The Influence of Individuals and Associated Responsibility

You are an incredibly influential individual. The choices you make, big and small, have direct and consequential effects on the world as we know it. You are burdened with immense power and subsequently an immense responsibility. You– specifically, you.

This isn’t a line ripped from a superhero origin story, nor is it an obnoxiously patronizing, new-age, ‘everybody-gets-a-medal’ pep-talk.

It’s a statistical truth.

Let’s talk about the Power of The Individual and more importantly, the Responsibility that entails.

Power of The Individual

It is easy to assume that our actions and choices don’t harbor significant, real-world consequences. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our choices, even the little ones, matter. Although, most people don’t recognize that. Imagine the ballot box in a polling booth. The ballot box is the very manifestation of meaning in our choices. Our choice at the ballot box helps bring about direct consequences, that is easy enough to see. Regardless, a staggering amount of people have become disenfranchised, feeling that their vote is inconsequential. If so many people don’t see the meaning and consequence of their vote in the ballot box, imagine how many don’t recognize the weight that their daily choices carry. However, all of our choices have real-world implications in this game of life.

It’s a game of numbers-

Dunbar’s Number, if we’re being specific about it. Dunbar’s Number emerged in the 1990’s, pioneered by Robin Dunbar, and it suggests a cognitive limit on the number of people we can hold meaningful relationships with at any given time. The theory proposes that human-beings can hold approximately 150 meaningful relationships (there being a drop in comfort and quality in 151 and beyond). We’re limited by our cognitive capacity, time, etc. So while the average person is likely to meet and interact with well over 150 people in their lifetime, only 150 of them are going to remain relevant in any given person’s life.

Where am I going with this? We’re social creatures and we constantly impact and influence the people around us (both in our brick-n-mortar communities as well as in our social networks). I talk a bit about these influences in a previous post, ‘A Guide To Friendship: Navigating Shifting Social Circles’. These influences have ripple effects. For instance- Let’s say I skipped breakfast today. Big deal, right? Well, it ended up making me grumpy and as a result I was rude to a whole slew of people that day, which in turn ruined some of their moods as well, etc. They say positivity and negativity are infectious. It’s true.

Back to Dunbar’s Number. If we each hold meaningful connections with up to 150 people, and they hold connections with another 150 people (of course, there will be some overlap but bear with me for sake of argument) that means our influence is one person, one ripple, away from 22,500 people. Add another person into the mix and that number skyrockets to over 3 million people. Of course, in practice it doesn’t necessarily pan out that drastically. There is bound to be overlap and we obviously don’t encounter everyone we have a meaningful relationship with in day to day life. In actuality, despite the limit being 150, the average person only connects with 10-25 people enough to deem them trustworthy. Assuming we were only working with 10 people, that’s still only 9 people, a mere 9 ripples away from a million. Additionally, in a reality where our interactions are augmented by social media, the average individual boasts an impressive, albeit unconscious, influence.

(With the addition of social media, our capacity for influence increases four times over, with the average person having a social media influence spanning roughly 600 people, according to the New York Times).

The example I used earlier, about negativity and positivity, it’s a lighthearted one. Ideas, religions, knowledge all started at a singular point (even if we can’t identify it). I’m not implying that the average person in lined up to be a prophet or a game-changing tech mogul, but I am saying that the people we become, the values we embody, and what we stand for ripple outward and have genuine consequences on the landscape of the present. Moral of the story: EVERYTHING we do is matters- and that’s a responsibility we all carry.

Responsibility

Ideas and choices spread infectiously, something we should be well acquainted with in the age of Covid-19. The actions we take undeniably ripple outward, so it is necessary that we act as the best forms of ourselves- that we live to our fullest and most positive potential. Attacking this is hard, and achieving our potential maximum is an impossible task (that we must still strive for). In the face of that painful battle of self improvement and realization, many people choose, instead, to take an easier path.

Many people say, It doesn’t matter.

It does.

Just because we are able to rationalize destructive choices with ourselves doesn’t negate the fact that we are acting as a node in a network. The ideas that this only impacts me …or… in the end, none of it really makes a difference are boldfaced lies we tell ourselves in order to escape the responsibility bestowed on us as conscious individuals. We can never do anything inconsequentially because everything we do impacts someone else. ‘Letting your light shine’ never rang so true.

Everything we do is consequential.

You have reach, so be inspired.

But you also have:

Responsibility.

Thank you for stopping by! Have any thoughts on the topic? Comment them below. If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

Vulnerability In Acting

Vulnerability on stage is essential as an actor. It acts as an entry point for the audience into the character and the events of the play. It’s compelling and it’s honest. It’s also difficult. Over the course of my studies in college, many of the notes I’ve received in class revolve around vulnerability, more specifically, my willingness to be vulnerable on stage. It can be a beast and the feeling of vulnerability can seem ambiguous (although once you experience it, that feeling will stick with you).

I’ve put off the writing of the post for awhile, as anything I have to say on the topic heavily revolves around my own experience with it. I recognize the irony in that the writing of this post requires me to be a little bit vulnerable yet again, but here we are. As such, the content of this post is likely going to be a bit more personal and casual than my previous ramblings- but I feel that a more personal voice is the only way to tackle the subject, especially since it is a topic that I’m still actively working on and developing in. In this post, I’m going to explore some of my own grapples with vulnerability and why I think it can be so difficult.

This past year, I had to do a very emotional scene in class from Ivanov. I was able, during rehearsal, to remain somewhat open and vulnerable. However, when I found myself presenting the scene for my peers in class, I closed up and subsequently the scene suffered for it. My performance wasn’t nearly as honest or connected as it was in rehearsal. What had happened? An audience had been introduced. Being vulnerable and open can be difficult, especially when you have eyes on you. My guard went up as a defense mechanism and as a result I wasn’t letting my scene partner in, nor the audience. This is an issue for a few reasons. When I threw up my guard and locked out my partner, their intentions and tactics didn’t land on me. Subsequently, I was thrown into a frenzy of playing out the scene through rote instead of actively responding to what I was being given. My performance had become mechanical and I was forced to try and generate much of the emotional life within myself which isn’t realistically achievable.

Defense mechanisms against vulnerability can manifest in a few different ways. In my own experience, these defense mechanisms tend to take the form of self-editing and physical tension (another note I get quite often). Self-editing can take you out of the events of the scene. Instead of investing in the stakes of what is happening at the moment, what your partner is giving you, your objectives, etc- the mind drifts towards your own performance. Am I standing right? Did that sound stupid? How the hell am I going to cry three lines from now? I catch myself doing this sometimes and they aren’t productive questions. In fact, all of these questions prompted by self-editing have something in common. They’re qualifiers. They’re all concerned with right and wrong. Success and failure. Did that sound stupid implies that there is a less stupid way to deliver that line. Am I standing right implies that there is a correct and incorrect way of standing. I was recently watching Helen Mirren’s Masterclass and she opened by simply walking on stage. She goes on to explain that the act of genuinely walking as oneself can be difficult and that initially, she had found herself asking a lot of questions like should I put my hands in my pocket, would that be more casual? Or Does this seem fake? A lot of qualifier questions. She then explained further, saying that the only way to honestly walk to the chair was to throw out those questions and to keep a simple intention in mind- walk to the chair.

