Ethan Carlson gives us some tips on not giving up!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.