Cradle To Grave: The Secret to Happiness
Posted Dec 1, 2008

Recently, fellow videographer Melonie Jeska ( and I had the opportunity to videotape a memorial service for a group called the U.S. Marine Raiders. This is a yearly event held at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis to honor those Raiders who have died during the past year. It was a privilege to videotape the service, record the names of the deceased Raiders that were read during the service, and to take photos of the battalions represented.

The Marine Raiders were a special operations force formed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II to conduct commando raids behind enemy lines. For example, the first raising of an American flag on Iwo Jima was done by a Raiders unit.

Mrs. Charles Lindberg, the widow of the last living flag raiser, was at this ceremony. Needless to say, it was an amazing collection of war heroes who were in their late ’80s and ’90s.

When I was first approached about videotaping this service, I was asked how much I would charge the Raiders organization. I told them that I wouldn’t charge anything since they had already paid so much to serve their country. In addition to the memorial service, I offered to videotape their dinner and dance, which would be held the next day. All I requested was that I would have the opportunity to sell the DVDs and photos that we would take. Those in charge of planning the event agreed.

We did sell several DVD sets and a lot of photos, but because we tried to keep our prices affordable, we did not make a lot of money on this event. But we did receive something that is better than money: the satisfaction of giving to those who have given so much to us.

The appreciation we received was genuine, and because we had done the event for free, the Raiders insisted that they give us a plug in their newsletter, even though their policy is to not sell advertising space or promote businesses. We even talked to some of the Raiders about putting their story into a video biography.

Marine Raiders

This project reminded me of an excellent EventDV article: Hal Slifer’s April 2007 Making History column, Giving Back to the Community. In his column, Slifer challenged us as videographers to occasionally offer our services for free. He pointed out that not only would we be giving back to the community but we would be promoting our businesses at the same time.

There is an excellent book titled Gross National Happiness by Arthur C. Brooks. Among his many topics, he talks about the importance of work and giving. When our work has value, we are happy. When we learn to give, we have discovered a secret to happiness. The point I want to make is that we as videographers must be among the happiest people in the world. No one will question the value of what we do. We are recorders of history—capturing forever the memories and events of people. That alone gives great satisfaction.

But we also have the freedom to venture into any area of event videography that we choose. Most people would be very envious of our freedom and job satisfaction. “Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient,” Aristotle said. Not only are we in charge of what we do, we are doing what we love—and we are doing things that will leave a lasting impact on people.

All of us have experienced getting “lost” in a project and having time melt away. At the end, when the project is finished, there is a feeling of satisfaction that is greater than the money we receive for the job. “This state is called ‘flow’ by the prominent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,” Brooks writes.

November is the month that we in the U.S. traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving. At this writing, this year’s Thanksgiving promises to be harder than most because of the financial challenges we are facing as a country. Many of my fellow videographers are facing challenges in their businesses.

I share these thoughts to remind all of us that our success and “happiness” are not measured by how much money we make but by how we make our money. We need to be thankful that we have the freedom to be our own bosses and choose our own projects. We need to be thankful that our work has value that will last beyond our lifetime. And we need to be thankful that “it is more blessed to give than receive.” Let’s follow Hal Slifer’s advice and look for opportunities to give away our work. When we do, we will also discover that the “more we give, the more we get.”

Alan Naumann (alan at is the author of The Complete Course on Funeral Videography. A featured speaker at WEVA Expo 2004–2008 and a 2006 and 2007 EventDV 25 honoree, he is based in Minneapolis.