The problem with those qualifier questions is that they remove you from the honest circumstances of the scene and that they are so concerned with doing things correctly. The notion that there is a single ‘correct’ way of doing things is unproductive and untrue. I’ve recently begun reading Impro by Kieth Johnstone, a British pioneer of Improvisational Theatre . It was recommended to me by one of my professors and I highly suggest reading it. Somewhat early on in the book, Johnstone talks about the detriments of concerning yourself with an objective ‘right’ way of doing things. In a passage about his schooling, he writes, “I tried my best to be clever in everything I did. The damage was greatest in areas where my interests and the school’s seemed to coincide: in writing, for example (I wrote and rewrote, and lost all my fluency).” The passage is mainly concerned with the detriments of conventional education on his spontaneity and imagination but I feel it is also highly applicable to the subject of honesty and vulnerability as well because vulnerability happens in real time. It is active communication with your partner and the audience. It isn’t a cemented process. It’s living, it’s breathing, it’s spontaneous.

I also touched on physical tension earlier. When acting, it’s important to try and stay physically relaxed, employing the muscles necessary at any given time but nothing beyond that. I find that I hold an excess of tension in my neck and jaw. Excessive tension makes it difficult to think and connect. It’s a form of bracing- hardening yourself before a crash. It can be easy to underestimate the blocks that physical tension can produce and the tension can be both a symptom of the unwillingness to be vulnerable as well as a cause of the disconnect from your scene partner.

It is impossible to drop tension from our bodies entirely, lest we be jellyfish. The trick is identifying and reducing the unnecessary tension in our bodies while on stage. Additionally, I’ve come to find that the tension I hold on stage is also tension that I carry with me through life. I tend to hold an excess of tension in my neck and jaw throughout my day. Attacking that tension in my daily routine has aided in its reduction on stage. I’ve found that breathing exercises are helpful in regards to reducing this tension but I am still searching out tactics to mitigate this further.

I think one of the most formidable blocks to vulnerability is the fear of failure, which can be seen in those qualifier questions. As I continue to progress through my education, I find myself becoming increasingly confident in my own choices. Vulnerability isn’t easy, however, it is essential on stage. I hope that this post and subsequently my own exploration of vulnerability on stage could be of some use to you all and as I continue to learn and discover, I’ll undoubtedly share more. Until then- stay open, stay connected, stay honest.

Thank you for stopping by! Have any thoughts on the topic? Comment them below. If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

A Guide To Friendship: Navigating Shifting Social Circles

Most of us don’t talk to our best friend from kindergarten all that much anymore. There isn’t anything wrong with that, it’s totally normal. Maybe one of you enrolled in a different middle school. Maybe, as time went on, you both pursued different interests and time slowly dissolved the connection you both found on the monkey bars all those years ago. Those former friendships that we can vaguely recall from days-gone-by are early but applicable examples of a rather common event. People grow apart and social circles shift.

It’s a commonplace, even healthy aspect of social interaction. However, as we get older, friendships become more complex. The criteria we set for possible compatriots becomes more thoughtful than a simple ‘our parents set up a play-date for us… I guess we’re friends now’. The increasing complexity of our relationships is important because the people we hold in our company influence us a great deal- and vice versa. I’ve seen my social circles shift countless times over the years. Through this, I’ve come to realize that friendships need to be built upon a foundation of trust and admiration- not only fun. Sometimes friendships fail to rest on that foundation. Then what do we do? When navigating shifting social circles, I’ve found that it is important to remember a few things: 1) Surround yourself with those who make you better, not just comfortable 2) There are tiers of friendships, shifted doesn’t mean gone 3) You have just as much responsibility to your friends as they do to you.

Surround Yourself With Those Who Better You

Surround yourself with those who better you, not just those who make you comfortable. This is most definitely not my idea. It’s an age old one, perpetuated by thinkers and parents alike. I’m willing to bet that at some point, one of your parents said something akin to, “I don’t want you hanging around them, they seem like a bad influence.” I didn’t hear this often as a child but when I did my eyes rolled back something fierce. My parents weren’t being wet blankets, though. I had a friend my freshman year of high school, we’ll call him Jack, and he wasn’t the best influence on me. I had just switched schools and did not really know anyone. Along came Jack, with hand outstretched and I latched onto it for dear life. Despite what others said, I couldn’t see the negative path that friendship was leading me down. I had been tunnel visioned by my shortsighted need for connection, whatever the cost. Next thing you know, I found myself wearing a belt chain while my GPA gradually slide into the abyss. I go on that tangent to try and express that the people we spend our time with and confide in have very tangible affects on our own personalities and aspirations. Like everything else we surround ourselves with, be it books or films or educators, we absorb their influence. This is why, I believe, it is important to make friends with people who you admire and have your best interest at heart.

These aspects relate to the two foundations I mentioned earlier. Of course, friendships should also be woven together by common interests, shared senses of humor, etc. I believe these things to be a given, integral part of any friendship. Beyond that, however, is admiration and aspiration. Keeping the company of people we admire is important because, if we admire them, it means that they have a trait that we would like to emulate. Maybe they’re incredibly kind. Maybe they’re hardworking. Inevitably, this will rub off on you to some degree. If you surround yourself with people who consistently make choices that you feel are wrong, damaging, or less than acceptable-you need to take stock of your social circles and if they’re right for you. This may not always be the most comfortable thing in the world, either. Keeping the company of those who you admire will force you to change and grow in positive ways. If you find yourself sticking around a group of friends solely because they make you feel better about yourself by comparison- you need to cast a wider net.

Additionally, you want to befriend people who want the best for you. These people are your support net and your well being rests on their bulwark friendship, just as theirs rests on yours. Find people who will actively celebrate in your successes (and be sure to actively celebrate in theirs). If you tell a friend about an internship that you just landed and their first response is to talk about how great their own internship is- maybe they aren’t all that happy for you. If you’ve had a rough day and turn to a friend for support and they reply with “that sucks, but guess what happened to me today…” maybe they aren’t the sturdy friend you assumed them to be. These are generalizations, of course, and good friends are bound to do something like this every once in awhile but the point is still there. Find people who you admire, people who can lift you up with their company, and find people who genuinely care for you. In actuality, most people are lucky to have two or three friends at any given time that they can truly lean on. It’s easy to assume that the social net is wider and stronger than it actually is. This isn’t a bad thing, just know who you can really count on. More so, the friends that turn out to be ‘fair weather’ aren’t suddenly not friends, they just fall into a different tier of friendship.

Tiers of Friendship

When times are good, it is easy to assume that everyone has your back to a similar degree. When the weather gets stormy, however, it is easier to see where people fall. If you aren’t as close with someone as you thought you were, or you’ve concluded that they aren’t the best influence on you, it can be easy to assume that they should not or are not true friends. That isn’t the case. They’re still friends, they just fall into a different category. There are tiers of friendships and each type of friendship is important to our social well being. In my experience, there are three or so tiers (with some variance in-between): acquaintances, friends, best friends.

