A Little Housekeeping

Sometimes my titles don’t tell you right away what it is that I’m blogging about.  But this time, it does.  And the housekeeping I’m referring to is this blog’s housekeeping.  Recently I’ve done some work on it, other that posting my daily musings, that would allow you to subscribe to this fabulous work of art so not a day will go by without me arriving in your in box.  I know you are all atwitter with excitement at the thought.  I can appreciate and applaud that.  And all kidding aside, I am truly most grateful for those who read what I’ve written and take the time to let me know about it.  It really is nice to know that something I’ve found interesting or important strikes a chord with another.  Reminds me that we’re all in this together.  So if you wish, please subscribe.  If not, I’ll still post on Facebook when something gets published.  Either way, thanks for listening.

Fabulous Hair

I am a devoted reader of Seth Godin’s Blog.  I have it delivered to my inbox every day.  Which reminds me I need to let all my 4 readers know I have the ability to do that for them as well.  Anywho, I love how he looks at things.  He takes a situation, turns it upside down, inside out and backwards and helps me to look at something in a completely different way.  And in doing so, I break a little further out of the mold of “I’ve always done it that way”.  He’s also great at introducing me to new thoughts, new ideas and often new words. And you know I’m a word junky.  I love collecting them.  One of his recent blogs was about the word Sprezzatura, which is an Italian word meaning the ability to do your craft or work without visible effort.  In his words, it’s a combination of elan (another great word) and grace and class.  It’s the golfer finessing a shot under a tree but over a bunker to land on the green 4 feet from the cup, the surgeon who calmly and precisely opens a chest, inserts a pacemaker into a heart and restores normal rhythm to a struggling patient, or the film actor who take after take hits his mark exactly while delivering his lines slightly different from the take before, thus giving the director options when he edits the film.  Or for me, it’s my hairdresser Elizabeth who blows dries my hair so fabulously it has that come hither look about it.  I sigh in resignation each time I watch her at her task, determined to figure out what she’s doing that I’m not because no matter how hard I try, I just can’t duplicate her results.  One time I blurted out “Now why can’t I do that?”  She chuckled and said “well first of all my arms aren’t connected to your body” -good point for her as I have a hard time reaching the back.  She continued “And it could be the fact that I’ve been doing this for 15 years” which made me think, yes but I’ve been blow drying this hair for 3 decades and it’s the same head and hair I’ve always had so why can’t I do as well as she does?  I came to realize that the difference is how we approach the task.  She is a professional who is trying to please a client so she has learned the proper techniques and motions to create “Hollywood” hair as I like to call it.  Me, I just want to get it done and dry as I have 35 other things that need my attention once I’m finished so it’s a chore to get completed, not my passion.  If it was really that important, I’d practice over and over to get it right which is what I do each time I audition or perform.  It’s still not at the Sprezzatura point, but I’m getting there.  And now I know what to call it when I reach that point of effortlessness.

Not Letting it Slide

The Olympics have just ended.  It’s been so much fun watching the games that I’m kind of bummed they’ve drawn to a close.  Events like this always have amazing stories attached to them, stories of triumph over unbelievable odds, athletes that have toiled in obscurity for years that excel at the precise moment in time, goals that fall short of achieving them.  Early on in the games, the men’s half pipe was on.  I’m not a snow boarder, I’ve never tried it as I was bit too old when the skateboarding phenomenon hit and then the evolution of it to snowboarding.  I’m a skier from way back.  Someday I’d like to try snowboarding but that’s in the future.  But I love the feeling of the participants, the zen of the whole community.  It seems to be very encouraging to all it’s members, even while maintaining a competitive edge.

So I’m watching the men’s half pipe and Shawn White is coming up in the rotation.  He’s at the top of the leader board and the guy that has the best shot at catching him in the points just missed his landing.  His points won’t add up to enough to take the gold.  The camera’s flash to Shawn at the top of the pipe and he and his team realize he’s won the gold.  He pretty much could scootch down on his bum at this point and still win the gold medal.  Instead he decides to do a trick that’s never been done in competition.  A trick that will once again push his sport forward to the bleeding edge of innovation.  And he nails it.  His performance for that entire run was flawless.  He could have let it slide, played it safe as the win was in the bag.  But that wouldn’t satisfy an innovator such as he is.  This was a chance for him to pull out a show stopping move that wowed everyone watching.

It’s easy to play it safe, just phone it in.  But breakthroughs and innovation never occur when you play it safe.  Just when you feel it’s in the bag, that’s the exact moment you pull out a Double McTwist 1260 and nail it.  Watch how it changes you.

Ain’t too proud…

Not to beg as the song intones.  But recently I’ve been hired by a fellow voice talent to direct him on several long form projects.  For those not in the Voiceover business, long form in narration could be anything from an audiobook to e-learning to a documentary.  These scripts can be very dense and very often contain complicated language.  Usually the project needs to be sent to the client in an edited form with all the correct pronunciations.  Another set of ears on the audio and eyes on the script allow fixes to be made right away, eliminating the need to go back and insert a fix, all the while trying to match the sound and flow of the original recording.  It’s much easier and better to correct as you go.

