Stoicism and Freelancing

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“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

A couple of years ago, while I was still in college, I was interning as a production assistant on a film project for a hotel. Without going into details, I was asked to watch an expensive LED light as it stood high up on a C stand and it was quite windy that day. I had a momentary lapse of concentration and a gust blew the C stand over, the LED light with it, and it came crashing to the ground.

The director I was interning for came rushing over. First making sure nobody was hurt, then checking on the light. Luckily, it had some barn doors that broke but ultimately protected the light.

I felt pretty awful after this, but we were on a tight shooting schedule so we carried on without much further discussion.

At the end of the day, as we were all about to head home, I made it a point to talk with the director and apologize for the light. He told me not to worry about it, as the light seemed undamaged and nobody got hurt, and that was pretty much that.

To this day, they still call me back for jobs.

I guess my point is, everybody makes mistakes. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you a bad worker. As cliche as it sounds, as long as you show growth from the mistake, that’s all that matters.

We can’t spend all our time worrying about things, especially when they’re out of our control. The Greek stoic Epictetus said: “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

When you’re caught in a rip current out in the ocean, you’re taught to not fight it. If you try to fight it, all you do is tire yourself out, and probably drown. Instead, you swim parallel to it, then escape. Don’t waste your time fighting things that are out of your control. Instead, have a realistic vision of your situation and adapt.

Life is life. Bad things will happen to you. You’ll make mistakes. But you can either waste time and energy wallowing in self-pity, fantasizing about how things could’ve been different if you did this or you did that. Or you can say, “Okay, I made a mistake. What’s done is done, I can’t change the past. How do I move forward in the best possible way?”

As a freelancer, I believe this is a really good thought process to have. You’re a freelancer. You’re expendable. You have to be able to react quickly to an ever changing market to pay your bills. You don’t have time for self-pity. All that time you’re wasting, someone else is using to get that job that could’ve gone to you.

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