Tag Archives: self-reliance

From diverse sources.

I’ve recently stumbled across three articles that are swimming around my head in a interesting manner.

This is the first. That’d be a heck of a pie chart! But now, as I look back at the ways in which I’ve spend the approximately 32,000 hours (!) I’ve likely worked, it’s still difficult to characterize much of what I’ve “done.” And, as I let this blog languish and stall on other, non-professional writing projects, I’m reminded that I need to work a few hours a week on the things that make my heart sing.

This is the second. I read it in the print edition, and found it fascinating, mostly because one of the traits they illustrate concerns living in the moment, not projecting…and it sounds a lot like mindfulness, doesn’t it? Here’s a quote:

“I think the problem is that people spend so much time worrying about what might happen, what might go wrong, that they completely lose sight of the present. They completely overlook the fact that, actually, right now, everything’s perfectly fine.

“So the trick, whenever possible, I propose, is to stop your brain from running on ahead of you.”

(Now, if you read that in Yoga Journal? O Magazine? It’d be easy to turn into a mantra of sorts. But the context makes it a bit stickier for me to wrap my head around, somehow.)

This is the third. There’s an clear analogy here for a performing career; the Eagle Scout level of preparedness needed, the brutal slog of little money and an expensive vocation, the uncertainty surrounding each occasion, the crazy desire to fly. The luck that accompanies the right day, the right waft of air, the right conditions for an epic flight.

Happy Monday, all. Hope the week is great.

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Show up.

I’m going to save the Leadership Intensive recap for another day as, quite frankly, I’m still processing a lot of the information.

Maria Popova, who curates Brain Pickings, came across a letter that Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck (aside: that might be the coolest name ever, for the record.) about the correlation between work ethic and creativity. She parallels it with a video from Jack White of pop music fame. It’s certainly not a new thought, the slogging through when the Muse blows off your invitation and you’re left with a blank piece of paper, an empty mind, possible even a white text box on a blogging program…

I digress.

I would, however draw some additional parallels between creativity and work ethic and leadership. There’s a great article in Forbes by August Turak, that makes the argument that great leaders also need to be great followers.

In both cases, whether you’re wrestling an idea onto the page or climbing up the corporate ladder, you need to:

  1. Show up. You have to do the work, or at least be ready and willing to do the work, even if nothing comes. (There’s the Woody Allen quote about 80% of success is just showing up. There are days when that first step is indeed the most difficult – I totally get that. Show up anyway.)
  2. Be aware. Surroundings. Language. Subtext. In both situations that additional information can only help to clarify/troubleshoot/inspire.
  3. Stay flexible. The path down which you need to walk may not be something you had planned to tackle… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong path.

I find that #2 can be the trickiest…we can get bogged down enough in our own to-do lists, with our own inner judges that it can be difficult to really watch, listen, perceive. When we take that time, though, don’t all manner of things get easier?

I have thirteen days left in the summer festival season. My plans are to take my own advice (well, to try to anyway) for the next two weeks and apply it to my job. After that I’ll be making an early run at this, as a way to discipline my inner writer. (I got about halfway through – about 25,000 words – last year, before the fall audition travel schedule made the daily quotas impossible. Without that distraction maybe I’ll make it to 30,000!)

Today, if you do nothing else? Just show up.

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Common Sense, Illustrated.

I’m a huge fan of  Jessica Hagy, the author of Indexed. She has a new graphic up at Forbes.com called 20 Ways to Find Your Calling. And, in her beautifully succinct manner she defines steps to becoming an adult. (My favorite is obviously #3. (“Say yes to odd opportunities.”)

(Isn’t that how I got myself into this mess in the first place? Indeed, I think, happily, it was.)

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On smugness, searching, and self-reliance.

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There’s a lot of advice about following your dreams and loving what you do.

I think it mostly comes from an empowering place…spending 40+hours something you enjoy can only enrich your life, your relationships, right? For those of us who have lucked into/sacrificed for/found one of those jobs, it seems pretty smug to preach about the importance of adoring your professional life. I mean, who wants to spend their workweek doing something that they hate? Um, nobody. Even if the perks or money are compelling for a while, sooner or later an exit strategy is developed, a parachute is crafted, and a departure is engineered.

However, doing that thing that we love can come with some serious baggage in the form of financial hardship. Student loans, a rough (to be generous) job market…if you’re in the arts, you’ll also factor in the cost of living, which will likely be on the high side since metropolitan areas are usually the places where culture thrives. (Not always, for sure…and there’s something wonderful to be said for those communities who embrace art-makers as an integral part of their fabric.)

So, how to reconcile following the career that makes your heart sing while also being able to live? And really, to live, not just survive?

Million-dollar question, that.

I came across this quote:

…The first step is creating a foundation of self-reliance: a survival dance of integrity that allows you to be in the world in a good way—a way that is psychologically sustaining, economically adequate, socially responsible, and environmentally sound.

I think it’s absolutely true that you cannot make your best art, or your best effort, when you’re not feeling safe. There’s a reason that the trappings of security are the foundation of Maslow’s pyramid: if our basic needs aren’t met, we can’t function strongly in society…we can’t contribute creatively if we can’t feed ourselves!

But, and here’s the bigger question: Do we dive in and hope for the best? (We are artists, after all…there’s a certain amount of grace for those who make beauty for a living, I think.) Do we defer the dream for security? How do we find a balance, find that self-reliance?

There are some great stories on this site of folks who have found that balance…and they’ve done it in as many different ways as there are people profiled. If you have a similar story, I’d love to hear it- you can find me in the comments here, or at indirectroutes@gmail.com.

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