I’ve been reading a book in my spare time called How to Win Friends & Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, and have been shocked by how applicable the book’s lessons are to everyday life. Carnegie’s thoughts and experiences are more than just useful for people running companies or trading stocks; they are important for us, as artists. There was one point in particular that I found so thought-provoking that I had to put the book down for a little while just to contemplate it. It went something like this:
Appreciate the different voices in the room, for if everyone said the same thing always, you’d only need one person doing the job.
Let me give you an example of someone whom I think has really internalized this idea. Last week, I posted an article interviewing Sound Designer and Recordist David Philipp. In our conversation, he said this statement about his workflow with business partner Byron Bullock, “Most of the time, it’s important that we get stuff from each other because our approaches are so different. Byron for example, designs a lot heavier than I do, which is what makes the end result so interesting with many layers to each sound.”
David mentioned that Byron’s approach to sound design was different than this own, but not for a second did he give me the impression that he felt either his or Byron’s style was any more successful than the other. Instead, he found the benefits of bringing to two styles together.
Here’s another example:
Last year, our team was hiring a Senior Sound Designer position. We went through rounds and rounds of candidates, and after each interview found that we were always going back to one person: Jason Wolford. What made Jason a particularly strong candidate for us was, yes, his talents in technical and creative design. But that’s not what kept us thinking about him. We were drawn to the fact that Jason held strengths that we didn’t possess and ideas that we didn’t think of. We felt that someone like that on our team could challenge us, broaden our perspective, and elevate our group to a whole new level. So, we hired him. And guess what? Jason did just that for our group.
Even if we have the best of intentions, when we’re putting out creative work to our peers, listening to those different voices in the room can be tough. Are their comments the result of their experience, and something that we really need to listen to? Or perhaps they are only the result of differences of creative opinion?
This past month, I passed my demo reel onto an old senior sound designer co-worker and friend of mine for feedback. Out of “love” he said, he tore it to pieces. And it was awesome; I couldn’t have appreciated his time, effort and notes more. He helped me realize areas in which I struggled and elevated my game. But there was one note that didn’t sit too well. In fact, it bummed me out; it was a moment on my reel that I really liked. And here was my friend telling me that I was completely off in my creative interpretation of it. Was he right? Was I wrong? After all, he did have 10+ years experience over me doing this kind of work. But I really liked what I did!
That’s where I stopped myself. I realized that my emotional state of my work was causing me to be unable to absorb the notes I received. So, I changed the way I interpreted them. Instead of thinking about it as, “My friend says I need this fix here, do I do it or not,” I started asking myself, “What was it about this moment that was lacking?” Clearly, there was something missing here. My friend was suggesting a potential fix, but what was the question he was trying to answer? Once I got to the bottom of that, I was able to understand his feedback and incorporate his note into my reel in a way that felt good to me.
Having different voices in the room can be tough. It can mean opinions, leading to criticism, pulling of rank, or hurt feelings. But if you can recognize how those voices are different and ask yourself what they’re trying to say, maybe you can start to change the narrative in which you hear them. Because at the end of the day, our industry is bigger and richer because of people with unique perspectives.
Happy Sunday everyone!