Rejection Therapy

©Mike Rode
©Mike Rohde

A few weeks ago, I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR.  Any time I‘ve mentioned this conference to my friends, their eyes get wide and they all want to know more about it.  Essentially, WDS is a worldwide gathering of creative, unconventional people who want to live a remarkable life in a conventional world.

This was my second time attending WDS and I was inspired, enlightened, invigorated and awed by the speakers like Jonathan Fields, Nancy Duarte, Tess Vigeland, Chase Jarvis and many others.  There was one speaker Jia Jiang that really resonated with me.  He talked about his 100-day “rejection therapy” project. You can watch Jia’s talk online. He must have struck a chord with a lot of other people as well, because he brought the house down.

I’m certainly not a stranger to knowing what rejection feels like.  The last two years of my life I have been rejected more times than I have probably in my entire life.  It’s not that I’ve been seeking ways to get rejected.  It’s because I’ve pushed myself into new and foreign territories – I mean that both literally and figuratively.  For example, I challenged myself in my career by producing a big film project that literally took me around the world.  But when I think about the “journey” part and the production of that film, it pales compared to the hard work, time, blood, sweat and plenty of tears on getting the film seen. I got scads of rejection letters and emails from film festivals, distributors and agents but most outsiders see only my successes.

When I heard Jia talk about his rejections that led to his “rejection therapy”, I understood exactly how he felt.  In a way, I’ve lived my life like Jia’s rejection therapy. But, it wasn’t because I set out to heal myself from some missteps and misses that didn’t work out for me.  As I look back at some of the things that I’ve done in my life, I realize now that I was simply naively bold enough to do them.

I can’t really say that I have ever gotten used to rejection.  It continues to hit me hard at times.  But when that happens, I stop and I think about all the wonderful and crazy things that I’ve done in my life that never would have happened if I had let my past rejections stop me. I suppose I’m like one of those blow up punching bags that keeps popping back up.


Field of Dreams (and Video)

I love baseball – not sure why.  Maybe it’s just the idea of baseball that I love.  It’s traditional, American and a nostalgic reminder of summers past – at least for me.  I’m also a Cubs fan and I know what it’s like to be the eternal underdog, yet forever hopeful.  And that’s me – forever hopeful and optimistic. cubs_fans

I watched the movie “Field of Dreams” recently and I realized that it’s not really about baseball at all.  But about a belief in your dreams and following through with what you believe in.  And to do that you must be hopeful.

What does that have to do with video?  Nothing really, but it’s why I started exploring this medium 10 years ago, when technology was transforming video because it was going from an analog to a digital world.  And because of that, it was dramatically changing not only that “industry” but our culture as well.  It became “possible” to further your dreams – because of technology.  Whether that be shooting a full length “film” from a creator’s stand point or presenting and distributing your “brand” in a new way via a new platform (the web) and one where you can interact with your “target audience”.

Ten years have gone by since I started shooting digital video.  It’s been a challenging, yet rewarding time in my life and my career.  I have a tremendous sense of hope and see opportunities in this medium because I think it’s just the beginning of how we’ll see, hear and experience  video in our lives.

The video world is full of crazy formats and codecs as well as other unknowns and it can be scary for a photographer to jump into an entirely different mind set – let alone skill set. But taking risks can yield great rewards.  You just never know unless you take the chance.

Being Proactive vs Reactive

I have always approached new technology in a backwards sort of way. I’m not one to buy the latest camera or software version if I don’t have a need driving me in that direction. I got into video because I felt the need to incorporate motion and sound to the stories that I wanted to tell.

Lately all you hear about is video. Clients are coming to me because they feel the need to add video to their website. And more and more still photographers feel the need to embrace video in their work. Whenever someone questions me about getting into video, I always ask them “what do you want to do with it?” A typical answer is “because everyone is getting into” or “I feel the need to keep up and not be left behind”. While these are honest answers, and certainly there’s some merit to them, I always try to get people to focus on what it is they want to use the medium of video for. Will video convey their message better than a still image or text?

Personally I’ve never been a fan of “getting on the bandwagon” just because everyone else is. Whenever I’ve acquired a new “toy” for that purpose – it generally sits in the box because I haven’t thought about how I will use it to “tell the story” that I have to tell. I was reminded today when watching a piece about Don Hewitt, the creator of the TV program 60 Minutes. He was all about “telling the story” and felt that the story is what we humans are interested in and will hold an audience’s attention. His vision was to create a magazine in a TV format. That was almost 40 years ago and 60 Minutes is still on the air. But Hewitt was a persuasive and dynamic man with a strong belief in his convictions. He was also a pioneer in TV broadcasting and at the right place, at the right time – because back then everyone was learning and they were writing the rules as they went.

Right now I think we’re at the same place with video on the web. We’re all struggling with not only new technology but how we can apply it in a business sense. The 100 million dollar question (or more) is How to monetize the Web? I for one don’t have a crystal ball but I do know one thing that history has taught me and that is – nothing new ever comes from keeping the status quo. That’s not to say that every pioneer has a success story and in fact behind every successful person is usually a trail of failed ideas. But if they hadn’t taken that chance……….you gotta wonder.

The other big dynamic is that being proactive is taking control of the situation rather than reacting to something out of fear. For the most part fear stifles creativity. Either way – there’s always going to be a bit of fear but I find when I take control and become more proactive, I focus on the creative aspects and remove the mental roadblocks that are telling me to stop. I don’t always succeed – but I always give myself a shot at success – when I free my mind and am open to possibilities.

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