Patching holes

Last summer my brother and brother-in-law came up to help me do some minor repairs that I’d been putting off for quite a while.  It was a very busy weekend but great progress was made which I continued for several weeks after they left.  One of the biggest things they help me take care of were two big holes I had, one in a ceiling due to a leak and the other in a wall due to some long ago plumbing work.  The ceiling hole was the newest of the two but was most definitely the biggest.  The wall hole had been there probably 7 years.  Maybe even longer.  I was pretty astounded I’d let it go that long.  Once it was patched and the walls painted and everything else taken care of, I felt like I had a brand new room.  I couldn’t believe I’d let this go for so long.  But in the rush of life, I’d put these repairs and the tattered state of my home in the background along with all the other visual white noise my brain doesn’t see.  Now I go into that room and it makes me smile every time I flip on the light.

Finally patching the holes and doing these repairs made me realize I’d let quite a few areas of my life become neglected and needing repair.  It seems I’d lost the forest while looking at the daily trees.  Note to self, let’s not let that happen again.  Now where did I put that drill?

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Finding Heroes

Reading biographies is something I truly enjoy doing.  I buy into the fantasy and believe these words just came flowing out of the authors mouth perfectly onto the paper.  Ghost writers?  What are those?  I choose not look behind the curtain to see the main moving the levers and pushing the buttons.  Reading about another’s journey and what got them to where they are today is very inspiring to me.  I usually pick up something that lights my fire and keeps me going in a forward direction on my own journey.  Usually these people have reached a level of expertise, celebrity or notoriety that would allow a biography to be written.

Every once in a while I come across a story that isn’t like this.  The subjects aren’t famous.  They haven’t climbed to the top of their field.  They may not even have a field.  They are simple people trying everyday to reach beyond their present circumstances.  And their stories are every bit as compelling and inspiring, sometimes even more so, than those of the celebrated.  Such was the case with a documentary I recently watched, Waiting for Superman.  It’s been on my video cue for several months but I kept pushing frothier fare in front of it.  But I found myself on a long flight and it was in my bag.  And let me tell you, it was gripping.  Several times tears were just streaming from my eyes.  My heart was breaking for these kids.  If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a huge favor and put in on your must watch list immediately.  You’ll thank yourself.  The struggle of parents to get a better education for their kids was heartbreaking.  And when things didn’t turn out their way, they didn’t give up, they tried another route.  Nothing was going to stop them from getting a better life for their kids than they had.  And you know this is going on everyday, in every home, with single or dual parents, rich or poor, PHD’s or barely GED’s.  Parents realize a good education is the ticket to success for their children and they were going to move heaven and earth to make it happen.

That single mindedness, resolve and quiet determination really hit home with me.  It’s so easy to point to the celebrity or sport elite for inspiration but the real heroes are those that just keep plugging away, day after day in their anonymity, doing the best they can with what life throws their way.  They are real heroes.

Coagulation

I haven’t written for a while.  At first it was a break because I was in the middle of shooting the web series I’m producing.  Then the holidays rushed in to take my attention with all the shopping, wrapping and requisite joy.  Once that subsided, I kept thinking I needed to get back to writing but never did.  So I figured I really didn’t have anything to say.  I would write when something came to me, but it never did.  I gave up trying to force it.

Three nights ago, I was researching insurance companies because I need to find health insurance.  This has been going on for several weeks as it is such an overwhelming process and I kept putting it off.  Going through it makes me long for the days when I was a corporate employee and I had to just pick from 2 choices that were clearly identified -HMO or PPO.  It’s enough to almost go back to the 9-5 grind…almost.  Anywho, this research extended well into the next day.  It was so complicated that I kept getting frustrated, stopping and turning to web surfing, email, TV, anything to get my mind off this monumental task. I kept having to pull myself back to the task at hand.   Which didn’t make my focus or my progress very good.  Finally by early evening, I had narrowed down my choices on 3 different providers and sent off a note to my insurance broker with my selections and a some questions for her.

Then a funny thing happened.  I truly felt a physical sense of relief.  I relaxed.  As I moved the now 2 inch file off my desk, I could feel my brain shifting.  For the first time in a long time, I felt like writing.  So I did.  And not just one post but two with ideas for 2 more.  And I started thinking of ideas I’d like to either produce, write or act in.  The creative juices started flowing again…finally!  I didn’t realize it at first, but when I noticed what I was working on, it hit me that I’d been so stressed about this insurance thing that it had stunted all my thinking.  The very nature of this insurance project and the fact that I’d put it off for so long, had taken all my energy away from everything I love to do.  My brain was just existing, it wasn’t thriving.  Creativity had slowed to a halt, and the insurance stuff had coagulated my imagination.

I’m not through this process yet.  And it’s an awful process.  But you better believe I’m going to attack the next step much faster and with less agita.  Peeling the bandaid off slowly just extends the pain.  Better to rip it off, feel the momentary ouch and move on.

