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How Boundaries Create Opportunities

  • November 22, 2017
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
How Boundaries Create Opportunities

By Lydia Hurlbut, CEO

How do you create opportunities in your business and in your personal life?

Are you feeling as if you are just barely hanging on with massive amounts of drama, chaos, and stress in your business and personal life? Or, do you have a smooth running business with clarity and focus?

If you answered yes to the dramatic chaos, it is probably because your boundaries are loosely in place. Creative people don’t like the idea of boundaries because they want to be limitless and not bound by rules. However, what allows you to feel limitless and in control over your time is focused direction and crystal clear boundaries. Boundaries remove clutter and give a roadmap for the “yes” answers.

Poor Boundaries: Sue, a Line Producer

Imagine Sue, who is a line producer. Sue fell into the film industry because her family was in the business and Sue wants to ultimately produce feature films. Currently, she is rushing through life at an insane pace, constantly worried about where her next job is coming from, how she will make enough to pay her bills, and has no plan to break into smaller budget features. Sue is very concerned with what other people think about her and is not assertive on set because she does not want to create a weird, uncomfortable dynamic on set. 

Sue says “yes” to every job, both paid and free projects, because she is uncomfortable using the word “no” and feels that if she turns down a project, it will destroy her chances of success.

Sue is chaotic, overworked, and justifies every decision. It is exhausting to watch Sue navigate her day. She does not exercise regularly, feels sleep deprived, and makes no time for her mind to quiet. Sue is the last priority on her “to do” list. She has no idea of how to get to her ultimate goal of producing feature films.

Sue lives her life crisis to crisis, moving constantly, and complains of not sleeping well.. She is now having health issues with both stomach pain and extreme fatigue. It is obvious Sue does not really love herself because she is not able to set limits in her business life.

Poor Boundaries Cause Business Landmines

Landmine #1

Not prioritizing yourself.

Workaholism is as dangerous and difficult to see when you are in the middle of it. Jobs can always be justified as getting ahead in your career or necessary for the financial benefit. However, what happens over time is burnout, absolute hatred for a job you may have initially loved and unhappy family relationships.

You need to take care of yourself so you can be a great leader on set, and inspire others with your positive attitude and work ethic. Tune into your own needs and know when you need to have down time and take a break. If you are good at your job, the next job will always appear.

Don’t let fear dictate your job choices.

Landmine #2

Having no strategy or understanding of your role on set.

Strategy is your business roadmap and avoids misunderstandings of who is responsible for what on set. The more detail that is present, the less room there is for misinterpretation, drama, excuses, and assumptions.

Knowing your role and responsibilities is even more important with a smaller budget project where people are wearing many hats. Efficiency, attention to detail and great communication keep overtime to a minimum and L&D for gear low.

Landmine #3

Lack of communication causes you to feel stuck without options.

You always have choices and options. Knowing your bottom line of what is and is not acceptable to you is important in advocating for yourself. Non-negotiables such as lack of food, crazy hours, and safety issues on set may happen frequently with low budgets where union rules are not in place.

The most important thing to remember is that everything is negotiable, and it is your job to speak up and advocate for yourself. You must have the difficult discussions with production if you feel in physical jeopardy working hours, food, and safety.

Landmine #4

Not having a written agreement.

Do not trust verbal agreements, even with good friends. They leave room for tweaking, further negotiating, denying or misinterpreting.

A written deal memo/production agreement gives clarity with payment terms, cancellation terms and potential fees, and deliverable dates to keep you on track.

If a boundary is pushed, what consequences are in place such as late fees or altered deadline dates? These need to be determined in advance of booking yourself for any job.

The Power of Boundaries and “No”

Boundaries are an internal reflection and a way of expressing love. Well placed boundaries allow you to feel abundance, joy, harmony, emotional security, and focus in both business and your personal life.

Pay attention to your boundaries by looking at what you are saying “yes” to in your life. It makes life run much more smoothly by decreasing drama. You know what to say yes to, how you wish to spend your time, when you are feeling pushed or disrespected, and when something is an immediate “no.”

