Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rewards from Making Mistakes

I can remember growing up being encouraged not to make mistakes.  However, it was me making mistakes that opened my eyes to each particular situation and gave me a vision of what to do as well as what not to do. I can remember making mistakes and being laughed at and teased. We as Americans have become too fixed on putting the other guy down in order to rise up and shine; especially those in the hip-hop community. It has become about more flash than true substance. No loyality, self-development or interest in team spirit. It's only about who has the biggest car, rims, and necklace. But then if you look at the entire country, you can see the same thing. This way of life is encouraged by the media and big businesses through commericals and ads as if this is a true way of life. When, in actuality, this way of life is a great mistake and destroys our youth by teaching a false sense of spending instead of saving or helping humanity. We should see the good in other people and try to develop those qualities in ourselves instead of looking for their faults and trying to destroy their character. This is a common mistake made by most. By correcting these mistakes we can make the world a better place one person at a time. It's time to take control of our minds, bodies, and souls, and make every minute of our life count - because life is too short. Now if there is anyone out there who has some mistakes that they have made in life but which have turned into blessings for you, I would like for you to share your story with me.


Jim said...

I just learned of your story in the new film American Drug War. You have lived a fascinating life, and I look forward to see what you will accomplish in the coming years. I thought I'd share with you something from my production blog that relates to Rewards from Making Mistakes.

Three years ago, I graduated from high school and left for the University of Iowa. I had a year of college already finished with a 3.9 grade point average. I had studied for less than a week and not only passed, but got a good score on the AP Macroeconomics exam. I was studying at the 8th best Economics program and literally the best Entrepreneurial program in the country. Three years later I was a college drop-out, with no job and $7,000 in credit card debt.

I had been excited to go to college. I loved the idea of philosophical debates and legitimate intellectual discussion. During my first semester at Iowa, I took Philosophy and the Just Society. When the professor told us we had to write a term paper where our only instructions were to “philosophize”, I wrote a 5 page paper called The Cyclical Nature of Humanity as it Relates to Emotion, Perspective, and Action. I hadn't read a philosophy book since Thus Spake Zarathustra in 8th grade. I didn't know who John Stuart Mill was and I had certainly never heard of felicific calculus, but my professor accused me of plagiarism for trying to pass John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism and the felicific branch of calculus off as my own. I got a C.
I failed.

I thought I could learn a lot from a class called Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I had spent a few months as a Muslim when I was a sophomore in High School, and I wanted to learn more about the interrelation of the 3 religions. Unfortunately the separation of church and state reigned in this case, and it was a strictly historical class of memorizing a bunch of pointless names from the past thousand years. My chance to truly learn something finally came when our term paper was comparing a topic between 2 of the religions. I wrote a 5 page paper called The Role of Christ in Christianity and Islam. Every statement was backed up by a citation from the Bible or the Qu'ran. My only sources were each religion's only true source. My Teacher's Assistant, notice the lack of professor, said it was the best paper in my class and he hadn't seen anyone cite religious texts like that in their paper; however, the professor wanted us to cite our lecture notes from his classes. A college kid’s notes of a professor speaking are deemed more important than the holiest of books. I got a C-.
I failed.

The summer after my 1st year of college, 2006, I saw an opportunity to make money doing what I loved. A couple buddies and I started our own house painting business. We painted a few houses and made some great cash. The next summer I tried to get more painting jobs, but a steep decline in market prices and inefficient advertising led to me being out of work most of the summer.
My business failed.

In the fall of my 2nd year of college, I saw another opportunity to make money doing what I loved. My buddy Ben Pohl was a high school football player who was being recruited by the University of Iowa. I envisioned a behind the scenes documentary of the college recruiting process. Every week I shot footage of every one if his plays throughout the season. Ben overcame injuries and position changes to go to the playoffs and make the all-conference team. He was even homecoming king. The University of Iowa called to offer a scholarship, but he turned it down to focus on academics. Due to restrictions by the NCAA and missing key moments, I didn’t have enough footage to make the documentary I had imagined. I devoted hours upon hours to this project, and society deemed it a waste of time.
Once again, I failed.

I was scheduled to shoot my first feature film, Eternal Punishment the following spring, in 2007. I had finally found the right opportunity to make money doing what I loved. Emmy-nominated Director of Photography John Houghton was attached to the project. A screenwriter from LA was going to fly in to play Sean in his acting debut. Insufficient financing and Generalized Anxiety Disorder led to me announcing production was postponed indefinitely. John Houghton left for the east coast and dropped out of the project. My dream was set up for me,
but I failed.

I continued to line things up for my movie, but I was still in college. College counselors are terrible; barely any students in college even know what classes they need to graduate. They rely on their counselors to make them graduate in 4 years, but they end up in the wrong classes, because they don't know their options. I had written an excel spreadsheet that kept track of every class I needed for my degree and compared it to my 3 year plan to see if I would graduate on time. I had used it since my senior year of High School. My friend Brady Manriquez, who had ran the painting business with me, had spent 2 years studying Secondary Education and wanted to switch to Business. No one could tell him how many extra years it would take if he switched. I put his past schedule into my excel spreadsheet, and showed him how in just 2 years, he could earn his Business degree and also get a minor. His schedule was mapped out for him.