Acquaintances are the people we interact with through common activities (school, work, etc) but our interactions with these people tend not to expand beyond that space. It is a friendly interaction but likely not one that consists of conversations about hopes, dreams, and wants.

Friends tend to spend time with us outside of these spaces. We have fun with them, talk with them frequently, and likely confide in them sometimes. However, they may not be there through thick and thin, most of the relationship being built on a foundation of pleasure and convenient fun. This is where most people fall, if we’re being honest.

Best Friends share many of the same attributes as friends, however, their relationship to you goes deeper. In times of trial, they are there. They drove two hours in the middle of the night to pick you up when your tire blew. They support you in your hardest times and you support them as well, regardless of it being fun or not. They know your hopes, secrets, and aspirations and they want to see you succeed more than anything.

If you find yourself questioning a friend’s influence on you- don’t cut them out. Maybe just keep them an arm’s length away, move them from the ‘best friend’ tier to the ‘friends’ tier. This may seem harsh (although not nearly as harsh as cutting someone out entirely) but odds are if the friend in question is a bad influence, they likely weren’t looking out for your best interest to begin with. If you assumed that someone was closer to you than they actually were, don’t stress on it. Just be more careful about what you share. That doesn’t mean you have to stop seeing them in a fit of spiteful revenge or self preservation. I’m a firm believer in being kind to everyone I meet, but if someone isn’t going to value my contributions, thoughts, or successes- there is no reason to continue sharing them. Continuing to do so only devalues what I have to say. Recognizing who you can depend on, while being kind to everyone is a good rule of thumb for navigating shifting social circles. These things have an ebb and flow to them as well. Just because someone is an acquaintance now doesn’t mean they couldn’t become your must trusted confidant later.

Mutual Responsibility

It’s a two way street. The idea of friendship is an interesting one. In a way, it’s a beautiful (but unspoken) agreement to lift one another up and to face the chaotic world together, instead of alone. As such, there is a responsibility to help each other bear their proverbial cross. If you expect something from a friend, you should be willing to offer that back (and not just on your terms). Say I expect a degree of connection from a friend. For me, this may mean wanting a phone call every so often. To them, connection might mean something entirely different. For example, maybe they feel connection through getting lunch or sharing memes over Instagram. If I’m not receptive to their form of connection, I’m not playing my part. This is the inherent responsibility of friendship.

It is important to surround ourselves with good company. It is also just as important to be there for said company. Sometimes people change and so does the relationship. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean they aren’t a friend or that they haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. They may just fit into a different tier than initially assumed. Like with anything, everything in this post comes from my own personal experience- as such none of it is set in stone. It’s malleable. Still, in my own life I’ve found these ideas to be helpful, consoling, and guiding. I hope they can do the same for y’all.

Thank you for stopping by! Have any thoughts on the topic? Comment them below. If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

Discipline- Small Ways To Increase Your Work Ethic

Many people have a proclivity to push off work until the last minute, so much so that the phrase, “I’m a procrastinator” has become akin to a cute, colloquial personality trait. There is no harm in leisure and the opportunity to kick back and read a good book or watch a movie is something I relish. However, I’m at the tail end of finals week and I am counting my lucky stars that I didn’t wait until the last minute to put my nose to the grindstone. There is a general thought that there are two types of people: the lazy and the driven. The idea that these are unchanging traits that are imbued in us from the moment we pop out of the womb is a wild misconception.

It’s normal for people to dread the prospect of work, especially if that work is not something particularly meaningful to us. It gets even worse when Netflix provides an escape from those responsibilities for a short while. The truth, from my experience anyway, is that increasing your self discipline and work ethic isn’t unattainable and a lot of that process comes down to little actions and choices we make everyday. Additionally, you don’t have to cancel your Netflix subscription to become a non-procrastinator. Here are a few tactical shifts that anybody can employ to increase their work ethic: Small Practices Make Big Gains, See The Bigger Picture, and It Isn’t a Punishment.

Small Practices Make Big Gains

It can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking that work ethic means sitting down for six hours and pounding out that book we’ve been meaning to write. That isn’t it and trying to juggernaut your way through work will only drain you and make procrastination more likely in the future. I talk about this in more detail in my previous post ‘I Have To Be Productive… Right?’ In truth, though, work ethic is comprised of two things: self-governance and foresight. Those two foundations can be exercised everyday in little ways that, in the long run, will provide substantial results.

Let’s start with self-governance. When I say self-governance, I mean the ability to make the conscientious choice, going the extra mile, doing something for personal reasons despite the fact that it may not be expedient. We are faced with various choices everyday. Many of them revolve around doing what is mildly inconvenient but positive or what is easy but has a net negative. It is important to recognize these choices and then to choose the positive course of action, despite the fact that it may take a little more effort. When I say ‘a little more effort’ I genuinely mean a little. Finished that cup of coffee? You could set it in the sink or you could go to the minute effort of opening up the dishwasher and putting that mug on the rack. Done reading that book? Set it on the shelf, not the desk or floor. We are faced with these small choices on a daily basis- even from the moment we wake up. Make your bed. In order to develop a strong work ethic, it is essential that we practice the basics of self-governance. They help cultivate a productive mindset. Additionally, it’ll make things easier in the long run. Now you don’t have a pile of dishes to put in the washer. When you head off to sleep for the night, you have a nicely made bed to look forward to.

The second daily aspect involved in increasing work ethic is foresight. Organization is laziness’s worst enemy. Set a ‘to-do’ list up for the day. Organizing what needs to be done grounds what responsibilities were previously nebulous, allowing them to be tracked and attacked. More so, foresight can help us see the gains from accomplishing what needs to be done, which is incredibly motivating. It’s about seeing the bigger picture.

Seeing The Bigger Picture

It’s difficult to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without know what the end product is supposed to look like. Moral of the story, don’t lose the box. Even bigger moral of the story, you have to see where you’re going in order to get there. Without understanding the end goal, or the value that your work has, it’ll be difficult to hunker down and do it.

Having an aim is especially important when the work you have in front of you is ambiguous. Procrastination isn’t too damaging when there are deadlines, as once a deadline rolls around the motivation to complete any given project will spring up like oil from the ground- even if it means pulling an all-nighter. However, when goals live in a limbo, void of any set deadlines, work ethic is all the more important. I study Acting in university right now and post graduation, I’m going to have to actively put myself out there in order to find work. There won’t be any immediate repercussions to not networking or auditioning. The ambiguity and flexible time-frame make it far easier to procrastinate. While there may not be any immediate consequences to putting off an audition and saying, “There will always be another”, there are damaging long term repercussions. Five years may go by with nothing to show for it, my career not having moved an inch. That’s a dangerous place to find yourself in and any self starting venture is steeped in it. That is why seeing the bigger picture, the end goal, is all the more important. Lay out a plan of action. I discuss what a plan of action might look like in one of my previous posts, ‘Finding Energy- Revving Up Your Motivation’. Give it a look for a step my step process on goal setting, I think it’s highly applicable here.

