The Clunk Heard Round the World

Last night was the final game of the NCAA tournament for 2010.  Unless you really don’t give a hoot about basketball, you probably were aware that mighty Duke played an unexpected and underrated opponent by the name of Butler University from my home state of Indiana.  In any other year I would be cheering for Duke which I know invokes strong responses from most people.  Duke is a team folks either love or hate, there’s usually no in between.  I happen to like Duke, I respect their coach Mike Krzyzewski, I respect the fact I could spell his name correctly-ok so I looked it up-shoot me, I like the fact they are a perennial threat every year, I like how passionate their fans are.

But this year was a different story.  This year their opponent was none other than Butler, a small liberal arts university that I’d previously known for having a good dance school.  Oh and their gym, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was one of the gyms used in Hoosiers.  Butler was an improbable finalist in the tournament, rising from I think it was the 5th seed to almost win the game.  It was one of the best basketball games I’ve watched in recent history.  Both teams were neck and neck with each other, their defenses were tight so the score was relatively low and the excitement in the stadium was palpable what with Duke’s passionate fans trying to outshout the home field advantage Butler had.  Duke ended up winning by one point but not before one of the Butler players launched a mid-court buzzer beater shot.  You could hear the collective intake of breath as time slowed down and everyone waited to see where the ball landed.  It not only made it to the basket, it hit the rim with a loud clunk that CBS replayed over and over.  Alas it didn’t go in.  What a story that would have been.

So Duke won the game.  But I couldn’t help thinking throughout the celebration and press conference afterwards, that the real story was what Butler had accomplished.  That they were the real winners of the night and we were the better having watched them.  They never doubted they had the right to be in the finals, never apologized for their presence, never made excuses for their ascension, never wavered in their belief they would win.  That team should be so proud of what they achieved.  And what they taught me, not that I matter anything to them, is something I will draw on in years to come.

I do loves me some Hoosier basketball!

Let’s Hear It for the Girls

The Oscars aired last night.  I’m probably in the minority but I liked the telecast this particular evening.  I even liked to 2 co-hosts.  I think they did a good job of keeping it moving forward.  The idea of celebrating excellence in my chosen field is pretty amazing and something I aspire to.  This was a groundbreaking awards, not just because it ended pretty much on time, but because for the first time a woman Best Director was awarded and her film was awarded Best Picture.  For me, I was brought to tears by the acceptance speech of one of my idols, Sandra Bullock.  I am a huge admirer of her talent and her business acumen and to see her work rewarded finally was wonderful.  Her acceptance speech was one of the best I’ve heard in years-funny tidbits, gracious thanks and almost tears.  It brought me to tears.  I don’t think I would have been as composed as she was while accepting the highest creative honor awarded.  I would have been a blubbery mess.  But as she was thanking her mother, a very poignant moment, one of the things she said was how her mom made her practice every day when she came home from school, be it music, dancing, voice or whatever they were focused on that day.  What wonderful discipline was instilled in her very early in her life.  It obviously has paid off as her work has gotten so much better over the years.  And it was a reminder that I could use the same kind of discipline in my life as I strive to achieve the heights awarded last night.

I know it most likely sounds a bit far fetched, me getting an Oscar.  But one of my long term goals has been to walk the red carpet someday, and not on the other side of the velvet ropes, the skinny side, but on the big side that faces all the reporters.  And that means I’ve been nominated for something right?  Hey a girl can dream.  I gotta go practice now.

Not a success? Sez who?

I have entered a field where the odds are stacked incredibly high against achieving success.  Especially at this stage in my life.  Just ask any number of so called friends, former boyfriends and “‘supportive” colleagues that give great face when I talk about my ambitions but snicker behind my back at the first opportunity.  But they determine success in my field, acting, as achieving that $15 million per picture paycheck.  That’s like telling every computer or IT major that unless they achieve Bill Gates’ status they are a failure at their chosen profession.  Or every finance major they must achieve Warren Buffet’s wealth in order to be successful.  Sure it would be great, but why must we insist that actors are failure’s unless they are an Oscar nominee, in the tabloid’s on a weekly basis or pulling down 7 figures for each project?  Acting is a craft and a skill to be mastered like a plumber masters the art of pipefitting.  That’s why it’s in a trade union.  Plenty of people earn an honorable living each and every day working at their craft that they happen to love.  They aren’t stinkin rich but they are able to meet their obligations, provide for their families and enjoy a nice standard of living.  Perhaps it’s because we do it out of love that people put such ridiculous expectations on an actor to succeed.

It’s important to define for yourself what success means to you.  It’s great to dream dreams that may seem out of our reach because you never know.  But in the end, only you can decide if you are successful at what you are trying to accomplish.  No one else can do it for you.

