Photo: Alan Silfen
If we're truthful with ourselves, we all have control issues. I'm not ashamed to admit it: I'm a bit of what people would call a control freak. In my day job, I work as a Hollywood studio executive for Sony Pictures. My job there is to make movies that people want to see, hopefully.
This summer, my latest release was Whitney Houston's last film, Sparkle. I was the executive who put the movie together and oversaw the production for the studio. Following the death of such a gifted and beloved entertainer, the spotlight was shining intensely on the release of Sparkle. Leading up to its release, the film was featured in every major magazine, appeared in TV commercials during the Olympics and was even trending on Twitter.
So everyone involved in the production was expecting a fantastic opening weekend. To our surprise, the movie opened far below our estimates and to date grossed much less than we ever thought. From a box office standpoint, it's been one of my greatest professional disappointments.
Have you ever been through something that went in the completely opposite direction than you thought it would? Opening weekend, I was so depressed I didn't want to answer the phone or respond to any emails. I felt like a complete failure. It took the support of my amazing wife, my bosses and my close friends to pull me out of my funk and help me gain the perspective I needed to move forward and put the whole Sparkle experience in context. Even though the movie underperformed in terms of ticket sales, our exit polls were outstanding. Everyone who saw the film loved it and rated it an A.
I was reminded of a lesson I already knew: The truth is, you and I are in control of only two things: how we prepare for what might happen and how we respond to what just happened. The moment things actually do happen belongs to God.
My sense of failure was the one thing about the film I couldn't control—what had happened. Instead, I needed to look at what I could control. Preparation, in fact, had played a big part in the quality of Sparkle, due to a series of questions I had asked during the making of the film: Are you overspending? (Even the greatest results can be overshadowed by spending too much time or too much money.) Are you being flexible? (This is essential to managing results that are ultimately out of your control.) Did you settle? This is the fundamental key to preparation because it is entirely within your control. No matter what you are working on, do everything in your power to make it as great as it can possibly be. This will produce tremendous peace no matter the result.