Hollywood studio executive and the author of Produced by Faith DeVon Franklin explains how you can prevent the anxiety of believing that everything is all up to you—all the time.
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.
For example, while making Sparkle, the first few audience tests came in below everyone's expectations. Instead of settling, we kept working on the cut of the film, going through at least 15 to 20 different versions until we finally came up with a final one that not only tested acclaim but also represented a strong collaboration between all the filmmakers involved. Because we committed to excellence in the process, I was not worried or stressed when the movie was released, because I knew for a fact that I did everything I could to make the movie as great as it could be.
The second thing I had to look at was my response to what happened, which was under my control too. At first, of course, I didn't respond in a positive way, but there are practical, real ways to change even our most negative reaction. I like to call it doing an emotional CSI—a term taken right out of the hit show Crime Scene Investigation, where the detectives analyze each piece of evidence to figure out what happened. Applying a similar approach to situations that don't work out the way we planned can help shift our perspective.
Here are the questions I had to ask myself: Had I divorced myself from the results? (Too often we define our self-worth on results we can't affect. Let your commitment to integrity and being who you were created to be provide you with your deepest validation.) Had I surrounded myself with the right people? (You are not alone; make sure you populate your life with good, positive people who love you and are there for you no matter what scene you're in.) Was I moving on? (You can't afford to stay in what happened yesterday. Whether good or bad, it's over. Give yourself time to experience the emotion of what has happened, then deliberately move on.) And last but not least: Had I prayed? Your prayers will give you the peace to reconcile even the most devastating situation.
Though I draw from my personal experiences in Hollywood to help articulate these strategies, they aren't specific to my line of work. They're universal and applicable to any circumstance. No matter what job you have, what relationship you are in or what goal you might be pursuing, it's important to have the tools to help you most effectively manage what is and what isn't in your control. Aren't you tired of the anxiety, fear and depression that come along with the worrying? Instead, focus on the two things you can control and allow your faith to manage the rest. If it's out of your control, then it's out of your control. You aren't responsible for bearing the burden of what only God can do in your life. Let this give you peace.