Like the Legendary Peter Jackson, I Stay True to Myself

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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Peter Jackson, the New Zealand filmmaker who spearheaded “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the 2005 remake of “King Kong,” is known for being a bit of a maverick. Even after acquiring commercial and critical success for his movies, he never wanted to move to Hollywood. Instead, he continued making films in New Zealand, with the same people he had worked with on low-budget splatter movies while in his 20s. 

My favorite tidbit of Jackson trivia is that he went barefoot on the set of “Rings” and many other movies. Not wearing shoes is something the writer-director and I have in common. Due to the sensitivity of my feet, along with being nonambulatory, I’ve never had any need for shoes. I tried leg braces for a brief time in elementary school, but those were terribly uncomfortable. Instead, I’m quite content wearing socks, save for the wintertime, when I put on a pair of soft boots.

In addition to our footwear preferences, or lack thereof, it’s that sense of embracing his identity that I admire most about Jackson. In reading his biography, written by Brian Sibley, I discovered many stories about the filmmaker’s disillusionment with Hollywood, his collaborative approach to making movies, and his love of all things quirky and weird. Jackson never sought fame and fortune, only the opportunity to make movies that satisfied his creative desires.

If someone had told me in college that I would one day work in management at a biotech company, I probably would have laughed. Between my wardrobe, my vast collection of comics and toys, and my only business school being repeated viewings of “The Office,” I don’t exactly fit the typical description of an executive. 

After two years of working in management at this site’s parent company, BioNews, I still feel weird when people refer to me as their boss. I go to work wearing Batman T-shirts, while my home office is filled with action figures and movie posters. Even if I didn’t work remotely, I don’t ever see myself as a suit-and-tie guy.

Plus, while I am technically a boss to multiple freelancers, I prefer to take a more democratic approach to my work. I’m responsible for building and developing online forums for rare disease communities, which requires a collaborative effort. Though I still have to make executive decisions and set standards, I most enjoy listening to and implementing other people’s ideas.     

If anything, management has taught me that I don’t have to sacrifice any of my personality traits or philosophies in order to fit the mold of a business persona. Staying true to myself makes me more effective and creative as a leader, and I’m OK with not exemplifying traditional corporate characteristics. Heck, my work profile includes a picture of me at my comic shop.

Recently, I took part in a career webinar through Cure SMA. In it, the other panelists and I stressed the importance of pursuing one’s passion and never sacrificing it for practicality or financial gain. Without that drive, work and life can become pretty monotonous. 

Just like the guy who went barefoot while shooting some of the most expensive movies of all time, I have my own quirks and sensibilities that make me who I am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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