Dealing with Adversity

If there’s one thing I learned from my parents growing up is “you never get anywhere if you take the approach that someone has to lose, in order for you to win”.  They were trying to tell me that I can’t control the actions of others.  I can only control who I am and what I do.

My folks family easterare both gone now, and I’m grateful for all of their words of wisdom. I try my best to live my life with the strength of character that my parents had.  They weren’t perfect by any means and neither am I.  But when things get rough in my life, as they have this past month, I draw on what my parents taught me and I try to get back on track.

I’d like to share some other words of wisdom from my folks:

  • Be the best you can be, instead of trying to be better than someone else.
  • When someone treats you poorly, it’s rarely about you – it’s about them.
  • Humans have frailties – show compassion when they fall short.
  • Never expect more than you are willing to give.
  • When you stand up for what is “right” – realize you may be the only one standing.
  • Friends come and go.  Honor the ones who stick with you to the end.
  • There is only one truth.
  • Forgive those who hurt you – including yourself.
  • Stay clear of folks who bad mouth others because one day you will be the one they are bad mouthing.
  • Things are meant to happen for a reason.  Remember that at your darkest hours because it’s usually a signal that you need to make a change in your life.
  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself – there’s always someone who is worse off than you.
  • When you are afraid to take a risk in life, ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Thanks Mom and Dad for what you have taught me.  You have given me the strength and courage when I have needed it the most.


Forcing Accountability

Yesterday was one of those days that I had a hundred things to do and only a few hours to do them.  I had to give final approval of an ePub I was wrapping up, package and send out exhibition Blurays and posters to film festivals that I have been invited to and finish a video job I was editing, all before heading into NYC to moderate a panel discussion on video for the NYC chapter of ASMP.  My mom used to say, “If you want something done – ask a busy person”.  I never did understand that when I was younger but I know now, that the busier I am – the better I am with utilizing my time.

I was also fine-tuning the presentation that I was going to be giving to the students at Brooks Institute next week. As an alumna of Brooks,

Gail Mooney as a student at Brooks Institute
© Chad Weckler

I was honored when I was asked to speak. I was also taking this responsibility seriously and I was getting a bit stressed over it, which is uncharacteristic for me.  I’m usually very comfortable with public speaking.  I knew I wanted to talk about the value of “community” and how being part of the ASMP has played into that, but I didn’t want to sound “canned”.  I knew that I needed to personalize that message and really boil it down to what that has meant to me.  But I also knew I needed to come off as someone who is still relevant and not be perceived by the students as just someone whose their mother’s age. I needed to show my spirit inside that hasn’t aged at all since graduating from Brooks all those years ago.  I knew I needed to put myself in their shoes and see through their eyes in order to really connect with them. I started thinking in terms of what I know now and what I wished I had known back when I was a student at Brooks.

So, as I headed into NYC, I had a lot going through my mind.  The ASMP event was great.  It was a packed room with an engaged audience and terrific panelists.  But the best part of the evening was the networking after the event.  That’s where the real sharing of information happens and a sense of community is felt.  It’s easy to get disconnected these days from the human connection because we all spend so much (too much) time online.  That human connection will never be replaced by technology. That was one thing I wanted to point out to the students when I talked to them next week – to physically get “out there”.

I got home late and woke up early and needed a good jolt of coffee while I checked my emails.  One email jumped out at me. It was a newsletter from Jonathan Fields who I started subscribing to after hearing Jonathan speak at the World Domination Summit this summer.   The newsletter had a link to a video of Jonathan interviewing, Chris Guillebeau the founder of the World Domination Summit.  Chris writes a blog that I follow, called the Art of Non-Conformity.  As I listened to the interview, it became clearer as far as what I wanted to say to the students in my presentation next week. Chris said one thing that was right on target.  He was talking about pursuing an idea and he said that by putting your idea out to the world – by telling someone about it – you were in fact “forcing accountability”.

