Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ukuleles and the L Train

All subway platforms are not created equal. Some are busier, some are trashier, and some are not even subterranean, they are above ground. However, I have found that the L train platform at Union Square is consistently the happiest. For the uninitiated, the L train runs from 8th Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan through Union Square, across to the east side and into Brooklyn. The first time I remember being on it was a Saturday night about three years ago. A friend and I were headed to Brooklyn to hear a mutual friend's debut singing Gilbert & Sullivan tunes accompanied by a ukulele quartet. This is the type of performance event for which one must go to Brooklyn, as nothing like that seems to happen in Manhattan. As we headed to the L train, we ran into Lauren Graham (Lorelai Gilmore) on the street. We chatted a bit and then went our separate ways. Apparently Lauren Graham does not take the L train, but Lorelai Gilmore would have fit right in. Everyone was chatting, sometimes even with strangers. People were especially animated given that on all of the other subway lines people generally try to keep to themselves.

This past Saturday night I was back on the L Train platform at Union Square, trying to stay warm by taking the train instead of walking a few blocks like I normally would. On the platform, a guitarist was playing hits of the 70s and 80s for tips. Instead of pretending to ignore said musician, people applauded at the end of each song. This is not normal subway behavior. No one applauds for subway performers, except for the occasional Michael Jackson impersonator.

Late on Saturday night, the L train only comes about every 20 minutes, so there is time for a small concert as people wait. A middle aged woman walked up to the musician and pulled a ukulele out of her full length fur coat and started to play along. I started to wonder why so many people play ukulele in Brooklyn. Two other people had guitars with them, and just as it seemed like a small band might form, the train pulled up and the moment was lost.

The subway platform is often just a holding area where a semi-lifeless mass of humanity waits until they can continue toward their destination. L Train people embrace the journey, at least on Saturday nights.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beware: Practice Makes Perfect

The thing about resolutions is that you have to remember to do them. One of the benefits of Leveraging Consistency is that over time the resolutions become habits. And after they become habits you start a journey toward excellence in that area, as I mentioned in my last post. But what about the habits that you just fell into, and didn't make a conscious choice to incorporate into your life? The consistency could actually be harming you. One example is my daily bottle of Diet Coke. I am honestly not sure when it became daily, but it is now. I no longer consider whether I need it or whether it is good for me, I just drink it. Although I know that it is not a true necessity, I treat it as such, always buying it the night before so that I have it ready for the next day. I'm sure that the fine folks at the Coca-Cola Company are thrilled about this habit of mine, shared by millions of people, but it really can't be good for any of us.

As with good habits, bad habits become intuitive. They become a part of us. We perform these habits on autopilot. It's time to become truly aware of negative habits and start to make conscious choices again. Some of the habits might be observable actions, but some might be internal. I coached someone recently who realized that every time someone didn't do what he wanted, he withdrew from the situation and became angry. He is ready to start trying other strategies, like talking to the other person or writing in a journal or trying to see it coming before he is angry and make a different choice. Those are the habits that are harder to break, but they are also the ones that make a lasting impact.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

As I mentioned in my last post, I prefer to do projects in one big creative session rather than doing a little bit each day. However, this is my year of Leveraging Consistency. Practice makes perfect. I've heard it before, but don't always heed that advice. When my commitments cause me to do the same thing every day (such as during the run of a show when I sing or dance six days a week), I get noticeably better. Things are different when I am doing something on my own. Once I've done it "right" a few times, I am ready to move on to something else. Insatiable curiosity is great, but to be truly excellent we must practice. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says that to be truly genius at anything, we must practice 10,000 hours. I don't know that I have done anything for 10,000 hours, but I have seen the early fruits of such labor. When we truly master something, we intuitively know how to do it well. It is deep within our bones. It is part of our DNA. What a powerful concept to know that if we just spend the time, we really can be great at any number of things for which we have a natural aptitude.

Now it's just a matter of choosing which things are worthy of seeking true greatness.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Creative Inspiration

I almost didn't write a blog post today. Today was my self-imposed deadline, but I just haven't felt inspired. I considered waiting to see if I felt more inspired tomorrow. Then I ran across this quote.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” - Pablo Picasso

The quote itself is a bit inspiring, isn't it? I am one of those people that can fulfill my obligations to others on a daily schedule, but when it comes to creativity I wait for bursts of inspiration. The bursts of creative energy are fun and I get a lot done when they happen. However, sometimes those bursts don't happen at opportune times, like when I stayed up until 5 in the morning to edit a video or when I made my whole website in three days while I still had a full time job. This method of creativity also does not work out so well when the task at hand is larger than one burst of creative energy. I can wait for another burst, but when I have a deadline for a creative project I have to just do it.

I have been thinking a lot about how to wrangle in my creativity in order to do a number of projects this year. Maybe all it takes is just doing the work. Picasso was right. Once I start working the creativity comes from somewhere. Thanks, Pablo Picasso.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Now that I am back in New York, people are asking, "How were your holidays? Did you get to go home?" The short answer is yes, even though I did not go to any particular house in which I have ever lived. I went "home" because I saw the people who represent home to me.

At the end of my national tour, the show flew me to Denver, where my brother and his family live. My brother and his wife have bought a beautiful house since I was last in Denver, so I spent my time there in a place that was all new to me. My parents were there as well, and we continued all of our Christmas traditions (including the Christmas theme discussed in an earlier post). Gathered with these people doing these things, I was "home".

I have spent the last 8 or 9 New Year's Eves with two close friends from Minnesota. One of those friends was in Denver this year. And so were the cousins of the other friend. And they brought their boyfriends and husbands, one of whom I went to seminary with. And one of the cousins knew a friend of mine from New York who was also in Denver visiting his family. When it was all said and done, I arrived at a New Year's Eve party in downtown Denver at which the only person that I did not know was the person whose condo the party was being held. So I made friends with him. There is always room for another person at home.

Monday, January 4, 2010

With Great Resolve

'Tis the season for New Year's Resolutions. It is the time of year to assess what is missing from our daily lives and publicize to our friends what we intend to do about it. A resolution is embedded with possibility and hope. People imagine better lives when they make resolutions. They also communicate a certain baseline security with their current situation. After all, if you didn't even have food to eat or a roof over your head, you would hardly be resolving to watch the last 50 episodes of General Hospital (as one of my Facebook friends put into her status).

With new-found enthusiasm, we charge forward toward our goal, yet so few of us actually reach the goal. Why the low success rate? It doesn't seem to be for lack of necessary information. Any number of magazines and websites will tell you how to lower your weight, train for a marathon, or organize your home. It also doesn't seem to be for lack of desire. People appear sincere when sharing their resolutions. So what is it? Most people have not assessed their environment. They want to make a change, but Monday morning rolls around, vacation is over, and all of the same influences are upon them that caused them to not start that great new habit in the first place. When resolving to do something, consider the ways in which the people and places around you are supporting the old action (or inaction). Then, decide how you are going to deal with it. That's right, the world around you is not going to suddenly shift into place to create the ideal set of circumstances for you to train for a marathon, quit smoking, lose weight or watch 50 episodes of General Hospital. You need to make an internal change that allows you to be in the same world you've been in, with the added element of progress toward your resolution. Not sure how to do it? That's what a life coach is for. I'd love to help.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...