Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ripped From The Archives: Patient Persistence

I'm back on the stage, this time in Seoul, South Korea. As I scrolled through the Creatavita archives last week, this post cried out to reappear. May it inspire you to hang in there.

This guy hangs out at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, Korea.
No, I'm not concerned. Not at all.
Persistent Patience
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:

  1. Sustained passion
  2. Perseverance

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  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 patienceTry 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 could also try this one. 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 8 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.

Rockabilly dancer in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Photo Friday Number 1

Time for a new feature here at Creatavita - Photo Friday. My intention is to post one or two photos and a quote to keep us motivated. Every other Friday to start. How does that sound?

When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”.

Harriet Tubman

Find out more about Harriet here.

Photo: Chrysanthemum Festival at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, South Korea

Monday, November 13, 2017

Everything Has A Place

Packing up my belongings so often during these past eight months has often filled me with anxiety. Will I need that shirt in three months? Will I be able to find that moisturizer over there? Should I take an extra bottle? Oh my god, what if there isn't any good coffee?  Oh, come on, there has to be coffee. Well, I was challenged to find good coffee in the last country.

All of these musings, which start out as necessary and end up yucky remind me -

Everything Has A Place

I find life flows more easily when I give every thing in my life a place. The space I live in (which is currently small and temporary) becomes more peaceful, more serene when I take the time to settle in. Perhaps it seems silly that I mindfully decide which surface will become my kitchen and which corner will be my relaxing space. I do this so I can have certainty, which leads me to peace, which leads me to a more mindful and joyful existence.

Likewise with my things. Most of us have too many physical things, right? Many of us actually struggle with releasing our material things. We cling to the memories, even though the memories don't reside in the thing. They reside in us. But let's save that conversation for another day. Let's talk about giving our things a place.

When I give each thing, even that pile of receipts that is staring at me right now from behind this laptop, a place, I recognize the value of that thing. I can determine its importance in my life. Plus, from the practical side of life, when I give each thing a place, it is easier for me to find the thing when I need it. Chargers live in the drawer at the end of the kitchen counter. My phone spends the night on the kitchen counter (turned off, no less). My room key lives in the arm pocket of my favorite Costco jacket or on the kitchen counter (see? that's the surface in my room. I'm already calling it the kitchen counter!).

I am packing and moving again today. As I flow through that task, I will stay aware of my gratitude for all of the things I have and focus on the idea that

Everything Has A Place

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Channeling Roy

Roy Halladay died yesterday.

Yes, he was a grown man who played a game and made ridiculous amounts of money doing that, but I'm a grown woman who tells stories and makes okay amounts of money, so I can't fault him for that.

Besides, Roy taught me so much about being the best artist I could be.

Roy was just another quality pitcher in the game I love until I read this Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci 7 years ago. I know you don't like sports, but you really should read it. Tom Verducci is an excellent writer. Besides, the rest of this post will make much more sense.

Suddenly, Roy looked an awful lot like me. A human who had a deep desire to succeed at a task that could, at times, seem impossible.

Roy sent me on a quest. Because of Roy, I purchased every book written by Harvey Dorfman. I used the guise of my son's love of baseball for the purchase, but if you want to find those books today, they're next to my side of the bed.

I remember reading a page or two and jumping out of my chair, antsy to get to a practice session. From reading Harvey's work, I realized the biggest challenges I faced were inside of my own head. I also realized if I would work mindfully and persistently, there was a good chance I could solve many of my artistic problems.

Messiah, Jim Thorpe, PA, December, 2010.
The first performance trying out Roy's ideas.

These attitudes, while initially challenging, transformed how I work.

I now see problems as challenges, challenges that might take longer to solve, but that have a solution.

I don't get as emotionally involved when things go wrong.

I seek out quality feedback from respected sources.

I work consistently (join me in my daily warmup) to keep my skills as sharp as possible.

I enjoy the game, the thrill, the wonderment of what will happen.

I am confident that my skills are up to the challenge of whatever comes my way.

I know I will fail, but I also know I have access to the tools to fix my failures.

So yes, Roy Halladay was a baseball player, but he was also a teacher.

Thank you, Roy. You changed my life.

Hit the stinkin' ball

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ripped From The Archives: Deleting The Negative

Recently, I had to return to this post for my self .
Here's guessing some of you will appreciate it also.

You ever have one of those nagging negative thoughts that won't leave your head?  You're trying to write, rehearse, practice, even perform and that one tiny moment keeps repeating over and over, like some crazy cat GIF gone awry.  Years ago, or perhaps yesterday, a critic didn't like your latest show, a director gave you a look when you missed a line, an editor commented negatively on your favorite phrase, or, the worst, your mother said she didn't like your newest creation.  You replay the words that felt like a dagger, your confidence sinks and your spirit begins to shut down.  All of the positive work you had accomplished begins to fade.

The weight of the world on my shoulders,
just like this guy in Lisbon.

Me too!!!

Here's what I've been playing with lately. Every time my mind returns to the negative moment, I practice replacing it with a positive one.  Like the spontaneous compliment from a respected colleague.  Or perhaps the memory of an accomplishment.

I will warn you, this takes time and practice.  The first time I experimented with this practice, I found myself working on it for almost a week.  But it did stop the negative thought from planting a root in my mind. I'm trying to recall the moment right now and I cannot.  Truly.  It is quite remarkable.

There's another practice I've been working with.  I remind myself that I am the only person on this entire planet who is still experiencing this past moment.  Everyone else has moved on, possibly to more joyful moments.  I have a choice.  I can hang on or I can let go.

Guess which one I choose?

In the heart of Tokyo sits this oasis, the Meiji Jingu Garden.