Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘fear’

I took the above picture Monday morning, at the peak of Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood Hills. I knew by Sunday evening I needed to be here. You see, I’m a 49er fan.

Sports fandom is a fascinating phenomenon. While there are a minority of sports aficionados who watch for the artistry of sport, a majority of the public watch sports to support athletes on our team, whether the Niners, the Ravens, the Yankees, the Lakers, or whoever, all because, for no other reason, they wear a specific jersey. Our jersey. A minuscule minority of us will ever know any of the athletes personally, and yet we embrace these gladiators, living vicariously through their triumphs and downfalls. We revel in their victories and weep in their defeats. No societal phenomenon can summon the fierce passion from otherwise sensible people like sports can.

Yet if we look at the greater picture, being a fan of the home team is often a losing proposition. The NFL has 32 teams, which means 31 teams end their seasons either with a loss or missing the playoffs entirely. The most dominant professional sports team in America, the New York Yankees, won 27 World Series titles, which means their fans have tasted bitter defeat for 85 seasons, or three-quarters of the Yankees existence. If being a fan means tying our pride to championships, then we’ve assured ourselves of disappointment 75% of the time AT BEST.

Last night’s Super Bowl loss reminded me of the fragility of our ego. When we invest our personal selves, attaching our character to something beyond our control, we put our egos at risk, knowing that failure could leave us shattered. When we define failure to an event that objectively occurs often, like losing, we guarantee ourselves a life that is constantly broken.

Which is why I needed to hike to the top of Runyon. A therapy to help me reattach my ego to sturdier stuff. Stuff that doesn’t fail 75% of the time. Like breathing. Or the warmth of the sun. Or the taste of ice water after a workout. Or receiving the immensity of the world.

I find when I define my life through these life-affirming constants, somehow life no longer seems like a series of failures, but like a place of wonder. A place where I get to see children grow, receiving the lessons they will carry throughout their lives. A place where I get to make real a story that was once a mere thought in another human being’s imagination. A place where I get to witness from thousands of miles away a rookie quarterback making his 10th career start in the Super Bowl, nearly leading his team to what would have been the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Hiking to the peak of Runyon doesn’t change past events. But it does help change my perspective on them. A perspective that better reflects who I truly am. A perspective that more accurately defines what I can control and what I can’t. A perspective of quiet appreciation.

Congrats on a great season, Niners.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This past Friday I received a 30-day notice to move out. It surprised my manager too; the owner decided to renovate the house, so everyone, my manager, her mother, her aunt, myself, we all have to go.

Being forced to move doesn’t make me sad or angry. It’s just a transition. I’ve done this 9 times before. I know the routine. Go on craigslist. Set up appointments. Avoid the stressed out people. Also those with too many rules. Keep an internal checklist: personable owner, room size, location, kitchen privileges, parking, laundry access, etc. Have cash ready in the bank. Be prompt with the deposit. Put stuff in boxes. Move out. Move in. Life goes on.

I’m putting things in boxes now. This step is the most personal. I open cupboards, rediscovering these souvenirs of a life gone by as I prepare to take them to a new one: old photographs from an age when photos were still in vogue, programs of old performances, books read 7 years ago, action figures, random emo ramblings, old lecture notes from college. But as the boxes get filled, I realize the capacity of my memories exceeds the physical dimensions of the boxes, and I find I’m arguing with myself as I confront my greatest fear: throwing away mementos of my past.

Throwing an object of value away contradicts much of what I learned about saving. Saving’s importance was instilled in me at a very early age, when my mother gave me a box where I could save my completed worksheets from kindergarten. My mother was Queen of that kingdom. Her life revolved around respecting the value of everything that was given to her. Neighbor throwing away old clothes? Pack them in a balikbayan box; relatives in the Philippines will enjoy them. Not playing with those toys anymore? Save them; there’s a younger cousin out there who will want them. Promotional pom poms at the baseball game? Grab the extras left behind; they’re nice decorations.

Her penchant for saving extended to our memories as well. Walk into my parents’ living room and you’ll find displays of remembrances of the past 40 years, tiny trinkets from weddings, anniversaries, vacations and baptisms. Hugging the walls is a library of albums, more than 50, a remarkable photographic documentation of my family’s life in America. At least ten are dedicated just to my oldest sister, another ten to the other, eight to me. Her message was very clear: anything of value deserves to be saved and cherished. Now with three self-sufficient, college-educated children, my mother lived that philosophy to great success.

