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Archive for April, 2013

Dreaming big and getting clear

Holy Quarter Century Batman, I graduated college 25 years ago this week.  Funny, I don’t feel old enough to be able to say that, but it’s true.

The last week of class I had one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever had; here’s how it went:

BIG DREAMS Part 1

Final assignments, presentations and exams had all been done, attendance was low, one of my favourite teachers, came into class.

“The course is finished, but there’s one more thing I want to teach you before you head out.  Everyone take out a piece of paper.”

We did.

“Write down where you want to be in five years.” She paused “but don’t get stupid on me, be realistic with your dreams.”

We did.

She gathered up the various sheet of paper, ripped them into pieces and threw them in the garbage (she was even more dramatic than I am).  Then she looked at us like the great mother hen that she was and said:

“Realistic dreams aren’t dreams. Where do you really want to be?” Another dramatic pause “What’s the dream you don’t tell anyone because you know they’ll laugh?  Write that down.”

We did.

“Hold onto this dream.  Don’t let anyone ever take it from you.  NOW…what are you going to do to get there?”

I don’t remember what I wrote on the first sheet of paper, something very sensible I’m sure.  On the second piece of paper I wrote “Directing at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival”.

I have to admit, five years after I graduated, I was not directing at the Festival – it took six.  Six years after I graduated I was an apprentice director at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival.

BIG DREAMS Part 2

While I was at the festival, I realized I would be unemployed in 4 months and until then, I would only see my wife every other weekend – if I was lucky.  I decided I didn’t want to be a freelance director any more (looking back, I realize the decision was fear based, but this was how I justified it at the time).

What I didn’t do was get clear on what I did want.

Five years later I was answering phones at an insurance company…a great job for many, a VERY bad fit for me.

One day my supervisor told me I should choose my five year anniversary gift, it was coming up.  I was stunned; this job was only temporary until I figured out my next step.  Suddenly it was five years later – five MISERABLE years later.

BIG DREAMS Part 3

I excused myself, pulled out a sheet of paper and I was not leaving until I figured out where I wanted to be in five years.

Eventually I wrote down two things:

I want to be a produced playwright – preferably in NYC.

I want to be working in Animation (years ago I had run some acting classes at Walt Disney Animation and LOVED it).

I started writing a play that night and within a week had sent out resumes, cover letters and follow-up phone calls to every school and studio in the Toronto Area.

Within a year I was teaching Acting in the Animation departments of two of the best schools in the world (I still am) and recently one of my plays was presented in NYC (took a bit longer than I thought).  Last summer an animation festival billed me as Canada’s leading expert in the field of Acting for Animation.

BIG DREAMS Final thoughts:

I am still grateful to that teacher who inspired me over 25 years ago, I do have one BIG adjustment to her lesson, I believe small dreams are still dreams; they are valid and can be beautiful.  Don’t let anyone rip them up either.  She was pretty dramatic though and it made a statement I still remember.

Some people believe you get everything you’re clear about, EVERYTHING.  I’m not one of those people, which may explain why I didn’t win the lottery last night – AGAIN – but I do know getting clear gets you a LOT closer.  Our dreams can, will and should change, write yours down and dream big and then start moving toward it…effort counts.

Where do YOU want to be in 5 years?

WRITE IT DOWN – it makes it clear.

What are you going to do to get there?

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I can’t believe I’m doing this.

Last week my life got a LOT more animated.

Hanging upside down from the ceiling of a ballet studio I knew I’d found a new passion.

Getting ready for Cirque

Last year (2012), my New Year’s resolution was to do at least one thing a month that makes me smile, roll my eyes toward Heaven and say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”  It made for a GREAT year in a lot of ways.  This year I was determined to keep myself open to possibilities to do the same.

Last Saturday, I dropped my 5 year old at her ballet class and noticed silk cords hanging from the ceiling.  6 days later I was in my first silks class, muscles I haven’t felt in years SCREAMING and ridiculously happy.

I first saw silks at Cirque Du Soleil and loved it; it was beautiful, athletic and downright sexy.

cirque

Cirque Silks

My one class at www.artistsplay.com was clumsy, exhausting and it hurt…I’m going back – – – until I find the beautiful, athletic sexiness.

Here’s a challenge to all of you.  What have you wanted to do but have been making excuses about?  GO DO IT!!!

Do something regularly that makes you smile, roll your eyes toward Heaven and say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Putting it together, bit by unlikely bit

dachshundducktriceratops

This stuff is sooooo freakin’ cool. I first saw Leo Sewell’s work at the Galerie Christin in Toronto about six or seven years ago. I recently contacted them about buying a piece, then I looked at the price – – – sigh, one more item for my bucket list — or my Christmas wish list – Santa are you reading this? I’ve been VERY good.

Leo Sewell takes the most unlikely (and I must say extremely cool) objects and combines them into awesome, original and new sculptures.

My take on Sewell’s work – and why I love it: It’s about the integrity of the original pieces and the way they work together to create something beautiful and something none of them could create individually.

I tend to avoid getting involved with organized groups; I generally prefer to work alone. Even when I’m involved with sports (YES I have been involved with sports) it’s always solo sports: swimming, running, cycling etc. I worry I can’t really be me if I get too close to people. Somehow I will have to disappear or adapt to get along with the group.

Sewell and his magnificent Junk Sculptures show me that it’s just not true, the individual doesn’t get in the way of the group, he, she . . . I make the group cool and intriguing.

I think my summer project is going to involve finding a cool group to join…maybe baseball, I like baseball.

Oh – – – and my birthday is in August…hint, hint. You can shop for me here -> http://www.leosewell.net/

What I know about graduating… 25 years after the fact.

I had a note from a student who will be graduating from college in a few weeks.  Graduating and going out into the job field was getting a bit threatening.

I’ve been teaching at the college for 18 years, suddenly I’m having a flashback to 25 years ago, when I graduated from college.  WOW a quarter century later.  Have I learned anything?

For what it’s worth, here’s what I know about graduating:

1)Keep the people who matter close to you. It gets a little harder to stay connected after you graduate – do it anyway.  Those people keep you motivated, supported, connected, grounded and sane.

2)Zoom in on your strengths.  At school there’s a LOT of focus on fixing your weaknesses, STOP IT.  Do what you do best.  If Michelangelo had spent all his time trying to fix his crappy his social skills we wouldn’t have the Sistine Chapel or David, Florence would have had a frustrated artist with a fake smile on his face.

3)If you’re not sure what your strengths are– that’s cool, we’re all still sorting that out, but here are a few tips:

Ask the people around you; we have a tendency to dismiss our strengths because the things we’re really good at are easy.

The next time you’re asking yourself “Why can’t they just get this, it’s so easy?” PAY ATTENTION…that’s a unique strength of yours.

4)All change is good and bad.  You decide what you focus on.

5)You’ve heard that success means sacrifice – it’s true, but NEVER sacrifice your integrity, your dreams, or your authentic self.  Giving up on those serves NO ONE!  Trust me on this one.

6)You and your dreams are going to change a LOT in the next few years.  Learn the difference between changing your dreams and giving up on them.  One is about growth, the other is death.

7)Never stop learning.  The best learning is accidental.  We were NOT your best teachers.  I like to think we were good, but Life and your own intuition will teach you FAR more than we ever could.

8)You’re not entering “The Real World”.  School is real, what you have here is real.  You’re just moving into a different place.

9)In the end, don’t listen to me – trust yourself.

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