Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I love responsible people

My previous post on passion reminded me of a great dialog I was recently reacuainted with. If you aren't farmiliar with the writer Aaron Sorkin, you will be when I mention some of his work. American President, A Few Good Men, Sports Night (sitcom), and West Wing (sitcom). He has other writing credits, some more obscure than others, but those are the ones he is best known for. My manager and I found each other quoting Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson from "A Few Good Men". He asked if I was an Aaron Sorkin fan and I said "Aaron who?". He demanded that I borrow and watch his series set of Sports Night DVD's and of course I accepted without question. Now this sounds like some heroic ass-kissing, but it's only six DVD's and two seasons, so it was quite reasonable actually. It took me some time to start watching (too busy, etc.) but once I put the first one in, wow, I couldn't stop; it was like heroin for the intelligent/dry/witty-humor-appreciating mind.

Sports Night is a sitcom based upon the making of an evening sports show similar to ESPN's Sports Center called, creatively enough, Sports Night (I said Sorkin was a script writing genious, I didn't say he came up with creative names for sitcom's). So you get to see the behind the scenes of making a daily sports new show including all it's crazy twists and turns. Anyway, enough of my Sports Night plug, I'll digress back to the origonal point... though you really should give it a shot. :)

At the end of episode three, season one of Sports Night there is a GREAT dialog that illustrates the way I feel about the people who work on my team. I believe people have a certain level of responsibility to their management and peers to be honest about how they feel on a given topic, which includes passing out a fair number of BLASTS when appropriate. I'll try to draw out the scene for those of you who didn't rush out and buy the DVD based upon my recommendation. :)

Jeremy the geeky new guy was asked by Dana and Isaac, the big bosses, to film/produce a story on hunting, which he is patently against. They call it "getting the call" as only they could on the SportsCenter-esque show. He agrees to do it because it's his first shot at something like this, and he feels that if he turns it down that he will not have the opportunity again (not an irrational fear). Jeremy passes out on the hunting trip after the hunter shoots a deer, and is rushed to the emergency room. Jeremy returns and the guy who runs the station pulls Jeremy into his office towards the end of the episode. He gets Jeremy's side of the story and then basically says you have the responsibility to tell us that you have a problem with hunting, and that "getting the call" is no excuse for putting everyone on the shoot in jeopardy and also

This reminds me of my first (and only) shot at journalistic greatness. :) I was a Technical Editor for Windows NT Magazine (which then evolved into Windows 2000 magazine, and finally Windows and .NET Magazine). A tech editor checks the technical accuracy of a submitted piece, basically the last set of technical eyes that go over an article before it goes to the printer (or so I'm to understand). It was a good gig; the first step towards actually contributing to the magazine. Well, my first opportunity to contribute was an abyzmal failure. I was late with the article, and ended up writing something really bad because I was writing about something I had knowledge of, but not something I was passionate about. After taking a good beating on the They asked me to fix it, but with my tail already between my legs, I told htem I would probably not be able to add what they were looking for and I respectfully declined to fix/finish it. That, without question, was the end of my journalistic days.

What should I have done? I should have said, "I'm not ready, this isn't the right piece for me to write". There were two other guys on my team that could have written a much better article than I could have, but I wanted the glory. I worked hard to get to the tech editor gig and I didn't want these guys to waltz right up to writing content when I had to "slave" over tech edits (slave is a harsh term, I really enjoyed it). So instead what did I do? I tried to write the article, I failed, and all the tech edits, and any further opportunity dried up in a hurry. And all this because I tried to do something I wasn't passionate about (much like Jeremy, but he hated hunting instead of lacking passion for it).

So I guess the long and the short of it is this: be passionate about what you do, if you aren't, then move on (like I should have), but if you are, be prepared to go to the ends of the earth over what you are passionate about, even if it's an unpopular position (like Jeremy's).