8 minutes | May 17, 2021

If You Can't Handle Change, You Don't Belong in Business

One of the most important skills for business owners is adaptability. If you are a person who gets frustrated when things change – whether a schedule shifts, an idea evolves, or a plan takes a different direction – you don’t have any business being in business.

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I recently encountered a situation that made me shake my head. All I kept thinking is this… if you get frustrated when a plan changes, you probably shouldn’t be in business. So let’s talk about that.

In this scenario, I was talking to a talent agent who represented an actor who was hired for a job. The actor had agreed to all the details, including the dates of the wardrobe fittings and the shoot itself. Then that actor booked another job and was no longer able to attend the fitting that was scheduled. The agent asked if it could be done via Zoom, which wasn’t possible. Zoom has made some things easy, but it has not given people the ability to try on clothing that is in a different location. So the solution was for the actor to drive to another city where fittings were happening. Production wouldn’t cover that cost, because the talent wasn’t honoring a commitment that was already made, but it allowed the actor to do both.

If you’re not familiar with how wardrobe works for production, there is actually a lot of thought that goes into what on camera talent wears. There are many people involved in the decision and it’s all based on what achieves certain stylistic goals. Actors usually bring some of their own clothing options from home, based on specific directions in terms of colors, sleeve lengths, type of attire, and all that fun stuff. There is also a wardrobe department that buys clothing based on the same direction. This way, there are several options for each person’s look, which the director or someone else in charge signs off on for the final product. Sometimes it’s what the stylist bought, sometimes it’s what an actor already owned, and sometimes it’s a combination of both.  

In this case, the actor did not follow instructions and brought clothing that wouldn’t work for any shoot because it all had logos for brands that were not licensed. Production wardrobe 101 – graphics and logos are bad unless they’re of the brand you’re promoting or otherwise preauthorized. That actor understood and offered to go shopping before the next fitting. Ultimately, the final look that was chosen included the pieces the actor had purchased.

So back to that conversation with the talent agent. I got an earful about how it was messed up that the actor had to drive to another city, pay for the travel, and go to two fittings in person just to end up wearing something that could’ve been purchased locally. The agent brought up the fact that Zoom was requested and there was “no reason” any of this had to be done in person. No acknowledgment of the fact that all of it was supposed to be done locally but the actor booked something else and missed the original time and location that was scheduled to do it. Just frustration bordering on anger that things didn’t work out as intended.

That’s the part that got me. No one knows ahead of time what the final outcome of anything is going to be. Nothing is certain, certainly not in production. It’s constantly changing from the moment prep begins until the final product is delivered. Art and creativity are subjective. They’re fluid. We often have to adapt and change direction along the way. It’s why it’s called a creative process.

A script can be written in a way the author thinks is perfect, but then an actor delivers a line with slightly different wording and it changes everything. If it makes the show better, the writer shouldn’t throw a temper tantrum because their exact wording wasn’t used. It’s a team effort.

If an editor chooses a piece of music for the cut she’s working on, but then a music supervisor gets licensing for another song that conveys the intended mood better, they’re going to change it.

In this case, the creative director wanted to see multiple options on each actor, and his favorite one ended up being one that the actor found. There was no way to know ahead of time how that was going to play out, so hearing someone so worked up over it, really struck me. I started to explain the intention and how this works and had to stop myself because this person didn’t want to hear logic. For whatever reason, the agent just wanted to complain. Somehow, it had gotten twisted that this actor’s time had been wasted, not factoring in that the actor was the one who messed up the original plan. In addition, the actor was getting paid very well for all of the time spent in these fittings and on set. What it came down to was simply frustration over change. And I really believe that if you are a person who gets frustrated when things change – whether a schedule shifts, an idea evolves, or a plan takes a different direction – you don’t have any business being in business.

Like with so many things, it all goes back to mindset. You can choose to get frustrated, or you can choose to go with the flow. You can choose to feel like you wasted your time because plans changed, or you choose to be grateful to have been hired. Especially when you’re getting paid for your time. That’s what I’m talking about here, when something changes within the scope of what you’re already getting paid to do. That actor doesn’t get paid based on what wardrobe is used. The actor gets paid for the time for each fitting and actually working on set. Nothing that happened took away any of that.

I’ve worked with voice actors who have recorded a script for which they were paid. Then the client changed the script and the voice actor had to record it again. He got paid for it again, but for some reason he got really upset that he had to do it the second time. I never did understand why. The change had nothing to do with him. It just happens sometimes.

If I think about how many times I’ve spent hours, sometimes even days, doing part of my job just to have the whole thing change and go in a completely different direction… if I let that bother me, I’d never survive in this industry. Or my head would explode. It’s not that I don’t understand why it’s frustrating. I’ve been there, too. Times I’ve put a lot of effort into something and then it turns out it wasn’t needed. That doesn’t feel great, but I always have to go back to the logic. I was paid for my time to do that. My client didn’t change direction because of something I did, or didn’t do. It’s just the nature of a project. So I could get mad about it and complain about all the time I wasted, or I can accept it and laugh about it. It’s another story about this crazy, unpredictable world where I get to make money doing silly things like finding lucha libre costumes, researching film-friendly cabins, or going behind the scenes at the soundcheck for a band’s residency show.

Why should I care if I have to stop doing one thing and start doing something else? Why should you? It’s one thing if a client starts piling on more responsibilities than you agreed to, or they completely change the scope of the job. That’s a different conversation. But, if the change means you just have to do more of the work you’ve already agreed to do, don’t worry about it.

We, as humans, have a tendency to make up problems in our heads. We give too much weight to situations that aren’t worthy of our brain space. We sometimes forget how much power we have to choose our reactions and how we feel. If you already spent time on something, and then it turns out not to be needed, that time is already gone. You can’t get it back. Getting frustrated about it isn’t going to change that. It’s not going to help anything. All you can do is move forward with the new plan, which might change again.

It doesn’t mean you have to love change. I surely have moments where I would very much prefer for things to stay the same. But it’s not always in my control. What is in my control is how I respond.

One of the most important skills for business owners is adaptability. There’s a reason it’s come up in almost every interview I’ve done in the last year. We have to be able to navigate changes or we’re not going to succeed. There’s a reason so many people use the phrase “the only constant is change.” There’s no escaping it. Change is inevitable and it’s what keeps life interesting, right? As self-employed creatives, change can give us opportunities. It’s all a matter of how we decide to interpret the situation. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but, to quote Beck, “Things are going to change. I can feel it.”

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