Alden Gagnon discusses rejection, and offers up some remedies for dealing with it.Read More
So, I've been really busy.
The great part about being busy is that your life, in so many ways, moves forward. You get things done, you learn more about what you're capable of, and in the best of all cases, you rise to a new level.
But in so many ways, when we're extra busy, our inner life moves backwards. And suffering in that way can not only create stress later, but can be dangerous, if it means dipping into our addictions and losing the things which keep us sane.
So now that I'm a little less busy, here are 5 lessons I learned over the last few weeks.
1. No-Drinking Nights Are important
I am a major believer in the health benefits of a drink or two most nights. But as the child of any alcoholic will tell you, one drink regularly becomes two becomes four becomes a "regular drink" is a double. Furthermore, alcohol is intensely addictive (duhhhh), and after five straight days of frequent drinking, your body will feel strangely without it every day.
So forcing a night or two every week (At least!!!) of no drinking is vital to break your habits and reset your body chemistry.
Because the negative health effects of drinking too much (weight gain, poor choices, bad sleep, depression, etc.) are far worse than any health benefit.
2. Daily Rituals are Just as Essential as I Thought
Turns out, I was right.
I couldn't find the time for my morning rituals (which take 1-1.5 hours every morning) because I was sooooy busy. And my mood and sense of self definitely suffered. Today I returned to my kitchen-cleaning first thing, coffee, vitamins, meditation, 10 reps, cold shower, breakfast, etc., and I feel like my old self again.
3. Do Whatever You Need to Do to Get Some Sleep
Buy Zzzquil, take a melatonin, have a glass of wine, sleep with your signif-o — do whatever you need to do to get some rest every night. For me, I'd be so caffeinated and stressed from my busy day that by 11:00pm I'd be settling down, and I just wanted to relax ... until 3:00am apparently.
The health benefits of sleep are clear to us all, I hope, so get some rest and be your best self for your busy schedule.
4. Then, Re-Strategize
Chances are, after a busy period, you're going to be a slightly different person, with a new credit or a new experience behind you. It's vital to hit the ground running again with a "Career Re-Group" which means sitting down with a journal or computer (or for me, some regular old notebook paper at Panera) and spending 1-2 hours thinking through your career, your network, your projects, and dreaming on what's next, and planning it all out.
Tip: WHILE you're busy, best to set aside time in advance for the day you plan to be less busy, instead of trying to find the energy once you're out of it... it may be harder.
5. Know Your Damage
Lastly, whether you've gained some weight, or spent too much money, don't just throw your hands up. Check your account, get on the scale. Facing the havoc you may have wrought will help you change course faster than "hoping for the best" and "waiting to face it when you've practiced better habits."
Don't let getting busy get the best of you!
RSO and Your AT Team
Fuck New Year’s Resolutions.
This past December, were you still implementing some resolution you’d made twelve months before? Possibly! (If so … go YOU.) But more likely, not.
By now, you probably know that changes in our life become most natural and consistent when they become routine and habitual. They say three weeks makes a habit; I love that and believe it’s usually true.
As we begin this year, I encourage you to FOCUS ON FIVE. Complete the sentence “2018 is about …” five times. This forces you to prioritize a group of things, and leave other distractions to the side. Then, as you identify what you’re focusing on, specify the standard of your focus with a yes/no, black/white bright line. You either did it, or you didn’t. Something like “work out more” isn’t enough; you have to establish what your standard is, as low or as high as seems reasonable to you. It is better to keep your standards low and nail them most of the time, than to create a high standard you can nail one week and fail come mid-January.
And never forget:
Consider a variety of goals in three categories:
- Professional … all things related to your chosen craft.
- Interpersonal … your relationships with friends, family, teachers and peers.
- Self … work on your physical and mental health.
For me, my Focus on Five this year is:
- 2018 is about Writing. (At least 25 hours a week.) (Professional.)
- 2018 is about Working on friendships. (Making a point to see my closest group of friends more, and nurturing new relationships.) (Interpersonal.)
- 2018 is about my Health. (Disciplining myself with a new drinking plan … two nights of no drinking, three nights of two drinks, and two nights of four drinks.) (Self.)
- 2018 is about my Daily Rituals. (I have a separate post on this, but this year I’m trying to really nail this five days a week.) (Self.)
- 2018 is about Balance. (Making sure everything and everyone in my life is getting equal time.) (Interpersonal.)
The idea is that these focuses will create new patterns in your life, preparing 2019 to be about something else — without losing any of the patterns and work you’ll do in 2018. For example, in 2017, I upped my gym-time and I’ve maintained that successfully. Now, taking two days in a row off from the gym feels really lazy to me, and my body craves it! Also, a few years back Matt and I decided to cut out soda and only drink seltzer water when we craved a carbonated beverage. That led to buying a soda stream and now, even at the movies, four out of five times we opt for the clear stuff than the brown stuff.
