Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Talent, passion and love, love, love

This morning I awoke to a very nice and unexpected email from Jesse Tarnoff, the extraordinarily talented filmmaker behind Sandbox Love. He had read my August post about weddings and wrote to thank me for the praise that I heaped upon his very praiseworthy wedding films.

Specifically, I had summed up the work of Sandbox Love in three words: "Gorgeous. Romantic. Stunning."

So then I thought, "Hey, not only is this guy crazy-talented, but he's also nice enough to send a thank-you email to some random girl who watches his videos! Awesome."

But there's another reason that I admire Jesse and the other folks at Sandbox Love: They are clearly doing what they love. They are doing meaningful work that will be treasured forever by these newlyweds and their families. And they are doing an amazing job.

I've been struggling a bit with figuring out what I'm passionate about and what I'm good at. After all, wise people say that the best career route you can take is to find something that you love to do and then find a way to get paid for it.

Chris Guillebeau says this about pursuing meaningful work: "The world is waiting for you to figure out what only you can contribute. Take as much time as you need to find the answer, and then get started on it."

I'm still working on figuring out what I can contribute. I find myself thinking of things I might like to do, whether for a future career or just a fun hobby, and then I feel paralyzed by self-doubt.

For instance, I've always liked photography. I enjoy whipping out my camera to capture bits of life that I'd like to keep around a little longer. But I worry that if I tried to take photography more seriously, perhaps by buying a more sophisticated camera and really learning how to use it well, I might find that I'm no good at it. And I have this odd feeling that since I've never taken a photography class, I'm somehow behind (but behind who?). And because I focused on writing in college, I feel like that skill defines me, and that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

I know that no matter what I do, there will always be someone who is better at it than me. But I have to remember that just because someone is better at something doesn't mean that I can't be good at it, too. And as soon as I refer to myself as an "old dog" at 23, I know I'm being ridiculous, but I'm just being honest here.

Just yesterday, I read this encouraging piece of wisdom in Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project: "Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice."

It's obvious that Jesse and the other filmmakers of Sandbox Love have incredible raw talent, but on top of that, they must have spent years studying, practicing, observing others' work and developing a vision for the kind of films they want to produce. Being passionate and putting in the work is what really brings that initial talent alive.

Talent without passion is a dormant quality. It's like Play-Doh that forever stays shut inside the container. It has the potential to be so many things — anything, really — yet it will be none of those things if no one puts time and effort into shaping it.

Having potential is one thing; living up to it is another.

I may or may not have a natural talent for photography — I don't know — but if I can start pursuing it with passion, maybe that's just as good. It's certainly better than just thinking about it and doing nothing.

Back to Jesse Tarnoff, my inspiration for this post. He writes on his blog, "I have the best job in the world. I get to tell love stories." He's certainly found what only he can contribute to the world, and he does it so well. Check out a few of my favorite wedding films from Sandbox Love:

Dan + Danielle's Wedding Highlights from Sandbox Love on Vimeo.

Ahh, my current favorite. The Dashboard Confessional song is perfect. The best parts, in my opinion: All the shots that "peek" around corners; when Danielle rounds the corner of the stairs and her family cheers; the incredible dome of the church; the look in Dan's eyes as he watches Danielle walk down the aisle; her father telling them to keep each other safe and make each other laugh. (The fathers always kill me in these.)

Allison + Craig from Sandbox Love on Vimeo.

This one's probably my all-time favorite. Again, the songs are spot-on and perfect for the pre-wedding and post-wedding moods. Best parts: The entire thing. It looks like it was such a fun wedding! (Plus, the father's speech — again, it kills me!)

Check out the Sandbox Love Web site for more. And big thanks to Jesse for being awesome and giving me an inspirational boost without even knowing it. (And I was serious when I told you I'll be hiring you someday!)

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