Reaching for the stars

In my past life, one of the advertising agencies I used to work with was Leo Burnett.  The very famous story about this man and his eponymous agency is that he started it at the height of the Depression of the 1930’s with one client.  His contemporaries thought he was crazy and a Chicago newspaper columnist predicted he’d be selling apples within a year.  Well history has shown how good that prediction was.  Instead he gave away apples and on every reception desk in his now global ad agency to this day, there is a bowl of apples there for you to help yourself to.  I used to say when I was going to make a sales call there that I was going apple shopping.  I like the fact that 74 years later, the presence of a lowly apple  is a gentle “oh yeah, I’ll show you!” to those that didn’t believe.  One of the other iconic symbols of the venerable agency is a hand reaching for the stars.  Leo used to say that “when you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either”.  Striving for goals that seem beyond our grasp is how we keep pushing ourselves a little closer to achieving them.  It’s how the sprinter shaves a second off her time, a 40 year old QB annihilates his old team, the 20 year veteran who’s been struggling in obscurity wins an Oscar.

Examples of people reaching for the stars usually focus around sports and entertainment endeavors but I think it’s more about anyone who dares to dream a different life for themselves than they’ve been living thus far.  It could be going back to school at age 60, starting your own business, inventing a new gadget or starting a family.  You are never too old, too poor, too uneducated or more importantly too scared to find that dream that is your star and reach for it.  The key is to figure out what that passion is and then fire up the booster rockets to make it happen.  Think of how amazing that journey to the stars will be.  And make it happen for yourself.

Fearlessness

Safely ensconced back in my abode after all the glitz and glam of my trip to LA gives me a great opportunity to reflect on all the fun I had and the wonderful people I met.  This trip was packed with some pretty cool events, an Emmy post party, a Santa Monica restaurant opening and a visit to a studio.  Plus lots of chances to get together with friends.  But through the entire weekend, I realized I’d packed some even more precious than the 8 pairs of shoes I’d brought.  What?  I was there for 3 1/2 days.  What do you expect?  Even more important that these fabulous accessories, I’d brought along my fearlessness.  My audacity.  And I pulled it out and put it on more frequently than my lipstick.  Because of this I didn’t hesitate to walk up to an unknown Emmy winner, ask to hold his statue (they really are heavy-probably 8-10 pounds), hear about his sound work on the show House and then have him offer to take a picture of me holding his award.  Which will most likely be my Christmas card this year!  I talked to and congratulated several other winners, among those were Cherry Jones, an actress who I’d admired for quite a while, to the point of writing her a fan masher letter when I saw her in Doubt.  And here I was congratulating her on her win.  I met the President of a major network and kidded him about some things he said.  I busted someone on her Chicago accent, something I am so aware of as I try to neutralize my own, and it was the lovely actress and animation voice Megan Cavanaugh and we proceed to have a great conversation on trying to get the “chicago” out of our speech.  Then there was the guy on the set of Chuck who so patiently answered all of my numerous questions about sets and shooting and props.  If you’ve ever been with me, you know I ask a lot of questions!  All of these things would never have happened had I let myself get all self conscious and fear being judged.  For some reason, whenever I go somewhere else, I pack my fearlessness and audacity along with me.

The tricky part is to not put them away with the luggage when I get home.  Keep these two traits with me at ALL times, not just when I have nothing to lose in a strange place and amongst strangers.  Charge forward fearlessly even when I know I may see these people again and they may laugh at me behind their smiles.  Forget being judged.  As Virgil said Fortune favors the bold and since I plan on having a lot of success in my future, I’d be better served with fearlessness as my guide.

I can’t believe I brought another Latin saying into this writing, my Dad is just hooting right now.  It’s still a dead language.

And so it begins…

As the poet Virgil said, Look with favor upon a bold beginning.

I have been noodling around with the idea of posting a blog for quite a while now.  I’ve been collecting quotes and anecdotes that inspire and inform me for over a year.  I’ve been trying to get the perfect format, the ideal colors, embedding within my website, all kinds of delaying details down pat.  The trouble is, it’s all busy work.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to think about these things.  It’s all avoidance in the name of branding and control.  You will find I am very much aware of the power of branding, marketing and streamlined messages.  It’s been my career for all of my adult life.  But in my quest to micromanage every aspect of what I put out there, I’ve ended up with a whole lot of nothing.  And when you get down to it, it’s the doing that matters, not the talking about the doing.  One can spend one’s entire life in this pattern and end up at the end with a whole lot of nothing.

So it begins.  It may not be what Virgil had in mind, perhaps not as bold as one would hope.  But it is a beginning.  And thus ends the talking and begins the doing.