And if we slip up, that’s okay. We wake up tomorrow, and we try again. Clarifying for ourselves what is enough for us and what is not enough for us is both subjective to every person and essential to reach a feeling of joy. For one person, getting to one audition a week is a major accomplishment, and for another, going less than four times feels really disappointing.
It’s important — especially for artists — to establish standards which are ENTIRELY in our control. This is key. Something like, “Be on Broadway” is not really in your control; it’s in the casting director’s (and even then, not really even theirs). It’s an impossible goal to truly work towards, with so many factors out of your own field of vision. However, “Go on three auditions a week, and at least four Broadway auditions a month” is totally in your control. Notice, I didn’t say “Get seen at …” The goal is only “to go.” And when you realize next month might be slower with first class production calls, you might double up this month to ensure you maintain your own personal standard.
Lastly, by focusing on these, it determines other things to be a distraction. When I’m struck with the thought, “Oh… I should travel more.” That’s not what this year is about (maybe 2019??). If I think, “Should I take this master class gig?” and it would take away from my writing time, that’s not what this year is about. If I’m offered the opportunity for a last-minute lunch with a friend who’s found themselves nearby my apartment, well … as much as I hate spontaneity, this year IS about seeing friends. “Okay sure, I can hang!”
We only have so much time on this earth. It may feel like 2018 is another year, but the truth is, this year could be our last year (cue a Trump tweet). It could also be the beginning of the next stage of your life when huge personal changes, for better or worse, could creep up at any time. Don’t let these things catch us shirking our most fundamental duty: making the most of living.
One of my favorite areas of philosophical adage involves the idea of life or happiness as a “practice.” Truly, everything we do is a practice, whether we are succeeding at the height of our careers, or feeling dark and like we’ve failed. By focusing on just five things this year, we have plenty to practice, but not so much we have set ourselves up for failure.
So forget about that weight you want to LOSE … and focus on the habits you want to GAIN. Just five will do.
Some days are depressing (especially THESE days). We experience negativity in the people we encounter, the stories we read, and even within ourselves, being alone and thinking we can escape from it all. But as human beings, and as artists, there’s a talent which separates us from those who succumb to their depression, and it’s a talent we must practice every single day.
When you’re feeling like you’re sitting in a stew of shit (i.e., the crapper), use the CRAPPYR to get yourself out of it. Below you’ll find a fool-proof method to literally turn that frown upside down.
We have to turn negative things into positivity. Not arbitrarily or at great cost, but because logic (that is, the actual nature of things and relationship between ideas) and rational thought (based on facts, not speculation) can always set us free.
The process forces us to take a situation and find the OPPORTUNITY in it, to find the PEACE in it, to find the LESSON, the COMFORT, and the GOOD. Because in this world, we will constantly be faced with things which would otherwise hurt us and get us down… and if we let them, at best we live a zero-sum game (the bad and the good are even), and at worst, we will find ourselves clinically depressed, unable to live our lives the way we know we should.
So what is the CRAPPYR? I’ve taken some liberties with this technique for our purposes (and honestly, to form a better acronym) from The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.
C – Choose to do and think right.
R – Resist temptation and bad influences.
A – Accept what you can and can’t control.
P – Purpose, what is your life’s purpose?
P – Prepare for what lies ahead and whatever may come
Y – Yearn to be better.
R – Refuse negative thoughts and things that aren’t true.
Let’s say you’re struggling with going to that audition or sleeping in. On one hand, you’ve been feeling down about your work, and you’re awfully tired … and people need sleep right? On the other hand…
Choose to do and think right. I have found that the “right answer” is almost always clear to us. It’s that the pain of losing out on the pleasure of the “wrong choice” haunts us; or we want to minimize suffering at any cost. Next time you’re faced with a choice, see if you can’t reasonably what the “right” and “good” answer is, according to being a good, motivated, strong human … whether or not you select that!
... Do get pizza or not to get pizza at 3am? Not to get pizza is what is good and right.
... To go to the gym or stay warm in our comfy bed? To go to the gym is what is good and right.
... To confront our roommate with honesty about our qualms, or to yell at her/passive aggressively haunt her, or to ignore the situation completely? To confront our roommate with honesty is obviously the right answer.
... To call our parents, or to avoid them another day? To call our parents is obviously the right answer.
You’re an actor in NYC, and inside you you KNOW that you can find another time to sleep. And every audition is a chance to perform. Even waiting in line reminds you you’re doing all you can to pursue your dreams.
Repulse temptation and bad influences. It’s tempting to stay in the warmth of our bed and indulge in more sleep, but you must repulse the pleasure principle when it is in the way of what you know is right. Beware indulging and pleasuring yourself when it’s in the way of goodness and self-betterment.
