My dad was a high school basketball coach in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is still considered one of the most winning coaches in the history of high school basketball in Nevada at his death. I spend many an afternoon on the bleachers doing my homework and watching him coach, not knowing the lessons he taught would one day apply to my career working in Hollywood and media.
Here are three lessons I learned.
First, I learned that the buck stops with the coach.
My dad, as the coach, recognized the skill and talent being bounced up and down the basketball floor. When it came to the final word on who was on the team and how to play the game, he took command. A successful team needs a source of experience and leadership to evaluate the situation, know the rules, and make winning decisions. In the media business, it takes an army to make a movie. The credits seem to get longer each year as productions require more numerous and bigger crews than ever. However, each unit must have one person in charge, and these leaders of teams know that the final production will always lead back to the director’s final decision. On the opening credits, it is his name that comes last. The studio or executive producers may have funded the project, but they rely on the director for the final production. In fact, in the film business, a director turns in a “director’s cut” of the film. The studio or executive producers (since they ultimately financed and own it) may not like the director’s version. They may choose to re-edit parts of the film giving it a different ending or deleting or adding scenes to their liking. However, the director always gets to submit his version first, and often if a film has had a long and wide response, the studio may, in time, release the director’s cut to the public. In our walk of faith, God has the final word. We may not like His game plan and direction all the time, but the world is His production, and He will decide what is best for all creation. He is sovereign.
Secondly, I learn from Dad that teams always need practice.
We have all heard that practice makes perfect. Dad always said, perfect practice makes success, and success is not always measured in winning games. We learn from our failures if we are wise. Success is what the individual athlete learns about himself as his passion for the game mingles with His life. It comes with an understanding that he is in control and that the game doesn’t control him. As creatives, we can immerse ourselves in our art and allow our passion to control of lives. That is a dangerous place. Daddy knew that no one is perfect but that smart players were willing to do the hard, laborious and tedious work to break bad habits both on and off the court. They stepped back to see those things that were keeping them from performing successfully. Sometimes it was just the dribbling of the ball, or how they released it from their hands, or the length of their steps. Sometimes it meant learning personal body movements and rhythms or the nuances of the other team players. Whatever it was, it meant that discipline was required for the athlete to find success. It meant mindfully paying attention to minute details in all parts of one’s life and then being willing to adjust. Sometimes, it meant relying on unpopular instincts that seemed awkward or strange at first. Artists and creatives often see things differently. Yet, it can be that this unique perspective, style and creative choices can be the game-changing factor in a career.
If you have ever reviewed creative artists’ lives many times, they are recognized only after their death. Waiting for public recognition is a big challenge. Often, artists are visionaries that the average person initially misses. Creative work requires experimenting, an endless sense of curiosity and an agile, open mind. It means a willingness to see ones’ art, work, or performance from the audience’s viewpoint and listening to critiques with an open spirit without becoming emotionally distraught. It is why creatives and artists must rely on a higher spiritual grounding to lean on or turn to unreliable outside sources, like substance abuse, which has led many to downfall. Having assurance in God empowers us to be courageous and confident. When working in artistic endeavors or for the athlete under pressure to perform, it can mean the difference between defeat and legendary success. As creatives and artists, it is essential to ponder and respond to God’s voice which is only heard when time is taken to listen. Spiritual sensitivity takes patience and consistent practice as well.
Finally, my dad knew how to conduct meaningful practice.
We live in a quick fast pace world. Research reveals we size up a person in eight seconds or less. The electronic digital world has taught us to respond fast but sometimes fast is not wise. As leaders today, we need to respect the short attention span of those working with us on projects and production sets and balance it with respecting that completing an artistic endeavor takes time. It is why mindful meetings, those times of collaboration with others in today’s quick click instant world, need to be organized, held for specific purposes, and conducted with clear, timely instructions. Meetings should be about relationships and a time to learn how each person thinks and works. Personality and attitude play a huge role. We discern at meetings how leaders think and lead. Hollywood is full of stories of directors, producers, writers, actors and artists who were and are brutal, demanding, exclusive or inclusive.
My dad taught me why team captains were so essential and how to let them lead as the coach. If they were great leaders and communicators, my dad’s job was always easier. However, if they were self-absorbed, showed up late, were disrespectful, or had other leadership faults, it would mean the team as a whole would struggle and became a weak link, and a weak link in the chain of command signals failure. I learned from my dad that success reflects the collective abilities and talents of those working together on the project. In Hollywood, where the stakes are high and excellence is critical, every team must be solid.
As Christians, we much lead with expertise and integrity. Those who work with us will never see who Jesus is until we first show them that we are serious about our art and performance. It requires knowing the creative craft playbook and being grounded in Coach Jesus’ Word to win the most important win of all – the eternal prize.