Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Building a Strong Foundation (In Life)

Before you decorate the roof, you must first build the foundations of the house deep into the ground.

In filmmaking, we call this “finding the broad stroke.” A couple of months ago, I sat at a film story-brainstorming meeting. We were all very excited about a new story we were working on. We had the details down to the characters’ colors, the time of day in which the story takes place, and we were chattering up a storm when one of the soft-spoken writers raised his hand, “But what is this film really about? In one sentence what is the backbone to the story?”

Now I ask you, what is the backbone to your dreams? Sure you can decorate your dreams with shingles, pretty flowers on the front porch, and a tire swing in the backyard, but what is it build upon? What is driving you? What is the reason?

Since I was in high school, I had dreams of being an art director. I didn’t know why I wanted to become one, just that I did and I worked really hard towards that trajectory. At age 19, I was given creative directorial duties at the community college theater program. At age 20, I was promoted at my work at Walt Disney into a supervisory creative role. At age 22-25, I directed plays at UC Berkeley. I am now currently working on two films as an art director. I had many chances at the role in the past and I messed up quite a bit in some of them. Because even when I had the title at an early age, I didn’t have a strong foundation to build my dreams upon. Growing up in a highly critical house being the shadow of my artistic older sister, I was constantly riddled with self-doubt, self-sabotage, and lack of belief in my own inner potential. I had no foundation. I may have looked like an accomplished decorated titled house on the outside, but the inside was bare bones.

It was as if I peered into the hood of a car and realized there was no engine. Perhaps the car had moved on its own because it was on a hill and gravity pulled it down into the valley at top speed. But when I found myself at the bottom of the pit, what drove my car, my dreams, up against the mountain?

It doesn’t take science to know that if you are empty or wounded on the inside, you cannot give much towards your dreams.

So how do you build the foundation for your dreams? It will differ from person to person. But first you must find the reason behind your dream. Then you must heal yourself from any physical, emotional, or mental splinters you might have had, so the trunks and roots of your dreams can grow deep into the ground. For a prominent blogger and millionaire business venture artist James Altucher, his physical and mental foundations are what were most important for him. If he is tired, and didn’t get enough sleep, or didn’t eat enough nutritional meals, he has a hard time focusing on his writing. So he makes sleep, exercise, and meals a priority. For Seal, her foundation is taking care of the physical body (yoga/jogging), meditation to quiet her inner critics (simple 5-10 minutes quiet time after she wakes up to know what to focus on during the day), as well as filling her creative life with daily adventures (visiting a bookstore, etc). When she sees new sights or experiences a new technique to approach her painting, the natural high can help her push pass the funk and challenges of going after her dreams. Her other foundation pillars also include integrity (she can’t take on a job if it goes against her values), community building (she wants other people to reach their dreams too, and she knows there are people she can count on when she’s down), optimism (you don’t know what’s going to happen within the next second, so why not hope for the best possible outcome?), and last but not least, her reason. At the heart of her dreams of being an artist, is the simple wish to share and be heard. To feel connected to other people through her art and her inner world. That’s it. Not as hard to accomplish and focus on her dreams when it’s narrowed down to a simple wish of living among other people and being understood.

What is your dream? What are your foundations to build upon?