Upon my 10th move, however, personally applying my mother’s philosophy has had its challenges. Saving incurs a cost. A space to keep an object. Energy spent to recall it. Physical effort to move it. But the most valuable real estate taken up is mental. An object saved demands attention, a conscious effort to store, move, and utilize. So an act of saving implies a belief that the benefits of an object outweighs the cost of holding, moving, and remembering it. When one moves constantly, the cost of moving becomes higher, which makes the cost of saving increase, and therefore a higher level of utility is required to justify retention.

That decision is simple if the object in question is strictly utilitarian: a bed, a desk, a book case. But what if the object holds a memory? An old journal? A birthday letter from a good friend 10 years ago? Old phone numbers of classmates from a study group, some of whom were old crushes? What is the value of reliving a fond memory? If the object conjures up happy times, isn’t the object worth keeping? If it’s thrown away, does the fond memory die with it? And if it does die, am I a worse person for having done so?

I find myself revisiting this idea of physical manifestations defining one’s self-image, whether it’s a photo album, a trophy, a drug, or a number on a bathroom scale. Through this move I’ve come to greater communion with the subjects of this blog and the struggles they faced, fearing I’l lose myself while engaging in a radical self-transformation, for I find myself engaging in mental battles with every sentimental artifact I uncover, trying to audit how “much of me” is within this otherwise inanimate object, and how much of myself I would “lose” if I threw it away.

But this journey we’ve traveled, studying various subjects of success, suggests that true satisfaction derives from anchoring one’s self-image not to the physical but to the intangible, the spiritual, the infinite. To define oneself based on the desire to push the limits of human endurance, or to have a meaningfully positive impact on young men’s lives. Seeking the intangible provides a foundation that is not so easily lost nor broken. So if I focus on my mission, to tell impactful human stories, maybe I’ll realize that letting go of that letter won’t destroy the friendship that inspired its creation. In embracing my mission, maybe I’ll realize that reminiscing about relationships of the past, while entertaining, is far less valuable than living the relationships of the present.

So while I’ll try to preserve a few meaningful keepsakes of my past, I must remember that I’m moving into a home for living my life, not into a museum dedicated to it. The memories of which these objects remind are already living within me whether I physically have these objects or not, and if my mission is meant not only to inform myself but also to inform those I love, then I can freely release those objects that have served their purpose, knowing their release will provide a space for new objects and new memories that will further my mission.

So Randy, it’s okay to let go. It’s time to move on.

Read Full Post »


“Pursue fame and fortune and victory at all costs… but make it a contest, a ritual, a spectacle, and honour your antagonist afterwards for his strength and bravery. Abandon reserve and live urgently, vitally: surrender the abstractions of the mind to the primacy of the body… They have engaged in the most baldly punishing and yet most human of all pursuits—chasing the high pitch of gesture and glamour to which all artists aspire, creating beauty through the body in the face of inconceivable pains and dangers.” – Oli Goldstein, “Violence and the Sacred

Last Saturday I watched in horror, along with the entire Filipino nation, as our Manny Pacquiao, our Fighting Pride of the Philippines, succumbed to a destructive Juan Manuel Marquez right hand. In a fight where Pac boxed his best rounds against his storied rival, where he was knocked down for the first time in 13 years only to respond with a knockdown of his own, where he rained rights and lefts upon his opponent’s head with conviction, staggering and bloodying his foe, making a strong case for a convincing victory of his own, a conscious-shattering counter that annihilated our hero, leaving us with an image we thought we’d never see: Manny Pacquiao, lifeless on the canvas.

“…it hurts kind of beautiful.” Shivaree

As an artist, I live to create compelling masterpieces. Performances that will be honored and remembered throughout the ages. Pieces of art that speak to our humanity. But what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece? What makes anything universally human? Deep down inside, as painful as it was to watch, I’m certain that the battle I witnessed last week was a masterpiece, and in my opinion Manny’s greatest fight in the last 10 years. Somehow, this hurt is an integral part of the masterpiece equation.

