The sound of silence

One of the biggest fears I had when I was planning to leave the corporate world, of course not knowing at the time the corporate world was going to leave me, was that I would become addicted to television.  It would be on all the time and I would get sucked into watching Rudy for the 90th time.  That movie always makes me cry. Or I would end up watching a reality show about someone else’s fabulous existence.  And instead of living my life, I would become a passive observer of another’s carefully edited life.  So this year for Lent I gave up TV cold turkey.  Not an easy thing to do as it was just as the latest season of Lost was starting up.  Thank heaven for DVR’s!  But I stuck to it and learned I could live without that which provided me my living.  Which is a scary thought in and of itself.  What if other people found that out?  Where would my job be then?  Well, that question was answered for me!

But I often turn to media for ideas on what to write and this morning was no exception.  I had the television on in my hotel room while I was getting ready and the pundits were in full chorus.  Nothing was coming to me and it all sounded like so much babble.  With that, off went the power button.  The silence that enveloped the room was wonderful.   And a funny thing happened.  The ideas started coming fast and furious.  It took shutting off the cacophony to start the symphony in my brain.  I’m always humbled when that happens.  I am reminded that my ideas are just as strong, relevant and insightful as anyone who has the floor.  I should be listening to my own thoughts instead of letting someone do my thinking for me.  Popular culture and news are very important in our world and have a legitimate place at the table.  But in the conversation that is uniquely mine, their voice mustn’t become a lecture that drowns out my own voice.

I also gave up sweets for Lent and was successful…for the 40 days I had to be.  Then it was back on the Sugarland Express!

Aw, quit yer whinin’ kid

I know.  Harsh words in a blog that for the most part has been pretty positive in it’s message.  But I direct these words at myself primarily.  See I’m one of those horrid people in the grocery store/movie theatre/Target/airport/you-name-it that shoots daggers at kids who are misbehaving and whining.  And even harsher looks at their parents.  And when the beleaguered parent, who I know has been dealing with this all day/week/month/lifetime finally says to the child “Stop Whining!!”  I silently say to myself “yeah kid, stop whining!”  As if that is the magic phrase that will silence the whine.  It never does.  But then, I caught myself in a big giant whine of my own and that was not a pretty sight to behold.

The other night I went to a screening of an absolutely hysterical short film that was written, directed, financed and produced all by local talent in Chicago.  Right down to all the original music.  It was by far the most professional production I’ve seen in a long time on such a shoestring budget.  I was immensely impressed.  The title?  Fluffenhaus.  It wasn’t in it’s finished form but from what I saw it’s going to be a knockout on the festival circuit.

The whine came about when I started the internal dialogue after seeing so many fellow actors in this piece and how proud they must feel to be a part of something so creative.  And here’s where the whine wound up to full steam just like an old fire engine siren getting up to full volume “why wasn’t I part of this?  why aren’t I being cast in movies like this?  they’re getting all the breaks and I’m not, wah, wah, wah”  I think you get the picture.  A side of myself I’m really proud of.  And it kept going.  Until I finally listened to what I was saying and had no mirror to shoot the daggers at myself.  Then I remembered my rearview mirror.  Not a feature usually listed in the new car brochure but a handy discovery.  And as I was glaring at my reflection (at a stoplight mind you) I realized I was stuck in a bad pattern and I not only needed to stop, I wanted to stop.  I could do exactly what all those gifted Fluffenhaus folks did and create my own work.  I had the same ability they did but somehow had left ambition and drive by the wayside.  Just the kick in the pants I needed to get rid of the whiny monster that had come to roost.

Thanks Fluffers for the reminder that it’s all inside, we just need to find it.  Hello Sundance?  Meet Fluffenhaus!

