Note: This is an excerpt from the first draft of an as yet untitled book I'm writing. This is not the final product, but an insight into what I'm doing. Enjoy.
Knowing what you’re good at is important. Taking pride in those strengths can be equally important. I’m not saying be arrogant, but instead be humble while acknowledging when you’re good at something.
When I was a teenager the production company my family ran travelled with a touring ministry that did events for church youth-groups. On that tour I was the lighting technician, camera operator and occasional stage manager. The camera was what I worked on the most, and my job was to provide image magnification for the audience. That meant that I had to follow the speaker with the camera in such a way that he was always on the projection screens, and appeared larger than he would by simply looking at him directly. The purpose of this was to allow audience members who were far from the stage to see the speaker, specifically his hand gestures and facial expressions, so they could get the full meaning of what he was saying. To do this required what’s called a “waist up” shot, which means the top of his head was about 5% below the top of the screen and the lowest part of his body visible on screen was his belt. Now, this was when the standard screen ratio was 4:3, or nearly a square, so it was not the widescreen 16:9 format we typically see today. This meant that if the speaker decided to walk to one side or another, there wasn’t much room for movement before he left the frame. To add to the difficulty, this particular speaker liked to fake two or three steps in one direction and then move the other way 10 to 15 steps.
In many productions (including this one, years after I left) there are multiple cameras that the director can switch to if the speaker walks out of frame and the operator isn’t able to keep up right away. When I was on, I was the only camera operator for an 8 hour day. This meant that I got very good at anticipating his movements and following quickly, accurately and smoothly. I figured at the time that I was doing what everyone else in the industry does, but when I saw the production with their multi-camera operation a few years later, I noticed that their operators always did a knees-up shot instead of the tighter waist-up shot I was required to do. That made me feel pretty good about the skill I had developed on that tour.
It’s not that I was better than other camera operators who had the same amount of (if not considerably more) experience, because the fact is, they were likely instructed to run the show that way and probably had at least the same skill level I did. It just made me realize that I had personally done something that was difficult, and I excelled at a skill. I just didn’t realize how difficult it was until I saw it from another perspective.
This can tie back into self respect. A lot of the people I’ve talked to that have told me they don’t have a reason to respect themselves say that’s the case because they believe they’re not good at anything. That’s almost never actually true though, it just takes time to figure out. Whether you’re really good at keeping your living space clean, or even something as simple as punctuality, we all have at least one thing that we’re good at. That is a strength which can be built on, and something we should take pride in.
You can also figure out why you’re good at something too. Are you good at cleaning because you’re good at organizing? Does your brain just figure out how to put a space in order? Are you punctual because you have a high regard for the time of others? Those are all strengths as well. The reason I was so good at operating a camera was because I have a drive to do everything to the very best of my ability and beyond. Those reasons behind our skills are a great way to develop new skills and excel in even more areas, developing new strengths. And, humbly taking pride (sounds contradictory doesn’t it?) in those strengths builds our sense of accomplishment and gives us another reason to respect ourselves.
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