It Isn’t a Punishment

Earlier I mentioned that it is unproductive to imagine good work ethic as a juggernaut induced binge of productivity. Working like that will leave you tired and demoralized. You can’t punish yourself into hard work, it’ll never pan out and it isn’t sustainable.

Instead, it is necessary to understand why you are doing something. See the long term benefits. Then work towards it. Practice self-governance and foresight on a daily basis. If you’ve worked hard, don’t be afraid to reward yourself with a little Netflix or whatever form of relaxation floats your proverbial boat. One of the main blocks to hard work is imagining it as something you HAVE to do as opposed to something you’re freely doing in order to improve your life in the long run.

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the post, I’m no professional with these topics, just a guy with a keyboard speaking from his own experience. Have any thoughts on the topic? Comment them below. If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

Accountability vs. Self Blame- Letting Go of The Past to Succeed in The Present

Accountability, they say, is a pillar of being a successful and healthy person. It’s the mature, respectable, and productive course of action when we make a mistake. We’ve all had missteps in life, be they game changing miscalculations or a minor faux pas at a social gathering. In my 21 years on this planet, I’ve taken my fair share of missteps. In retrospect, they were only minor mistakes. However, those minor mistakes have a knack for appearing far more consequential when the sun sets and your mind has time to ponder them. The mistakes I have made (as well as how they could have been avoided) would pester me at night. Hindsight relishes the opportunity to snobbishly correct your missteps at 3 A.M. I would cringe with residual embarrassment in my sheets at night, replaying the moment I made a joke that failed to land or the time I addressed someone by the wrong name in an email (which happened last week, by the way). It wasn’t pleasant, but through this I was holding myself accountable. Right?

No. I had allowed myself to fall into a pit of self blame, not accountability. The two are incredibly different and we have to be careful not to confuse them. In recent years, I’ve changed my outlook on accountability and in hindsight realize that beating myself senselessly with my mistakes wasn’t mature, respectable, or productive. In order to change my outlook I had to employ a few shifts. In this post, I want to discuss the difference between accountability and self blame, working within our sphere of influence, and a tangible process that has helped me trade self blame for accountability. I’m not a professional on these topics, just a guy with a keyboard writing from his own experience. Hopefully my experiences can be of help to y’all.

Accountability vs. Self Blame

In order to choose accountability over self blame, we have to define them both. Accountability is recognizing a mistake, taking responsibility, and then taking steps to ensure we don’t repeat that mistake in the future. Accountability is not void of negative emotion. After making an error, embarrassment and other negative feelings will make a home, that’s perfectly healthy. If we didn’t have those emotions, we’d continue to make mistakes all the time- entirely oblivious to our missteps until, suddenly, we’re at the bottom of an insurmountably deep hole. Touch a hot stove once, you’ll never do it again (and thank God for that). We need those emotions to let us know when we’ve screwed up. Accountability is the act of turning those emotions into a change, a positive step forward in our development as people and then leaving those emotions in the past. The problem arises when we hold onto these emotions.

Enter self blame. Self blame is accountability’s ugly twin. They share a common origin- some mistake we’ve perpetrated in the past, but they differ from that point on. Self blame grabs those negative emotions, the ones intended to be indicators that we need to change our behavior, and fixates on them. The result? Sleepless nights, low self esteem, and a rut that keeps us from moving forward. It is important to recognize that it is impossible to learn from our mistakes if we succumb to self blame. In fact, fixating on the mistakes we’ve made in the past only imbues us with anxiety about the future, which increases the likelihood that we’ll screw up again. The first step in moving toward accountability and away from self blame involves recognizing our sphere of influence.

The Sphere of Influence

Every individual has a mystical place known as their sphere of influence. Within this sphere, everything is under their direct control. They control what clothes they put on that day. They control the layout of their bedroom. They control what they have for breakfast. There is one drawback to our spheres of influence, they don’t extend very far. It’s human nature to try and impose some sort of control over the world around us but, realistically, that’s an impossible task. We have control over where we go, but not who we run into. We have control over what we wear, but not the weather. We have control of ourselves, but not the outside world. In truth, we don’t even have entire control of ourselves. We have partial control of ourselves in the present. I say ‘partial’ control of the present because the present is influenced by both the past and the future. Our decisions are informed by past experience and by future predictions. That isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. We can learn from past mistakes, allowing us to conduct our present selves in a different manner. Our vision of the future helps inform our daily choices. This taps into one of the most valuable objects in our sphere of influence, our reaction in the present. We can’t mitigate the chaos of the world around us but we can roll with the punches, learn from our mistakes, and react in an informed, positive manner. In this way, the past and future have very tangible influences on the present, but they still reside outside of our sphere of influence. That doesn’t stop people from trying to control them, though.

Attempting to impose our will upon the past or the future is a failed endeavor from the start. Additionally, it’s a costly one. When we try stepping outside of the present and into the past, it’s easy to spiral down a rabbit hole of regret. Self blame lives in that hole and it’ll eat you alive. Since we cannot change the past, we are stuck staring at it and feeling upset, that takes energy away from the present. The same can happen when we anchor ourselves in the future, only it manifests as anxiety. Instead, we should focus our energy on controlling what is within our sphere of influence. That doesn’t mean forgetting about the past, because that isn’t productive either. Let the past inform the now. Break down what happened, understand it so that you don’t repeat it, and then look to the present. That is productive accountability.

It Isn’t Easy

It isn’t easy. Nothing worth doing is. Dropping self blame in order to free yourself in the present can feel something akin to performing heart surgery with a toothpick and a stick of bubblegum. Emotions are weird and it takes practice to identify and navigate through them, but they aren’t entirely outside our sphere of influence. When I find myself up at night, dwelling on an embarrassing moment of the day prior, I do this:

  1. What was the mistake? (Detail it out, it can be good to journal these things).
  2. How does that make me feel? (This one is difficult and you might catch yourself flinching. That’s okay, it’s necessary).
  3. Why did you make the mistake? (The first step involved in moving forward is detailing what lead to the problem in the first place).
  4. Write down ways to avoid making that same mistake. (This one can vary in length. If it was a simple social faux pas, you may only have to write ‘read the room’ or ‘don’t do that again’. If it’s a more complex misstep then this section may have a little more meat to it. Sometimes this step involves direct action as well, for example, an apology to a friend you fought with, etc.).
  5. Forgive yourself, but don’t forget. (This step says what it means and means what is says).

Writing it down will instantly help with the process of emotions. Processing them and detailing a way forward is an incredibly important step toward moving on. The very act of writing it all down and detailing a change for the future is an act of accountability. Learning is key. Accountability is growth. Self blame is a chain. The choice is within our sphere of influence.

Thank you for stopping by! Have any thoughts on the topic? Comment them below. If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

Memorizing Efficiently- Monologues, Scenes, Songs

Like many others, I find myself in the throws of finals week- envying my friends who are already on summer vacation. As the assignments stack up, so does the amount I had/have to memorize (especially for my performance classes). One piece in particular was proving difficult, The Nightmare Song. The name was a fitting one, as I sat down to memorize it and found that, after a few hours, I hadn’t retained a single line. Panic set in, exacerbated by the mocking tick of the clock in the corner of my room. I needed a new plan of attack- and fast.

