I'm preparing for Pieces of My Collection, my next cabaret performance, which will happen on Friday, October 23 (that's a week away!) at the New Leaf Club. Click here for more information and click here to buy tickets. Come on out! Get off the couch! Have a couple of laughs with me!
From the 2012 archives, a classic Creatavita post - Patient Persistence.
From the 2012 archives, a classic Creatavita post - Patient Persistence.
Today's post has been chosen by Lauren Cupples. Like many of the featured artists in this series, I met Lauren when she took my Advanced Musical Theatre class at Walnut St. Theatre. She also studies privately with me, when she's in town. See, for the past two years, Lauren has been performing throughout the country. Florida last fall, Arkansas this summer and many shows here in the Philadelphia area. This holiday season, she'll be performing Emma in Doctor Doolittle at the Media Theatre in Media, PA.
Lauren's another one I admire. She's smart, thoughtful and a hard worker. I'm always impressed with her ability to find auditions and then to actually GO to the auditions. We talk frequently about the why of life. Why we pursue these crazy creative careers, why we tolerate the less-than-ideal working conditions, why we are on this planet. I like this ongoing conversation because I see that Lauren has a vision for life that extends beyond the next gig.
Here's her website: http://www.laurencupples.com/. Lauren chose:
Persist – to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, especially in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc.
Patience – an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.
You need both.
That was helpful, wasn't it?
I used to be the least persistent person on the planet, perhaps in the universe. I wanted it and I wanted it NOW. Giving up was easy for me. As soon as something became difficult, I'd give up. First rejection from an audition, I'd become an emotional mess, assume I had no talent and announce I was giving up. Boyfriend after boyfriend into husband would be forced to tell me I was talented, there must have been another reason, yadda yadda yadda.
I had a similar relationship to patience. If I couldn't lose that last five pounds, if I didn't get hired for that gig, I would become impatient and frustrated. And then I'd give up. Well. These attitudes will not work if you're living a Creatavita. Because creativity is always challenging and always takes time. Always.
In addition, neither persistence or patience are valued in our modern society. Oh sure, you'll hear the touching news story about the woman who endured for 25 years to get her college degree, but let's be honest, we don't expect that attitude of ourselves. We all know that we want it and we want it NOW. If we can't get it, we grab our marbles and go home. Patience, as in waiting your turn when in traffic, is considered to be a sign of weakness. Powerful people don't need patience. They can have what they want when they want it. Don't we all want that?
This is false power. This does not lead to a Creatavita. This leads to a heart attack.
I touched on this subject in the previous post Carry On. If you want to have a flourishing life and in particular, any type of artistic career, you are going to have to cultivate persistence and patience. You are going to have to develop the ability to get back up, to let the catty comments slide right off your back, to ignore all the seemingly positive things that happen to everyone else and not you, to somehow find a way to keep going.
In fact, the abilities to persist and to be patient have actually been found to be better indicators of success than talent or genius.
Now I have your attention, don't I?
Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, calls this quality “grit”. According to Dr. Duckworth, here are the two key components to grit:
- Sustained passion
Interesting, huh? Darn close to my initial idea for this post.
Here's the TED Talk where Dr. Duckworth talks about her research.
It is almost 20 minutes long, but the time has come for you to get off of Facebook today anyway. Close it up and watch this instead.
I love two moments in particular. The first one happens around 2:40, when Dr. Duckworth briefly discusses the 10-Year Rule, which is the same idea as the 10,000-Hour Rule, made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. If you didn't know either of these rules, you do now. These rules tell us that to become a world-class performer in any field, you MUST put in 10 years (or 10,000 hours) of “consistent, deliberate” practice. By the way, we're not going to discuss which number is the better number. We're creative types, we're smart, we only need the general idea which is lots of excellent practice leads to mastery and expertise.
That information alone should inspire you to get to work. Think about it. You now know that if you practice for a specific amount of time with mindfulness and awareness, you will become an expert. Will you have a great career? I can't promise that, no one can, but at least you'll have mastered an creative form that is the source of the greatest passion in your life.
I'll discuss my second favorite moment from Dr. Duckworth's TED Talk in a bit.
Before we move on, here's a super quick grit test http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/. Go ahead, take a minute and try it out. Interesting, huh?
As you know, Creatavita is all about finding solutions that everyone, even the bozo who drives you nuts on the morning train, can incorporate into their lives. So, get ready. Here are some ways to cultivate persistence and patience in your life:
ACTION has always helped me. Aim to do one thing every day that leads toward your big goal. Send one email, compose one measure, practice one song, write one paragraph. When you go to bed, you'll be able to put your little head on your pillow, knowing you are one step closer than you were when you woke up.
Dr. Duckworth takes this one step further, saying we should work on our weaknesses every day. That's right, at 16:10 in the TED Talk, she actually suggests spending part of your day doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Man, I have to meet this woman. She is singing my song!
PRACTICE patience. Try meditation or yoga. Both are excellent ways to focus the mind and body on the present moment. Being in the present often leads to a greater mastery of patience.
HAVE A PLAN. Oh no, not the plan again. Yes, that ridiculous plan that I went on and on about in my last post will help you cultivate both patience and persistence. You will recognize that you are in this for the long haul and the only way to the end is via short steps.
GET SOME PERSPECTIVE. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Most of them call the day good if they have food in their stomach and a comfortable spot to call home. The vast majority of them don't find your frustration with not getting your book published, selling your cd or finding an agent all that compelling. This is not meant to diminish your creative work in any way. This is to encourage you to ask why. Why is this so important to you? What is this work really saying, what does it really mean? Would you miss this creative form if it was no longer in your life?
Finally, if all else fails -
TAKE A BREAK. Step away from the canvas, close the piano lid, shut off the computer, put down the pen. Go for a walk, a run, a swim. Head down to the coffee shop. Go to bed early. Talk to your partner, spouse or kids. Time, even when you feel you don't have any, is often exactly what is needed.