Desperation and Frustration

I hung out with my friend Dennis last night and the conversation took a deep dive revealing an aspect of me that I didn’t want to admit. I was frustrated with being under challenged in parts of my life. I was bored functioning at a level well beneath my upper limits.

This morning I reflected back on the conversation and had an ah-ha moment. It was the type that screenwriters adore. The simple, yet poignant moments that transform character driven movies into award winning films became obvious to me. I finally understood why desperation and frustration make excellent components for telling a story on screen – And, in life.

Understanding my viewpoint starts with the premise or definition I use to compose a character. Simply put, frustration is created when a character holds back from being who they really are and desperation surfaces when a character tries to be someone they’re not.

While I’m no psychologist, I’ve observed many people who get frustrated from what is referred to as blocked goals. The movie Anger Management suggested that those blocked goals, or times when people hold back, lead to anger issues or uncontrollable outbursts – Conflict that writers love.

While in life we want to manage our frustrations before they turn into anger, screenwriters want to inflate the frustration to drive the film through conflict. Along the same lines, creating a character that tries to hold back from being who he is in order to get along with others is the perfect formula for intense dramatic scenes.

There is a story behind everyone who is holding back from living out his or her potential. Most of it can be traced back to some fear of loss. I’ve seen this in an executive who lost his friends when he became a part of the Fortune 100 elite. While some say it comes with the territory, I question if he had the right friends to begin with. Regardless, the loss was great and painful.

Can you imagine what our lives would look like if everyone stepped up to their potential?

That would be easier to accomplish if there weren’t so many people trying to step up to be something they’re not. The world seems full of desperate people trying to make something of themselves in areas they really don’t fit into. This is readily evident when watching the losers perform in the first few painful weeks of American Idol.

My sister and I got together for dinner recently and decided to watch the singing hopefuls. There was a clear distinction between the desperate that wanted everyone to think they were a singer and the quiet confidence of those who owned the talent. Unfortunately, there were tens of thousands who were desperate and only a few dozen who had the skill and charisma.

When looking closely into someone’s life or developing a realistic character, the goal is to find out what is at the core of who they are. Some times it surfaces when they aren’t thinking about it – Those moments when it slips out. I’m speaking about those core personal elements that cause them to be who they are when no one is looking.

Do you stop, or not, at a stop sign in a desolate place with no one around for miles?

I actually stop. Well, it would be more of a rolling stop, but I’m just not capable of running the sign.

When asked who people think I am, most say that I’m a communicator. While the word “creativity” would be a part of the explanation, the person would try to describe me based on the setting in which he or she saw me.

In the Fortune 100 world, people talk kindly about my presentation skills and high business acumen. In the speaking circuit, individuals talk about my life experiences and my ability to share simple stories that help them relate and apply the ideas to life. And, in the film world, people talk about my ability to write and develop entertaining stories out of thin air. But, in all cases, everyone agrees that I’m a communicator.

So, the greatest way to frustrate me is take away my ability or venue to communicate. The opposite is also true, the next time you see me frustrated, you might want to suggest I talk about it or journal – Putting me back into a communication mode. I was never built to be silent, although there are times when it’s prudent.

For those who are desperate, most are chasing after something that they aren’t because they haven’t slowed down long enough to learn about themselves. It takes a significant amount of alone time to understand what’s at the root of our hearts. This is not to be confused with loneliness, which causes some to avoid alone time.

One of my friends was desperate to become a pastor, but never took the time to find out what was at the core of his heart. Twenty years later, he realized that being a pastor wasn’t for him. He had confused the positive reinforcements he got for being a good listener with his shared religious rhetoric in attempting to direct people in a better way of life. It wasn’t until he caught on to what he wasn’t that he was actually able to encourage people in away that they could receive it and benefit from his comments.

No one would argue that Tiger Woods is a golfer or Michael Jordan a basketball player. And, we probably would all agree that neither one was a baseball player even though one took to the game for several painful months. However, in keeping with my definition, we might agree that Jordan was frustrated during his retirement because he wasn’t playing basketball and desperate to get involved in some kind of sport that led him to baseball. There is a good character driven movie somewhere in that part of his life.

The best way to create dramatic scenes in a film is to block your character’s goal or to have her purposely hold back her gut response. And, the best way to reduce the dramas in life is to unblock our personal goals by being who we are. As for me, I’m going to find some new challenges in life that will expand my ability to be me.