Memento Mori

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do, say and think.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Memento Mori is an ancient practice of reflecting on our own mortality. Reflections manifested in all art forms–paintings (like the image above), songs, writings (the Stoics and others), etc….even Walt Disney made his own personal Memento Mori cartoon.

Rather than scare us, Memento Mori should free us. It should free us into taking that leap. Making that decision. Producing that play.

If you know your days are numbered, why not do it? What do you have to lose? What’s stopping you?

Always remember. You could leave life right NOW.

The Virtuous Cycle

What happens when you find a play you’re passionate about and commit to producing it with excellence?

You create an incredibly meaningful experience for a whole lotta people. You start the virtuous cycle.

You create a meaningful experience for yourself.

For the playwright.

For the cast.

For the designers and crew.

For the audience.

Or for you visual learners, you create this…


The First Lesson

Tom Hanks Golden Globes speech should be required viewing for any artist. Especially actors. Two big takeaways…be on time and come prepared with strong choices.

Reminded me of a workshop I was in many years ago. Taught by a very famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. (Bonus points if you can guess who.)

It’s day one. Playwright’s on stage and thirty seconds in to the introduction…Door opens. (It’s in the back of the house.)

Enter an attendee/aspiring actor. Playwright stops, mid sentence. Addresses the person.

“You, there?”

“Me?”, the aspirant points to himself.

“Yes. You. Please don’t sit down. Turn around. Go back the way you came in. See the young ladies at the registration desk. They will give you a full refund on your tuition.”

The actor just stands there. Stunned. As are the rest of the two hundred-plus audience members.

Long, uncomfortable silence.

Finally, mercifully the playwright breaks it. “If you learn nothing else in this workshop, you will learn to be prompt. That’s the first lesson and the most important lesson I can teach you. Thank you. Good luck.”

Actor walks out. Workshop resumes.

What Can You Control?

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Stoicism, an ancient philosophy, is extremely popular right now. And with what’s going on in the world, it’s easy to see why. If you want to read more, I highly recommend the Big Three – Meditations, Letters From A Stoic by Seneca, and Discourses by Epictetus.

But even if you never read a single book, just memorize and reflect on the above quote. That’s plenty. It’s the essence of Stoicism and clarifies everything you need to do.

Which is…

Focus on what you can control. Ignore everything else.

You can’t control whether you get an audition for a great part.

You CAN control reading tons of plays to find a great part.

You can’t control being cast in an inspiring project.

You CAN control producing your own inspired project.

You can’t control whether the audience will think you’re great.

You CAN control your work ethic, your attitude, and your willingness to persevere no matter what.

Meaningful Work Through…Chocolate?

Yep. That’s what Shawn Askinoise found. I highly encourage you to check out his book and his chocolate.

Shawn was a super successful defense attorney living in Springfield, Missouri. He loved his job. Then suddenly in his late forties, he didn’t. He prayed this simple, silent prayer, every day for for five years, “Dear God, please give me something else to do.”

Out of nowhere, with no prior experience or interest, he discovered he wanted to make chocolate. But not just any chocolate. World class, artisanal chocolate sourced exclusively through direct trade from farmers in the poorest countries.

As a result of following his heart, Shawn’s done incredible things…He built a family business. One that’s world class, highly ethical and radically transparent. He pays cacao farmers the highest wages in the industry. By far. He shares profits with them. Has helped them start their own businesses. He’s even started a “Chocolate University” that has trained, for free, thousands of underprivileged children, the principles of ethical business management and chocolate making.

He found the formula. Did meaningful work. Built meaningful community. And he’s the happiest he’s ever been in his life.

An Inspiring Definition of Art

ART: Doing something that might not work in service of others.

I’m paraphrasing the great Seth Godin here. Seth is someone you should definitely check out by the way.

I love this definition because it empowers you to be artistic all the time. Not just when you’re acting, writing, painting, etc…doing something “artistic”…but in your everyday life.

Smile at the stranger you pass on the street.

Say hello to that person you always see in the elevator. (They might even put their phone down and say hello back.)

Volunteer to take on a project at work you know nothing about.

Create a brand new drill for the basketball team you coach.

Recommend a book or article to a friend.

Train your artistic muscle ever day. You and the world will benefit.