We saw an opportunity to help people, and I dropped out of school to write the software that would enable all students to make decisions based on their best career path. I spent hours upon hours writing a draft of the software and we got a meeting with the heads of the counselors at the University of Iowa. We pitched our project to them with complete confidence our software would better society. Unfortunately, you can’t copyright software code. I had taught myself the programming language. It wasn’t anything that a professional programmer couldn’t see and rip off as his own. They took our ideas to their meetings, and we never heard from them again.
I failed.

I returned to my High School counselor to show her what I had tried. It turned out the state had just passed an unfunded mandate that required students to have 4 year plans to graduate from High School signed by their parents every semester. Counselors were forced to carry over 400 sheets of paper that would be edited in pencil throughout the student’s high school career. If anything happened to them, they would have to start from scratch. I spent the following months rewriting my program for Muscatine High School. Society looked at me as a college dropout that wasn’t making any money. The pressure to abandon the project overwhelmed me, so I quit. I abandoned 103 pages of programming code, plus numerous pages of visual design.
I failed.

During the summer, I saw another opportunity to do what I loved. I spent 2 weeks in the inner city of Chicago filming a youth group and their ministry. I envisioned a feature length documentary that could inspire youth groups around the country to go on mission trips there. In less than 2 weeks, over 100 people became Christians, hundreds were fed, a free carnival a city block long was held, and kids who couldn’t afford summer programs experienced a weeklong Vacation Bible School. Relationships were formed, lives were changed, and I found hope. People can check out a short music video from the trip here. I felt success, but even with all the good that was done, I still didn’t make a big enough impact,
so in my mind, I failed.

I finished off the summer working post frame steel construction. I completely humbled myself by working harder than I ever had for a mere $8 an hour. In the fall, I went back to school. After a few months of boredom and frustration, I started working as a farmhand. I still only made $8 an hour, but I dropped out of school anyway. I worked outside and began the final steps of Pre-production on my dream, my first feature film, Eternal Punishment.

A few months later, on the 1st day of filming, I was having an anxiety attack outside a local bank. I had a new highly recommended Director of Photography and a professional Sound Mixer on their way to Muscatine. We were shooting in High Definition 1080i video. But I was in charge of everything, and I couldn’t handle it. I was the Producer, the Writer, the Director, the Production Manager, the Assistant Director, the Key Grip, the Craft Services, and the supporting actor. If I didn’t tell every single person involved what to do, my dream would fail.

As I listened to the song, "Gravity” by John Mayer, I wept. The night before, my mom had left a note on my pillow, and I had it on my dash. It said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13. The only strength I had ever found in my life was through the love I found in relationships. I had always found love strengthened me and enabled me to do things I could not have done alone. I let go by putting my faith in God lifting me up to accomplish something I couldn't accomplish alone. His love provided the strength I needed. And guess what, everything everything worked out.

I saw purpose in everything, whether society deemed it a success or a failure. Every one of my failures had a positive impact not only on me, but on others. My philosophy paper validated my belief that my thoughts have meaning, it gave me the confidence I needed to take my own path. My religion paper helped me work out issues I had and was a key step in discovering my current beliefs. I met my film’s composer in a class at Iowa, and we are releasing a concert DVD next month. I may have not been able to continue painting houses, but the houses I finished still look beautiful and bring their owner’s pride and joy. Reliving the video highlights of Ben’s football season with him and his family was one of the coolest moments in my life. It turned out delaying the movie for another year was the best choice, because I have grown more intellectually and spiritually in the last year than in any other year of my life. Plus, our new Director of Photography brought a completely different tone to the set that enabled everyone to shine. A little effort and my software could still help a lot of people. The Chicago project was the most spiritual experience of my life, and positive change truly occurred. The construction job humbled me and showed me what it would physically take to fulfill my dream. Every anxiety attack I have ever had has brought me closer to God and made this movie what it needed to be. Because of them,
I have lived more, felt more, and loved more.

Every time I have followed my search for joy I have grown closer to my goals. Very rarely was this growth considered successful in our Godless society. Let your passion and happiness guide you, and you will find your own path. You won’t always be right and you will certainly fail, but

in every failure there is purpose.

Ricky Ross said...

Thanks for the reply Jim. Man, that is fascinating. I have met alot of college people that love college but you know what I have noticed about it? They don't teach much about managing money, nor about the importance of credit. I think they should teach it in elementary school, The Seven Cures for an Empty Bank Account. So he accused you of plagiarism? I guess he couldn't believe that you were that smart. I think that is what is wrong with our schools today. I have looked into pretty much all the religions too. I like Muslims, at least the way they think to a certain extent. Well, I dont think that you have failed, anytime that you learn from an experience and as long as we dont give up. People accuse me of failing all the time, but I always disagree cause I am still alive and I still have a chance.