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Two Questions From A Filmmaker

In the process of making my labor of love film, I faced a crossroads. I admired a certain artist's work, but he wanted to be paid for it. Other artists were moved by the spirit of the project, but their quality was average (not great). I want to engage volunteers but I also want the best quality. Where should I compromise?

The edge of quality of inner intention versus quality of outer work is a great one to navigate. When we do work as labor of love, we honor the process; however, that process orientation invites us to honor both the producer (which favor quality of inner intention) as well as the consumer (which favors quality of outer work). When both are odds with each other, how do we negotiate the trade off? In a vacuum, you'd pick a pathway that is least harmful to all stakeholders. That doesn't avoid disappointment, but it attempts to minimize it.

However -- and fortunately -- things don't have to be in a vacuum. We can build a context around the project, which affords us many more options for creative arrangement of intentions.

When any sapling is held in the cocoon of a strong field, there will always be an engagement spectrum for both producers and consumers. For example, I may have a song to contribute, but if it isn't the best fit with your particular project, you could still connect me to another project; moreover, you could invite me to contribute to the project in an entirely different way. Without that field, you would have two choices -- accept the song or not; with an ecosystem, though, you have umpteen choices of mixing and matching various elements to create a situation where potentially everyone can benefit.

So, in the early days, we make the most of the limited choices you have. But in the long term, we build (or get connected to) an aligned ecosystem. That way we don't bind ourselves in the poverty of binary choices.

Another thing I wonder about is -- am I really the Director of this film? Yet, if I take ownership, I will build a following and touch more people; if I do it anonymously, it'll be better for my inner transformation. Should I take credit?

Taking credit is indeed a slippery slope.

In principle, the advice of all the sages is consistent -- the humbler the better. If you seriously consider it, we aren't the singular doers of anything. Clearly, any project requires efforts of so many. Your crew, but also also your advisors; your loved ones and also the random strangers that ran into it at the right time; ultimately, if you keep tracing it back, you can go all the way to the Big Bang. :) Whose influence matters most? The person who funds the film, the person who implements the film, the person whose idea it was, the person who was present for the tipping point, person who has the most power? It's hard to say. Every credit roll at the end of a film will always be incomplete.

One way to hold it all is to not take any credit. However, such a vacuum can attract hungry egos that want to suck the unclaimed credit. That doesn't help them, doesn't help you, nor the collective. So, sometimes, it's more skilfull to just take the credit and close that chapter.

I've learned this from experience. :) In the early days of ServiceSpace, we got a lot of media attention. I was on the cover of many major magazines (some photo shoots even made me put on fancy clothes!), my first time on TV was a live 30 minute interview on CNN and so on. We never pitched anything to anyone, but it all was just happening emergently. Initially, I thought it was benign, in that it helped spread the word to people who wanted to help. When more media folks kept approaching, I would often deflect it to others. But I quickly saw that it seeded a subtle culture of accomplishment, acknowledgment, appreciation -- and being in the front. For me, that wasn't the driving force, but for some it was. I remember when we started one particular project, there were all kinds of media stories about it, and at least half a dozen people took credit for starting it. Everyone had inflated stories in their heads that seemed true to them, but it just led to a mess that we had to waste time sorting out. Such confusion occurs not just with media, but in all kinds of other ways too.

The lesson was that unclaimed credit can sometimes encourage greed. That is, sometimes taking credit can be an expression of selfless sacrifice.

Dada Vaswani is one of the humblest folks I've met. He could've written books without his name, he could've refused a movie that reinforced their organizational brand, he could've decided to not have any buildings or roads named after him. Yet he didn't. Not because he wasn't humble, but rather *because* he was humble enough to accept the credit -- in the spirit of service.

Of course, that's precisely the slippery slope. How do we discern if we are taking credit, in the spirit of service, or in the spirit of the ego? That's a good question to sit with. :)

For me, it depends on the context that I'm embedded in. In Japan, after the 2013 tsunami, people returned 62 million dollars in cash back to the government -- because they found it on the streets and they didn't own it. Now, that's a very different context to lose cash in. :) With inner motivations, of course, it's a lot more complex. In 1-on-1 relationships, like say with my wife, it may still be somewhat simple. But in a many-to-many context, how do we gauge the context?

Am I moved by ego or service? Is the context of my action alive in a field of ego or service? At the intersection of those two difficult questions lies our spontaneous response.

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."