Falling

Sports and their analogies are very prevalent in my thinking and writing.  It’s not surprising as sports exists in every culture and at many different levels.  Baseball and Football in the US.  Soccer, Football to the rest of the world, in many, many countries.  And every other year, the Olympics bring to the world sports that we don’t get to see every day.  Sports participants have a relevancy in so many ways, you can’t help but draw from their experiences.

I saw an interview recently from Olympic ice skater Michelle Kwan who said when she started skating (at age 5!) her first coach spent a lot of time teaching her how to fall which really puzzled Michelle.  After all, should she be learning to skate?  What she later realized is her coach knew she’d be falling, and falling a lot, during her career and Michelle needed to learn that falling wasn’t fatal, that it was all part of the process and not really a big deal.  She just needed to pick herself up and get going again.  Falling didn’t end her performance.  She had to continue.  If she allowed herself to become paralyzed from fear when she fell or thinking she might fall, then that was what was going to end her performance.

Falling, and falling again, then falling some more, is what happens every day with almost everything we attempt at life.  Those miserable 10 pounds (ok 25 pounds!)?  So you had a bad day fueling yourself, that doesn’t mean you give up a healthy lifestyle forever.  Yes, you know smoking is bad for you and you know you had a drag when stress got the better of you.  So start right back on your no smoking path the next day.  Those new business clients you were going to research for work?  So maybe you spent the day on the couch channel surfing instead of diligently plugging away at the computer.  Vow to do the needed work first thing tomorrow morning.

Learning to fall and not letting it stop you in your tracks is key to continuing your forward progress.  You might as well admit it’s going to happen.  How you handle this eventuality determines how successful you’ll be in your journey.  And bruises, while not very pretty, do fade.

Sliding into Home

I have been blessed with 8 nieces and nephews.  More nephews than nieces but I’m partial to both.  My brother and sisters were kind enough to select me to be the Godmother of the oldest and the youngest, both boys.  Let me tell you, the youngest one is a pistol and being around him is a blast.  He’s sharp as a tack and built like a toddler linebacker, an interesting combination.  The oldest one is very observant, serious, smart, impatient and likes to know he’s got a handle on everything, that’s he’s in control of his environment.  He’s a good student although I wish he liked to read more as it opens up your world so much.  Whatever Aunt Pam.  Sometimes I feel as if I’ve turned into the adults from the Peanuts cartoon when I’m talking to the kids, so much “wah, wah, wah”.  But start talking to him about sports and watch his face light up.  He’s a huge sports fan, from baseball to golf to football to basketball.  He’s truly a student of the game and it shows in how much he can tell you about any subject.  He’s also an active participant of several sports.  He plays football in the fall, baseball in the spring and has a really nice natural golf swing he breaks out in the summer, which makes his Nana very happy to see.

Since it is Spring, we are in the midst of baseball season for all the kids even the girls.  Every game counts for each team as it gets closer to the playoffs.  This particular game was a real nail biter as it went down to the closing innings and our team was behind.  My nephew is leading off third as the pitcher throws a wild pitch.  He takes off down the baseline and slides into home plate.  Only his cleat catches on the base and his leg goes one way and he goes the other.  Followed by the pitcher falling on him.  Snap!  You could hear it pretty far away.  Both bones, tibia and fibula, broken.  As he was being carried off the field for the trip to the emergency room, tears streaming down his face, he looks up at his coach and asks “was I safe?”  He was.  As the tears resume, he stops them once again to ask “did we win?”  The game wasn’t over but it was the go ahead run.

Pretty amazing.  Not the part that made me smile, the questions that were topmost in his mind, but the total commitment he had to taking advantage of an error and getting to home plate.  Nothing was going to deter him.  His goal was to get to home plate no matter what.  There’s something to be learned from this terrible experience.  There will be obstacles and sometimes setbacks as you pursue what you want.  But being completely fearless and totally committed will get you the results you want in the end.  Oh, and they did win the game…by one run.