Further, repulse the fellow actor who convinces you to stay home. Repulse the roommate who makes you feel poorly about your career choice and how hard it is to wake at 5am for what you feel may be a fruitless venture. These are sources to bring you down.
Accept that you can’t control your AEA status and 5am is the way to go to this call. But you can control making your own work, motivating yourself and finding other opportunities. While you’re waiting in line, send some emails to an old collaborator/colleague, make plans to do something artistically and stimulating that is totally within your control, and don’t allow yourself to feel badly or sad about things that aren’t in your control.
Purpose. You’re an actor in NYC, and your purpose is to do musical theater. Your purpose is not to sleep. Need I say more?
Prepare for the annoyance of waiting in that line, of dealing with the self-doubt. Prepare and bring a self-help book, or a favorite, upbeat album. Make a snack you really love that is healthy. Prepare that you may not be seen, and accept it before you even go on the train. Prepare to laugh about it, prepare to soothe yourself afterwards with something stimulating. CAN YOU create a win-win for yourself??
Yearn to be better, which means not succumbing to the physical temptation and desire (noticing a pattern here?). The better version of you pushes through, rallies, and does the hard (good) stuff.
And perhaps the most important step …
Refuse the negative thoughts, and things that aren’t true, like the thought that you aren’t cut out for this (you are), the thought that everyone is laughing at you behind you’re back (they’re not), the thought that you’ll never be AEA (you will someday if you keep working your ass off) or this will never get easier (in some ways it will, and new challenges will emerge).
Try it with some negative situation you find yourself in today, whether it’s small or large. Transform the negative INTO the positive!
Put this system in the “notes” on your phone, and practice with it at some point in the next three days. Imagine a scenario…
If you’re having trouble specifically with one of these steps and you don’t know how to turn a negative into a positive, text me, and I’ll help you find the solution.
You look sad.
I know. It's a weird time. Maybe a hard time. And I have been there... for years. And I have thought a lot about it, during, after, and now, even before I know it's bound to happen again. I want to help you to understand and cope with your unhappiness.
I want to make you "GLAD TO BE UNHAPPY."
Look at yourself, if you had a sense of humor
You would laugh to beat the band
How I discovered unhappiness
While unhappiness is a common occurrence and it's safe to say eventually we all encounter it, some of us take a long time to truly discover it. I didn't discover unhappiness until I was 27.
My whole life, I'd never lost a relative; had always been the breaker-upper, not the abandoned; had always known what I wanted and strove to get it, and I did regularly. Even not moving quite quickly enough always in my career, and some unrequited love affairs couldn't really bring me down. I woke up every single day looking forward to what lay ahead. I loved my life.
But on May 15, 2012 (not that I remember the date LOLS), a professional catastrophe — getting fired by a major corporation — set in motion five straight years of unhappiness. Yes, while you've all known me, I would classify myself as an unhappy person, waking up every day and desperately trying to figure out how to make the absolute best of my lot.
Yet, by the end of this article, I'll provide you with the 8 Steps to Being Successfully Unhappy. But first —
The experience of unhappiness
Now, being unhappy doesn't mean that you don't have anything positive in your life. And it doesn't mean that you don't have anything great going for you... after all, lots of very famous and very powerful people kill themselves; others dope their lives to nothingness in drugs and alcohol. I had a successful Jasper in Deadland, numerous commissions, a wedding to an incredible man ... but REASONS TO BE HAPPY do not necessarily correlate with the state of happy/unhappiness.
Scaling unhappiness... I think of happiness on a scale, from -10 to +10, from abject despair to utter euphoria. At 0, you feel stable, you feel "fine," you feel "okay," nothing to complain about and nothing you're too excited about. And I think of the "absolute" state of being as the sum of all considerations, including day to day knocks and wins.
When I was happy, I didn't know it, but I had a solid cushion of +5 all the time. It meant on my bad days, I would be at a +1; on my better days, a +8 or +9. So no matter what I was living in happiness.
When I became unhappy, I lived in a ditch of -2 ... some months 0 or +1 (like when Jasper played the 5th avenue) and others -4 (like when Jasper got horrible reviews at the 5th avenue). So any minor knock or pain HURT SO MUCH. And success was just a nice thing, but left me still unfulfilled.
Right now, what's your general cushion? Are you living mostly at +3? Hurting a bit around -2? Write down your number.
🐕 🐕 🐕
My mental state is all a-jumble
I sit around and sadly mumble
"Turn that frown upside down!" and more reasons people should fuck off
You guys, unhappiness is real. It is the acknowledgement by our souls that we want very much for ourselves, and we are (or feel) presently unable to control our environment in order to attain it. We feel powerful and capable yet helpless. Unhappiness is a natural feeling and has rational causes.
