“After three years of writing, one year of shooting, four years of re-shooting and two years of editing, I have finally completed my movie: Threat Level Midnight.”
While having dreams is important, dreams often drive us to measure our self-worth by our level of success.
Michael Scott’s dream to be a famous movie maker is good in the sense that it gives him something to work toward and makes him excited about the future. However, it also results in him saying something quite hurtful to his girlfriend, Holly Flax.
While dreams deferred often lead to frustration and anger, this doesn’t mean we should avoid aspirations. We just need to keep any eye on our motivations.
The desire for attention is a common motivation. Joseph Gordon-Levitt addresses this in his TED Talk about how craving attention kills creativity. He says, “if your creativity is driven by a desire to get attention, you’re never going to be creatively fulfilled.”
In response to this realization, he created a collaborative platform, called HITRECORD, that allows everyday people to create music, movies, shorts and stories together.
How do you know when your attention-seeking has become unhealthy? Based on Michael’s experience with his dream, I outlined several signs you can look for to determine if your dream is destroying your life or enriching it.
3 Signs Your Dream Might Result in a Clean-up on Aisle Five
1. You get Upset When People Don’t Praise Your Work
If you create art, like movies, paintings or writing, then you know the joy of seeing people enjoy your work. That’s the thing about art – it’s hard not to share it because it’s meant to be enjoyed, and you want other people to feel the same joy you do.
Another reason you might share our art is because you’re seeking validation. Is your art really as good as you think it is, or are you just biased?
In both these situations, you run the risk of making positive feedback your ultimate goal. This makes you forget the joy you felt while working on your project. When you forget how much you enjoyed the process, you start to think it was a waste of time.
The episode where Michael screens the latest iteration of his movie, Threat Level Midnight, is a great reminder of the dangers of pursuing dreams with the aim of receiving praise.
During the episode, we see a flashback to the first screening of Michael’s movie. It’s apparent that his employees’ reactions were not the kind of reactions he was seeking.
Flashforward and Michael is now looking to elicit a positive reaction from Holly.
“Did you like it?” he asks.
“Which part?” asks Holly.
As an artist, this is the last thing you want to hear. However, if you truly enjoy the process then a lack of praise will not upset you.
2. Your Ultimate Goal is Success
Most dreams are, by nature, ambitious. So, should you bother having a dream if you know the odds of success are slim?
I would say, yes, because dreams are often related to an activity you enjoy. Even if you don’t achieve success as you’ve defined it, you still have fun in the process.
While Michael appears to enjoy movie making, he forgets how fun it was as soon as Holly seems unimpressed. Even when Holly remarks that it must have been fun making a movie with all your friends, Michael can’t recall those fond memories. He is too focused on the fact that he may never be a famous movie maker.
While Michael has many flaws, he also has many redeeming qualities. I outline them in my post, Why do People Like Michael Scott?
3. Your Dream Defines Who You are
Closely related to the mandate of success is tying your self-worth to success.
If you’re a blogger, like me, success might look like lots of traffic and monetizing that traffic with ads. If you don’t achieve this, you may feel like a failure at life in general and wonder why you didn’t choose an endeavor that produced something quantifiable regardless of success.
I often wish I had a passion for cooking or vegetable gardening because even if I didn’t achieve a mighty goal, I’d at least produce something helpful in the process.
Unfortunately, blogs don’t feed people unless they generate an income.
And movies don’t either. Michael is acutely aware of this fact when he vents to Holly, “If I don’t have this what do I have? I have nothing.”
Basically, he’s saying if his movie making doesn’t result in money or fame, then he is a worthless human being.
Since when did it become mandatory that all our endeavors produce quantifiable results?
A friend recently shared on Facebook a beautiful Easter card she illustrated for her niece. Shall we say that this art was a waste because it didn’t result in money or food or fame? No one would say that.
We all know that if our endeavors bless even one person, it wasn’t a waste and we aren’t worthless.
Oftentimes, that one person is you. If you enjoy doing it and enjoy savoring the creation itself, then that is enough. You are a valuable human being who creates value even it if can’t be quantified.
Can you quantify the results of love? Not really. This is why Michael says he has nothing without his movie – even though he has a girlfriend who loves him.
Like most humans, he is stuck in the mindset of productivity and efficiency, which are important, but not when you consistently choose them over love – whether that’s love for a person or love for the process of movie making.
Meet new friends, tie that yarn, and that’s how you do The Scarn!
Chances are, your creation is infinitely better than Michael’s, but regardless of how great it is, it’s still important to focus on the process more than the results.
Also, don’t ever allow yourself to believe that something that blesses you alone is a waste of time. You are worth it.
What are Your Thoughts?
If you have any thoughts about Threat Level Midnight or creativity in general, please share them in the comments below!