Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a famous actor who has starred in 500 Days of Summer, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and many, many more. He is also the founder of HitRecord, an online community for artists to collaborate on production projects.
In his interview on the Tim Ferriss Show, Joseph talked about how he started his acting career at age 6 on TV. When his mom brought him to auditions, she told him that he should only do it if he likes it, and if at any point he wants to stop, he can. He later exercised that option, choosing to stop his successful acting career to go to college. He explained that he didn’t want to continue down the acting path just because it was already paved for him, while his friends had the excitement of the unknown held in their futures.
During university, he found it to be less mentally invigorating than expected, and so he sought to return to acting. However, he didn’t want to continue in TV shows; he wanted to be in Hollywood cinema. At the same time, Final Cut Pro (an early video editing software) came out, and he fell in love with video editing. While searching for acting positions, he started the childhood days of HitRecord with his brother. Today, Joseph has starred in dozens of movies, and HitRecord has won the PrimeTime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media.
One of the main messages in his interview was the importance of sincerity. He attributes his success in acting and with HitRecord to genuine interest. And he can tell when other actors or singers are doing it just for the money rather than out of pure sincerity.
Recently, I was talking to a friend about the difficulty of meeting others’ expectations, namely those of parents and society. In our discussion, the importance of being sincere came up.
Sincerity in Decisions
We must be sincere in everything we do. We should never do anything for others if we ourselves do not want to do it. Why? Because our motivation will be lower, which means the quality of our performance will be lower. Further, when obstacles come up, we will blame the other person if we did it because of them. Our negative feelings will harm us and the other person. It quickly becomes a lose-lose situation. You are responsible for your actions. If you choose to listen to someone else or do something for someone else, that was your choice, and you are the only person to blame. So be sincere in your decisions.
Note: when you choose to be sincere in your decisions instead of conforming to others’ expectations (assuming they differ), you will likely get criticism from others. To continue being effective in life, you will need strong self-esteem, which was covered in the previous blog post, The foundation of your being: Self-esteem.
Sincerity in Speech
In our speech, we should not say anything we don’t actually mean. To do so is to mislead others, and no one likes to be misled. For example, if your partner asks you if you can do the chores, don’t say “I’d be happy to” when you are actually very tired and unhappy to. Otherwise, you will be extremely grumpy doing the chores, and you’ll keep tabs. “I’m trying to be considerate” is not a valid justification because other people wouldn’t want you to grudgingly do something for them; that would just hurt you and your relationships. Instead, you should be honest and say, “I’m really tired right now. Could you do it? Or could we both do it when we’re both less tired?” If both of you are always too tired or neither of you want to do it, then discuss the idea of hiring a cleaner. The point is, being sincere will help you productively solve problems and have effective relationships.
In the words of Debbie Millman, “As lovely as it might seem to be a people person, no one cares it you’re a people person. Have a point of view, and share it meaningfully, thoughtfully, respectfully, and with conviction.”
Sincerity in our Work
In our work, we must pursue what we are passionate about. For many people, work takes up the most time out of any activity in life. So if we are not happy at work, our negativity will bleed into every other aspect of our life, including our relationships. I went into detail about pursuing your passion in my previous blog post, Fulfillment is Underrated.
In pursuing what you love (or trying to find what you love), you will undoubtedly face obstacles. You cannot depend on others to give you encouragement or motivation, especially if they don’t agree with your choice; you must give yourself encouragement and motivation. In fact, you should expect others to criticize you and ask you about the worst-case scenario. This may be their way of showing their concern about your situation. Realize that if you get worked up or worried, it will make them worry even more. But if you are truly passionate about what you do, it will be much easier for you to remain positive and to persevere. And overtime, your positive energy will affect those around you and make them happy for you.