUR life?
I look forward to seeing you at the LSF, or even better, let’s aim higher… I look forward to seeing you at the Oscars!
FOOTNOTE: I got a lot of messages about this post and have written a response exploring how disempowering beliefs limit out lives – you can read that and the responses to this post HERE.
Onwards and upwards!