Lean on me

My iPod contains over 3500 songs on it.  I purchased my iPod used inheriting the music already on there.  I’ve also added quite a bit of music on my own. I usually listen to podcasts when I am running, multitasking as always.  Lately I’ve started listening to music.  And not to pre-planned playlists.  I’m playing the list alphabetically, never really knowing what I will hear next.  The juxtaposition the songs afford makes me laugh sometimes.  This morning it was Beyonce/JayZ followed by My Fair Lady.  And yes, I’m usually singing along louder than I realize, as evidenced by the looks I get.

Then the classic Bill Withers song, Lean On Me, with it’s opening organ chords came on.  I was immediately transported back to my teenage years, Summertime at the swimming pool, golden couple Crash and Susie and all the really cool kids hanging about.  The radio blaring much to the disdain of the golfers teeing off on the first tee just yards away.   I’m always amazed when music takes me back.  It was like it was yesterday.

This time though I listened, really listened to the lyrics.  And they blew me away.  I’ve gone through some very challenging times recently both personally and professionally.  There were moments it seemed as if I wouldn’t endure them.  Most times I felt really alone and scared.  Still do every once in a while. Especially the scared part. Hearing those lyrics made me realize I had some amazing friends and support that I’d been leaning on pretty heavily.   I’m not good at asking for help, fairly sure my tombstone will read “I’m fine”, even worse at admitting I need help and accepting it when offered.  Swallowing my pride isn’t on my list of skills.  This time around though, I’ve been leaning on whomever will let me.  I realize the lyrics could be referencing a friend, family member, God.  Who knows?  But the fourth time I’d replayed it this morning, the first verse really stuck with me –And if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow. I’ll get to tomorrow, safe in the knowledge I’m not alone.

Oh and the song that followed?  It was also by Bill Withers and was called Use Me.  But that’s an entirely different type of post for another day!

First and 10 at the 20

This time of year is a really happy one for me.  I’m a huge Indianapolis Colts fan.  HUGE!  The problem is I live in Chicago Bear territory and the games are usually scheduled to run at the same time.  I know, different conferences.  But when the Bears air on Fox, the local CBS affiliate won’t run another game against this telecast.  So unless I get lucky and one of the teams has a west coast game or they are playing in Primetime, I’m forced to leave the house to watch my beloved Colts.  And I really don’t like watching with others around unless they are fellow Colts fans.  I get too nervous.  Two years ago when the Colts played the Bears in the Super Bowl, even though I’d been invited to several parties, I watched at home alone.  My Mom, sister and BIL went to the game in the pouring rain but I couldn’t stand to be around others for fear they’d lose.  Fortunately that wasn’t the case.

This past weekend was a good weekend.  The Bears played in Prime so I could watch the Colts at home.  It was a very close game with lots of turnovers and a pretty low score.  For the most part, each time there was a turnover, QB Manning would be starting at his own 20 yard line, with 80 yards to travel for a score.  And each time, he would patiently and persistently march down the field towards the goal line.  Even when a play failed, he’d get right back under Center and try another play.  And when he ran out of downs and the other team took over, he waited until it was his chance to get back in the game, tweaking things with his coaches and then try again to make progress to the goal.  It wasn’t the case with this game, but I’ve seen him take the team, down 2 or 3 touchdowns on to win the game.  I’ve often wondered how a team and a person, can stay focused, committed, positive and professional against overwhelming odds and obstacles, sometimes overcoming them, sometimes not.  And then do it again the next week.  That drive to achieve comes from within and helps them to take that 80-100 yard march one yard at a time.

Oh and this weekend will be another good one.  The Colts are on Monday Night…are you ready for some football?

3 Strikes…You out?

I recently read a quote from the legendary Babe Ruth “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way”  I know he meant it in the baseball sense of the phrase-striking out-but I actually read that differently the first time I read it.  I read it as striking out on your own.  Leaving your comfort zone.  Expanding your horizons.  Letting go of that which is familiar and embracing the unfamiliar.  I am well acquainted with this fear.  For quite some time I knew my professional life was heading in a different direction from what I’d been doing since graduating from college.  While I was very good at my job, it wasn’t exciting me anymore and it looked to me like that aspect of media sales was starting to implode.  Yet I stayed put, for well over a year after I started talking the big talk about leaving.  Oh I was a really good talker.  Yup, I was going to leave this place and follow my dream.  I even had a date all picked out but changed my mind at the last minute.  In truth I was scared to death to leave the security of benefits and a steady paycheck.  I think it was the hysterical tears that clued me in.