As I was slowly enveloped deadline-induced hysteria, I figured that Gilbert and Sullivan might be the end of me. However, I took a deep breath, left that ‘finals week panic’ at the door, and composed myself. With brief clarity I managed to start working again- this time employing several effective memorization tactics that had helped me in projects prior. A little while later, I was back on track and The Nightmare Song ceased to be all that nightmarish. I want to drop some of those memorization tactics here, in hopes that they may help others with text memorization (of course, these tips can also be useful for non-performance memorization needs as well). Here’s the run through: know what you’re saying, hands-eyes-ears-mouth, sleep on it.

Know What You’re Saying

It goes without saying that, as an actor, specificity is your friend. My major courses have stressed the importance of this time and time again and for good reason. When you don’t know the intention behind your text, neither will the audience. Additionally, specificity is integral to memorization. It will always be easier to remember text if you have an understanding of it. That means knowing exactly what each word means and why you’re saying it.

For instance, let’s look at the first stanza of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky:

” ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe. “

Most of these words are absolute gibberish (which is part of what makes it so damn fun). Still, if you attack this poem without defining that gibberish you’re going to have a much tougher go of it. If we assign each one of these words a meaning we can better follow the story that we are trying to tell, subsequently helping us remember the text. This is why it is easier to recall song lyrics or lines from a book than it is to remember phone numbers. One has meaning to us, the other is a string of numbers.

Jabberwocky is an extreme example, oftentimes the text we’ll have to memorize isn’t comprised of imaginary words. Still, the principle applies. Why does my character say this line? What action are they playing? What is their objective? What spurred them to say this? Understanding these things about the text you intend to perform is non-negotiable. Knowing the answer to those questions is essential to being specific for an audience, but it will also greatly aid in memorization.

Hands, Eyes, Ears, Mouth

The brain is a complicated computer and works in very strange, multifaceted ways. At any given moment, it is absorbing information and sorting through what is essential to keep and what it can afford to throw away. It absorbs information through our senses and, depending on who you are, some senses are more apt to help you retain information than others. When memorizing we need to do two things: use all of the tools at our disposal and take things bit by bit.

The first is simple. People learn in various ways. For instance, I tend to connect with physical learning. As such, I try to memorize text by taking a line and then writing it down (while speaking each word out loud). Other people may be more auditory inclined- so they may give their text a listen. If one doesn’t work for you, try another. We’ve been granted several senses that can be useful for memorization so there is no need to shoot ourselves in the foot by sticking with something that doesn’t resonate with us.

Secondarily, large chunks of text can be overwhelming. It can be productive to attack large pieces through smaller, digestible bits. When dividing up text for memorization purposes, don’t just arbitrarily cut it up. Find through-lines of thought so that you are memorizing with the cohesive intentions. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of becoming discombobulated when stitching it back together.

Let’s look at a piece of Romeo’s monologue from Romeo and Juliet. After dividing up the through-lines of thought, it might look something akin to this:

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

(This may be a nice place to break, as Romeo identifies Juliet and compares her to the sun, then he shifts gears)

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.

(This might be another place to break, as he stops talking about her beauty and the overrated nature of virginity to directly identify her)


It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!… “

(And so on…)

Where you break up the dialogue to aid in memorization is entirely subjective, but I’ve always find it helpful to divide up the thought groups based on idea or topic changes so that the text feels fluid when it is pieced back together.

Sleep On It

This last one is pretty simple but it works wonders. Sleep on it. Work on memorizing and then review it before bed. While you’re sleeping, that information will get rearranged and cemented, I promise. There have been a plethora of times when I’ve worked tirelessly on something, stumbling on nearly every word, only to wake up the next day with the entire piece fluidly memorized. There is a different sort of clarity when you step away and give your mind the opportunity to organize itself.

Thank you for stopping by! If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

The Importance of Storytelling

Every year, masses from around the globe flock to Jonesborough, TN, a small town that less than 6,000 people call home. They gather in Jonesborough for the National Storytelling Festival. In 1973, sixty or so people gathered on hay bales and wagons to share stories with one another. Today, those wagons have been replaced with crowded lines of tents and the festival has been dubbed one of the top 100 events in the United States. What is all the fuss about?

If you were to attend the International Storytelling Festival you’d see storytellers and performers from around the globe, all giving glimpses of their own stories and cultures. The phenomenon is reflective of a fundamental truth- stories bring people together. The unifying power of a good story was one of the driving reasons I chose to pursue acting in college and the more I learn about the power of stories, the more I am convinced of their indispensable value. When it comes down to it: timeless stories touch us, exercise our empathy, and are fuel for the soul.

Timeless Stories Touch Us

Ever since the beginning of time, people from different walks of life gathered around campfires to hear a common story. Live theater and cinema are that very campfire but on a modernized and grand scale. They bring people together, clearly. The real question is why?

A good story touches on something universally human- fundamental truths that people, regardless of cultural background, can relate to. The stories that manage to do that last for ages and are praised worldwide. The ones that don’t tend to die off. Furthermore, the stories that tap into uniquely human attributes are retold- updated to fit a changing society (new language, storytelling mediums, etc.) See if you can name this story:

A king is slain at the hands of his own brother, who subsequently seizes power of the kingdom. The young prince, seeing his father appear as a ghost, is called to action against the aforementioned murderous uncle. After spending some time in exile and wrestling with some internal turmoil, the prince faces the uncle to avenge the father and take back the throne.

You might have said Hamlet. You might have also said The Lion King. You wouldn’t be wrong in either case, the two have very similar plots and they are both immensely popular. The difference here is that The Lion King is the updated iteration of an age old story, tailored to fit a new generation. (You can read all about their similarities online, it’s pretty neat.)

Shakespeare likely wasn’t the first person to tell the story of Hamlet and he most definitely will not be the last. It taps into something deeper about what it means to be human and the struggles we grapple with on a daily basis. Putting our finger on that specific ‘something’ can be a little harder, but it is undeniably present. If a story manages to do that, it can universally resonate- leaping over cultural differences. That’s significant. That is empathy embodied. That is a unifying force.

An Exercise in Empathy

Stories are reflective of the culture that they are born out of. As such, each story is painted with unique cultural elements: the history of that culture, their specific storytelling medium, aesthetics, language, etc. When a story is able to tap into that universally human element, it allows people outside of that culture to drop into and better understand it. It’s an exercise in empathy, which to me, feels especially important in such a divided time.

For example, The Korean film, Parasite, won best picture at the Oscars this year. It is a fantastic film and I recommend watching it if you haven’t. The story resonated in the States despite being culturally different. Regardless of whatever message you took from the film, it exposed many people to Korean filmmaking and storytelling. Additionally, stories like this bridge the gap between cultural divides, breeding an understanding that, as a species, we all grapple with and long for the same things.

This was part of the reason I wanted to move to NYC for college. The city is incredibly diverse and people from all walks of life come and share their stories through the lens of their own life experiences. I find that incredibly fascinating and it is something to be celebrated.

