As a longtime freelancer, I jump from project to project. Some are a lot of fun and some are a nightmare. It all depends on the people involved and the creative opportunities at stake. That elusive dream for personal fame (an award) is a strange beast indeed, and for some people it’s their sole secret desire and dictates how they treat others.
Recently I was on a stressful project that shouldn’t have been stressful at all. There seemed to be bad energy that permeated the office and the crew. Everyone seemed to be on constant edge, like they were waiting for that one phone call that would set them free from the project and take them to a better one.
Petty gossip turned into full-fledged drama, and by the end of the production people weren’t trusting each other and burgeoning new work-friendships were quickly decimated. And for what? It’s not like we were performing brain surgery or discovering a cure for disease. It was a movie project, damn it, and it should have been fun.
I chided myself for putting myself into a situation where egos were so bloated with self-importance that they lost all touch with simple manners and gratitude. I blamed myself for believing the lies I was being told and for letting them influence how I treated someone, who, come to find out, didn’t deserve the bad treatment. I blamed myself for letting my insecurities succumb to the morass of office politics.
For me, the anxiety spilled over into my personal life. At first I tried keeping it in the office but during the drive home I thought about it; I would fret about it while trying to relax; it would be the last thing I complained about before I fell asleep; it would be the first thing I thought about in the morning. By the time I got to work I was riled up and anything could make me snap. It was not healthy, and yet I still held on because I foolishly made a rule that I would never quit a project.
I became so worn out and exhausted from these crazies who create unnecessary drama that I had to take a few months off to re-evaluate my life choices and the people I surround myself with, both professionally and personally.
At first I assumed I was having some sort of a mid-life crisis and would end up buying a sports car to alleviate my pain but, after some deep self-exploration, I realized it wasn’t a crisis after all. It was a mid-life realization. I decided I deserve better than what I was allowing into my life. I had been hitting a wall and instead of picking myself up by my jockstrap and finding a way around the wall, I kept running into it. How many concussions can one man sustain before he comes to his senses?
The “aah” moment came when I woke up one morning and the first thing I said was, “No more crazies.” I said it loud. I said it proud. No. More. Crazies. Those three words immediately became my new mantra, and it felt incredible.
No is a powerful word, and I’m using it whenever necessary. It’s liberating. It’s freedom with a capital F. And I’m finding that people respect me more for saying no to them. I feel better about myself, and people see it and respond accordingly.
I recently heard a very successful man say he only works with people with whom he wants to have dinner. At first it sounded kind of silly but then I thought about it and realized how simple it is, yet profound. Dinner is nourishment and people at our table should be people who help nourish us.
I thought about every one of the crazies I knew and realized that with each of them I would never want to share a meal. No before dinner drink. No appetizer. No dinner. No dessert. No after dinner cognac and conversation. There was no doubt, the crazies had to be cut out of my life.
This revelation has been a long time coming. I often felt like I was in a vicious circle, with the spiritual side of me saying I needed to stop doing the same thing over and over, and the real-world side of me rationalizing each situation and convincing me it was temporary and the next project wouldn’t be so bad. I feared what life could be if the circle was finally broken.
Not long ago I was at a party and a friend told me I was looking fantastic, relaxed. She wanted to know my secret. I told her about my “no more crazies” mantra. She was excited for me, and then confessed how it’s extremely difficult for her to keep the crazies at bay, to say no when she’s always saying yes. She was afraid of what people would think if she said no, so she suffered silently.
Maybe I should write a self-help book and call it “No More Crazies: One Man’s Morning Revelation.” I could write a step by step guide to reconciling yourself to your one true self and keeping the crazies in someone else’s yard.
I know there might be a time when money trumps sanity and I take a job with people I don’t want to dine with, but if I stay strong, I know I can stay true to myself, and be happier and saner. Life is too short to spend hours every day being miserable because of the crazies.
Recently I’ve been forced to look at mortality. More than one friend has been battling cancer which makes me question how much longer I have before the end. Do I want to continue living the way I have been, or am I going to be the man I truly am, without the crazies? The answer is easy.
This week I’m interviewing colleagues for an upcoming project of mine, and if, at the end of the interview, I have an inkling that I would want to have dinner with them then they’ll get a second interview… over dinner.
I’m trusting me.
No. More. Crazies.
Photo: Getty Images