YES, some orthodox stoics and yogis might say: "Want less. Want nothing. This is the key to true happiness." Okay, tell that advice to hungry theatre people. Good luck, and kill yourself.
Yes, you could go home and be a school teacher. You could give up your dreams in order to find a calmer, more peaceful state. But that's not what you want and the "sweet relief" potentially proposed seems like the act of self-immolation, like cutting off your arm ... the feeling of panic sets in, and you turn to your unhappiness and say, "well I'm not THAT unhappy yet..."
There, see? You're already a little more glad to be unhappy.
But how do I know if I'm unhappy? What is the mental headline you wake up to every day? Is it frustration with yesterday and the impending bleck of your workday or social engagement? Is it jealousy and fear? Are your dreams, generally, on the darker side? You may be unhappy.
Fools rush in, so here I am
Coping with your unhappiness
Be honest with yourself and others
Tell yourself you're unhappy RIGHT NOW. But BELIEVE it will change. "Everything is only for now."
If someone asks you how you are, be honest without inflicting damage onto them. With a smile say, "Ya know, it's not my favorite time but I'm learning a lot about myself!" or "Some days are hard lately, I feel a little depressed, but I'm reading some excellent books and taking better care of my health all the while!"
Here^, you've affected honesty about your condition (which may call your dearest friends to arms for you), but demonstrating rational thinking and strength ... you may even inspire those who you talk to who are unknowingly depressed.
But DO NOT I repeat DO NOT advertise it
Do NOT talk about your unhappiness on social media. Ever. It is bad for business and also is much more long-lasting than you know. You are providing people who hardly know you with a personal understanding of your state. This information is for your heart trust, the people closest to you who are on your team ... they need this honesty; it is NOT THE BUSINESS of your acquaintances, false friends, and your vindictive periphery.
Bring heart-warmers closer and push bringer-downers away
In your present state, you need all the help you can get. Spend more time with those who make you feel good, better about yourself, and inspire you to do things for yourself.
And those who make you feel sad and worse, spend less time with them, cut them out of your life if possible or at the very least don't knowingly place yourself unnecessarily in their midst. (This may be especially tricky if some of your bringer-downers are your parents.)
I wrote an article about this, THE FRIEND MATRIX, if you want more on this.
Good for the body and good for the soul
I don't need to tell you something you already know, but exercise — including the gym, running, spinning, yoga, etc. — is essential for your body's well being and also your mind. If you are unhappy and not taking care of your body, you are making your life harder by 50% already.
Eating right and feeding yourself with things that are good for you (including, perhaps, cheat days, if that's part of your story), are also vital. And then of course....
Getting high with a little help from...
On a controversial note, there are many extra-curricular substances which may also bring relief or contribute positively to your journey in moderation.
As the son of an alcoholic, I keep a cautious relationship to one of my dearest and most important friends, Mrs. Bourbon. While my addictive personality finds work most attractive, I certainly do count my alcoholic beverages, do my research on spotting bad behaviors, and I make sure moderation is always in my grasp.
But, getting high every now and then, or a drink or two, may provide life with a little less of its edge. I am not telling you to do drugs and become an alcoholic. But I (and my general practitioner who balked when I told him I was afraid I drank too much) am here to say many studies show these substances IN MODERATION can contribute to better mental health. It's not called "medicinal" for nothing.
You have to do what's right for you. For some of you, a little bit can lead to a lot of it, which naturally will create deeper and worse unhappiness — in your case, stay away from the green stuff and liquid sugar. (But for those able to keep control of these habits, bottoms up.)
Fill your life with joy
Make a list of 10 things you love or love to do. If you love river otters, go to the aquarium. If you love Jane Austen, go buy a novel you haven't read or get an edition you don't have. The museum? Go! Your friend Pam? Hey Pam let's fuck! Whatever it is ... whatever THEY ARE, your life welcomes a list of the good things you enjoy.
A warning though (NOW a warning?)... should you find yourself choosing human beings among your most joyful assistance ... don't cling to them or you may find yourself draining the living thing you love. Be careful to remember they cannot make you happy — you are making yourself happy with someone you love.
And the greatest advice on coping: GIVE LOVE
When your buckets are empty and your spirit feels like it could really use a friend, I encourage you to give someone love.
Text your friend and tell them you're thinking of them. Buy someone a sweet gift. These actions will make you feel great, and will of course make someone else feel great too.
Sure, the idea of "giving love to get love" sounds quid pro quo (and it is) — but that's life. In our businesses as in our romances and friendships, we aren't here for charity. We make ourselves worthy of positive relationships through our strength and goodness, and we share that with others, who in turn share that with us.