Fuel For The Soul

I know that this post is about storytelling, but I want to talk about athletics for a minute. Similar to stories, athletics bring people together. People unite to support a team. Teammates experience an intense camaraderie, just as the cast of a play does. There is something fulfilling about a good game of football. If there wasn’t, the NFL wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry. More significantly, sports wouldn’t be a worldwide phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where you look, athletic events are present in every culture (as are stories).

That’s because athletics fuel a deeply tribal and physical need we have as human beings. Admit it, the community found in rallying around a team (regardless of whether you actually care about the sport) is satisfying. So is witnessing the tightly spiraled pass of a football or an energized, precise rally in a match of tennis. We need sports because they serve as a healthy outlet for that tribal and physical inclination we all have. How does that relate to storytelling?

Well, storytelling is also an outlet for some of our deepest biological processes. When characters on stage (or screen) battle with their struggles, it can be cathartic for us. It is powerful to witness someone trudge through and overcome challenges we face in our own lives. People look at that actor and say, “Yes! That’s me! I’m seen! I’m not alone.” More-so, these characters can be guiding forces. When a character faces a challenge that we can relate to, they do it in either a manner we should emulate or avoid. More often than not, when the character succeeds it’s because they did the right thing (the thing we should emulate). When they fail, it’s because of their own tragic flaws that we should do our best to avoid. If Oedipus wasn’t so damn cocky, he might’ve avoided his tragic fate (the details of which I’ll spare you from).

It can be easy to think, “Yeah, okay, sure… but Marvel is a wildly successful franchise. Those stories resonate, but they don’t relate to me.” Yes, they do. No, the average person isn’t battling against a giant, purple madman from outer-space (we’ll leave that to Chris Evans and Robert Downy Jr.). However, many people are dealing with loss. They’re overcoming fear or self-doubt. Those films say, Heroism is having strong moral character (Captain America). They say, Heroism is overcoming selfish inclinations for the greater good (Iron Man). They say, the only way we can face the brutal reality of existence is together. Those films, while fantastical, accomplish what many mythical stories did for the Greeks and Romans. The story of Icarus is about pride, not being able to fly.

The Importance of Storytelling

Clearly, stories have value. We should never stop telling them. People live on after death through stories. Stories bring humanity together. They help us navigate the world, telling us how we should and shouldn’t operate. They’re the snapshot of the human soul in a specific moment. Take the time to support an artist. Go see a local show at a community theater. Sit down and write a story in your journal (fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter)- something important to you. Ask your parents or your grandparents about their lives. See what you can learn. Experience how it brings you closer together. Storytelling is important, essential, really- which is why I am thankful for the opportunity to study acting on a daily-basis.

Thank you for stopping by! If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else would enjoy the post, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

Finding Energy- Revving Up Your Motivation

Like everyone else, I’m still in quarantine. Initially, I had intended to use quarantine as an opportunity to dust the cobwebs off of a few long overdue projects. I started off strong, accomplishing tasks and throwing back victories like it was happy hour. As the weeks rolled by, however, I found myself increasingly tired and unmotivated. My progress had ground to a sudden halt. What had happened?

I did some trouble shooting. I spoke with friends, scoured the internet for answers, and reflected on my own life experiences (as I have had lows like this before). The answer to the Harry Hoodini-esq disappearance of my motivation was hidden in three areas- mind, body, and soul. They all work in tandem with one another and after employing a few simple lifestyle changes, my motivation returned. I’ve culled through what I had stumbled upon and compiled it in this post. I hope that it can be of use to y’all: You’re a Ferrari, Write it Down, Be Kind to Your Soul.

You Are a Ferrari

You’re a 1987 Ferrari F40. You’re capable of hitting 199 mph with that twin turbocharge inter-cooled V8 engine. The best part? You have cup holders. You’re absolutely awe inspiring. Well, that shiny Ferrari you’ve become isn’t going to look all that appealing if it’s never given a good wash and wax. More importantly, your fancy turbocharged V8 isn’t going to do jack without gasoline.

In reality, most of us are no Ferrari, myself included. Maybe a Ford Mustang. It’s unlikely that we are at our physical peaks- which makes proper maintenance all the more important. We’ll consistently lose motivation, energy, drive, and all the other synonyms if we don’t treat our bodies well. The concept is muttered so often that it has almost become a cliche, but this isn’t a ‘new age’ health article. It isn’t your mother telling you to eat your vegetables. It’s a guy behind a keyboard speaking from his own experience and as such I’m going to try my best to keep from cramming a ton of bull down your throat. There are three fundamental parts of maintaining your physical health. They’re easy, straightforward, and directly affect your ability to stay energized and motivated.

You’ve got to eat right and more importantly- you have to eat enough. I’m not necessarily talking about staying in shape here. However, eating is very literally the act of fueling up your engine. Certain foods are directly linked to good mental health and maintaining energy. Beans, Oranges, Salmon, Bananas- to name a few. You can Google up lists of foods that are good for this. I’ll even throw a link at the bottom of this post. Additionally, there are foods that will actively make you sluggish, unmotivated, and weak. A ton of white carbs, fast food, energy drinks (the irony of that last one is overwhelming). I’m not saying cut McDonalds out of your life- I love a Double Bacon Smokehouse, but I am saying that you should balance it with foods that will actively rev up your engine. Moderation and balance, it’s the key to everything.

Speaking of moderation, let’s talk about coffee. I love coffee. I’d drink twenty cups a day if it wouldn’t kill me. It’s important to understand, though, that coffee isn’t real energy. It’s packed to the brim with caffeine. Caffeine sees a pickup game of soccer in your brain and hops in front of the A1 receptors that measure how tired you are. Those receptors are waiting for their buddy, Adenosine (the chemical that tells those receptors that you really need to rest), to score a goal. Well, caffeine is a good goalie. As a result, you don’t feel tired. You may even feel energized but that doesn’t mean you aren’t running on empty. Your body still needs that rest and if you go long enough without it you’ll crash into an oblivion. A cup of coffee to clear the morning fog is no problem at all, but it isn’t a substitute for proper sleep and eating.

Your body, like that Ferrari, is designed to run. It’s a scientific truth that the more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have in the future (which seems counter-intuitive, I know). An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. Physical activity provides a ton of health benefits, not to mention all of the fun endorphins you’ll get afterwards. Many avid runners refer to this as a ‘Runner’s High’.

Running is a drug, kids, don’t do running.

In all seriousness, staying active will physically provide you with more energy to get up and accomplish tasks in the long run. You have to treat your body like a Ferrari. Care for it. Keep it at peak performance. You’ll be happier and more productive if you do.

Write it Down

Mind over matter, as they say. There is a substantial bit of truth to that phrase and more than enough evidence to confirm it. Still, no matter how powerful that hunk of jelly in your skull is, it has to be used strategically. I’ve been here before. I could muster up enough ‘go-getter’ spirit to start something, maybe even multiple somethings, but would fizzle out- unable to finish what I had set out to do. Even worse, the more I’d fizzle out, the more difficult it was to muster up the motivation to start again. In hindsight, I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t being strategic. I was scattered. For instance, I would boldly proclaim that I was going to get in better shape- even make my way to the gym or to a trail to run. Then, I’d do the thing. Exercise. Aimlessly. Maybe I’d do legs. Maybe I’d do upper-body. Who knows? Take a run- for how long? How far? I had no idea, but I was out there sprinting toward success. Right?

