Last week I left you with the modifier “FOCUSED”, in the context of focused rehearsal.
You may have heard of the 10,000 hours theory, supported by research and discussed by Malcolm Gladwell and even rap-referenced by Macklemore.
Here’s the rub… the AMOUNT of practice and rehearsal you put in is absolutely important.
But the QUALITY of that practice and rehearsal is perhaps even more vital.
And quality comes simply from focus. Humans were not hard-wired by evolution to be multi-taskers.
Picasso said that art is simply the elimination of the unnecessary. So… get rid of distractions. Ask yourself what the purpose of any practice or rehearsal is, and stay on target.
I have said to you previously this season that discipline (another form of focus) is simply remembering what you really want.
In our business of show, replication is paramount. The 8pm on Wednesday has to be just as entertaining and effective as the 3pm on Saturday as the 7:30pm on Sunday as the 10am on Tuesday.
A family affair today.
My mom sent me this quote: The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. –Elbert Hubbard, writer, 1856-1915.
Three cookies for you this muggy February Monday.
First, one of my favorite quotes, from noted novelist and theologian Frederick Buechner (to whom I once wrote a fan letter, and he wrote back!!)…
“Doubt is the ants in the pants of faith.”
If your faith, or your art, or your politics, are intractable, are unable to be challenged, are unable to be questioned… what does that actually say about said faith, or art, or belief? It says, that on a deep level where most of us don’t like to visit, we don’t trust that the truth can hold up to scrutiny. Which begs the question… is that truth truly true?
Stagnation leads to rot. In rehearsal. In performance. In relationships. In beliefs.
DOUBT… lets in air. Allows water and sun to filter. Creates room for growth and discovery of newer/better/deeper truths. The ants in the pants metaphor is so hilariously simple and apt. Ya gotta keep moving, keep jiving, keep looking for ways to encounter each doubt, so that your belief and your art can be stronger, more supple, more earned, more vital.
My official race time was two hours… and two-tenths of one second.
Two-dang-tenths of one second.
That’s not even a STEP.
But I tell you what… it was awesome.
Other fun facts… the course was actually about two-tenths of a mile SHORT. Numerology!! Which means I actually would have come in at more like 2:01:30.
I needed to average 9:10 per mile to hit my two hour goal. The official results say I averaged 9:11 per mile. My super cool Garmin GPS watch told me my average was 9:18 per mile. Cuz of those missing two-tenths of a mile.
What’s the truth?
And since I finished the race with no injuries and with new personal bests in both time and distance, and my girlfriend finished and shared victory beers with me, and my dad finished and shared victory bacon with me, and my good buddy finished and shared victory selfies with me… does that mean that those two-tenths of a second (or that minute and a half, WHATEVER) necessarily DEFINE my race?
So. Re-define “miracle.” My dad’s in his 60s. He completed his first half-marathon last year. His second one this year. Is already signed up for his third one next year.
And you better believe I’ll come in under two hours next year. Like, there is zero doubt. Not doubting that goal? Miracle.
This week… do something you know you can’t do. Just try it. Doesn’t have to be huge to have a huge impact on you.
While you do that new thing this week, I’ll be hanging up my medal. So that it hangs two-tenths of an inch off the wall.
So I’m running my fourth half-marathon this coming Sunday. And this will be the first time that I’ll be able to actually RUN the whole thing. No walking breaks! And aiming to come in under two hours, that’s my only goal.
If you’d seen me take my first step of running training, oh, five years ago, you wouldn’t believe that two hours was anywhere near realistic.
All that being said, listen to Michael Jordan. If I had made pancakes instead of pulling on my running pants and turning on my GPS watch, that wouldn’t have been the end of the world. Failure happens. When the thing we want is BIG, when we have prioritized something that upon first glance is EPIC, we will not always be able to resist the pull of pancakes. When that happens… when your chin is sticky with syrup and you’re in your sweat pants on the couch with bad TV on… listen to Michael Jordan. And next time… do a little better.
An ancillary… One of my playwriting students today just said the most terrific thing: When you’re exhausted, consider a rest rather than giving up. It’s good for writing. It’s also good for pretty much any goal you set yourself.
What you do every day… reflects your priorities. Reflects what you actually, truly WANT.
Expertise manifests from one thing and one thing only… repetition.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter, from the audience’s point of view, how you are feeling. It matters only what you DO. And if you practice DAILY, then even on those days went you aren’t necessarily “feeling” it, you will still be able to DO it.
It’s 2019, Apprentices. Decide what you want, and then DO THE THING, daily, that will enable you to manifest that want into reality.
I recall vividly believing so deeply in Santa Claus. And the Tooth Fairy. My father got me but GOOD with a Tooth Fairy story. He presented me with a Chinese checkers set (???) after a particularly painful tooth loss. He claimed that the Tooth Fairy was behind him in the department store checkout line, and insisted he bring this board game back to me. Boy howdy did I buy it.
My father also teamed up with some extended fam one year to convince both my brother and myself that Santa had put together a sweet RC racetrack for us. I am not too proud to admit that I may have squealed. We played on that thing for YEARS, long past the time when we both knew it had been dad and Uncle Gary putting that track together in the back room.
To come around to the first attachment, by G.K. Chesterton… is Santa a fairy tale? Even deeper, could we describe any of the various religious stories and traditions surrounding these holidays “fairy tales”? And does it matter if they are? Or aren’t? Because while dragons may not be pulling Santa’s sleigh (although how cool would THAT be??), the thread that connects all of the stories and songs and traditions at this time of year—at least to my mind—seems to be kindness. Grace. Gratitude. A reminder that the feelings and needs of others are just as vital and important as yours and mine. And is this not also the core of our theatrical enterprise… to put the catharsis of the audience above our own? It’s not surprising that theatre has for millennia been intimately tied to sacred rites and religious celebration, or that so many buildings that once were churches are repurposed as theaters.
We KNOW that dragons exist. Some of you may be battling them right now, as this season and its pressures can cause anxiety and isolation just as easily as joy and community. But as artists and as those who serve an audience, we know that those dragons are beatable. Maybe not easily. Maybe not with glory. But beatable nonetheless.
Theatre pro, amateur yogi, and competent home cook.