Red Alert: the depths of unhappiness
But it must be stated: suicidal thoughts and destructive behaviors require help. If you have found yourself doing anything (including binge drinking/eating or sex that left you feeling badly about yourself) — this is a moment for you to bring in the big helps... therapy, urgent counseling, rehab, etc. Tell someone you love about these behaviors and ask if you should get treatment.
BUT NOW, THE MAIN EVENT
8 Steps to Being Successfully Unhappy
Very glad to be unhappy
I can't win, but here I am
More than glad to be unhappy
#1. CHOOSE YOUR UNHAPPINESS
For some of you this will be easy, and don't be afraid to be very, brutally honest. Simplicity is key, and you may find the easiest way to get this is to reverse your life's primary ambition. "I want to be a Broadway star!" becomes your unhappiness: "I am not yet a Broadway star, and do not feel close or on track."
Accepting your unhappiness, staring it in the face, and as we discussed earlier, CHOOSING IT (instead of say, going home and being a school teacher and setting fire to your dreams), is vital to successful unhappiness.
Choose your unhappiness by saying "Yes, you are why I am unhappy — and if not for you, I would have no dreams. Thank you unhappiness for reminding me what I really want, and pushing me to discover new solutions to attain it."
#2. DON'T GET IT TWISTED
Now that you have discovered your unhappiness, you MUST be careful not to re-direct or project your unhappiness onto someone else, blaming them in the process, when you know damn well why you're hurting.
Simply said: DO NOT treat your boyfriend like shit because you're not on Broadway yet. He didn't buy dish soap, but he didn't stop you from having an agent. He showed up to the show 15 minutes late, but he didn't fuck up your callback.
These behaviors are natural and common. We just want a hug and we want our boyfriend to say, "I'm sorry you're hurting, I see you and I love you and I'm going to consider you extra much right now because I know you need that." But people can't tell you that every day.
#3. BE HONEST WITH YOUR HEART TRUST
Your "heart trust" is your closest group of 5-6 people: your bestest friends, and your significant other, and possible a parent or two. As discussed, when they ask you how you are, tell them the truth, but also indicate a positive direction forward (for you must have one).
#4. BEWARE THE BOOK OF FACES
As I talked about in my daily rituals, Facebook/Twitter/Insta, etc., has only a few purposes:
To tell you how great your friends are doing: you, who are unhappy, will feel small and betrayed by fortune
To tell you how horrible our country is doing: you have enough to worry about in your own life
To tell you how angry your friends are about something: anger is not going to help your heart create good new things
To be silly and funny: this is distracting you from the things that will truly make you happy.
And on the flip side, if YOU are posting -- well, if you're posting something you're proud of and you're inclined to check your # of likes etc., you are putting more of yourself on the chopping block... if you're beloved today and unloved tomorrow, this may cause despair; if you're never loved on social media, what a pain.
At the very least, stay off social media in the morning. If you must be on Facebook, I recommend you do it in the evening, between 5-8pm.
(For me, in case you're curious: I use Buffer App, which allows me to post on social media all at once in the morning, and I completely forget about it, enough so that I remain present in the SM sphere, but not engaged.)
#5. BELIEVE IT CAN GET WORSE AND IT WILL GET BETTER
In my darkest moments, I had to remind myself in a list of the good things I had in my life. Accounting them was useful. The love of my husband, my parents. My dog. My previous successes. A friend or two. Bourbon. Sondheim. You know.
And I had to remember that when it rains it pours ... and before I had my earlier successes, I had many, many, many failures. Before I was somebody at all, I was nobody. Before I was fired, I was hired. It can get worse, and thank goodness for that. But it will get better.
#6. KEEP A MEMO ON YOUR PHONE OF THE 5 PEOPLE WHO ARE THERE FOR YOU
This might be your heart trust, but is the end of the line in your times of need. These are the people who will take your call and sit on the phone for an hour; who'll rush to meet you for drinks, or come right over with pizza and greens.
Don't put this all on one person ... and remember these are emergency breaks, not crutches.
#7. BATTLE YOUR UNHAPPINESS EVERY DAY
For all the good importance I've put on unhappiness, it is still, nonetheless, unhappiness. Every day, you must do something to battle it, or it will overcome you.
(The Babadook ending is about just this thing, in case you were curious. If you haven't seen it, it's a great meditation on grief and coping.)
For me, my weapons were:
Writing EVERY DAY
Planning future events to be excited about
Treating myself at intervals, because fuck, I'm worth it
Seeing people I love
Avoiding people who suck
Reviewing my life every 3-6 months to check in and redirect negative behaviors and embrace/emphasize my positive ones
- and #8. THIS IS YOUR WAR — NO ONE ELSE'S
For all the heart trust and memo of people at the end of the line, this is your unhappiness. It's not your parents', and it's not your signifo's. You mustn't let your despair bring them down (if you can help it), and you mustn't impede their own progress.
An anecdote. For me ...
