Monday, June 04, 2012

It's Your Attitude

On some website ... or maybe it was a magazine article ... a wise person wrote:

"You can't control people. Or daily events. But you can control your attitude."

Well, sometimes ...

Biz repping at the front end of the nineties, I had the good fortune to be standing in the middle of an animation industry updraft, with jobs proliferating, salaries rising like helium balloons, and artists who wanted employment getting employment. (Mostly.)

During that happy time, I had a bunch of people marching through my office asking "Where's work?" And I pointed them toward one studio or another, and most of them went to those studios and found work. And I began to feel pretty good about myself, because lots of people were getting jobs with sizable salaries, and many were telling me I had helped them. (I had, after all, given out a studio recruiter's phone number.) But in reality I was only slightly more responsible for them getting their pricey cartoon jobs than a crowing rooster has something to do with the sun coming up in the morning. The work was expanding, and they had the skill sets to get it. I was just a conduit.

But it made it easy for me to feel good about life, about my place in the world, about wonderful little S. Hulett. And so it made for a rude shock when the industry went south and people started getting laid off in droves and venting their anger at the same S. Hulett. ("You have a job! I'm unemployed! How does it feel?!") I got stressed out and took a lot of the downsizing personally, just as -- a few years earlier -- I had taken the frenzy of hiring amid the studio expansions personally.

After two years of steady job losses, I realized I had to stop internalizing the downs of the cartoon business the way I had internalized the ups, otherwise the insomnia would become permanent and my head would explode.

So little by little, I separated myself emotionally from the bad times, since there wasn't a damn thing I could do to prevent them from happening anyway. (It's a little like being a paramedic: You can't go to pieces every time you come across the latest disaster. Doesn't do you or anybody else any good.)

And I came to understand that when I detached, I could do my job better, because I didn't become stuck on the negative side of the ledger, but pushed on and did my job, which was policing contracts, negotiating new ones and serving membership, instead of wallowing in the miseries of the moment.

The business changed in the new century, but eventually righted itself and found a new equilibrium (not all of it wonderful for old-timers.) And I learned the lesson I never absorbed in the 1990s:

Don't get wrapped up in every defeat and victory. They all pass. Separate yourself from the hub-bub, calm your mind, and focus on the important, long-term agenda items.

It's been a useful rule to live by. Once in a while I even manage to achieve it.


Anonymous said...

jester:I know what will cheer you up. Take a box full of crayons and draw your happiness.=D

Floyd Norman said...

Having been in this business way too many years I was familiar with the "roller coaster" ride. A lot of kids who came into the cartoon biz in the 80's and 90's were blissfully naive.

In any case, I'm one of the old timers who managed to survive. And, I'm not losing any sleep.

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