Anywho, Bob Souer is the voice talent who hired me.  In the midst of this big project he was being interviewed by Kristine Oller for one of her wonderful coffee date interviews.  His VO business has grown so much he’s had to reach out for help and I was fortunate to be the one he contacted.  He was telling me about the call and said that while he talked about the assistance I was providing, he’d kept my identity anonymous.  His reason for doing this was he wasn’t sure if I wanted everyone to know I was directing him.  While I appreciated him protecting my privacy, my thought was I have no problem with people knowing I was working for him.  I am a big believer in there is dignity in any work and if I can help a fellow VO meet a tight deadline, I’m more than happy to do so.  Besides I’m learning a lot, not just about the stuff he’s recording, but also how he records and tells the story.  And he is paying me for my time.  We used to say in my former television sales life when a piece of biz would come in from a less than marquee client, that their money was as green as everyone else’s.  It spends and saves the same way.

Do I want to do this all the time?  No, that wasn’t my purpose in leaving full time corporate work to pursue a freelance creative life.  But part of that freelance life is that work will come from many different sources at different times.  That’s the exciting part.  And if part of my work comes from directing and not performing, that’s perfectly fine with me.  I’m not too proud to accept that work.  Actors who direct always get better as actors.  This serves my learning process as well as serving my financial process.  In your quest to create a new business life for yourself, don’t overlook adjunct ways to earn and learn that push your  success even further.  Be wise in how your spend your time as it is a limited resource but don’t let pride get in the way of a good experience.

4 minutes

As you might have guessed, I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to numbers and most especially when it comes to the weather.  Living in Chicago right next to this really big body of water, we are continually impacted in ways that not only are fascinating, but affect one’s daily life a lot.  All year long, we exist in what many call a concrete jungle but what they don’t know is most of the winter we live with concrete skies over our heads.  Because Lake Michigan is so deep, it takes a long time for it to freeze so the water temperatures stay right around the high 20’s/low 30’s.  Add to that air temps that are about the same and you have a perfect recipe for concrete skies.  Low clouds that obliterate the sun and guarantee to obliterate any good mood you might have.  We do occasionally have blue skies but the trade off here is they are the result of a extremely cold arctic front visiting from Canada.  And it’s that word arctic that the sticking point.  When they say arctic, they mean arctic.  But you do get to see the sun which is so welcome if you don’t have to venture out in it.

This time of year we are, and by that I mean I am, at our wits end with all this nonsense.  The snow continues to fall and because it’s late season snow, it’s very heavy wet snow.  The winds are starting to change so we get more snow off the lake from the east.  And there’s not a bit of green to be found anywhere.  It’s enough to break even the hardiest of spirits.  One thing that has helped me get through this period each year is the amount of sunshine we gain with each day.  Even though I can’t see that sunshine, I check the Weather Channel every morning to see the changes in sunrise and sunset.  Most days it’s a minute or two, but the other day, it was 4 MINUTES! I know, I could barely contain my excitement.  The sun is now rising before 7am and setting after 530p.  I’m all aquiver.

This may seem like a silly thing to be obsessed about.  I’ll admit it, I’m a bit obsessed.  But it’s the small things that make a difference.  The attention to detail that set you apart in any situation.  Now this particular quirk of mine may set me apart in a way I hadn’t counted on (I can see the comments now “oh HER, she’s a little too excited about the weather)!  But in a broader sense, paying attention to details will help me remember the names of my clients children, their favorite restaurant or what college they went to.

And of course, I’m in with all the other weather geeks.  You know who you are.

Just say “Thank You”

I’m not good at complements.  Let me amend that, I’m very good at giving out complements, often stopping a stranger on the street when she looks fabulous to let her know her efforts are recognized and appreciated.  But when it comes to receiving them, I stink.  I push them aside, diminish them , pooh-pooh them.  I don’t know why I do this.  Maybe it’s my fear of not getting too full of myself, to be perceived as arrogant or cocky or just plain standing out in the crowd.  So I’d do my best to downplay whatever was being complemented about me, be it a new outfit, a good job at work or kindness to another.  What I didn’t realize in doing this was I was completely insulting the complementer.  This person had gone out of their way to remark on something they found agreeable about me.  They’d made themselves vulnerable in doing so.  My dismissal was complete negation of their actions.  I’d dismissed them, their taste and their kindness with my attempt at being self deprecating.  Wasn’t that nice of me?!!

Realizing what I was doing mortified me.  My attempts at humility were completely backfiring.  Not exactly what I’d hope the outcome would be.  So now what I try to do as I feel the dismissal forming in my throat is to take a deep breath, smile and graciously say “Thank You”.  That’s it, nothing more.  And the appreciation I see in the complement giver’s face is reward enough for me.  I just have to keep remembering do it.  Thank you, I’ll keep trying.

Two Paths

One of my favorite saying these days has become “There are never any wrong moves in life”.  I’m not sure if I made it up or if I am co-opting it from someone far wiser than me but just acknowledging this to myself has helped tremendously.  I put an immense amount of pressure on making the right choice in any situation.  I research every thing I can about a situation, try to think of every contingency and forecast every possible outcome I can think of.  While this planning has it’s merits, it can also be very counterproductive and time consuming.  After all, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, the one constant is change.  And this is something that can’t be factored into all my thinking and planning.  Which of course totally ticks me off.

So something I’ve really tried to instill as default thinking is there is no wrong move I can make as I make my choices.  I try to assess the information I have available and then make the best decision I can given what I know at that moment.  And if what I decide is proven not to be the best path for me, I try to stay flexible enough to make adjustments in my course.  To not get locked in to only one way to go about something.  As the wise philosophers Led Zeppelin says “Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Stay loose, absorb the bumps, continue to refine your course.  Wow, 2 quotes in the same post.  I must be feeling learned today.