During my unhappiness, my husband's career went from almost nothing to the Second Coming. While I can honestly say I was never jealous (his money is my money after all...), it became so hard to wake up and feel sad about my life while he was going off to shoot a Broadway show. And then two years later when he was complaining that shooting 7 Broadway shows in the season was simply not enough for him. When I was so far from Broadway I felt like I was living along on Mars...
But for all the mistakes I made (and many at him), I am proud of myself that every day I battled PRIVATELY and ALONE. And in my darkest moments when I was getting it twisted, I calmly reminded him "I'm not in a great place right now, and I am [working my ass off to stay afloat in the following ways]; I need a little bit of support and extra right now. Thank you. It may be one day the table's will turn and I will give you the extra, too, I promise."
Rational requests for someone to cut you a break are fair, but must be used wisely and without regularity.
And for all of this, I'm proud to tell you, from the other side of this (what has felt like a solid five years of unhappiness), that on reflection, my unhappiness was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. Here's why.
The joys of unhappiness
The day I got fired, I did not cry. I did not break anything. I went to Chipotle.
And alone, I made two decisions that very same day:
I would start the process of proposing to my husband (which I did, 13 months later)
And I would write a musical I'd been waiting to write, We Foxes
- While writing We Foxes, I discovered vulnerability in my work I had never seen before. I was no long interested in the crazy loud screaming rock music I had been writing...
These words were as much for this character as they were for me:
THIS VOICELESS GIRL HAS FOUND A TONGUE TO SPEAK.
AND I SEE ANGELS ALL AROUND: BURIED LOVES I WILL KEEP.
FROM MY ARMS, TAKE MY ILLUSIONS
AND FLING ‘EM DEEP.
I’LL BE DAMNED IF I SHOULD WALLOW.
AIN’T NO LAMB. NO FLOCK TO FOLLOW.
BLOOD NOW BOILS IN MY VEINS AND MELTS THE ICE,
STILL I SHIVER FROM THE POW’R TO PAY THE PRICE
I’M SALVATION, I’M DELIV’RANCE, I AM SACRIFICE —
THIS MAP OF SCARS GUIDES ME ON.
MY FAM’LY SHOWS THE WAY.
MY MAP OF SCARS SPELLS BY WOUNDS
SAVE YOUR SOUL TODAY.
I SAVE MY SOUL TODAY,
Unhappiness gets better, because it has to.
Because when you are fighting it and telling it you will not give up, when you CHOOSE it, it will get tired and it will give in. Welcome Happiness with open arms, and share it with those who need it.
And know, Unhappiness will come back.
Because Happiness and Unhappiness are a balanced force. When we have the thing we want, we want more, as humans. It's natural. When we hurt, we will seek relief; when we are comfortable, we will strive through danger for what's next.
Believe in the balance, and trust the balance.
And battle on.
Like a straying baby lamb
With no mammy and no pappy
I'm so unhappy
But oh, so glad!
By Ryan Scott Oliver
Let's talk about friends, baby.
Maybe lately you've been feeling unmotivated, uninspired. Or maybe you had coffee with a mentor, and suddenly a jolt of action hit you?! Did you hang with a friend who booked a huge gig — and you left feeling small, and bad about yourself ... OR, did you leave feeling like anything was possible?
The people we hang out with, or rather, the people we see most often (like our coworkers, roommates, family members) have a tremendous impact on our lives. We absorb the energy of other people — some of us more than others (the most spongy of which we call "Empaths") ... meaning, when your boyfriend is in a great mood you're like, wow I'm in a great mood too! Or when your friend vents for the 11th day in a row about her shitty job, and you feel sad afterwards ... Or when your roommate you normally go to auditions with suggests "What's the point?" while the other roommate says "Hey, come with me to the gym!"
Some people are great influences, and others are really fucking shitty influences.
EXERCISE PART ONE:
Make a list of the 5 people you see most. (Again, this is not necessarily your "five best friends." This is simply who you end up seeing the most and spending your time with.)
Then ... maybe a secondary list of 10-15 more you would say you see once every six months. Likely these are closer friends you don't see too much, and peripheral acquaintences. Maybe some family members back home.
Interesting: They say you are the average of the 5 people you hang out with most. I have found this to be true! What about you?
EXERCISE PART TWO:
Now let's do something that some of you might find a little icky — while others of you (the Type A folks) will find tremendously illuminating ...
It's called the Friend Matrix.
Inspired by The Approval Matrix, where a list of items are placed somewhere within two axes which equally influence the item.
Vertical axis: Brain Stimulation
For our purposes, I suggest our "up axis" is INSPIRATION. Only you can determine what really inspires you. I find hard-workers, brainiacs, mentors, and anyone I feel like I am challenged by to be HIGH inspiration. People who make me feel lazy, unmotivated, and reluctant to take care of myself would be LOW. You might also think of this as a scale of "brain stimulation." But then, power and clout may also factor in here ... perhaps a playwright friend who is always getting things done whom you admire (and may want to work with some day); or even a director you worked with once that makes you career-hungry (in a positive way). So you might also factor in "influence/power" here as well.