No. I was out there wasting my time. I was scattered with no plan or concrete goals in place. When we approach projects with no game-plan, we miss out on two things: goals and steps. The goals set the conditions for success while the steps illuminate the path toward that success. Step onto the field without either of those teammates and you’ve already lost the game (or at least made it significantly harder than it has to be).

So how do we set a game-plan and use our mind effectively? Well, and stay with me here, write it down. That might sound archaic, I know. Writing? With my hands? And paper? I don’t do paper. Yes and no. You can use the ‘Notes’ app on your phone if you’d like, all that matters is that the ideas are written down- but studies show that handwriting information cements it in your mind far more than typing ever could. Either way, you write your game-plan. How might that look?

  1. Identify what you’re setting out to do. EX: (Learn Guitar)
  2. Set the conditions for success. EX: (Play ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash)
  3. Write out the components of that task. EX: (Learn chords, memorize strum patterns)
  4. Identify the steps you’ll take to take to achieve that goal. EX: (Google the chords. Practice each chord individually, piece them together, practice song until it is to tempo and comfortable)
  5. Victory.

Depending on the task, you might not be able to achieve it in one sitting. Playing ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash is going to take a bit of time if you’re new to guitar (trust me, I’m in the process of doing it now). So lay out a timeline. Maybe practice for ten minutes a day. Don’t overextend yourself, you know your limits. It could also be productive to set a goal for each ten minute session. You have to set goals in order to know your conditions for success. Without that- you can’t succeed. Being specific is important in this process, so when mapping it out try and write the game-plan as if you were making it for someone else who has no clue where to start. Your mind is a powerful tool but without clear direction it grows frazzled, tired, and unmotivated.

Be Kind to Your Soul

You’ve got to be kind to yourself. Regaining energy and motivation may take time and you have to be understanding of that. If you accomplish a goal that you set- don’t be afraid to reward yourself with a cup of joe or some time at the TV. If you try and muscle your way through tasks, eventually your spirit will give out. Do everything you can to set your mind, body, and soul up for success- that includes being understand to yourself and where you are at. It is okay to recognize that you’ve had a slow day. Maybe you didn’t even touch your checklist. Fine, don’t beat yourself up. Just do a bit better tomorrow. Then a bit better than that the day after.

Thank you for stopping by! If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else could use it, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around.

Some energizing foods:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/energy-boosting-foods

Some foods that’ll drain you:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-that-drain-energy

Auditioning- Things To Keep In Mind

I recently had someone reach out to me, saying that they enjoyed the blog (thank you!) and that they would like to hear more about what I have learned in regards to acting and the theater industry as a whole. I am still a student, learning new and useful things on the daily about my craft. Subsequently, I in no way consider myself an authority figure on the subject. Still, I have picked up a few tips through my own experiences and more so from my insightful professors- I see no reason why I shouldn’t share some of that here. So today I figured I’d talk about auditions.

Auditions are a nerve-wracking and exciting part of being an actor. They embody opportunity, and just like any venture that offers opportunity, they require hard work and mental fortitude. I’ve had successful auditions as well as auditions that I’m not so proud of but the fact remains- the more you do it the better you get. Auditioning is a practiced skill, a muscle to be worked. I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped me in this proverbial ‘workout’ and I hope they can be of use to you: you’re the answer to their problem, they want to see you, the importance preparation on all fronts, and it’s a lot like giving a birthday present.

You’re The Answer To Their Problem

It is easy to walk into an audition room and feel at odds with the people at the other end of the table. Why wouldn’t you feel that way? They’re sitting there in opposition to you, staring you down. They hold the key to your success in that moment and their job is to to judge you, right? Not quite. Yes, you may really want that role and yes, they decide whether or not you are cast. That in no way means that they are against you or are there to judge you- even though that might be a sound, albeit, guttural response to that line of thinking. In actuality, you are the potential answer to their problem. They need you just as much as you need them. My freshman year, Judith Ivey came to speak at Pace. She had plethora of valuable insights to give on the industry but one in-particular stuck with me above the others- the people behind the table aren’t against you. They’re begging you to succeed. It may seem counter-intuitive but you are the potential answer to their problem. The problem? A role to fill. The people behind the table more often than not want you to walk in and do a fantastic job because that means their problem is solved and they can go grab a coffee, smiling that they found the perfect actor to play Juliet in their Shakespeare festival. In this way, they are rooting for you. Keeping this in mind whenever you go into an audition is very liberating. It frees you up to give the gift of your audition.

They Want To See You

When you walk into an audition, they want to see you. This is a paramount aspect of the audition for a few reasons. When the people behind the table are watching you, they’re trying to gauge a few things: Will this person work well with the rest of the team? Does their personality and style fit the vision for our project? Or if it is a college audition: Will they fit well with the rest of the program? Will our teaching style be effective and resonant with this individual? That is why being genuine and honest in auditions is of the utmost importance. That manifests in a few ways: the piece you choose, your resume, and your behavior prior to and following your piece. In regards to the piece you choose, be it a song or a monologue- you want to make sure that it accurately reflects your type and range. If you’re a twenty year old male, it may suit you better to bring in that Romeo piece you’ve worked on instead of Vanya. Of course, that can shift around a bit based on your looks. More so, unless an audition is requesting a specific accent or choice, just stick with your normal speaking voice. In collegiate auditions specifically, they want to see a piece that reflects you as an actor and the versatility you offer- not an accent. If you have an accent you are proficient in put it on your resume. This brings me to my second point, and I cannot stress this enough, BE HONEST on your resume. If you list something on your special skills you better be prepared to do it. Don’t write roles down that you haven’t done either- artistic communities are small and tight knit so more often than not whoever is at the audition will see right through the white lie you slapped on the bottom of your paper. Showing your genuine self is also important before and after your piece. Be respectful, of course, but be yourself. Cut the false bravado- it’s not a good look.

Prepare Til Your Fingers Bleed

Preparation for auditions is a crucial cornerstone of succeeding. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel and the more likely it will be that you’re piece will go well. Additionally, it gives you more room to be flexible during an audition which is important (it’s a fine line though, you don’t want to over-rehearse your piece lest you become too rigid). It goes without saying that you should rehearse your audition piece diligently but preparation extends beyond that. You need to have more material at your disposal than the audition initially calls for. If they ask for two contrasting monologues- bring at least three. You don’t want to be an archer facing down the dragon, realizing that you are one arrow short of victory. I remember a very important audition I had that really embodies the necessity of preparation. It was one of my college auditions, actually. The school had requested that I bring in two contemporary, contrasting monologues. I did the prep work, made my choices, and was feeling confident. I remember walking in- riddled with those exciting butterflies that you get prior to any audition- and slating. I introduced myself and the piece I was doing but before I could begin, one of the people behind the table stopped me. They said, “Actually- I don’t think that piece serves actors very well. Could you do your second monologue instead?” I was a bit jarred but, hey, they asked me to bring two. By the time I had finished my second (now first) monologue, my nerves had dissipated… until they asked to see something else. My mind raced- they had only asked for two monologues and as such I only had two at my disposal. I smiled and said, “Sure!” but on the inside I was frantically spelunking through the depths of my memory to find a saving grace- I did find it, in the form of a monologue I had done a year or so prior that was still lurking around my subconscious. It was a lucky break. The monologue went well and I was accepted into the program but it would have saved me a lot of stress in the moment had I over-prepared, a lesson that I firmly take to heart these days.

