Friday, December 15, 2017

It’ll Be Different When…

It’s the worst lie anyone can tell you. Not because they don’t believe it, and not because it’s malicious, but because they do believe it and expect you to trust them without any action backing them up.

This excuse the most common lie I hear working in a collaborative setting. It’s the most common betrayal my friends and coworkers and peers and even those I’ve hired tell me. They always have their reasons it will be different, and it never is.

If you’re not working hard because it’s not an “important project,” you won’t start working hard just because it is.

If you think it’s okay to blow someone off because “you’re not getting paid,” you won’t start being responsible even when you do.

If you don’t enjoy doing it because you “don’t like the project,” you’re not going to start enjoying it just because the project has changed.

They sound like viable excuses, and it’s easy to be fooled into being understanding or empathetic. But the real difference between now and “when” is that “when” isn’t now, it doesn’t have to start today, you don’t have to do the work immediately. You can wait until it’s important.

But you’ll find that even as these things change, even as you get paid more or the project becomes yours that laziness doesn’t go away. You’ve practiced for all of these years being unaccountable, you’re not even going to understand the subtle habits it takes to be successfully responsible. And there’s a decent chance that you will never get paid more or given more control because no one thinks you’re competent.

You claim, “That’s not fair. They haven’t given me a chance!”

I know how it feels. In fact, I’ve been there. Back when I first graduated college, a place that rewarded solely good first impressions, redemption never a possibility, I felt they weren’t giving me a chance to shine, to show what I really could do. As I turned to ‘more important’ projects, I struggled to be competent in areas I previously eschewed as irrelevant: professionalism, attention to details, showmanship.  I’d always thought it would be easy to clean something well or have good handwriting—areas that seemed so simple if I just took the time—and it turned out that there was a certain amount of undefinable skill that I’d never really practiced and couldn’t even fathom why I wasn’t successfully achieving it.

Don’t start a path expecting to easily escape when it gets rough.

I watched someone grow addicted to cocaine. At first he said, “I’m not buying it. If I ever buy it, then you know I’m in trouble.”

Then he started buying it.

“Well, I can’t just mooch off of people. But I’m not carrying any of it.”

Then he started carrying it.

“Just in my car. It’s not like I’m bringing inside the house.”

“It’s not like I’m stealing to get it.”

“At least I’m not selling it.”

It’ll be different when… I know I’ll be addicted when…

Your reputation follows you.

In my college there was a tech major who I asked if he wanted to help produce some of the plays I was working on. He pushed it back and pushed it back until he finally left me in the lurch, which was ridiculous because not only did I give him creative freedom, I didn’t actually require much from him. I would have been happy with the bare minimum or anything he was inspired to do.

So when, one day, I was working at a theatre in which the director needed a tech director for a production, and he asked me what I thought of the guy, I told him the truth, “He’s good, but flaky. If I were you, I’d give him one assignment early on and if he blows you off, get someone else.”

So the director followed my instructions, the guy did blow him off, and he was fired. He never even got the second chance. Maybe he would have had he not already done the same thing to me, and I believe that he might have come through at the end. But his behavior was stressful and unprofessional and he wasn’t putting his best foot forward.

Then the theatre in which we worked decided to hire a tech director full time. My fellow student had submitted a resume. The Artistic Director asked my past director, knowing they had worked together, about my fellow student, and the director said, “I don’t know. He’s really flaky.”

Prior to that they had been seriously considering him for the job. He never got an interview.

Fool me once…

My director on another play wanted to hire his friend, a musician, to be a part of the show we were producing. However, after the script had been written with spots for his music in place, the friend decided it was “too far of a drive.”

We got another one of the director’s friends. We asked him for a self-assigned deadline. He missed it, and claimed it was written, he just didn’t have the gas money. Give him another week. Then he said he needed to meet the cast. Then he said that he just couldn’t get the tune right. I told the director to fire his friend. He told him we were going to cut the music all together. I went out and found someone else, prefacing my request by saying, “You can tell a fake musician because they don’t meet deadlines.”

This was a paying gig.

Later on, Blow-Off #2 called and asked the director to work with him again. They did, and it went as you would expect. Upon another one of my productions, he called again and said, “Remember me? I wrote music for your play!”

“Well, I remember you not writing music for my play…”

Apparently he still badgers the director when they’re going to work together again.

Laziness is a trait, not a reaction.

I had a stage manager with a bad habit of being lazy. She stage managed as a volunteer and in many cases I just needed a button pusher and did most of her “job” myself. It didn’t bother me in itself, but I did make jokes. She always grinned and said, “It’ll be different when I’m getting paid.”

Then she got hired for another company.

“It will be different when I’m getting paid a decent wage.”

“I’ve seen you at your day job, my dear.”

Cheatees never prosper.

A friend of mine was cheated on. It didn’t count, of course, because they weren’t officially in a relationship. Then it didn’t count because they were on a break. It wasn’t cheating because it’s only online. He didn’t actually have full-blown sex with her. Finally, she ended it “once and for all.” When he begged her to come back months later, she told him that she would on a trial basis. He told her he loved her, he wanted to marry her, why didn’t she trust him? Didn’t she get he had changed and it was all in the past?

He left her for another woman. Because “she didn’t trust him.”

Mastery is in the details, and details are hard to master.

In high school, I created what I wanted to create. I didn’t care about standards or professionalism, and what came of it were strange and aesthetically intriguing ideas that were half assed and hastily slapped together. I didn’t edit my essays. I didn’t bother to follow the formulas. I never thought anything was important enough to really make “good,” it was always “good enough.”

And then, when I did want to make something wonderful, when I wanted to win a contest more than anything, when I wanted to astound people with my art and create a finished, polished product, I didn’t know how to do it. No matter how hard I tried, I didn’t even really understand what professional was.

Maya Angelo says when someone shows you who they truly are, believe them.

Judge people by their actions, not their promises, and when someone claims “It’ll be different when,” don’t believe them.

If the pay is not enough to do your best, don’t agree to the job. If the project is beneath you, tell them to find someone else. If you’re not interested or you don’t have the time or you have certain stipulations to your contract, make it clear in the very beginning. Do not wait until tomorrow to do your best, and do not break promises. If you can’t stand by your word, it doesn’t matter what the situation is, people can’t trust you.

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