2018 Year in Review
Post by Bryce McCoy
I spent 2018 telling other people’s stories. Now it’s time to reflect on mine.
The post below outlines the struggles of running a small setup, doing things for the greater good, managing your work during a personal crisis and finding connection with yourself in order to sustain fulfilment.
TRANSPARENCY AND TRUTH
There is so much we as humans hide from each other. From friends, family, colleagues and especially from clients. While the work we do together is a business transaction at the end of the day, majority of us seek connection on some level, so could it be time to be a little more real?
Why are the same methods of connection we strive for in day to day life thrown out the window when business is involved? We don’t need to be ruthless and blind in our endeavour to conduct business together. Running on stress, and stripping the emotion probably makes us far more productive, but what does it do to our overall fulfillment?
When someone meets you, the appearance of being super professional and successful, builds a level of trust, and is a way to discern that you’re not some con job. But what radiates more resoundingly and successfully is portraying yourself with complete comfort, peace and strength. That speaks volumes. People seem to trust you when you are being you and they tap into a natural authenticity.
Work can be the ultimate distraction, and we can use it like any habit to turn our attention away from parts of our lives we wish to ignore. Towards the end of 2018, I separated from the love of my life; my partner of 7 years. When going through a long term break up, I found anything but your own shock and existence became my most paramount focus. For a period it is what occupied my mind during every waking moment. My anxiety post break up was intense. There were times I did not want to get out of bed, because rolling over and going back to sleep was the only way to make the anxiety go away.
Managing mental health internally within your own team is one thing, but then there is a completely different set of parameters (or maybe lack thereof) between clients and suppliers. Challenging and demanding client phone calls, at times lead to breaking down alone in my car. But people aren’t mind readers. In certain circumstances I wish I had of communicated this and owned it better. Not for sympathy, but simply for context.
Of course there’s a boundary, but ultimately the majority of work we produce is with clients that we enjoy building a personal relationship with. So do we need to talk to one another in a way that is completely boarded up? Some people would say close off your personal life with your professional life, but I think that’s a missed opportunity for living a more sustainable and connected existence.
Everyone is going through their own struggle and are under their own pressures. But I learnt to push back on clients when it’s too much – out of despair. Previously I could overstep my own ‘line’, and as much as I didn’t like to, I knew I could. But when you’re depleted of mental capacity, your breaking point isn’t far away. I think that same lesson should be applied outside of a crisis. Veering towards your line and diverting from hitting it at the last minute, should, and can, always be avoided. Because the needs and limitations of each side can be remedied through better conversations.
I think we have a misconception that in this fast paced world, that it’s inappropriate to be anything but robotically professional. I don’t think it needs to be that way. There is middle ground. We can find an equilibrium, where your personal life and professional life don’t need to be so starkly separate. Checking in with clients, and working out a solution that is more achievable and sustainable, may not be such a scary request as you think it will be.
SHED THE EGO AND LET PROJECTS GO
Reflecting on The Streets Barber Stories YouTube series, I started to think “is this webseries really achieving what we want it to achieve? Are we giving our time to inspire change, or are we just producing something for our own fulfilment?” I wanted the series to be successful so bad because I was super invested in it’s message. And people always praised it, which feels good. But I think they praised the concept of it helping homeless people. Yeah some episodes racked up 50K views (which isn’t insignificant), but the point was to reduce the stigma. Did the masses we wanted to enlighten and educate watch it? Whose opinion did we change? I still maintain the message and the concept is superb, but I had the realisation that we were creating a series that wasn’t cutting through the way we wanted it to, and we needed to start letting the series go, and rejuvenate it in a more effective way. (And we are, just quietly).
Additionally we always produced it to such a high production value (equalling cost and time), in order to show it to the world. But I learnt to get over that and identified that’s my ego talking.
Now more than ever I’m motivated to make real change, not just for our clients, but through the philanthropic things we fund – which is my ultimate goal. My own creative satisfaction feels overwhelmingly secondary to creating some sort of change on a greater level. But that desire needs to be realised in a considered way, and detaching ego from your decisions is important in order to deliver something effective.
A DAY OFF A WEEK TO DREAM
None of us work full time, with the majority working 4 days a week (most of the time, pending crazy deadlines). At first we didn’t really advertise that we conducted ourselves in this way – I’m not sure why, maybe out of fear of looking like we were in cruise mode and we didn’t care. I think it’s important to own your decisions, and make choices that best look after you, not just follow a construct. Maybe you can inspire others to to the same.
During my extra day I spent it simply just living (which is honestly enough), or was writing my own projects, which is extremely invigorating. If anything it’s a good scenario for all companies to revitalise their team. You can make part time work, it may come at a surface ‘handover’ cost, but time isn’t a measurement for inspired, productive and quality work.
Leaving work and finding solace by retreating to your couch at home, means something isn’t working and you need to change something. Einstein (who apparently is misattributed with the quote) defines insanity as: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I spent 3 months working remotely in Europe last year, with the majority of the time in Berlin. My favourite coworking spots were Betahaus, Michelberger and Soho House Getting out of the rat race of Melbourne, and soaking up inspiration from abroad, feels like my “out breath”. The “in breath” on a very macro level is my Melbourne life. It’s hard for me to be fully inspired, when surrounded by repetition and familiarity. As a metric and ‘cost to business’ you would say this doesn’t add up, but the flow on benefits are impossible to measure.
I have a love hate relationship with our slightly ‘rough around the edges’ warehouse which we call our studio. But we are in a very stimulating place to work. As a small business which can be challenging enough, sit within a real inspiring community. We have artists working all night throwing paint around just next door. This feels like a vibrant workplace, and within the conversation of being true to yourself, this is a great fit for us. The ego would tilt towards a space that’s more materialistic, but would ultimately leave me feeling less fulfilled. It has taken me awhile to come to peace with that.
Remaining connected to what you love, is also really important. I am pretty ‘off tools’ now. Which is an exciting journey and it in itself brings so much reward. But while delivering the production work of different projects are being completed by the rest of the team, it can be deflating. So looking at these things selflessly is really important.
I remember Vidad was quoted in an article for a project that was a team project. The initial reaction is for the ego to respond with jealousy and think “Why do you get the glory and I’m processing f’n payroll?!” But after 10 years of working together, I know they are just swings and roundabouts, and the end goal reminds the greatest prize.
The times I have been able to shoot and edit, I have felt alive and invigorated. Those moments of excitement, where you just want to dive into your laptop and keep creating are important to maintain and use as motivation towards where you want to get to.
Small business can feel isolating. I love working with freelancers, but having an expanded team does bring a lot of life. As we have grown and expanded over the last 12 months, the new energy that has been brought inside is super rewarding. Having everyone in the one room is my favourite type of day. Hearing other people’s ideas in person (rather than other over Slack) is fun and creates valued connection. Cash flow and outcomes, can be the obvious measurement of whether you can afford staff, but the benefits of having a committed team you can rely on is important for your own, and your teams, personal satisfaction. The more people you can get involved the better.
I appreciate other humans showing up, and giving a shit about something you’ve created from the ground up. I think that’s pretty cool. And I’m endlessly appreciative to be surrounded by such talented people.
When Teresa joined our team, there was a hesitancy, as she is one of my closest friends. I wondered if a professional relationship would taint our friendship, as the people would say don’t mix business and family/relationships. But everyone’s advice of what will and won’t work is really them just projecting themselves onto you. But we all have the ability to write our own experience. And now I get to work alongside a best friend, which is a great gift. Take any opportunity to work with people you love, if it feels right with you. Ultimately you are the only one who knows if it’s right.
Here’s to a more honest, connected and peaceful 2019.