Butterflies Are Your Best Friend

My mother-in-law recently informed me that a program I liked on the Oprah Network was starting it’s 3rd season. I don’t pay attention to TV so I never know when anything starts and stops. I typically discover a show I like when there are 2 shows left in the season and even more common, right before it gets cancelled! If it’s the former, as I wait for the next season, I forget about it entirely until someone reminds me about it as was the case with Oprah’s Master Class.


While I rarely watch Oprah’s network, this particular show is one of my favorites. In typical Oprah fashion, the show centers around personal stories. What makes this show appealing to me however is the simplicity and honesty of it. The format is simple. She takes a celebrity who has made a permanent mark in this world, puts them in a chair in an empty studio and lets them tell their story directly to you the viewer. It’s a “Master Class” about life. No frills, just raw story and life lessons that they’ve experienced. I could care less what celebrities are up to on a day to day basis, but what does interest me a great deal are people’s paths. I find it fascinating to hear how people achieve their goals and I love learning of the unconventional, chance ways they got to where they are today. This holds true for me regarding everyone, not just celebrities.

So back to this episode. The season opener was Justin Timberlake and although I like his music quite a bit, I was tuning in with hopes of hearing about his business ventures not his music. The experiences he shared were interesting and I certainly learned some things I did not know about him. However one thing that he said in particular, resonating with me.

He was speaking specifically about the release of his song Sexy Back. He said everyone thought he was crazy for wanting to release this type of song as his big single. All of his people and his people’s people tried to talk him out of it but he pressed on saying he wasn’t changing his mind.  Advisors even went so far as to make him agree to a backup plan of filming a music video for a different track on the album should this turn out to be the terrible mistake they all were convinced it would be. The song was released as we know it now and it’s of course an enormous success.

His point to the story is that if you aren’t trying something new, stretching yourself all the time, taking a chance by following your gut instead of the trends, you will eventually feel unsatisfied and always feel like something is missing. You will lose the discovery, the passion, the success, the failure, all the things that make you feel complete about what you do.

That’s why I say, “Butterflies are your best friend.” If you don’t get butterflies before executing new things you should re-evaluate what you are doing. I’ve realized that whenever I stay true to this advice, I produce my best work.

For me, I get butterflies the day before my shoots. This doesn’t happen because I’m nervous. It happens because of the excitement built up about how it will go. All the planning has come down to execution and while I’m normally very confident and prepared, when it’s new territory in some form it releases the butterflies. I wonder what unexpected problems I will have to overcome on the fly, under pressure. I’m dying to know if this will be a shoot where I make a huge discovery about something.

After finally falling asleep (usually at 2am) my mind does a 180° turn and I wake up energized yet calm. In fact on shoot days I feel completely calm. It’s so natural to feel that way for some reason, it bleeds out of me, I can’t control it. The clients feel it, the crew feel it and the talent feel it. Thank God it just happens that way because a calm yet confident leader is a recipe for success, especially in the crazy world of production. Then, the day after we wrap, I’m mentally exhausted. Adrenilan has left the building.

If those Butterflies ever go away, I’m in trouble. Just as Justin Timberlake said about his music, why would you want to do what everyone tells you, is the safe thing to do. Or as legendary Ad Man George Lois once said, “A trend is always a trap. ‘Trends’ are a search for something ‘safe’. In any creative industry, the fact that others are moving in a certain direction is always proof positive, at least to me, that a new direction is the only direction.”

So make an attempt to try something new. It doesn’t have to be a revolutionary discovery, it can simply be something that already exists but that you personally haven’t tried. It’s easy to fall in traps, to do what works, especially when money is involved. And I can’t argue with taking the money when it’s presented to you. Of course there are times when I have to just get the job done the way the client, or director,  or executive producer wants it done. We all deal with that. But whenever there is opportunity to stretch, I encourage it. You will find that those are the times that result in your best work. I recently made a pact with myself, that any chance I get to explore the other option, the path less traveled, the choice that takes some thought, that’s the direction I’m going to take.