I thought back to when I first had the crazy notion of traveling around the world with the purpose of creating a feature documentary about individuals on six continents who were making a positive difference in our world.  The idea had been tossing around in my head for months before I told anyone.  Then one evening as I was walking back from dinner with fellow ASMP board member, Blake Discher, I decided to put the idea “out there”.  It was something I did on impulse, but as I look back on it now, Blake was probably the right one to “test run” this crazy idea on.  He responded with an affirming, “thumbs up”, but not overly exuberant, which was exactly what I needed. Blake is a very grounded person, so for someone like him to not look at me and tell me that I was out of my mind, was the nudge I needed.  So, it was that short, impulsive, casual conversation that forced me to be accountable with my idea.

I went on to make the movie that I set out to make and even better, I got to share the experience with my daughter Erin.  It has changed both of our lives for the better.  That’s not to say that everything has worked out in ways that I may have wanted or thought I wanted.  But it has been a journey that I was meant to take. I have met people that I never would have met in the process and that in turn has led to so many more incredible experiences and adventures that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I started thinking about my life’s journey and all the things I have learned since my days as a student at Brooks.  And then I thought,  “what if I knew then what I know now? “  The thing is, if I had already known all those things back when I was a student, I never would have had the journey that I’ve had.  Everything happens in its own time and when it is meant to happen.  And that’s what life’s all about – the journey along the way and that only happens when we leave room for the unexpected.

Yoda Who?

Twice this past weekend, while in conversation with friends, I had been referred to as Yoda. The second time it happened, I asked “Who is Yoda?” That’s right. I didn’t really know who Yoda was, even though I had heard the character’s name referenced over the years. I knew he was from Star Wars or Star Trek or some movie like that. But I had never seen either of those movies, so I wasn’t sure.

Shocking isn’t it? Or that’s what a friend thought when I “fessed up” to never having seen Star Wars – none of them – not even the first one. The truth is, I’m not a science fiction fan. I love fantasy, and spend my life living a fantasy, or trying to, but sci fi is too much of a stretch for me, as far as having the ability to come true – and I’m a believer that fantasies can come true.

I followed a link that my friend forwarded which led me to all things Yoda and I was instantly hooked by his wisdom. The more I learned about Yoda, the more intrigued I became. I had found my soulmate, an ugly little troll like creature with a glowing green wand, but with the wisdom of the ages.

Some of my favorite Yoda-isms:

  • “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
  • “So certain are you. Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say?”
  • “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
  • “You will find only what you bring in.”
  • “Always in motion is the future.”

I have been instructed to go “old school” over the holidays and watch the first three Star Wars films, which I will endeavor to do. So, forgive me all you “trekkies” (just kidding), but what do you call a Star Wars fan or in my case a Yoda fan?

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Birthdays, Dreams and Optimism

It’s amazing how quickly priorities change. Today’s my birthday and I knew that I had a lot of deadline items I needed to get accomplished early in the day. I was cutting my work day short because I have tickets for a Jackson Browne open air concert this evening in Brooklyn.

I quickly checked my email and caught up on “social media” dialog and then at 7:50AM Eastern Daylight Time – my power went out. I knew I had a “window” of opportunity to get any computer priorities taken care of before my backup battery went out. Then I would need to come up with a plan B. I could still work on my laptop but my airport wasn’t on so I didn’t have an internet connection. I could last as long as the battery in my laptop held out. I could go down to the library – but their power was out too. I could use my blackberry for as long as that battery lasted. Then I actually could recharge both my blackberry and my laptop battery if I used the “universal power inverter” that plugs into the cigarette lighter in our car.

Or I could give into the forces of nature and take the day off from technology. I think I’ll do that. But I’ll use a bit of my battery and write this blog before I succumb to the “powers that be” and “make the best of it”. Who knows there could be a silver lining in all of this. All these metaphors started me thinking about other “mantras” that I’ve led my life by. Seems fitting on my birthday to take the time to reflect on these mantras and share them.

1. Always have a dream. Believe in it and believe in yourself in making it happen.
2. Keep your passions alive. For me, my strong interest in cultural stories will always keep me exploring. I need that and it gives my life perspective.
3. Set goals – even little goals are good and then reward yourself. They will all lead up to you making your dream come true.
4. Make decisions or they will be made for you.
5. Do the “right thing”. You will love yourself more if you do.

It’s still raining and the power is still out at 9:56AM on Tuesday, July 21, 2009. But I’m going with my plan b, taking the day off from technology and heading out to the open air Jackson Browne concert – rain and all. At least it’s his “acoustic” tour.

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