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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?

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.

Lettin’ Go with Daddy Crood

Saw the advanced screening of The Croods tonight.

NO SPOILERS – READ AWAY

I’ve got a few people I want to meet before I die.  Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco  are two of them.  Tonight I was going to meet them – OK me and a couple of hundred other people – at the Toronto preview of The Croods – I had my ticket, I had a baby sitter, I was ready to kick another item off my Bucket list.

Then it decided to snow in Chicago and they couldn’t fly out.  The weather disappointed, the film didn’t.

First a quick review – for you poor suckers who are going to have to wait ‘till March 22nd.  I have to be honest, it probably won’t push Shrek out of my #1 spot, but it might come very close.  Funny, warm, cool social satire, AMAZING environments, GREAT acting and a great story – go see it.

Now, on to the “animatingyourlife” take on it.  How’s this one going to help me grow?  Or is it?  Is it one of those pieces I look at and go “That was great…what’s for lunch” or is it going to stick with me for a while?

The Croods might just be getting under my skin a bit – sooooo, what’s it saying to me?

There are a lot of themes subtly and not so subtly woven into this one: loyalty, security vs. freedom, physical strength vs. intellectual strength, romance, but the thing that pulls me in is Dad.  Here’s a guy having a HARD time letting go of the past and the safety he knows.  Can’t blame him, it’s a rough world for this Caveman, but things are changing and he’s a bit slow on the uptake…Palaeolithic guys are like that sometimes.  He can’t move forward because he can’t let go.

I’ll be honest.  There’s comfort in the familiar – even when it doesn’t work anymore.  Papa Crood has is Stone Age baggage, I’ve got mine, and I have a hard time letting go…for me, it comes out in resentments, especially when I was right and they were wrong and they just didn’t appreciate me the way they should have and why couldn’t Sanders and DiMicco make it, it always snows on my parade.  Oh dear, that does sound pathetic.  I’m working on it; if a bunch of Neanderthals can change then so can this nerdy art addict.

I promised no spoilers, so I won’t tell you if Papa Crood makes the change or not – Don’t assume it all works out just because it’s DreamWorks, Sanders and DeMicco take it somewhere I did NOT think it would go, made me cry a bit, but just a bit ‘cause I’m tough…like a cave man.

Aside

Accepting My Inner Ogre – ridding the world of Ographobia

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Shrek?  Why yes, yes I did. – Check out my other posts on Shrek.

Making it Real with Shrek

Breakin’ Out With My Favourite Ogre

This morning I was talking to a student about Fiona and how she changes…her arc.

Here’s a princess with a VERY dark secret…SPOILER ALERT…SPOILER ALERT She’s an ogre by night – only true love’s first kiss can break the spell.  Her’s a princess with some serious shame – she hates something she is – something she has no control over.  She’s got some serious Ographobia going on…that’s a nasty thing when you are an Ogre.

Her arc – from shame to acceptance and on to celebration.  Go Fiona!  Pretty awesome stuff here – how does it happen?  I’m sooo glad you asked.  I’m going to tell you how she starts…

She MEETS AN OGRE.  She comes face to face with her biggest fear and she finds out – – – wait for it – – – he’s not the baby eating, virgin violating monster she’s been led to believe.  He’s a grumpy, curmudgeon, but he’s not a monster.  It takes a while, (about half the movie) to fully accept it, but being an Ogre just isn’t so bad…it can be kind of fun actually.

One of the best way to combat prejudice is to actually meet the people we judge – the people we make assumptions about.  When we do, we’re going to find out that some of them will TOTALLY confirm our preconceived ideas, but most of them will not.  Any group regardless of how we try to pigeon hole them – race, sex, sexuality, language, culture, hair colour, financial status, clothing, ogreness – will have its share of good and evil, caring and selfish, givers and takers.  It is always the same.  Fiona learns to accept herself by meeting an Ogre – the very thing she hates and fears the most – when she does, she finds that he’s not that horrible – – – and neither is she.

Something else occurred to me this morning.  Fiona’s arc isn’t just about shame, it’s also about arrogance and pretention.  She thinks (and acts) like she’s just a wee bit better than the rest of us…OK maybe a LOT better than the rest of us.  Over the course of the film she realizes that those two extremes are both false, she is neither more monstrous, nor superior to anyone else.  She’s just a woman/ogre…when she discovers and accepts this she is finally happy, loved and content.

The times in my life when I was most pretentious and most arrogant (I know, I know you can’t imagine me being arrogant of pretentious, but yes my friends, I’ve been there, done that and picked up a T-Shirt that was WAY better than yours) have all coinsided with my most insecure, and shameful times, times when I struggled the most with self esteem and self acceptance.  What do you say we all just accept ourselves – warts, green skin and all – and at the same time accept that our strengths and our weaknesses don’t make us better or worse than anyone around us – they make us human – or Ogre as the case may be.

Strong Weakness – Lessons from Mulan

Happy Anniversary – www.animatingyourlife.com started a month ago today.  When I started posting, I hoped to get a couple of hundred hits…this afternoon, I topped 1,000 views and am now at 1,043 with visits from 25 countries…I’m floored and overwhelmed.  Thanks for all the comments and views, I’ve been smiling all day, it’s nice to surpass a goal.

