Having better

​Scorsese. Spielberg. Nolan. Quentin Tarantino. Jackson. There are undoubtedly more, but I’m not a film nut, so forgive me if I can’t rattle off a list of the world’s greatest living directors. 

But that doesn’t matter. Take whoever you think deserves the accolade of World’s Best Director and drop them into an imaginary scenario. Picture them in a competition with a young, aspiring director. Perhaps someone fresh out of film school. The parameters for the contest are as follows:

  • Both have to make a feature-length film.
  • Both have to make a film that occupies the same genre.
  • Both have to make a film that is concerned with a similar theme within that genre. 
  • Both have the same skeleton staff. They both have equal access to technicians who are of equal ability.
  • Both have a timeline of three years to complete the project.

Those are the similarities. Here are the differences:

  • The Young, Aspiring Director has an unlimited budget and his choice of the world’s actors. Aside from limitations on his staff, there are no material constraints to his vision or what he can do.
  • The World’s Best Director has a limited budget (0.25% of the budget of his previous feature film?). And he can only use equipment and tools that are at least a decade old. 

Obviously, the parameters are deliberately designed to give maximal advantage to the aspiring director and handicap the experienced hand. But the question is, who would make a better film? The intuitive answer is that it would still be the experienced, established, renowned, proven director who makes a better film.

So, with that in mind, why do we—at all stages on the journey to mastery and accomplishment—still obsess over equipment and tools and techniques? If, as the above example reveals to us, we understand that taste, artistry and creativity is not defined or determined by access to specific resources or tools, why do we focus so much on these things?

Why do we make assessments of our own ability and then say, “If only I had X and Y and Z, I’d be so fucking good”? None of it matters. If you gave the world’s best in any field, craft or discipline little time and minimal equipment, I can guarantee that, more often that not, they’d still produce something that corresponds to their status.

So what’s our excuse? It’s not money. It’s not equipment. It’s not anything external. It’s skill. You’re not the world’s best yet because you’re not as good as the world’s best. Focus on that, on getting better instead of having better.