The thing about big projects is they tend to be less like one, giant to-do list, and more like landing planes—lots of planes. Jet liners. Twin prop Cessnas. Helicopters. They just keep coming. With large projects there are always things flying through the air that you must carefully get on the ground.
Some planes need to be coordinated one at time, and others come at you all at once. Some come down nice and easy, and others have turbulent landings.
The thing about landing planes is that you never really feel “finished” in the same way you do after checking everything off your to-do list, because you know that there is always another plane on the horizon.
Take the last video for examples... Once we've settled on the script, there are auditions. After auditions, there’s wardrobe. Once the wardrobe was finished, everyone needs to be walked through their paces. Once we’re on set, everyone needs directing. And then once we start shooting, there are dozens and dozens of changes that must be made to bring it all together. On and then we edit, and score, and sound design, and color.
For a long time I felt defeated by the onslaught of planes. It seemed like nothing was ever really getting done. If by some off chance I was beginning to feel like I could breathe again, or like we were actually getting somewhere, inevitably another problem would occur. And then I thought,
This is the creative process. Stop complaining! It’s messy! It’s rarely mappable! It is always dynamic and ever-changing!
Obviously you make plans, but factors outside of your control change all the time. Locations fall through. People don’t deliver. Life happens. So instead of holding my breath until “things are done,” I’m starting to breathe while I’m “doing the things.”
I do my stretches and I turn into an air traffic controller. And I do it with joy and excitement because, I get to land planes!
As Seth Godin says:
"We should be grateful we get to solve interesting problems."
Landing planes means we’re not on the sideline of ideation but we’re executing, which means we’re getting closer to making our visions come to life.
Whether your planes are short films, or music videos, team building events, or strategic planning seminars, know this: Every landed plane deserves some kind of celebration. Even if it’s just a high five, you absolutely must celebrate along the way.
One last thought on landing planes. As you gingerly place those puppies on the ground, know that you have a choice. Landing planes can be exhausting and defeating, OR it can be exciting and hopeful.
Each new plane coming your way can feel like it’s driving you deeper into the ground of despair as you cry out, “No, not another one!”
You can see these planes as yet another amazing chance for you to be better, to grow, to try.
So, breathe. Do your stretches. Don’t freak out. Land those planes. And celebrate each one that hits the tarmac.
Then repeat, repeat, repeat.