I have been traveling for about two weeks now. I spent a week up in Vancouver and on the Sunshine Coast with my dear friend Cathy Chilco whom many of you know from Sesame Street International. Cathy and I worked together on the first Israeli-Palestinian Sesame Street co-production back in the late ‘90s before there was a wall and when you could still drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah to eat fajitas. Cathy and I spent the Christmas week visiting family and friends, exploring the rocky Canadian coastline, drinking Havana Club rum and eating spicy homemade pepperoni from Half Moon Bay.
Now I am down on the Pacific Coast of Mexico with my journal, my Walt Whitman and my sweetheart, Mary. We are about three hours south of Puerta Vallarta and from our ivy-covered balcony we can see whales playing in the sea. There is also a strange, brown creature that looks like a cross between an anteater and a Labrador that lopes past us every night at dinnertime looking for a tortilla chip.
Though I have tried very hard to not think about work or preschool television on this trip, my mind invariably drifts back to our studio and all things that happened in 2009. I was telling Mary this morning that it feels like the experiences of the year get stacked up inside my body like layers of sediment. And only when I have downtime can I begin to sift through these layers and examine, process and, most importantly, feel all that has happened over the course of the year. So that’s what I’ve been doing here in Mexico, feeling. And the ocean has been a helpful ally in this.
And I’ve also been thinking a lot about what I wanted to say to all of you, my friends and colleagues, in this first blog of the New Year. I have decided to write about my own hopes for the coming year. My suspicion is that we are all far more alike than we are different, so I think some of these hopes may resonate as much for you as they do for me.
I hope that I will become a better and more sensitive manager in 2010. It is sometimes easy for me to forget how much power my words have to my staff. I have seen how even the smallest compliment or criticism can resonate with someone for months or even years afterwards. And I hope to be more appreciative of my truly amazing team in the coming year.
I hope that I will never let the commercial realities of running a business eclipse my personal commitment to making only the highest quality work that my team and I are capable of producing. I have never been a fan of volume or bigness or money and I hope to never become one. I hope that I will be able to stay true to our core mission at Little Airplane, which remains a purely creative one.
I hope that I will be able to find a better balance between making the work I love and spending time with the people I love. I am very guilty of coming home from work and e-mailing until the wee hours. I tend to avoid going out with friends unless it’s some special occasion. I know that this isn’t healthy and I’d like to take a page from my friends at TV PinGuim in Brazil who know how to work hard, play hard and surround themselves with family and friends. I hope that I can do less working and more living in 2010.
I hope that others in the preschool industry will come to see that they have much more to gain by being open and helpful to others than they do by living with a fortress-under-siege mentality. I hate to break it to some of my more Machiavellian colleagues but competition is a myth. It is based on the idea that there are only so many eyeballs or dollars or slots and we have to fight each other for them. This is simply not true. There are an infinite number of ways to make and share our work, we just have to remain creative, resourceful and build a strong community. None of us go it alone, not even the big boys (and big girls) at the big (and not-so-big) networks. They are as beholden to the great web of creativity and collaboration as the rest of us. As Cathy likes to say, there is such an abundance everywhere. I think we all get so preoccupied with staking out our own miserable little patch of dirt that we neglect to see the fields of flowers growing all around us.
So those are my hopes for the New Year. Corny, sentimental, idealistic. That’s me. I invite you all to write some of your own hopes for the New Year in the box provided below.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2010. May all of your shows get high ratings. May all your toys be in Wal-Mart. May all your economy seats get upgraded to business class.
Happy New Year to all of you. Friends, foes and froes.