Letting Go of a Project: Seven Ways to Move Past The Disappointment

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, there are a million articles about how to be better and how your ultimate success is around the next corner. If you just wake up an hour earlier, meditate 30 minutes a day, and consume vast quantities of coconut oil, all of your dreams will come true.

We all know it’s not that simple. No matter how hard we try, there are numerous factors that we don’t control and plenty of examples of individuals who failed, typically at no fault of their own, and eventually found success.

Others may talk about what steps to take to “find” success, I talk about how habits cultivate success. There are a million ways to find success (albeit subjective) in the entertainment industry, what works for one person may not work for you.

I recently found a project I thought would make a wonderful film, and I wanted to be a part of making that happen. I spent months working on it: reading, meetings, paperwork, emails, text messages, calls, lawyers, directors, producers, writers, financiers and much more. I wanted this badly! In fact, I more than wanted this; I knew it was destined to happen.

After months of negotiation, we were unable to come to a deal that was a win for all parties involved. I was still hopeful an 11th hour agreement would happen. I had this feeling deep down that this project would move forward. Turns out, destiny had a different path for me. I was suddenly confronted with a reality in which all of my ideas and plans for the future were impossible in the way that I imagined them. Before I was able to come to terms with this, I experienced a tumultuous series of unfiltered thoughts and emotions.

I felt disappointment that I’d in some way caused this to fail, which slightly rattled my confidence.

I felt that another party involved in the deal was at fault.

I thought of the mistakes made along the way and wondered if one of those killed the deal.

I wondered if I would ever find a similar project to this one.

I began over-analyzing what could have went wrong instead of focusing on what went right. The real magic happened, when I took a moment to examine the situation objectively. The conclusion: deals fall apart all the time.

Each group involved has their own strengths (skills, network, talents) and weaknesses (lack of knowledge, missing skillset). This is the nature of partnerships. An amazing piece of advice that I received was from a dear mentor, Michael Alvarez, Jr., who told me the foundation for anything is the team. If the team is disconnected or lacks synchronicity, then the project will fail.

This helped me realize I must accept that some decisions and outcomes are out of my control. So I began shifting my focus toward letting go – mostly of the ideas I had in my mind about the future and business relationships.

I know I am not alone; this is something we all go through. How to get over a setback or disappointment is often unclear, but I’ve put together seven things you can do to pick yourself up after a project falls apart.

1. Begin with the idea that deals fall apart all the time for a multitude of reasons. This is a reality in entertainment. Just checkout the documentary Jodorowski’s Dune. This man dreamed a dream and it was amazing. Taking it personally only internalizes the loss and can impact the self-talk that either builds you up or tears you down. Think about the assets you brought to a project.

2. Fall back on your habits. Often times, your habits and routine will help you move a bit on autopilot even when your mind resists. This means you refocus on creating, whether that means writing, filming, drawing, painting or designing. This gets your mind back to contributing instead of focusing on where you are.

3. Renew your inspiration. I sometimes battle getting through what I want to accomplish for the day. I found that reading inspirational quotes, like these <>, help me recharge my inspiration bank that can get severely depleted. While inspiration is rarely permanent, it is a great way to jumpstart motivation.

4. Have faith that everything happens for a reason. We never understand the impact disappointment will have on our lives, but remember that you have to find the lesson in the medicine. If you learned anything new including a skill, a mindset or an approach, then the efforts are never wasted. Think of the new possibilities and projects that you are now able to pursue.

5. Give advice to a friend. This sounds a bit odd since you feel like you’ve just hit a major speed bump in your life. However, I use this advicehack as a unique way to reframe my thinking. Pretend a friend asks you for advice as though they were experiencing this situation. What would you tell them? It instantly removes you from the emotions and forces you to look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. Plus, who doesn’t love their own advice?

6. Examine the situation to find the lesson. During this experience, I discovered a couple things I would do differently on future projects. The time, energy and money involved may already be spent. You cannot change that so find the positive.

7. Engage and give back to your community. Your experience could help another filmmaker avoid making a similar mistake or you could find a solution to their immediate challenge. Give back to your community, which forces you to take a big picture approach.

Losing a project and reframing your mind after a jarring experience can be challenging. Using this approach you can quickly come to terms with reality, which will help you move on to the next project. Remember that “No” is the most common word that you’ll hear in this business. Keep in mind that “No” may not be a definitive answer. It could actually mean “not right now”.

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