Fate has a way of intervening when we least expect it.  4 weeks after I was going to quit, my employer of 11 years closed.  Kaput!  No mas.  So there I was faced with what I’d been putting out to the universe all those weeks.  It was put up or shut up time.  Time to walk the talk.  Crap.  Now what?

You know what?  It’s not so bad!  I still have my days of paralyzing, and I mean paralyzing fear.  But I think I’m going to be ok.  I might actually succeed. How’s that for overcoming fear?  As far as the corporate world is concerned, I may be out but I’ll be back for another round of at bats with my new team.  And yeah, I’m pointing to center field.  Step aside Babe.

New Attitude

One of the many resources I’ve become familiar with is Seth Godin‘s amazing marketing blog.  The succinctness of his writing is mind boggling.  His ability to put an idea forth clearly and precisely is one I strive to achieve.  I recently read a post of his about the steps in planning any sort of project, task or goal and the emphasis that is placed on the execution instead of the planning.  I know this contradicts my earlier musing about getting started with writing this blog-to quit talking about it and just do it for Pete’s sake- but what he says made complete sense to me.  You see, I’m the type that doesn’t want to waste time reading the how-to-assemble directions, I’ll just figure it out as I go.  I’m smart, I don’t need to memorize that copy, I’ll just wing it.  I don’t need to practice my golf swing, I’m sure it will come back with no problem.  After all I’ve been playing since I was 8. So what if I haven’t shagged a bag of balls in over 2 years, how bad can I get?  So I stumble forth with dreams of supreme success in my eyes and instead I end up either failing or having it take twice as long to get accomplished.  Then I have the audacity to get ticked off when whatever it is I’m trying to do ends up being a complete disaster.

Well thanks to Seth’s blog and Madame LaBelle, I’ve tidied up my point of view.  I’ve got a new attitude.  I recognize that I have to respect what it is I am trying to accomplish.  Within that respect comes the new attitude towards the task at hand and an approach that will help ensure my success.  No longer will I just jump in and expect amazing results.  Establishing the correct attitude and the appropriate approach may not be as sexy to talk about as the execution, but the results that are achieved from this way of thinking will be the payoff.

Go ahead, try to forget that song.  You know you can’t.  So how about a new attitude?

Vegetables

Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower.  Or in my house growing up, trees, bushes and brains.  I hated all of them, the smell, the texture, the taste.  My mom insisted we at least try them because she wasn’t running a short order kitchen and we had to eat what she fixed.  I guess when you have 7 mouths to feed, you’d say that too.  We couldn’t leave the table until we had one bite and boy I could sit there all night in that battle.  It was Godzilla versus the Smog Monster and I was determined to win.  I’m sure the fact that my Dad hated them as well didn’t help her cause.  She stopped short of force feeding me but she usually prevailed.  Mom’s are good at that.

Now that I’m an adult, I have no one to force me to do anything, no one to help me see the benefits of what I don’t want to do, no one to answer to.  So when I don’t want to run that day, no one knows but me.  But a strange thing has happened.  I’ve found a bit of a silver lining in all that exertion.  Getting out of the house and out of my routine, I usually get inspired with an idea for a post, something I want to share.  It hasn’t made me look forward to running but it has allowed me to dread it less.  I am excited by the thought I will come up with something new.  I still have to force myself to get started but it’s a little less effort now.  It made me think about what else I do that I don’t relish and how I could find something, anything positive about it.  So I don’t hate it quite so much the next time.  And maybe, just maybe, I’d start to like it.

As for the vegetables, turns out I actually like asparagus and I’ll eat cauliflower if it’s raw.  But broccoli?  Can’t stand the stuff, never have, never will.  Blech.

