Creative Leadership

Surviving Tough Times

I spoke to a group of Hollywood entertainment professionals recently, and I shared some tips for getting through tough financial times. Although it’s difficult, it’s incredibly important that whenever possible, we do our best not to let financial challenges distract us from our career or calling. My talk was geared toward entertainment and media people, but it would work for anyone in almost any situation. Let me know if these suggestions could help you and please share them with someone experiencing this type of financial or job crisis:

1) First, don’t overreact. Too many people panic during times like this, and make decisions they regret later. Don’t assume the worst, and don’t be afraid.  Should we plan?  Yes.  Is this serious?  Yes.  But it’s not time to freak out.

2)  Streamline your life. What are “convenience” areas?  Could you downsize your car?  Take in a roommate?  Cut back on any luxuries?  How about too many lattes?  One Starbucks trip a day is more than $100+ a month.  Don’t hack, but start looking at areas that don’t really reflect your mission, calling, or aren’t making a positive difference.

3) Don’t cut your lifelines. God is your source – not your bank account.  And your friends and relationships are what feed your spirit.  Research shows that it’s friendships that get people through difficult times.  So reconnect today.

4) Re-think your Focus. After a few years in the business, too many industry people forget their original goal.   That’s usually because they don’t keep their eyes on the target. Things change, but it never hurts to remember your priorities. Either you live your life by priorities or by pressures.  Never lose sight of that during challenging times. It will help keep you focused.  This might be God’s wake up call to remind you of your original vision and purpose. Take this time to re-think and re-evaluate.

5) Keep Growing. Are you engaging the current culture? I talk to some industry people who are trapped somewhere in the 70’s or 80’s.  Don’t chase trends, but study them to see where the culture is going. There’s an old advertising saying: “Once product sales are down, it’s too late to advertise.”  Telling your story should be an ongoing process – and you should always be looking for original and innovative ways to engage with other professionals. If you’re telling the same stories or pitching the same projects you did 2-3 years ago, then you’re behind the curve. Far too many filmmakers are answering questions nobody’s asking.  (Pastors, are you listening?)

6)  My friend and film producer Ralph Winter said something profound – “Success in Hollywood or the media is a marathon, not a sprint. Accurate expectations can make a significant difference in your potential for success.  Realize that “overnight” success stories often take 10-20 years to happen.  Plan for the long haul.  Otherwise, you’ll give up too soon, and never have the chance to reach your potential.

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  1. Phil, this is an excellent post! I was talking to a group of 150 or so just last week about several of these same insights and how we need to change our perspective so that we can focus on what really matters.

    I like what you said about ‘not letting financial challenges distract us from our focus.’ It would be real easy to let the failing economy paralyze our thoughts and actions… but Proverbs says that ‘Your gifts will make room for you and bring you before important people.’ While keeping this truth in mind, I’ve become more focused on finishing my new novel (and encouraging others to work towards completing the dreams that live within them) because continuing to work creatively towards our purpose will ultimately pay off at some point. If the economy is faltering, then sitting in a corner in fear isn’t going to help anyone. ‘Don’t overreact.’

    As you have said, ‘God is your source – not your bank account. And your friends and relationships are what feed your spirit.’ God’s word says that we are to ‘provoke one another to good works.’ It takes all of us depending on God and working together to truly be successful. God promises that if we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness (if we chase after His desire and plans for our lives) then everything else we need will be added to us, because it’s God’s desire to bless us as we draw closer to Him. So doors of opportunity will open in your life… even if a door has just closed in your face.

    We all would do well to print out these suggestions that Phil has provided and place them in a place where we can refer to them frequently. In fact, if these suggestions make sense to you, tell others about them! And remember, knowledge alone does not help us. But when we take the time to consider the knowledge, to meditate on it and apply it to our lives – then we are empowered to change and make an impact.

    Allen Paul Weaver III

    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  2. I shared this article on several pages that I manage. I really like what you said about NOT giving up on your dream. There were several times I was tempted to give up my business for a job and even got offered a few jobs. However, when I compared the advantages / disadvantages, earnings, what I have built over 7 years and the fact I’ve lasted 7 years and my business is increasing, I’ve decided to stick with it. I’ve had some hard times but I haven’t let that dictate my dream. I’m also thankful that my husband and friends have cheered me on through the tough times. Of course I’ve learned to plan for the hard times or have a strategy in place when you lose clients or projects. Hard times will come and we need to be ready.

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