“No” is a word that many people have an issue saying without justifying the reason behind it. “No” is a complete sentence. You are not mean when you say “no” to a job or a project, you are just honest about why it will not work. You do not need to constantly apologize for saying “no.” It is very easy to compromise yourself and your projects if you are not comfortable with the word “no.”

Sue: After Learning To Set Boundaries

Imagine Sue prioritizing herself with crystal clear boundaries in place. She started by meeting with a friend she admired who was a great leader and owned a very successful business. Her friend, Star, pointed out all of the areas Sue was being pushed and letting people take advantage of her. Together, they brainstormed solutions Sue could immediately put in place personally, so she felt more focused and genuinely happy in her life.

Sue decided to exercise regularly by getting up an hour early every day and try a yoga class to in her neighborhood once a week to help her sleep better and stop her mind from racing. Sue looked at her day very carefully and broke down how she was spending her time. She quickly realized that she needed to have short term goals in place and that she was working so many hours that she had no personal time.

Sue asserted herself by setting limits on the number of hours she worked. She also did not take every job that came her way out of desperation. Sue started to pass on the freebie jobs that did not have important relationships that just were favors. At the start of her commercial shoots, she asked for specific payment terms, so she knew when to expect for income, which allowed her to streamline her personal bills.

Sue has a completely different relationship with money and understands that when she gets paid on time, she is less stressed. She is learning to advocate for herself so business conversations are not uncomfortable in the same way. They are straightforward discussions without heightened emotion. She is able to value her time in a new way and now feels more secure in using the word “no” because she knows what is unacceptable to her. Her next goal is to spend time understanding what she is truly passionate about doing with her life.

It is critical to understand our God-given talents and what we love to do. When we are in flow with our creative genius and our value system, it makes how we spend our time much more obvious and leaves little room for waste. We truly value time and become more productive.

Business Boundaries

Secure business boundaries make you feel good about your job, not feel taken advantage of, and you’re able to steer clear of business landmines. Clarity is critical to know your role and responsibilities on set, and that you are getting paid on time without any curveballs or surprises. The financial stress of not getting paid is awful because it makes life feel out of control. We all have been in scenarios where we know better and get talked into doing a shoot that ends up hurting us both professionally and financially.

I recently talked to a friend who started on a project with a few guys from college that was a fun, low budget feature. Because it was a friend of a friend, he never signed a deal memo because trust was implicit. His friend kept saying that he would get paid and yet, weeks went by without payment.

The producer told him payment was coming and he was not comfortable adding pressure for fear of getting fired on the very tense set. On the day of wrap, payment never happened and production was almost out of money. There was nothing in writing to hold production accountable. What a nightmare situation that ended in a business landmine. It was a tough lesson for him professionally that now escalated into a lack of trust, ruined friendships and personal bills not getting paid on time.

We immediately know when our boundaries are stretched because we feel it intuitively. Our inner wisdom starts to feel the dread in the pit of our stomach or chest. Usually we try to ignore it or push through it. It is the absolute dread of feeling way above your capacity to cope that fills your entire body with anxiety and panic. It feels like there are not enough hours in the day to help solve the problem.

Personal Boundaries

When  your boundaries are being pushed or compromised, you intuitively feel it and become resentful. It feels like everyone is taking advantage of your kind nature or no one is hearing your words. It is energy draining and crazy making to constantly battle boundaries.

Here are the important questions to ask:

What matters to you?
(This is a “this is who I am” and “this is how I wish to be treated by others” question that needs to be answered.)

Do you like being alone or in a relationship?

Are you constantly caring for other people?

How are you cherishing yourself and encouraging others around you to do the same?

How do you carve out time for friends, family, and time just for you?
(Consider your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs under this one.)

There is no perfect way to balance everything, but defining your boundaries is the first important step. Over time you will notice when one boundary is firmly in place, another may slip. They constantly need adjusting. Our time and energy cannot be perfect in every area.

Create Boundaries and Stick With Them

Pay attention to how you are spending your time and what you are saying yes to in your life and work is a good start. Not justifying the word “no” when you say it and valuing the complete sentence. Most importantly, the way you do one part of your life is the way you do every part of your life. Setting boundaries will give you the comfort, ease, and power to navigate your career and your personal life.


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