Be Thoroughly Used Up

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.” -George Bernard Shaw

Today and every day going forward, give it everything you got. Squeeze every juice out of that lemon. No regrets. Be thoroughly used up.

You’ll sleep comfortably knowing you did just that.

And will be replenished to do it all over again the next day.

P.S. – Get after it!

Be Confident. Not Cocky.

When asked to do something difficult or faced with a new challenge…

The cocky person says “I got this.” And then does nothing other than relying on their self-perceived “talent” to come through. They usually don’t.

The confident person says “I think I can do this.” And then works their tail off/acquires new skills/does whatever it takes to come through. They usually do. If they don’t, at least they can live knowing they did the absolute best they could.

Val Kilmer: Home Movie Star

“It seems to me that every step forward in my life has been one that brings me to a better understanding of this: that you do your thing every day the best that you can, and you approach any success at it with humility.” -Val Kilmer

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” -Jim Morrison

Speaking of “How far are you willing to go on spec?”...

I’ve blogged before about the greatness of the documentary VAL Here. If you haven’t seen, please do so immediately. You will love it.

One of my favorite parts is Val making his own audition tapes for directors he admires. You can watch a clip Here.

At the time, Val was coming off TOP GUN and was being offered tons of money for traditional leading man roles. But he still had the heart of a character actor and just wanted to work with his directing heroes…Kubrick, Scorcese, etc…He wasn’t being considered for their films and couldn’t even get an audition. But he didn’t let that stop him. Shelving any movie star ego, he made his own “home movies” with him playing the character in their scripts. At one point he flew six thousand miles miles to hand deliver the tape to Mr. Kubrick himself.

None of the home movie ploys worked. He wasn’t cast. But that didn’t matter. What did matter is he gave it everything he had. He risked. He followed his heart. He was vulnerable. He knew deep down he did everything he possibly could. He could live knowing that.

And it’s probably no coincidence that the universe rewarded him shortly thereafter with the role of a lifetime…Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS.

No Risk, No Art

“If you’re not feeling those butterflies, you’re not taking a big enough risk.” -Ray Manzarek

A perfect mantra or tattoo or billboard or t-shirt would be:

“No risk. No art.”

And it actually is a t-shirt…The actor and director Fisher Stevens once made his own with the above quote and wore it constantly. To remind himself to always be risking. What a perfect encapsulation of our inspiring definition of art! (H/T to my friend Gareth for this backstory).

The Best Dramaturgs

Unless you work in the theatre, you might be wondering what the heck is a dramaturg? This article and this one explain in detail. Basically it’s someone who provides valuable research and context to theatre (and opera-makers). They also help playwrights shape material similarly to how an editor helps writers.

The best dramaturgs, editors, coaches, teachers, etc…anyone involved with providing feedback, follow one simple rule:

How do I help the person make the best possible version of what THEY are trying for?

It’s not about the the dramaturg or editor’s personal taste or preference. It’s about the artist. What does the artist (or player or student) want? 

It’s not about you. It’s about them.

The best dramaturgs help playwrights recognize what exactly they’re trying for and how best to manifest excellence with it. As such, they must love and be steeped in all kinds of different art forms. They must be students of history. They never stop learning. They remain open to all possibilities and new ways of doing things.

If you’re lucky enough to work with a world class dramaturg (or editor), thank them today and everyday going forward. If not, seek one out. Much like a great coach, they’ll push you to heights you never thought possible.

Scary Stories

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” -Joseph Campbell

There are lots of reasons people love scary movies. As this article points out, some include wanting novel experiences, sensory stimulation, and curiosity about our darker or shadow sides.

I think another reason is presence. Feeling alive. Being focused on one thing and one thing only. Similar to a flow state.

If you want a good scare tonight, you could watch “Halloween” or go visit a haunted house.

Or even scarier…making your own art. What about inventing your own scary story and telling it to someone else? Just like a stand up comedian working out a new routine for the first time…that risk of falling flat on your face?…Now that’s terrifying.

It’s also where your treasure lies.

Satisfaction

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” -Epicurus

I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try, and I try, and I try, and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
-“Satisfaction”, song by The Rolling Stones

“Desire is a contract you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want.” -Naval Ravikant

The writer and social scientist Arthur Brooks provides this formula for human satisfaction…

Satisfaction = what you Have / (divided by) what you Want

Or simply…

S = Haves / Wants

The problem, especially for those of us in the West, is that we’re entirely focused on increasing the numerator, the Haves. More money. More stuff. More status. More power. More, more, more. And the more we have, the more we Want. Thus we’re never satisfied.

Instead, Brooks advises us to focus on the denominator. Decreasing our Wants. Enabling us to realize we have enough. Ultimately leading to increased satisfaction.

He tells a story about seeing a beautiful jade sculpture in the National Art Museum of China. The guide he was with discussed the major difference between the West and East’s philosophies of art….

In the West, we see art as a blank canvas that needs to be filled up.

In the East, they see the art as already existing. In this case, a big jade block. All the artist needs to do is to strip away the excess jade to reveal the beautiful sculpture that was always there, within the block.

Gratitude As Fuel

“Gratitude is the closest thing to beauty manifested in an emotion” -Mindy Kaling

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive-to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

If you are your own power plant, then you need a source of fuel to make it all run.

Try gratitude. Like the sun, it’s energy supply is limitless.

If you want to tap in to this fuel source, start thinking and saying “thank you” every chance you get.