The Whole Pie

By now you’ve ascertained that I’m a bit of a documentary geek.  It’s something I’ve acquired late in life.  Years ago, you wouldn’t catch me alive watching a program I could actually learn something from.  Well, with the exception of the Jacques Cousteau films.  They were always pretty cool to watch and it didn’t seem like I was larnin’ anything.

Fast forward to present day and my aversion to docs has disappeared.  I happened to catch one a few weeks ago that really caught my interest.  It was about the career of Billie Jean King.  I’m old enough to remember the primetime Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean and Bobbie Riggs.  Tennis was exploding at that time.  Both of my parents had picked it up, although my Dad soon abandoned it for his beloved golf.  My Mom was played regularly even through her pregnancy with my brother until a hyper-extended knee put an end to that.  All of us kids were in a junior league.  Me, less enthusiastically than the other.  That court was HUGE and you had to run around it.  Meh.

Anywho, Billie Jean’s rise in the ranks and the public consciousness came at a very interesting time for women.  She was the first person to kind of challenge the idea that women’s tennis was very ladylike.   Heck that women’s sports weren’t a serious endeavor.  This was several years before Title IX came into play and women in sports were an afterthought to the “real” sports.  Read “men’s” sports.

In the doc, she talks about the match and the significance it held.  All of this was lost to me at that time.  I was old enough to be aware of it but really didn’t understand the significance.  So all this backstory information was fascinating.  The film did a great job of framing how things were for female athletes in those days.  What I didn’t know was there was a previous match with Riggs and Margaret Court whom he roundly beat thus forcing Billie Jean to step up after she’d already said no to the match the first time.

Her drive and ambition to be successful and elevate women and women’s sports against tide of “not gonna happen here” mentalities is truly inspiring.  One thing she said during the film was “girls were taught to be satisfied with the crumbs men gave them.  I wasn’t happy with that.  I wanted the whole pie”

Hmmm.  The whole pie.  Sounds pretty good.  I’ll have that as well.

45000 Personal Bests

This morning I hung out with 45000 folks.  It was a lovely way to start a Sunday morning at 730am.  You see today was the annual Chicago Marathon.  The course, as it winds it’s way through the city, usually runs somewhere in the vicinity of my house.  I can remember one year it went right by Wrigley Field.  It was really cold that year, I was wearing my Columbia jacket with the lining zipped in.  I rode my bike down with my dog Lily and we arrived in time to see the elite runners.  They are amazing to watch.  You can’t hear them as their feet barely make contact with the earth as they fly by.  It was incredible.

This year, the weather was much warmer, although not as hot as the year they had to stop the race.  The humidity was really high that year and the organizers didn’t have enough water out for folks.  This year it was dryer and there was plenty of H2O for the runners.  We learn lessons really well in Chicago.  Like how snow removal, or lack thereof, will ensure you don’t get re-elected the next time (see How Jane Byrne Became Mayor in Wikipedia).  So the organizers were very ready for conditions this year.

I had a special reason to get to the course.  My friend Stephanie was running in her hometown and for a wonderful charity (PAWS – Pets Are Worth Saving).  I donated to her fund as did others and she wonderfully dedicated each mile to a furry friend she’d known throughout the years.  My dear departed Lily was mile 8 which is where I was standing.  A nice bit of serendipity wouldn’t you say?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to spot her.  After all, there were 45000 people running, how on earth would I be able to pick her out of the crowd?  And since I was still pretty near the front, there were coming in big groups as the crowds hadn’t had time to thin out.  I kept my eyes peeled all morning long.  But in the midst of all this pressure, I was cheering on whomever came into my eyeline.  Lots of runners put their names on their shirts so I was calling out to random people urging them on.  Lots of thank you’s came back.  The sheer magnitude of what they were undertaking was overwhelming.  I was blaming it on the sunscreen getting in my eyes, but I found myself tearing up thinking about their quest.  It was humbling to see all those people from all over the world running for themselves and any number of charitable causes.

Finally I hear my name being called out and look to see Stephanie with the biggest, most beautiful smile on her face waving at me.  I was so excited for her I started whooping it up, bad for the voice but oh-so-necessary for the accomplishment!  She finished with her personal best even with the hot conditions.  I’m so proud of her, proud of all those who even signed up to attempt such a goal.  They stuck their necks out and just showing up that morning was a win for them.  Kudos to all.

