Conflict + Creativity

The year is 2005. I’m recently graduated from high school, recently heart-broken from a relationship, ambitious, and entering the “real world.” Friends and family keep telling me to go to college, go to art school, go to film school, or go get a job. I resist and decide I must keep true to my dream and passion of producing films. I refuse to follow the traditional post-high school life path (I have nothing against college and typically recommend it for most, but, for me, it wasn’t a good fit).

During my junior and senior year of high school, my buddy and I worked day in and day out on writing a screen-play for a feature film. We saved every penny we made so that we could purchase film equipment and props for this feature film. During that time we did roofing jobs, yard work, delivered pizzas, and worked at a factory.

Our plan was to produce the film, submit the film to Sundance, and ride off  into the Sundance sunset. That never happened. If only I could talk to my 18-year-old self… We got three days into production of the film and found that we were overly ambitious, lacked direction, and in over our heads. We had to pull the plug on the production.

It broke me.

We had saved up over $30,000 – a lot of money for two 19 year olds from middle-class families. A year of writing, back-breaking labor, and turmoil quickly went down the drain.

My buddy decided to go to film school, we divvied up the equipment, and I returned to work at the factory. I was left with thinking, “What if..?”  What if we would have finished the film, submitted it to Sundance and became the next Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino?

Looking back on that chapter of strife in my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned so much about people, myself, and who I really was. It was the struggle, the conflict, that allowed me to focus and work on writing a screenplay. It was the dread of going to work every evening to do back-breaking labor that fueled my passion to produce a feature film; to free me from the factory loading dock. Through that adversity, my desires were revealed. I eventually went on to produce short films,  and then commercial films.

This all lead to me starting Serif.

As I reflect on that chapter of my life 10 years ago, there is a centered theme. That theme is conflict. And it caused me to output a lot of creative. A lot of creatives shy away from conflict and shut down if they encounter it. I am proof that this should not be the case. Below is my list of the 5 ways why conflict brings out the best in us.

Honesty — When conflict hits, it will naturally cause us to be honest with ourselves and our relationships. It exposes us for who we are and shows our true motives. We often forget that this is a good thing. When we are experiencing conflict, we often have to reach out for help. Asking for help is also a good thing. You receive not, because you ask not. If you ask, you shall receive. I firmly believe those principles and, when conflict hits, it causes us to reach out to people we often haven’t talked to in years, thus, reconnecting and strengthening relationships.

Focus — Conflict causes us to be hyper-aware of ourselves. It strips away what doesn’t matter. Focus usually is shifted toward family, relationships, and work that truly matters.  Which, leads to me to my next point.

Ambition — Naturally, when trying to overcome adversity, you have to become more ambitious. For example, if a baseball team is down by 4 points in the bottom of the 9th and the bases are loaded. The player at bat is under great pressure and conflict; but, because of that it, it naturally causes him to swing big. It doesn’t require as much effort for that batter to swing big than if his team was leading in the 4th inning.

Health — Think of the story of the person who is diagnosed with the terminally ill disease and they found out they have one year to live. All their life they have dreamed of creating the next great novel.. They then put pen to paper and create the novel that’s in been in their hearts over the years. Then Suddenly… The illness goes away. Conflict can sometimes get the root of our issues and bring healing.

Identity — We find out who we are. Conflict brings us back to our true selves. During the 14th century, the greatest works of art were produced in the countries suffering from the black plague and  various wars. The countries who were at peace and not experiencing conflict didn’t produce great works of art. Why is this? The war and black plague ravaged countries knew who they were.

I’m on a big kick watching ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries and I love a good underdog story. I made an interesting observation while watching “Chasing Tyson“. Tyson, during the 80’s and 90’s, went on an absolute terror. During that time he was the biggest sports star in the world and everyone’s eyes were on him. In his prime, he faced a no-name Buster Douglas in Japan. The Vegas odds keepers had Tyson at 42-1. Conflict, however, had a different idea.

Two days prior to the fight Buster Douglas’ mom passed away. I can’t imagine that…

During the fight, in the last 10 seconds of the 8th round, Tyson, who had been backed onto the ropes, connected with a huge, right uppercut that sent Douglas to the canvas for the count. Douglas got back up to his feet with 9 seconds remaining on the 10 count. Buster Douglas is the only fighter to ever get knocked down by Tyson and to get back up to his feet. Impressive.

Buster Douglas went on to win the fight after being counted out by nearly everyone, his mother passing away, and being knocked down by Iron Mike Tyson, the baddest man on the planet. I like to think had Douglas not been knocked down, Tyson would have gone on to win the fight. Thanks to conflict,  Douglas won the fight.

You can watch the fight here. At the 50 second mark, Douglas gets knocked down and the 7:08 mark is where Tyson gets KO’d.

The next time conflict enters your life, embrace it and use it to your advantage to put out amazing creative.




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