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.

Dirt Sifting

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Simple Dollar by Trent Hamm.  He does a daily blog generally about frugality but he also touches on many other subjects.  He is a prolific writer, churning out 2 postings a day and I don’t think he’s missed a day yet.  At least not since I’ve been following him.  The other day he posted something sort of off the beaten path for him.  The value of doing grunt work, or slog work as he called it.  It’s the necessary but mind numbing work that exists in every job, whatever it is you do.  It can be data entry, invoicing or in his case, dirt sifting.   Really.  He got paid to go through dirt.  One of the most challenging things I am finding about this transition to working for myself is consistently and purposefully attacking the grunt work that exists for me.  In my case, it’s doing things like auditioning on the pay-to-play sites, sending out an invoice, writing a blog post.  Finding the concentration to just get it done isn’t the easiest thing for me.  When I finish a post, it’s a natural ending point so I break off, go out of the office and it’s 45 minutes later before I return.  Goofing off instead of going back to the list of topics I’ve identified I’d like to write about.  I do the same thing when I finish an audition.  I feel like I need a reward for completing something so I head to the fridge, or check my email for the 98th time, or get lost on the interwebs.  All because of a lack of focus and discipline to just get the job done.  I used to have the same problem when it came to doing forecasting reports but I was able to knuckle down and plow through them.  I need to find the same focus I had then and apply it to my work today.  I know I can do it, it’s just a matter of figuring out how I did it before and doing it again.   It’s not fun, but it is necessary.  It’s on the back of diligence that a strong career is forged.  If you can do the dirt sifting well, you will excel at the bigger tasks.

TMI

This means too much information.  Not in the way it’s usually used where someone reveals WAY too much information about their gastrointestinal tract, or their hemorrhoids or their fetishes.  You get the picture.  No the too much information I’m referring to is all the information that’s out there for our consumption.  The blogs (guilty!), message boards, e-blasts, e-mails, newsletters.  I am constantly bombarded with information about my industry and those working in it.  It’s hard to get through it all each day but I make sure I sort through it or it starts to build up.  Very often there’s some good stuff buried in the muck, tips and job possibilities.  But the flip side of this is it can all become one big distraction in the guise of work.  I read, sort and comment so I must be working right?

Wrong.  This is busy work that takes me away from the “just doing it” part.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in networking and marketing yourself.  I am my biggest cheerleader.  Biggest critic too but that’s a story for another day.  And I think that networking and marketing can be assisted by all this written communication.  But it all gets wrapped up and disguised as work when in reality it’s really not that connected to work.  Work, for me, is memorizing a new monologue, sending out an audition, learning a new scene for a class, practicing my movements, reading a play, improving my vocal strength.  While this is fun to do, it’s also not as much of a distraction as doing all that other stuff is.  And as I’ve mentioned before, I’m lazy.  I really don’t want to have to do the work.  I just want it easy.  I guess I’m a candidate for that ship on WALL-e.  You know, the people that move around all day in their floating barcaloungers sipping liquid stuff that makes you fat.  So paying attention to all this incoming data is like sipping that liquid stuff, it’ll make you fat with not-so-important info that slows you down and keeps you from doing what you should be doing.  Which is the work.  And my work is fun for heavens sake.  It really is.  I just need to unplug for a while to remember that fact.

One thing and one thing well

Every time I go out to LA, I indulge myself in an obsession I am fortunately not able to partake in here at home.  A few years back I discovered In n Out burgers and pretty much died and went to heaven.  Of course they are a calorie counters nightmare  but oh are they worth it.  I budget my daily intake (yeah right!) so I can indulge at least once before I head back east.  This trip was no exception and was squeezed in just minutes before I had to return the car to the rental lot at the airport.  Thankfully they chose to place a store right in the landing zone of LAX.

As I was waiting for my culinary indulgence to arrive, I thought about the philosophy of the chain and how it worked for them.  See, I love these so much I wrote to the company begging them to open an outlet in the midwest.  And I received a reply to the effect that they won’t be more than a days drive from their farms and suppliers in order to maintain the quality of their product.  The even more interesting thing is the menu.  They have 3 items on the menu besides sodas.  Burgers with or without cheese, fries and shakes.  That’s it.  No breakfast, no chicken, no wraps, no tacos-just burgers, fries and shakes.  They concentrate on doing basically one menu and doing it really, really well.  And from the line that is always to the door when I visit, it’s most definitely working for them.

Which got me to thinking about how thin I sometimes spread myself in my endeavors.  It’s easy to get distracted by a shiny new interest, especially if the old one is no longer exciting or is ending up being more challenging than anticipated.  But the key is to keep plugging away at the core of the activity or business and really work at doing it well.  Find ways to make it new and exciting once again. That’s where the success starts coming in droves.  And pretty soon, you have a line out the door waiting to use your service.