Horizontal axis: Heart Stimulation
This is about SPIRIT ... It's about feeling HAPPY and fun, enjoying your life, enjoying being you. Your best friend from home doesn't know anything about musical theatre and can't help you with auditions or getting to the gym, but when you're with him, you feel your heart is bursting, and you're laughing all the time. A drink with this person makes everything better ... they are HIGH on this axis. But someone who puts you down, makes you feel badly about yourself and your choices, who yells at you and chastises you, criticizes you, makes you feel unnecessarily and unfairly jealous ... these are LOW on the axis.
Now take a moment and register your list of folks on the matrix. It may feel weird at first, but the results may create a permanent life change that makes it all worthwhile ...
You may discover there's someone in your life you need to see more, who for whatever reason, you haven't taken seriously enough and you need to simply put more time into
Or, you may discover you're spending too much time with someone who, frankly, isn't worth your time and consistently brings you down
- Most of the people will only reaffirm their existing positions, but once you factor in the importance heart and brain stimulation, you may become newly aware of someone.
People in your upper right quadrant are the most valuable people in your life (highest brain and highest heart). See them more! Text and call them more! (If it's possible!!)
There is someone in your life you aren't loving hard enough and they deserve MORE from you.
People in your lower left quadrant are the least, and you may consider more distance from them. No excuses here: why do you HAVE to see her every week? Why do you HAVE to spend your lunch break with him? Get "busier." Have new commitments.
This is your life, and people who aren't earning your time simply don't deserve it.
Make a list of 5 actions you can take after reviewing your matrix. Chances are actions look like:
Texting/seeing someone more regularly (challenge yourself to do it every Monday, or every three weeks, etc.)
Taking more time for yourself and finding the strength to tell bring-downers "no."
- Even if The Friend Matrix feels too calculating to you, it's vital to review our relationships occasionally, or you may wake up one day realizing you didn't appreciate someone enough and they're gone ... or that you've gotten into an unhealthy pattern with an emotional monster. :)
By Ryan Scott Oliver
I've long been fascinated by the daily rituals of artists ...
and I believe starting your day right is responsible for at least 30% of your daily success. It focuses you, brings comfort and peace, and can help you make healthy choices.
Mason Curry collected the daily rituals of a few hundred artists — everyone from Stephen King to Ayn Rand to Emily Bronte and Chopin — and for a whole year I read one short chapter a day (a chapter is about a page), and that was very insightful. Among the things I learned:
Composers like to walk
95% of successful artists do their most important art in the morning
Many people work in two phases, separated by a nap
Often people will save correspondences and meetings for the afternoon, when their brains are slightly more tired and they may be more amenable and easy-going
Check out and buy Mason Curry's book Daily Rituals here.
As to MY daily rituals ...
For the last several years, my daily rituals have been as follows, and I've enjoyed them, though NOT as much as the incredible new system I've discovered (you'll read about that shortly).
Wake up, feed dog, make coffee, make breakfast.
Sit down at computer, "buffer" my tweets (pre-set them to run during the day so I never have to worry about them)
Take my vitamins
Schedule review health and fitness goals, etc.
Lastly... organize my daily to do list, looking at a massive list of items, and pulling what I think I could reasonably accomplish for the day (knowing that regularly I will only accomplish 80% of the list by the end of the day)
But recently, I discovered a new set of daily rituals which take 45 minutes which majorly improved upon my own, and I want to share them with you and encourage you to try them out for one full week — at least the weekdays.
Check out the PDF article I read here, (by Tim Ferriss) and get my take below.
So basically, there are 5 steps, which I've reduced to categories.
STEP 1: HOUSEKEEPING (10m)
The second you wake up, tidy some area of your home. This gets you up and active, and already makes you feel like you're getting your life together. Tim Ferriss makes his bed; but I tend to get up earlier than my husband and so I have decided to tidy the kitchen: dishes away, dishes in the dishwasher, a quick wipe of the counter.
STEP 2: MINDFULNESS (10m)
Tim Ferriss recommended meditation, and I resisted. Mindfulness effectively means, you're taking time to find peace of mind. I thought maybe taking the dog out would work — but I realized it was too stressful when I was trying to find inner calm. So I, a novice meditater, bit the bullet and do a 10-minute meditation using the base skills I know. I set my iPhone for 10 minutes, sit in a chair with my hands in my lap and feet on the floor, and after initially letting my thoughts come as they may, I try to find blankness, simplicity, and clarity. For some of you, this is a great time to do 10 minutes of yoga!
