I am always on the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) to read about new movies, old movies, classic movies, TV shows, actors and actresses, you name it. It’s a candy store of information and trivia for me. Whenever I don’t remember the name of a movie or a TV series but remember one of the actors or actresses and the approximate time when the film or series came out, I go to IMDB and nearly always find the answer. So recently I was reading the IMDB news and for some reason I discovered that I had missed the posting that Stephen J. Cannell had passed away in September 2010. He was, for all of you who did not watch the amount of television I watched when I was much younger, the writer and/or producer of shows like The Rockford Files, Baretta, Hunter, Silk Stalkings, 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, and many more. He was apparently a prolific writer who churned out hundreds of television scripts despite suffering from dyslexia. His dyslexia did not stop him. He also seemed to have been an ethical and fair man and that by itself is an achievement in Hollywood.
I bring him up because of a quote I read recently that was attributed to him—“Whenever something unfortunate happens in my business dealings I never sit there and observe it as a problem... The first thing I do when something goes wrong is say: 'hey, I can use this!” It is not earth-shattering wisdom, it has been said in many different ways to me at many different times (if someone gives you lemons make lemonade, for example), but for some reason it stuck when I read that he had said it. Perhaps because he was successful and honest about his down times, perhaps because I have had some unfortunate workplace experiences of my own this past year—whatever the reason, it got me thinking. It’s a smart way to be. If one could understand from the start point that the negative that happens in one’s life is not necessarily directed at one personally, then perhaps it would be easier to bounce back faster, to roll with the punches, and to turn the negative into something positive. How great it would be if one did not have to suffer for months on end, trying to figure out where one went wrong, why a situation went wrong, and how to deal with it. Wouldn’t it be great if each negative experience could be fodder for personal growth and new ways of thinking in our lives, for positive experiences and outcomes? And wouldn’t it be great if the learning curve was faster for each new experience? His words resonate with me because I want them to. I am at a point in my life where I want simple approaches and simple wisdom. This approach is simple. It means I can choose to look at a situation in a way that will benefit me. I don’t have to look at it as one more depressing time, cursing the universe and wondering what I did wrong, feeling guilty, or second-guessing myself. I can choose to use the experience and make something positive come from it. Cannell used his unfortunate business experiences in his television writing. The Rockford Files is full of situations where Jim Rockford got cheated out of money due him, or got stood up or treated unfairly. I certainly enjoyed watching the show. It’s light fare and it’s presented realistically. That may be part of the appeal of the show. In any case, being treated unfairly seems to be part of everyone’s life at one time or another. The challenge is in changing how we look at the negative that happens to us.