Examine Your “Rushes”
“Your life is like a book. The title page is your name, the preface your introduction to the world. The pages are a daily record of your efforts, trials, pleasures, discouragements, and achievements. Day by day your thoughts and acts are being inscribed in your book of life. Hour by hour, the record is being made that must stand for all time. Once the word ‘fini’ must be written, let it then be said of your book that it is a record of noble purpose, generous service, and work well-done.”
Grenville Kleiser, author of Training for Power and Leadership
Lights, camera, action! Welcome to your own private Hollywood: You are making, right now, day by day, the movie of your life.
At some time in the future you will reach that great cinema in the sky. You will take a seat in that heavenly auditorium and watch the movie of your life as you lived it––playing out on the big screen to end all big screens. How will you feel about that movie as it unspools? Every night as I go to sleep, I find myself wondering, how will “The Life and Times of Danny Cox” look when it is played back? Will I be proud of that movie? Will I know in my heart that the central character pursued the right goals, for the right reasons? Or will I wonder why on earth that man on the screen made the choices he did? Will I find myself yearning for the chance to make another film––the film I should have made? What can I do now, today, to make sure that that movie is the best I can possibly make it?
Yesterday’s film is “in the can.” The choices we make day by day, the goals we set for ourselves, the way we act toward achieving those goals––those are the only factors that will affect the film that still remains to be shot.
So, how can we improve that film? One-way is to use the technique used by the Hollywood moguls to insure film quality; Look at the daily rushes.
What are daily rushes? They’re a moviemaker’s short-term answers to big questions: “Am I getting to where I thought I was getting? And if I’m not, where the heck am I getting to, and how do I get back?”
When Steven Spielberg sets out to make an exotic new adventure film, he doesn’t travel around the world, shoot every scene in his script, and then sit down and review all the footage from beginning to end. That’s a risky way to make a movie! Spielberg might just get to the end of the process and realize that the mood in scene 43A didn’t quite match up with the mood scene in scene 43B––and then ask himself why he didn’t notice that while he was still in Sumatra with the cast and crew.
Waiting until the last minute to review one’s shooting is a dangerous proposition. Instead, a good director takes a look, each day, at the rushes, the early film clips that reflect the work that was just completed. By reviewing the first prints of that day’s clips, Spielberg (and every other director worthy of the name) can evaluate each of the individual shots that will eventually turn into a movie––the movie that the director set out to make.
It’s close to impossible to put together a good movie if you don’t look at your rushes until the end of the production process. I believe the same principle applies to the movie of your life. And who wants to run the risk of sabotaging that release?
Rushes give filmmakers the chance to review each day’s work. For a director, looking at the rushes means sitting in a dark screening room and looking out for what worked and what didn’t. As he watches the images go by, the director asks questions. How should a scene be edited? What needs to be improved? How does what’s up on the screen affect the next day’s work?
In the same way, a barrier-breaker learns to ask questions about the “shooting schedule” of the day just past. Every day, at some point we need to ask ourselves, “What just happened? What brought me closer to my goal? What moved me further away from my goal? What worked? How can I get what worked to happen again and happen on a regular basis if I need it to?"
It’s just as important to ask, “What didn’t work so well? What would I edit out if I had the chance? What needs to be done all over again? What do I need to do to keep a ‘bad scene’ from happening again?”
Even more important is to ask, “What was the big lesson life had planned for me today?” Once you figure that one out, you can ask yourself, “How well did I learn that lesson, and what can I do to put it to work the next time I face a similar situation?”
Asking questions like that, once a day, is part of reviewing the day’s “rushes”––the actual events and decisions you made over the course of 24 hours. That’s the way to be sure the film of your life is shaping up, as it should. Watching your own daily rushes is the same as monitoring the progress you’ve made toward the important goals you’ve identified. Again, taking baby steps is fine, as long as you go somewhere you intend to go!
Immediate Action: At the end of the day today, ask yourself, “Did I move upward, toward positive role models and energizing goals, or did I move down, toward negative influences?” Be ruthlessly honest with yourself, and write down the answers you come up with on a sheet of paper. Find out whether there was net “gain” or a net “loss” in movement toward your constructive goal, and then ask yourself how you can maximize gains and minimize loses tomorrow.
Point to Ponder Before You Go On: Examining your rushes is not an exercise in negative thinking it’s a way of fine-tuning your daily goals, and thus making progress toward your major goals. If this opportunity for self-evaluation becomes an opportunity for self-flagellation, you’re in trouble! Goals always look forward; discouragement always looks backward.