I don’t pretend to know much about boxing. I’ll let the experts argue the technical qualities of Manny’s fights. All I know is that since knocking out Miguel Cotto in 2009, I felt Manny had technically solid performances, but were mostly forgettable overall. The typical post-2009 Pacquiao fight would consist of Manny feeling out the first couple of rounds, then definitively scoring combinations to win rounds 3-8, only to coast to a victorious decision, still winning late rounds but clearly fighting not to lose. Watching Pac fight during this time frame would be akin to watching Pavarotti in concert and expecting Nessun Dorma, but instead getting his backup vocals to the Spice Girl’s Viva Forever. A good performance from one of the greatest of all time, but he’s clearly capable of so much more.

After losing a split decision to Tim Bradley (a bad decision by the judges, but Pac’s coasting had cost him), and a potentially lucrative superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. yet again postponed, something changed. Instead of waiting for the superfight (and guaranteed fortune) that seemed to never come, Manny took the courageous route and risked all the momentum of a Mayweather superfight and accepted yet another fight with Marquez, a man he had yet to defeat definitively.

Manny could have approached the fight like his recent bouts, tentatively picking his spots, doing just enough to win each round. That would’ve been smart. But this fight went beyond a simple win, beyond the opinions of three judges at ringside. This was about legacy. This was about ending the dispute over who had TRULY won the past three meetings. This was about defeating a rival in the manner that had catapulted Pacquiao to superstardom. He had to knock Marquez out. This wasn’t smart, but it’s very human.

For six rounds, Manny was Manny again. He unleashed his arsenal with unrelenting speed and power. He pushed the action even after dominating the round. He responded to getting knocked down with even more aggression. He saw blood dripping down Marquez’s nose, and he saw the end in sight. He took his chance, with only 2 seconds left in the round, in front of the entire world, allowing himself to be vulnerable for one more attack, and lost it all.

There is an honor in being true to ones self, unleashing both one’s great power and vulnerability for the world to see. For 17 minutes, 58 seconds, Manny was his true self, a ferocious attacker, willing to take a punch to give two. Marquez also stayed true to his core as an elite counter-puncher, bravely withstanding blow after blow as he patiently waited for an opening to unleash his devastation. What resulted was a boxing masterpiece, an epic struggle of two men providing their absolute best in the face of destruction.

As an actor, I have the luxury of risking everything for an ideal of a person in an imagined world, living in a temporary danger while keeping my personal self safe. Boxers like Pacquiao and Marquez don’t have that luxury. If such people are willing to dedicate their entire lives to cement a legacy, or to climb massive walls, or to find God, then the stakes in the imagined world must be just as high for artistic masterpieces. Works of art that allow people experience moments of extreme struggle and immeasurable risk to help inform the real struggles and risks in real life. Sounds like fun.

Read Full Post »

https://i0.wp.com/cdn0.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/2671901/jake_the_snake_roberts.0_standard_352.0.jpg

When I decided to write this blog about how to achieve success and great achievement, I felt it was important to acknowledge that travelling the road towards success is really hard. I didn’t want to be just another guy who put up inspirational quotes or feel-good stories of amazing feats; to feature only great victories would dismiss all the other stories of people who are in the middle of their journey, who are still in the thick of extraordinary adversity upon which great success is founded. I wanted to feature stories where the outcome was still in doubt, where the protagonists are still trying to find their way, where the demons are still alive and well.

For such a story, I go back to the world of pro wrestling. If the story of Eddie Guerrero is one of a man who found redemption, then the story of Jake “The Snake” Roberts is of one still trying to find his way out of the wilderness.

The wrestling exploits of Jake Roberts, considered one of the greatest in-ring performers of the late 80’s and early 90’s, have been overshadowed by his battles with alcohol and drug addiction. His troubles were documented in the 1999 film Beyond the Mat (a real-life precursor to Mickey Rourke’s critically-acclaimed 2008 film The Wrestler) where Jake was being interviewed while on crack. Internet videos of Jake’s intoxicated stupors at independent wrestling events have sprouted over the years, the most infamous appearing on TMZ in 2008.  Reports on wrestling news websites of Jake’s attempts to rehab, only to relapse again, appear with tragic regularity, a sick reminder for all to how far such a beloved icon had fallen.

Jake’s most recent attempt at recovery, however, is showing some promise. “Diamond” Dallas Page (DDP), a former wrestling protege who gained viral fame after helping a man lose 140 pounds in 10 months, brought Jake into his Atlanta home where, through a steady program of diet & yoga designed by DDP, they hope to get Jake in shape for one final run in pro wrestling.  To occupy his time constructively, Jake is learning to use a computer, and has even created new Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. One touching YouTube video features Jake discussing what he is grateful for on Thanksgiving. So far, Jake has been sober for almost a month and lost 40 pounds.

