The Unmitigated Power of a Strong Work Ethic

CRAS will be featuring a Guest Blogger every few weeks. These guests will be students, graduates, instructors, and staff members. Each guest will be writing about a specific topic they are interested in sharing.  

Our first blog is by CRAS Graduate, Derrick Brilliant.  Derrick interned at Roundabout Entertainment and is currently still employed there.  Enjoy!

If you were to conduct a survey of your peers, what would they have to say about the amount of effort you are personally willing to put in to ensure your success? Really try to consider your personal relationship and experience with the people alongside whom you work. Would they say that you are dedicated to your hustle, unflinching in your resolve? Would they say that you seem to put in as much work as everyone else; no more, no less? Perhaps they would say that you tend to put in the bare minimum effort, but you get the job done (sometimes)?

Some of you will chose the first answer, and you will be correct. Good job and keep up the good work. Some of you will chose the first answer, but lack the honest self-awareness to identify that it is not necessarily true for you and I am sorry to say but you will be weeded out in short order. I say this, not to be judgmental or overly critical, but if you are incapable of identifying your weaknesses, you will most likely fail to grow as a human being and that’s just life. If you chose any answer other than the first, let’s take a moment to discuss how and why the strength of your work ethic is so critical to your success in the real world.

“A fool thinks he is wise, but a wise man knows he is a fool.”

William Shakespeare

Many of you who are reading this are currently enrolled in school; wide-eyed, wet behind the ears, full of hope and promise, high on the sense of accomplishment that comes with following your bliss into the rewarding and fantastical world of professional audio engineering. Some of you knocked some relevant keywords into the google and stumbled onto this page haphazardly in the quest for deepening your understanding of what it takes to get ahead in life.  Whatever the case may be, not one of you are exempt from having put in a considerable amount of effort in life to get where you are, today. Where you are today, however, will prove to be but a stepping stone into your future, where few things will have determined your success like the extent to which you were willing to apply yourself.

For those of you who are currently attending school, I ask you to take a look around you. Examine the variety of personalities swarming by, all striving to achieve the same common goal that is graduation from the program that will qualify them to pursue a future in the field they love. At first glance, one would be forgiven for assuming that they all have an equal shot at being successful in the world once the final test has been graded and the diplomas have been handed out. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth.

The fact is, there are a wide range of advantages enjoyed by some people, by sheer virtue of circumstance, that are not shared by those around them. Some may have family connections wherever it is that they intend to start their careers. Some may have come from backgrounds that leave them inherently better suited for the position for which you will both be vying. Some may be genetically imbued with natural aptitudes that allow for that with which you struggle to come naturally for them. Perhaps most frustratingly of all, some will simply be at the right place at the right time when opportunity comes knocking. The reality is that there is nothing you can do to change these things, but what you can do is take upon yourself the appropriate attitude to increase your odds of standing out from the crowd, once you enter the workforce.

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

Winston Churchill

Of all the things that I have witnessed in my career in the industry, one inherent fact is this:most people are lazy. It’s true! You may have thought that laziness was an attribute reserved for those in less demanding fields, but I can assure you that in all walks of life, the majority of the people by whom you are surrounded have resigned to do the least amount of mediocre work possible to collect a check and return to their homes at the end of the day. Here is the kicker: most of them don’t even realize it!

A series of studies was conducted by professors at Cornell University to determine how aligned a person’s perception of their own adequacy was with reality. They found that, more often than not, those whose abilities were lacking tended to view themselves as above average and those who excelled were likely to view themselves as sub-par. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.  We’ve all seen this curious phenomenon exhibited in our day to day lives, and you will not see it demonstrated any more clearly than in the workplace. What does this mean for you? That the bar for the status quo has been set relatively low, making it easy for those with the mental fortitude to apply themselves to rise above what is expected and excel, earning the recognition they need to advance.

“You have to learn the rules of the game; and then you must play better than anyone else.”

Albert Einstein

Although some of you may have learned and carried these values with you from previous employment ventures, these key points will guarantee that you shine bright like the unique little snowflake you are:

  • Once you have learned what is expected of you, master it. Whatever the base level of the job calls for, learn to do it as well as possible, sparing no effort and avoiding all corner cutting, regardless of what you observe being demonstrated by those around you. Granted, there is something to be said for “working smarter, not harder”, but you should never compromise the quality of your work in the effort to make your job easier.
  • Hone the foundation of your assigned duties until you are able to carry them out better, faster and longer than anyone around you. You will find that this is as far as the majority of your peers will have managed to get before they, for whatever reason, geared down and rested on their laurels. Do not, however, stop there. It’s a trap!
  • Everywhere you choose to look, there will be ways to improve your skill set, therefore making you more valuable to those around you. Cross-train in other areas when possible to demonstrate your flexibility and versatility. This serves the dual purpose of making you a go-to ambassador between what can otherwise be departments and positions that have a difficult time communicating with one another.
  • Seek out and embrace the opportunity to put in extra hours. Every hour of overtime passed up by your workplace counterparts is a chance for you to show that you are hungrier, more dedicated and more willing to do what needs to be done to help the team realize the bigger picture.
  • For extra credit: communicate to your employer that you are willing and eager to further your extracurricular education to obtain additional certification and training in areas that would benefit the company. This will ensure that you bring a particular set of knowledge to the company that may not be shared by those who work beside you, further cementing your indispensability and potential to share what you have learned with others.

These are but a few tips to keep in mind when setting the pace for your career advancement. They are by no means all-inclusive and should serve only as a primer to the type of mentality that is instrumental to success, as I see it. Whether you are an intern paying your dues, or the assistant to the regional manager, you must never become comfortable doing what the majority around you is doing if you want to continue to evolve and progress. It helps to view yourself and those around you as sharks. What happens when a shark sits still? It dies.

Don’t sit still.

Don’t be a dead shark.

My name is Derrick Brilliant ( I am a 33-year-old CRAS grad, currently living in Los Angeles. I’ve been working in the post-production industry full-time for almost three years. My hobbies include doing stuff and things. I wrote this post in two hours, with the aid of 5-Hour Energy.