by Trent Rentsch
“Yes, there are two paths you can go by,
but in the long run,
there’s still time to change
the road you’re on.”
-- Page & Plant
Looking back is a nasty habit that I find hard to break. Not that there’s anything wrong with memories, but there is a problem with the filters I wear. For example, that summer day between 3rd and 4th grade, racing Kristine from across the street… what kind of bonehead trips, falls and breaks their arm on the edge of a driveway? And then feels sorry for himself and sits in the house all summer, ballooning to “husky” by fall? Yeah, that was the start of the weight problem, but do I ever choose to do anything about it? Nope… even when I become the joke of Middle School and much of High School. Good Lord, no wonder I didn’t have a girlfriend until my senior year… who would go out with the fat, geeky joke of the school… and, you see the problem with my perception of the past.
It hasn’t gotten any easier as an adult. I recently had a childhood friend remark that I’ve had a pretty cool career. “I suppose so,” I replied, “I’ve been damned lucky.” I’ve been saying that for a number of years, and believing it even longer. After all, I’ve stumbled into some great gigs that I really never felt like I had the skills or talent to pull off. And looking back, all I can remember are the examples of failures that prove that point. Yep, just dumb luck… that’s me.
Going out on a limb here, I’m going to suggest that my little pity party might sound familiar to you (and even if it doesn’t, bear with me). While it’s human nature to focus on the negative, the tendency for Creatives to take that negativity and blow it all out of proportion into a universe of self-loathing and frustration is well documented. Hemingway is a tragic example of how low those negative perceptions of yourself and your life can take you.
A number of events have recently made me reconsider the way I look and deal with the past. The whys are less important than what I’m doing about all that negative crap I’ve been feeding me about, me. First off, the past is past. Done, outta there, over and OUT! No going back now, no sense in “what if’ing.” Second, if I do happen to look back and see myself doing “something stupid,” I’m trying to learn from what I see as a mistake, so I don’t make it again, instead of telling myself what an idiot I was over and over. Third and most importantly, I’m trying hard not to buy into the image I have of myself and the Creative work I have done and do today, based on some sideways tainted view of “the old me.” Here and now, I am who I am… not who I was, not who I will be.
So, here we are, in the moment. It’s freeing and a bit scary, whether you’re the type to pound yourself over the past or not. Because when you stand in the harsh light of now, you can truly and objectively see who you are and what you’re capable of.
What do you see, right now? Your strengths, your weaknesses? Do you even care about where you are, what you’re doing? Or are you simply doing it because “it’s all you’ve ever done?” These are important questions, because the answers can be a road map to where you go from here.
Perhaps you’re a great voice talent, but your copywriting skills are lacking. You could read some of the many fine books on the market about copywriting, perhaps even take a class… or you could simply choose to let it go, and focus on adding some extra polish to those golden vocal cords, and let somebody else worry about the words you’re going to say. Or maybe you happened to “fall into” production at your station early in your career, due to an internship that turned into a gig, or a desperate need to find, something, anything in the business… when what you really always wanted to do was host a talk show, or read news. Perhaps it’s time to ask the PD in your cluster if they need a weekend show fill or newscaster, and shift your focus towards your true Creative desire.
Our lives are built on our past experiences, but allowing our focus on the past to cloud us to who we are now can stifle any growth towards who we want to be. This is all heady stuff, and might not help you with a Creative idea for the barber shop down the street, but in the long run it will make you the person you want to be. And whoever that is will be a great person… a GREAT Creative! Always was, actually…