When I was first learning about video production and post-production, I spent nearly all of my time on the technical skills and putting myself in positions to practice them. I volunteered to shoot and edit wedding videos, graduation videos, promotional videos, music videos, concerts, lectures… pretty much anything I could get my hands on.
I spent years doing these kinds of jobs and eventually they turned into paid freelance gigs. I saw a massive development in skills in this time, mostly because I was using them consistently.
But, something held me back in a major way, something that took me years of focused work to learn about and improve: my mindset.
Developing a Positive and Successful Mindset
While I do think everyone, especially beginners, should be focused on technical skills, there comes a time in each person’s journey where they need to take a step back and learn more about philosophy and mindset.
And that’s exactly why this post comes after a long line of technical posts. The last thing I want is for beginners who barely know how to work a camera or editing software to focus too heavily on philosophy rather than action.
That said, it is appropriate to take the time to learn and develop your philosophy, regardless of your pursuit, and learn how to apply your philosophy in a practical way.
The idea of philosophy and philosophizers drove me absolutely crazy in college. Sitting in a classroom or small group, speculating with people about esoteric and existential ideas, is my personal hell. It’s not that I don’t think these ideas are important, I just don’t think sitting around and talking about them does any good.
Despite my aversion to philosophy, I picked up a book a few years ago that was recommended by a friend that completely changed my view on philosophy and, in turn, improved my emotional wellbeing.
The book was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Meditations is not a book, it is a collection of journal entries written by Marcus Aurelius that were never intended for publication. They outline the practical philosophy he tried to apply to everyday life. Aurelius was a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD and was considered the last of the Five Good Emperors. More important, he is one of the most celebrated stoic philosophers, and Meditations stands as one of the greatest works of stoic philosophy of all time.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” -Marcus Aurelius
What is stoic philosophy? Simply put, stoicism is a philosophy meant to be practiced daily. In fact, the stoics often write about the idea of study vs. practice and argue that philosophy is meant to be practiced more than it is studied, an idea that runs contrary to most other philosophies. Stoicism is particularly interested in emotional self-control and urges its followers not to let external events, things that happen outside of a person’s control, influence their internal state.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius
I hesitate to preach, but I will say that stoicism changed my life in a major way. As soon as I started to practice stoic philosophy, I immediately found myself less stressed and anxious, more accepting of life’s circumstances, and I slowly became happier. The truth is that life reflects your own thoughts and actions back at you, so if you start to practice positive thinking and actions, life becomes more positive. That’s exactly what happened for me, and I give credit to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius for that change.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets
Though I am fond of Meditations and recommend it before any other book, philosophy was not the only thing that had a positive influence in my life.
In fact, my emotional state was only one part of my life that needed to be upgraded. The other part was my mindset. Perhaps the best book I’ve discovered that effectively summarizes all that I had to do to upgrade my thinking is Mindset by Carol Dweck.
Dweck talks about the difference between growth and fixed mindsets. In her own words:
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships. When you read Mindset, you’ll see how.
Admittedly, my mindset is fixed by nature, and that seems to be what I default to when I’m not actively trying to be more flexible. This, unfortunately, causes me to run into obstacles and think that I’m just not good enough to overcome them. It’s not until I sulk around, brood for awhile, and then start pursuing a growth mindset that I can finally see what it takes to overcome these obstacles: study more, practice more, and be resilient in the face of failure until I finally move forward.
Of course, my path to a growth mindset comes with the help of music, movies, books, podcasts, and all kinds of other forms of art and education that help push me forward. That said, Mindset articulates this path better than I could ever hope to. For that reason, I recommend the book to anyone and everyone I see fit.
Hard Work & Flow
Now, all of this frou-frou philosophy and mindset talk is all well-and-good, but it does not replace good, old-fashioned hard work. In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell explores the 10,000 hours rule and cites a bunch of compelling stories to argue that, to master any craft, a person needs to devote at least 10,000 hours to it.
In one of my all-time favorite books, Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the famous psychologist investigates what he calls flow, the “optimal experience.” From his point of view, flow is the ultimate form of happiness, and an absence of flow states is a major cause of depression and anxiety in people. How is a flow state created? By mastering a craft — developing enough skill that you don’t have to actively think about the actions you are taking — and continuing to practice it often.
By achieving a flow state, you create space for creativity and other seemingly divine gifts that can only be reached when you’ve mastered something, and these things can be a great source of happiness.
You Can Reach Your Goals
When I was a teenager, learning how to shoot and edit for the very first time, I couldn’t have imagined I’d be working on shows like Lockup for MSNBC, Top Chef for Bravo, or Project Greenlight for HBO.
Truthfully, I have no special talent or gift for video production. In fact, I often look at people much younger and much less experienced than myself and marvel at the things they are able to create.
That said, my career and my journey have been the result of focused effort: ten years of study and practice, repeated in a cycle over-and-over again. My achievements are a testament to the fact that, with hard work, determination, and a proper mindset, anyone can reach their goals.
It’s now my goal to share my experiences and my knowledge with you in hopes that it will help you in your journey and encourage you to continue studying and practicing alongside me.
What will it take to reach our goals? Simple. You and I both need to make more movies.
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