Master Your Craft by Reflecting On It

Sometimes, you must slow down to realize what you like doing.

In an interview on Fresh Air with Sam Briger, actor Paul Giamatti was reflecting on what it was like to work with young actor Dominic Sessa in his first film role, The Holdovers. Giamatti praised Dominic for his approach to his craft. “Working with him was really easily one of my favorite things I’ve done in a long time in I think a lot of ways because he was so fresh to it, you know, and his – and he was so thoughtful about it.”

Giamatti drew a contrast between himself a veteran and Sessa newcomer. “I’ve gotten very proficient with things. I can do stuff fast and easy and, you know, move on and do my thing. And it was wonderful to have this guy who was less acquainted and more questioning and more – in all ways, and to sort of slow down and just take it easy with him was really nice.”

Learning experience

This experience with Dominic Sessa echoed Giamatti’s experience when he first starred in another Alexander Payne film, SidewaysGiamatti recalls being very nervous then, but he has become confident in his abilities since having played significant roles in series like John Adams and Billions. “I think I have more command of things. Am I better or anything like that? I don’t know. But I was more relaxed, that’s for sure. And with him, I was even more relaxed because I trust [Payne] a lot.”

Working with Dominic reminded Giamatti of where he had begun and where he is now. Giamatti’s experience is a good reminder for anyone in their role for a long time. With it comes confidence, yes, but it can breed an “easy street mentality.” You may stop trying as hard. You avoid risk, and perhaps, in some ways, you go through the motions. Therefore, it’s always good to reflect on the what, why, where and how of what you do. Here are some good questions to ask.

What do I like about what I do? Itemize what you enjoy doing and why. Is it the joy you get from doing the work? Is it because you are working with people you respect? Do you want the impact you are having on those you serve as customers and colleagues?

What is holding me back from doing my best? As much as we like what we do, some things get in the way. For example, is busy work taking up too much time? Do you have the time you need to think and reflect? Do you have the right people to do what needs to be done?

What is one thing I can do to improve my situation? The answers to the above questions will illuminate the changes you need to make. Often, you can only do some at a time, so begin by doing one thing differently. That is, delegate busy work, stop wasting your reflection time, or act now to upskill your people.

Making connections

Later in the interview, Giamatti discusses why he became an actor. As a child, he liked the world of make-believe. Later in high school, performing school plays helped him fit in, especially as an outsider. (He was a day student at a boarding school.)  “I felt connected to people, to the other actors and to the – and I felt a sense of communal effort that was really exciting to me.” 

Again, considering what we do, think how we fit it. Are we sticking around because we like work, like the people? Or are we, as noted above, just going through the motions? 

Fitting in is pleasant, but if what we are doing is not challenging, we need to seek a different stage where we can become, if not the stars, supporting players in a venture that brings greater satisfaction. Making time to reflect and then taking steps to implement your feelings will enable you to find the satisfaction you seek.

First posted on 1.24.2024