STEP 3: 10 REPS + A COLD SHOWER (10m)
Da fuck you say???? YES. This is actually my favorite of the new rituals!! Tim Ferriss does 10 pull-ups; for me, I do 10 push-ups. And to keep me challenged, every day I add one more rep. If I skip a day, I go backwards.
Then — the SHOWER. Yeah, not a soapy cleansy one — literally hop in the shower for 30 seconds-1 minute. Start with lukewarm water, nothing oppressive but not warm, and gradually take the temperature down until it's a temperature you could stand for only a bit, like a chilly ocean. You'll find your brain ALERT and you are refreshed, and did you notice — you haven't even had ...
STEP 4: BEVERAGE / FOOD (10m)
Tim Ferriss makes this elaborate bougie tea that ought to be hocked by Goop, and deserves to be called "gay" AND I love coffee. So here's where I make coffee, and also breakfast, something light between 200-300 calories, probably a smoothie or eggs and toast.
STEP 5: SELF-WORK (5m)
Here's an area that, if you don't take anything else from this list, I really recommend you give some thought to this one. Self-work, to Tim Ferriss, is journaling for 5 minutes. For me, it's similar, but I have a running doc where I think of three things on my mind, usually troubling things. Names of friends/loved ones I'm having issues with; subjects that stress me out; or an activity today I need to mentally prepare for. And then I write my thoughts out, always remembering that "the right choices" for our human behavior are usually very clear to us ... just not always easy to do. Taking this moment to write them out and remind myself to be a good and better person every day has been very very positive for me. And I'm STILL an asshole — so can you imagine what I'd be if I didn't take this step?
So give this a try for one week. Do your best to allow yourself to take at least 3 days in a row before you take a day off if you must (so many of you may want to try this starting July 5). And you know what they say — it takes 3 weeks to make a habit!
Spend a day with the Actor Therapy co-creator!
Recently, Broadway.com hung out with Actor Therapy co-founder Lindsay Mendez for a “Day in the Life”! Shot by photographer Matthew Murphy (Murphy Made Photography), Mendez brings us through her day...including Actor Therapy!
The best audition cut should start in the middle of your range.
Verses are usually too low.
Most often the best place is the bridge to the end.
Then you also have a good ending to your cut because it’s the end of the song.
Near the end of the cut you should show a high note.
Not you’re absolute highest note, maybe a step below.
Then you have a maximum of two bars after the high note to wrap it up.
Think of your book like your closet. Find songs that fit you.
You only need one song for each category i.e. folk, pop, country, legit… Unless it’s what you do best. You should have an uptempo, ballad, and comedy song in your specialty genre.
- Ryan Scott Oliver
You guys: External things can't fix external issues.
Do you find yourself thinking any of the following:
- If only I had an agent ...
- If only I was Equity ...
- If only I had better connections, knew better people ...
- If only I had a better book ...
- If only I had more credits ...
- If only I had a better headshot ...
When we focus on the external factors of our lives, we're really saying that our skill set isn't good enough.
It's true that many high-powered people have trouble seeing past basic credentials like the things above. But it is easy to focus on "the tyranny of being picked" — it's so unfair, because I'm ready. And they won't consider me without the bells and whistles.
But instead of stewing over what we don't have, we must consider what we do have, and what we DO have control over.
We have control over ourselves, our work ethic and our attitude.
OURSELVES: The artist inside. If you have trouble finding material for yourself, I suspect that the inner artist hasn't been fleshed out. Either you haven't developed the understanding of the search (a problem in and of itself), or you can't choose between an overwhelming amount of material (because you haven't taken a moment to define yourself). What is your mission (what do you DO to attain your goals — routines and habits?)? What is your vision of yourself (who WILL you be?) And perhaps most importantly, what do you VALUE?
WORK ETHIC: Only you know if you are working hard enough. But some check-ins may be... do you ever feel bored? Do you ever feel lazy? If you're getting more than 8 hours of daily sleep, I think you may be sleeping too much. (Sleeping in and napping are for people who have lost sleep and need to catch up). When you end your day, is the only thing you can say for yourself that you went to your day job and saw friends? Or can you point to 3, 5, 10 things you did for yourself and your career, despite not having much time to do it?
ATTITUDE: It's vital to maintain perspective and to remember that we have a choice in how we feel about ourselves. Even in the darkest times, people found a way to stay positive.
I'm attaching a half-page chapter called "The Source of Your Anxiety" from one of my daily ritual books, The Daily Stoic. It's brief and asks some big questions.
- Ask yourself, "Am I focusing too much on external desires?"
- Make a list of 5 things you can do for yourself and your artist. (Likely, they are things you've been thinking about and maybe putting off.) Plot them out during your week... you have one week to do them, or at least get them started — and be sure to do at least ONE THING today!