Makes me think…nah.  That’s just crazytalk.

Raise Your Game

My Mom and Dad have been avid golfers for as long as I can remember.  My Dad started playing when he was young but my Mom didn’t pick it up until she married him.  She also started skiing when they got married.  But I digress.  We were fortunate enough to live in a small town with several pretty good golf courses close by so they were usually able to play somewhere.  Even if for a hole or two or to shag balls.  My Dad really enjoyed the game and the release it provided him from his stressful career.  For my Mom, I think it was a wonderful opportunity for her to find a moment of peace and quiet amongst the chaos of raising 5 children.  It’s blissfully hard to answer a million questions and referee the multitude of battles when you are on the back nine!

I always thought it was great that they shared this common interest.  They took golf trips together, went to golf school together and played together several times a week.  My Mom, being the great competitor she is, really worked at her game.  She has a great eye for analyzing a swing and for putting what she learned into practice. It got to the point she could play better than my Dad, who was no slouch himself.  In fact she plays better than almost the entire male membership at their club.  There’s quite a bit of grudging admiration in the men’s locker room for my Mom’s skills.  All of us kids grew up playing, with varying degrees of success.  I like being outdoors but the time it took to play a full round was time I wanted to use elsewhere.  So while I am proficient, I haven’t excelled to the level my parents have.  But I always loved playing with them.  It was really fun and the laughs we had were priceless.  Best of all, I always played better than when I was playing in an outing or a league.  Both my parents would give me tips, and my Mom especially was great at fixing my errant swing.  I played up to their game and was the better for it.

I thought about that last night when I attended a table read for the latest project I’ve been cast in, a short film.  One of the actors there had really prepared for the read, our first meeting as a cast.  He’d really thought about all the characters and had read the script multiple times.  He’d mapped out past histories and relationship nuances I hadn’t begun to think about.  His work got me thinking about decisions I’d made about my character but hadn’t formalized.  Made me commit to certain aspects of my role and who I was in the story.  Made me work out where I was going in this story.  In short, improved my game during our brief meeting.

It had been a while since I’ve been in a collaborative effort like this.  Voiceover can be a solitary business with no one to bounce ideas off of.  I was excited leaving the meeting and reminded that I should always try to work with those better than me.  Push myself.  Raise my game.  How else am I going to get that hole in one?

A Lesson from the Boss

George Steinbrenner passed away a few days ago.  He certainly was an iconic figure in the world of sports and entertainment.  Over the years, he took his team, the Yankees, and baseball to levels of popularity and controversy it hadn’t seen before.  Many people had very strong feelings about George, you either loved him or you despised him.  I had a different feeling about him.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Steinbrenner, he had a really big impact on me at a very impressionable time in my life.  Although it was just a footnote in his obituary, at the time his conviction for felony obstruction of justice was a pretty big deal.  He was involved in the Watergate scandal.  And Watergate was all over the news just as I was getting old enough to pay attention to politics and what was happening outside my little pre-teen world, you know-other than David Cassidy and Donny Osmond.  George Steinbrenner came to my high school a few years after all that had happened and spoke to us.  Funny he should come to my little Indiana town to speak but many people don’t know he went to Culver Military Academy, which wasn’t far, and his sons were attending the school at the time.

Anywho, he came and talked to us during one of our weekly convocations.  I didn’t realize it at the time but we had some pretty noteworthy speakers come to the school including Corrie Ten Boom who was imprisoned in a German concentration camp for hiding Jews.  And George Steinbrenner.  I usually zoned out during these confabs, I was a teenager after all.  But for some reason this time I paid attention.  He was talking about what had happened during Watergate and how because of his poor decision making, he was now a convicted felon.  He said with a lot of emotion in his voice, that he could never vote again in an election for the rest of his life.  And he said it a second time.  The right our forefathers had died for was now something he’d been denied.