Soooo enough of that nonsense, what shall I post about today?  I was thinking about Mulan today, I love the scene where she needs to climb a huge pole with two large weights.  The pole would be difficult enough without the weights, with them, it seems impossible.  Then she gets creative – – – and uses the weights as the tool to climb.  The metaphor is pretty clear to me, but I love it anyway.  We’ve all got problems, everyone has something they’ve been criticized, knocked down or judged about.  Can we turn the problems into our solutions?  Can we find our strengths in our weaknesses?

Let me use an example that’s very close to home…ME!  Yes, I know, how totally full of myself, but I’m what I’ve got so I’m going to use it…him…me.  I was that kid who was always in trouble for talking in class.  Now I speak for a living…and LOVE it.  I’m interested in WAY too many things, I used to call this a lack of focus, now I call it eclectic and multi-faceted.  So far, my eclectic little blog seems to be gathering some steam.

A few weeks ago I asked a room full of animation students if they could relate to this – finding strengths in the areas where we used to be in trouble.  Almost every one of them had been in trouble, at least once, for drawing in class…now they were pursuing art full time.

Where are your strengths?  What’s the thing you’ve been called out on, gotten in trouble for?  Get creative, and be honest, hidden inside your “weakness” may be your great genius.

PS I’m up another 14 views to 1,057.  Thanks. . . I think I need to set higher goals.

PPS Special thanks to elflamingo2 on Redit – who posted a link and sent me a HUGE pile of new friends.

Flexible Strength-More lessons from The Incredibles

After my last post about the Incredibles’ incredible romance, http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/02/05/the-incredibles-incredible-romance/

I can’t stop thinking about the mix of strength and flexibility that Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl struggle with and eventually attain.  I’ve realized that this is an area I need to work on.  I’m on Elastigirl’s side on this one.  I’ve always prided myself on my ability to adapt, to change, to stretch and be flexible, yesterday I realized that I have done this at the expense of inner strength.  I think about the number of times I’ve buckled and caved to pressures to be what I wasn’t or do what I knew wasn’t true to who and what I am.  The results have never been good, not for me and not for the people I was bending for.  We can only be effective or helpful when we’re being true to who we are, our principles, what we know to be true.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about an impending conflict and how Finding Nemo helped me face that conflict with integrity,

http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/01/30/finding-trust-while-finding-nemo/

I realize today, that it was also a huge movement for me in terms of finding and claiming my own inner strength.  I didn’t twist myself out of shape to avoid the truth.  When I do that (and I have for a great deal of my life) I’m lying.  I know that’s harsh, but it’s true.  Living an authentic life is about finding our strength and our flexibility, as long as we’re stubbornly maintaining one or the other, we are not complete people.

I am very flexible and I adapt well, that’s a strength and I’m not belittling or dismissing it, it has served me well and will continue to do so.  I will work to be stronger, to be strong and flexible, they are not mutually exclusive, if Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl can do it, so can I.

Keep it real.

Rob Corbett

PS did I mention that Brad Bird is a genius?

The Incredible’s Incredible Romance

Brad Bird is a Genius (He’s on my short list of people to meet before I die – or he does).  He directed two of my all time favorite films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles.

Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl (AKA Bob and Helen Parr) are one of the great screen romances of all time.  Two people who love each other and spend an entire film trying to sort out how to make it work.

The first time we see them together they’re flirting, competing (I had a student yesterday say they were trying to Dominate each other – LOVED IT!) and on their way to get married.  It’s an AWESOME scene.

There’s a moment in the scene that goes by so quickly most people miss it.  Elastigirl does this amazing stretch up over his head and back through his legs as she says “I think you need to be more flexible.” As their faces pass in profile* they form perfect puzzle pieces of each other.  His huge chin fills the space her softer chin leaves, her upturned nose fits perfectly into the space under his downward nose, even his brow ridge fits into her hairline. Did I mention that Brad Bird is a genius?

They don’t belong together because they’re the same, but because they are so different, seriously, if they both had those huge chins, they would never be able to kiss…ok they could because her lips would stretch, but you get my point.

Soooo why are they drawn to each other?  If you asked them, he’s say something like “Have you seen her, she’s Elastigirl, think about it.” She’d say something like “He’s Mr. Incredible, he’s the best.” These answers would be true and honest, but they don’t go deep enough.  On some subconscious level (see by post on projections http://animatingyourlife.com/2013/01/19/jung-and-freud-in-love ) they both know that they are incomplete, that they need to learn and grow.  He’s the strongest man in the world, but he can’t bend, he can’t adapt, he has no flexibility.  She’s the most flexible woman in the world, but she lacks strength – they tell her she can’t be a super hero any more and she picks up her broom and becomes what they tell her she has to be.  She needs strength.

Over the course of the film she learns to maintain her personal integrity – to be whom and what she is.  He learns to adapt and be flexible.  They both fight this growth and it almost destroys them, when they accept it, they become . . . Incredible (did you see how I did that – clever ain’t I?)

Once again, we are attracted to the people, situations, and art that our subconscious mind knows will teach us something.

More about the balance between strength and flexibility in my next blog.Strong Weakness – Lessons From Mulan

*on my DVD it’s at 5:25 – check it out.

Check out some more of my thoughts on this awesome movie here Finding my Incredilbes SuperPower

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