The past few years have been a consistent effort to figure out who I really am and what I really want to do with my life.

It’s been a struggle, as any deep work will be, but there was a time in this whole process where it felt like I passed the tipping point in the journey of self discovery.

That point was when I realized that to figure out who we are, we must figure out who we are not.

When talking to friends and colleagues about this, I learned that it happens to many of us, especially just starting out on our career paths.  

If we are writers, we just want to write stories.  If we are architects, we just want to design buildings.  If we are doctors, we just want to help people regain health.  And if we are filmmakers, we just want to make movies.

But as any marketer will tell you: a product for everyone is a product for no one.

Some of us reach that understanding before others — for example, the lady in pre-med who knows she wants to work for Doctors Without Borders, or the writer who only wants to write YA sci-fi novels — but we need to figure it out as soon as we can.

When I first started in my industry, I just wanted a job where I used a camera.  That’s it.

Well, I got that while still in college when Island Sound and Video hired me to shoot wedding videos.

It took me over five years to realize I didn’t want to shoot weddings for a living.

Photo via Rain Bennett

As I started trying to make this more of a career than a job, I just wanted to work on cool stuff — whatever that might be.  I worked in TV, operated camera for documentaries and films, directed music videos, and even edited family slideshows for moms in Governor’s Club.

But at some point, whether that year or 10 years later, I realized that I didn’t want to do any of that.

What I liked about wedding videos was the emotional reaction and special place the video held in the hearts of the people. What I liked about music videos was working with the musicians because I love music. What I liked about TV was thinking about stories in the longer narrative of a series.  And what I loved about shooting documentaries was the run-and-gun style of it all.

But I didn’t like editing, I wasn’t a great visual director or the best camera operator, and I wanted to tell my own stories instead of working to tell someone else’s.

Up until just a year or so ago, I still found myself envious of friends when I’d see them working on “cool” film projects.  I secretly wish it was me on that dope music video shoot.

But through a simple process I had been working to perfect, soon I realized that it wasn’t even a real goal of mine to do that type of work.

That process was this:

  1. I asked myself, “What is my true goal?”  My true goal was to tell heartfelt stories that move people.
  2. I asked myself, “Who do I want to help?” I identify who I want to impact.  In my case, this is people that are struggling with taking control over their health and happiness.  Then, I make all my focus on reaching that audience.
  3. I asked myself, “What is my unique intersection?” For me, I have spent years dedicating myself to improving my health as well as others and I have a passion for emotional storytelling.  That is a very specific intersection that I, and not many others, can create really great work.

Once I identified those things, I finally knew my “true north” and it informed any and every decision I made moving forward.  Not every job was for me and I was not for every job.

I used to just say “yes” to any opportunity that paid me to film something.

Now when I have someone reach out to me to shoot a music video, I happily say, “I don’t really do that type of work, but I have the perfect person that can help you out.”

Then I pass them the information of someone who has figured out who they are — a dope music video director — because they first figured out who they are not.  

Featured image via Rain Bennett

Picture via Rain Bennett

Rain Bennett is a two time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, fitness professional, public speaker, and writer. His mission is simple: to help people realize that they too can be great, no matter where they come from or what they start with. It just takes passion, persistence, and a plan.

Bennett directed and produced his first feature length documentary in true indie fashion by traveling the world with only a backpack and a Canon DSLR camera. That film, Raise Up: The World is Our Gym won “Best of the Fest” at the Hip Hop Film Festival NYC and received global distribution through Red Bull Media House. He’s been featured in publications like Men’s Health and Sports Business Global and is a regular contributor to Breaking Muscle. When he’s not making movies or training clients at Sync Studio in Durham, he’s hosting a new webseries called The Perfect Workout Show.