For some reason, this really resonated with me.  I was going through my first presidential election and although I was still too young to vote, that milestone wasn’t far away.  And the result of it is I’ve never missed voting in a general election.  And I’ve only missed 1 primary.  I wasn’t going to take my right to vote for granted.  I take election days pretty seriously.  Mr. Steinbrenner probably never knew he’d had that kind of impact on me but he did.

Oh, I’ve also never been convicted of a felony.  Convicted?  No.  (Stripes joke)  But my parents may have had a little to do with that.

Stepping into Liquid

The other morning I happened the catch a documentary about surfing called Step Into Liquid.  The title alone was so intriguing that I spent the next 90 minutes watching a film about a sport that I, as a landlocked midwesterner, will most likely never try.  It followed the sport all over the world.  One of the most surprising thing I discovered were all the places people surf.  Not just the expected Australian coast, or Maui, or the stereotypical California, but the unexpected places like 50 miles north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan (we get fetch winds that travel straight down the entire length of the lake.  When they finally hit the southern end, the waves are pretty amazing).  Or off the coast of Ireland.  Or most intriguing, in the wake of the supertankers that travel from Galveston to Houston with their bellies loaded with oil.  Those guys are called Tank Surfers and since they’re Texans, with a Yee Haw as their battle cry, they are a breed unto their own.

Along with seeing some pretty spectacular scenery from all these exotic and, er, industrial places, there was scene after scene of men and women having fun.  The overriding sense I got from every surfer interviewed was how much fun they had doing it.  You could see it in their faces.  It was pure joy.  That joy brought them back time after time to the beach, knowing the minute they hopped on their boards and started paddling out, it would be ecstasy with a spray on their face.

One of the guys commented that surfing was a very selfish sport, in spite of the camaraderie.  Even though you most likely surfed in a group and hung out with the guys, when one of them caught a perfect wave, you wanted it for yourself.  You weren’t surfing against them, you were surfing for yourself and bettering what you did before.  Much the same in my business.

I thought about how fortunate these folks were to have found something in their lives that brought them so much happiness.  They made it look so easy, so effortless.  But these people were at the top of their game.  They’d been practicing for years, chasing waves all around the world, getting knocked about by one of the strongest forces of nature.  It made me think about my efforts to get some traction for my business.  Our journeys weren’t too dissimilar.  I’ve been practicing for years, I’m chasing leads all over the world, I’m getting knocked about by one of the strongest forces of human nature – the word no.  I realized I need to find some of their joy in what I was doing.  Even though I described the process as a slog, I need to reframe that as riding another wave that will lead to the next one.  And there will always be another wave, somewhere.  I need to step into my own kind of liquid and just have fun with it.  Find the Stoke as the dudes say.

No More Bush League

What’s this?  Another sports reference?  But what can you do when sports are so much a part of our lives?  Deal I guess.  The term bush league comes from baseball and means amateur, unprofessional, unsophisticated.  I recently came back from a gathering of voiceovers that happens not quite annually but often enough to merit attending.  This time I came back with a different perspective, one that had started building a few months ago but was solidified at this gathering.  A lot of my friends and colleagues were there along with a lot more newbies and wannabees.  In attending all the various meetings and addresses at this conference, I realized that I had started to top out with what I could learn at any given workshop or symposium.  It was a funny realization.  When you get started in any venture, you are a sponge soaking up as much knowledge and expertise as you possibly can.  You read every book, take every class, listen to every podcast, join every online group, practice every moment you can, seek out any coach that could possibly teach you something.  Anything to get you closer to expertise and success.  This stage exists for quite a while until it feels like this is how it will always be.  Not so.  After a while, all this new found knowledge gets absorbed and settles in and becomes your new default position.  You continue to add to your knowledge and your expertise level continues to grow.  You think this will go on forever, that you’ll be learning things about your craft and it’s business ad infinitum.  Until you pay to attend something and you realize that the meetings you went to and actually learned something new were few and far between.  That you actually learned more from hanging out with your fellow professionals and pals.  Wow.  Is that a jolt.  You suddenly realize you are on par with these professionals and have to rethink how you see yourself.  And your training.  You’ll have to be more selective about who you give your hard earned dollars to in hopes of furthering your craft.  It’s a whole different way of living in your dream but an equally as exciting way.