Your Audition is a Nicely Wrapped Gift

To close, I think viewing your audition as a gift to give is a positive mindset to have. One of my professors described auditions as birthday gifts. Your audition- be it a song or a monologue or a cold read- is something that you are uniquely bringing into the room and offering up. It is your gift to give, nicely wrapped with a bow on top. The people behind the table might not need the gift you’re giving them, they might already have it, but it is your gift to give. The fact of the matter is- you won’t get every audition. It isn’t personal. Sometimes they don’t need your specific type or they have someone else who just fits the bill a little bit more. That’s okay. Just hop back on the saddle and rally for the next one. It can be a game of chance like that. Just remember that what you are offering is unique to you and while it might not always land you the role, you should be proud to give it.

Thank you for stopping by! If you liked the post please follow the blog or give it a like. If you think someone else could use it, feel free to share it with them or on social media. Make yourself at home and take a look around the blog.

Beauty Isn’t Hiding- We’re Just Not Looking

When I first arrived in New York, I was homesick and disheartened by the massive change- the lack of nature specifically. It was crowded and loud. As a student in a dorm room, the only alone time I had was in the shower which was less than ideal. One night, when I was feeling particularly down about the lack of trees and grass, what I interpreted as the inherent lack of beauty in the city, a friend of mine took me on a walk toward the Hudson. I was looking out at the skyline beyond the river with her and we had a resonate exchange that I distinctly remember.

I said, “I wish I could see the stars.”

She gestured out to the glowing skyline, “These will have to be your stars for now.”

They would become my stars, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time. Were they stars? No. However, those glowing lights had a captivating quality about them and now I find myself fascinated by the fact that each one of those lights emanates from a room- with a person in it- uniquely living their life- entirely unaware that I am pondering their being. Rooms as numerous as the stars, lights marking their existence. Are they stars? No. Are they beautiful in their own right? Absolutely.

I share this to explain that often times when we are feeling low or shaken up, it can be difficult to see the wonder around us. It doesn’t have to follow a large shift in our life either. That deadening desk job or tight schedule might wear on us after a few months, tunneling our vision towards the negatives while blocking out the wonder and beauty around us as non-essential. Wonder and beauty ARE essential and they are ever present, the trick is being able to slow down and appreciate them to their fullest extent. After living in NYC for about two years I have come to appreciate and love the beauty it has to offer. I find it on every sidewalk, every building, and in every fat pigeon pecking at some pizza crust. It was a mindset that I had to actively cultivate but it was one of the most rewarding mental shifts I could have worked towards. There are two ideas that helped my perspective: children are smarter than us, busy is a burden.

Children Are Smarter Than Us

No, that three year old can’t do taxes. He can’t spell either. They may just be learning to use the toilet but damn- they’ve got some stuff figured out that just boggles us. I was doing some thinking as to why children are, generally, very happy- or at least not depressed. Some would attribute it to their relatively care free lifestyle. The world isn’t weighing on an eight year old like it would someone in their thirties who has to pay rent next week. I don’t think that’s it. Kids still have worries, they’re just different. Think back to the things that troubled you when you were younger. The earliest memory you can recall may only be from middle-school, but even so, that traumatic moment of not being asked to that dance or failing your first test was impactful. The recollection may make you laugh now, the problems then seem so much smaller than the ones we face today, but it felt as real and heavy back then as getting fired would today, right? Children have very genuine worries and fears, they don’t live care free. It just looks like it from our perspective a few miles down the road of life. I think children are generally happy- or at least not depressed- because they can see the wonder and beauty in the world that we blind ourselves to.

When my little brother was younger, he was a quiet and pensive kid. He was always watching, analyzing the world around him. He was learning. Other children do this in a more tactile way. When your kid is in the sandbox or barreling down the slide, they’re not just playing, they’re exploring. The world is a big and new place. Even their own bodies are machines that they haven’t quite yet learned to pilot efficiently (not to say that the motor skills of adults are all that fantastic either, you haven’t see me dance). But the point remains, they’re actively searching with eyes wide open because if they don’t, they won’t be able to grow into functional people. With those open and curious eyes they can see the absolutely stunning stuff around them that we, wiser and smarter adults, just don’t. A child plucks a dandelion and thinks, ‘what a pretty flower‘. We see a dandelion in the lawn and think, ‘what a pesky weed’.

The first step to seeing the the beauty in the world around us is to rekindle our sense of curiosity. Edward Bloom has this down. In case you’ve never seen the musical or read the book Big Fish, Edward is an incredibly curious guy- living a life full of wonder that may or may not be based in reality. He’s a traveling salesman but his job doesn’t consist of trudging door to door and praying for a sale. His life consists of an active adventure, meeting new people, and exploring the scenery. He’s a curious guy. To rekindle curiosity in order to see the wonder around us, we have to view every experience as a chance to learn and explore. Everyone you talk to may have something valuable to say, regardless of your opinion of them. That muddy river isn’t just a geographical landmark, it’s the life source of cities and the road of explorers from long ago. Those city lights aren’t just a secession of bulbs in sockets, they’re indicators of individual lives simultaneously shouting, “I exist!” To see the wonder and beauty in the world, we have to wonder why. To see the wonder and beauty in the world, we have to emulate children.

Busy Is A Burden

When I say that ‘busy is a burden’ I don’t mean that having goals and responsibilities is a bad thing. They are overwhelmingly positive forces. I am referring to the ‘mindset of busy’. While you run from class to class or from work to daycare, it’s easy to turn up the music in your car or on your headphones and let tunnel vision take hold. It’s easy to keep your eyes on your phone while you walk down the street, in fact it may even feel productive- it’s not. You can’t see the beauty around you if you can’t mentally slow down. You can’t mentally slow down if you’re furiously typing that clever tweet. The tweet can wait, if it’s clever now it’ll still be clever in twenty minutes.

Instead, we have to practice un-busying ourselves in those little transitional periods of the day- both your mind and your thumbs will thank you for it. It is the beauty of the world that carries us through the hardest times in our lives. It’s always there, begging for your attention and appreciation. However, if we tunnel vision ourselves we’ll miss it every time. Busy is a burden. Instead of scrolling through your unchanged Instagram feed for the thirteenth time in the last hour, look up for a minute and notice that dog intently staring down that bush. I wonder what he sees in there? The whole thing is kind of funny. The whole thing is kind of beautiful.

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