My self talk game is strong, y'all. I am well liked, kind, and for the most part understood (and apparently I don't mind saying that). I’m quick to anger when I feel I’ve been wronged, but apologetic when a cooler head prevails, and I like it when people open up to me. As my friend Bethany Betzler says, "I don't mind small talk, but I'm always ready to 'go there.'"
So when Philip and I didn’t get along, it really confused me. We started out on such a high note, it was immediate friendship, and then it crashed and burned.
After time, I realized that I was coming from a place of scarcity, as opposed to abundance.
When we first began working with Detroit Lives, Philip and I were fast friends. We had a common upbringing, going to schools that played each other in football and basketball (our two respective sports in high school), we enjoyed sharing a drink or two, and loved being in Detroit.
The work that we did together was pretty good right away, we started out on a project with DTE that I still reference to this day, where we happened to follow a field employee that was turning on the gas at a house that a man on the west side had bought and renovated. What made it so special was that while he waiting for the gas to start, he walked to his van, grabbed a can of grey paint and started painting the rusty meter on the outside of the house. I said to him, "Is that part of your job?" and his response was "No, but did you see how hard they worked to make the inside of that house? If we can get this looking half as good, he'll be in business."
When I showed it to people at DTE, the common response was "people in the field carry paint and paint meters that need to painted? That's amazing."
Then the work got really good. Soon after that DTE project (and a couple others that followed) we made Much Love. It's the piece of work I'm most proud of in my life. It's the story of the United Way's work in two schools in Detroit. Final5 wrote and crafted the story, and DL executed on that and handled production of it. But I couldn't have imagined where they'd go with it, and how amazing it would turn out thanks to their great work. I mean, to say that I made it with them even feels a bit disingenuous in the way that Bender "helped" Tarantino make Pulp Fiction. DL made so much magic on that project.
And with this early level of success I struggled to find the balance around “we worked on it together.” I was very nervous about my own level of involvement, I lacked total confidence in the storyteller/producer role. And I saw this project leading to other great work. I think that somewhere, subconsciously, I was afraid that my role in it would get buried.
So I worked hard to play up my own part in it, and in the process, I downplayed Detroit Lives.
And I blamed them, of course. “They’re being so sensitive about this whole thing.” And “well they’re not out there promoting me.”
And so when Philip would approach me and say “we don’t feel we’re being properly credited” all I was able to do was to push back. To get angry, which would cause him to get angry, and then we would fight.
But it wasn’t Philip, and it wasn’t Detroit Lives. It was that I wasn’t confident yet in my own abilities and what I bring to the table.
If it’s true that a good leader gives credit when things go right and takes blame when they don’t (and I believe it is), then I wasn’t being a good leader.
So I froze them out. We stopped working together. Philip reached out at one point to try to make amends, and I didn't want anything to do with it. There was a lot of pain, and I felt it was best just to move on.
But that isn't how we reconcile, is it?
Two years later and I was still hurting. Hurting from my own actions, from my own selfishness. Wondering, what was I thinking? I know who I am, I’m comfortable with my value system and my actions as a person, but there was that big, glaring chink in the armor. That question of coming from a place of abundance or a place of scarcity. And I knew that if I was going to change this, it had to start with a difficult conversation.
So I texted him... "Hey dude... want to grab lunch sometime soon?"