Over the summer I decided I to make a short speaking video. “Is happiness compatible with suffering?” I wanted to share what I’d learned grappling with this question for eleven years when I was sick and confined to a hospital bed in my living room.
My message: If you’re having hard times, to find happiness, focus your attention on moments of joy.
Making a speaking video was a challenge. Since it is produced instead of shot on the fly with a smart phone, people will judge it like a produced video. But I’d be handling all the jobs of production myself.
Lighting myself was a challenge. Filming myself was a challenge too. I solved both by making a scarecrow to stand in for me while I adjusted the lights and framed and focused the camera shots.
I turned an empty bedroom into a small studio.
I wrote a script for the video. I don’t use a script for an hour long speech – just an outline – but to be brief and absolutely clear takes planning.
Woodrow Wilson said: “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation… if an hour, I am ready now.” I didn’t take a week, but I did write a script, record myself reading it, and play it back again and again – exactly how I’d memorize song lyrics.
Then came the real challenge…
You’re in focus, now what is your focus?
Before I made the video, a friend asked me why I wanted to make it. I gave him two answers. He asked “Well, which is it?” Did I want to demonstrate that I was a good speaker? Or did I want to authentically deliver my message?
I said, “Both.” He said, “Nope.” Then I asked him this: “If the lighting is the same, the studio is the same, I’m wearing the same clothes, and the script is the same… what possible difference does it make which of those I choose?”
I told him I most wanted to authentically deliver my message because it might mean something to someone facing hard times. (Inside, though, I still thought I could do both things.)
When I started making the video, I was surprised… Nearly every choice I made was informed by that main goal. It shaped how I stood, how I spoke, how I turned my head, which camera I faced, and how I decided what a good take was. That blew me away! I really didn’t think it would matter, but it turned out to be what mattered most.
So, when you’re tacking a real challenge, ask yourself this: “What is my true goal?” It matters. Your true goal will shape almost every aspect of your effort. It did mine, and looking back, that’s exactly what I wanted.