Sexy Siren

Success is a wicked thing.  Experience even the smallest bit of it and suddenly you are in the grasp of it’s siren song.  That happened to me.  I started this blog in absolute obscurity.  No one knew I was posting because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure I would keep up with it.  When I was sure I was going to be disciplined in this endeavor and I had a few posts under my belt, I e-mailed my friend Bob Souer requesting that he add me to his blog roll.  Bob is an incredible aggregator of all things Voiceover and otherwise.  He was kind enough to add me in a post on his blog yesterday and in no time flat I went from invisible to quite a few reads. People commented on what they read.  I even got a ping back, although I’m not quite sure what a ping back is, but I got one.  I was found to be wise, witty and relevant.  What a rush!

The vast majority of people read the post that Bob referenced.  Only 1 other post was read.  I can tell because WordPress is kind enough to provide me with all sorts of statistics.  My immediate thought was the other posts weren’t all that good.  That I needed to write more in the style of the post Bob referenced.  In short order, I was lured by the success of that one post to alter the course I was on and pursue one that would be more popular.  Without a second thought I abandoned that which got me to the point of success and became a slave to getting more success.  She’s a sly one, that siren Success.  Most sirens in Mythology are female.  Thankfully, I too am female and after the fog cleared I was able to let go of the wee bit of glory I’d experienced and refocus on my original path.  I went back to what got me there in the first place.  Fortunately, my siren didn’t come in the form of George Clooney.  Then I’d be telling a far different tale.

Seriously?

Turns out one of the guiding principles of my life wasn’t a genius idea I came up with but was identified early by the renown actor Peter Ustinov.  He said “It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously“.  I’ve often been heard saying about myself and the work I did when I was selling television advertising time, “I take my job seriously, not myself.”  Beyond the obvious meaning of the words, I’ve never really thought about what that meant.  At it’s most basic interpretation, I think it meant that I took my clients and my company’s goals very seriously, with all associated diligence to their business.  At the same time, the impatience, anger and pressures that were directed at me during negotiations or budgeting weren’t taken personally.  I recognized these negatives were a result of things stressing the other person and were beyond my control.  I tried my best to help with whatever it was I could impact.

Now that I am self employed, I realize this truism is even more relevant.  I am working very hard, getting my business set up, managing every last detail, spending long hours in pursuit of work, putting myself out there as much as I can.  However this time I am the product.  So the line between taking the job and not the self seriously gets a little harder to draw.  Especially when I don’t get chosen to do the work.  Remembering that being invited again and again to audition for the job is a win.  If I wasn’t doing something right, I wouldn’t get the calls.  The jobs will come, just keep taking the work seriously.

The back of the book

My nature is not one of patience.  I walk fast, process multiple things quickly, try to stretch my time to get just one more thing squeezed in.  These are all valuable skills when applied in appropriate manners and at appropriate times.  Quick evaluations on the lengths of the lines at the Costco can get you on your way to your next errand.  However these can also work against you when misused or not appropriate.  Or when the goal is to experience something fully, not just check it off your list.  When I am engrossed in a book for pleasure and the story is fantastic, the tension just keeps building beyond endurance, it is a battle of the wills to not look at the back of the book and see how it will all end.  It takes every ounce of self discipline I possess, knowing I have the answer in my hands, to not cheat myself of the full experience that book is offering me with the unfolding of the story.

I suffer from this in my daily life as well, particularly now when everything is changing faster than I can process and my level of confidence is waning.  I want assurances that the back of the book that is my life will come out just peachy, all will be well.  I don’t have the answers in my hands as I do when I am reading so I can’t possibly look, nonetheless, I want to know the outcome.  The bigger message I am missing in all this wanting, is I am missing out on the full experience that my life is offering me.  And experiencing the experience is what this life is all about, not the outcome.  Finding the courage to let go of the need to know what lies at the back of the book is the bigger battle of the wills.