In November, about two weeks into DDP’s program, Jake gave a candid radio interview about his rehabilitation and how he once contemplated suicide:

You start looking at yourself at that point and you hate yourself…I had a lot of shame, a lot of anger, a lot of freakin’ anger, basically I had given up. I didn’t want to live. I had no hope. I had no dreams. I hope nobody out there gets to that point, but when you quit dreaming, when you quit having hope, it’s a pretty goddamn horrible place to be. You don’t care if you breathe. You don’t care about anything.” – Jake Roberts, Big WrestleShark Show, 98.4 Pulse FM, UK

I’ll save the commentary for today and allow you to draw your own lessons, but for now I urge you to read the full story on Jake’s rehab with DDP. Here’s to hoping that Jake’s long journey ends with the redemption he’s always desired.

Read Full Post »

For the last six years I’ve been ever so fortunate in that out of all the survival jobs actors take to support themselves, I get to teach chess to kids. It never ceases to amaze me how children can embrace such a complex, nuanced game that baffles most of the parents who pick them up after class. Which is why I was especially intrigued by the critically-acclaimed documentary Brooklyn Castle which follows the most dominant middle school chess program in the nation, that of New York City’s I.S. 318, a Title I school where more than 65% of the students live below the federal poverty line.

The featured players all have their own compelling stories. Alexis sees chess as a stepping stone to support his immigrant family. Bobo is the most boisterous and charismatic, tying his chess ambitions with his own political aspirations (including a run at the class presidency). Rochelle aspires to be the first African-American female chess master. Justus is already a chess master as a 6th grader and enters IS 318 with heavy expectations. As a student with ADHD, Patrick uses chess to build his concentration and confidence.

At the center of this program is chess coach Elizabeth Vicary Spiegel. I was especially curious about her perspective on success on how to teach it, especially since she must walk the fine line of pushing her students to perform at the highest of standards while helping them cope with the volatile emotions that come from both the pressures of high-level competition and the tumultuous years of adolescence.

On the one hand, Ms. Spiegel (who at the time of filming was still the unmarried Ms. Vicary) stated that a child’s success comes from values we’ve mentioned in previous weeks: hard work, perseverance, determination. She once had a student who lost his first 21 chess games and after two years of sheer doggedness placed first in his section at nationals.

On the other hand, however, she also encourages “a level of negative thinking”:

One [great thinking habit from chess] is this practice of double-checking yourself relentlessly. That you can play really well for fourty (sp) moves, and then you make one miscalculation, and your opponent sees it, and you lose…a level of negative thinking, of finding the problems in your thoughts—and not being like, “Oh, I have a great idea, I’m fantastic.” You know, you have an idea, and you’re excited about it, and then you go and try to find every possible thing that might be wrong with it, and make sure it’s really correct.  – Elizabeth Spiegel, The Creativity of Chess: a Conversation with Elizabeth Spiegel

This seems to run directly counter with my own philosophy on immediately acting upon one’s inspiration. Of course, improv and chess aren’t exactly the same. One is an art form propelled by the strongest choices, and doesn’t really deal in the realm of correctness. The other is a game with discrete rules and a defined objective, where correct moves bring one closer to that objective and incorrect moves take one farther away. It’s at this point where we might ask what does real life more closely resemble: improv or chess?

But upon further examination, I think this question implies a false mutual exclusivity. Great improvisers constantly dissect their performances and look for opportunities for stronger choices. Chess players must often rely on their inspiration as they move farther away from established opening lines and into unfamiliar positions where the “correct” move isn’t obvious. So if there isn’t mutual exclusivity between these philosophies, how can relentless evaluation AND spur-of-the-moment inspiration co-exist and lead to success?

I can’t give a simple answer, but we can start by imagining situations where each philosophy shines. Relentless evaluation works best in situations where time is not a factor, like playing mid-game in a chess tournament, receiving notes after an improv show, or testing the structural integrity of a skyscraper. And the evaluation must consist of objective judgments on a performance, and not indictments of personal character. Ms. Spiegel reinforces the power of objectivity:

“You know—you’ve lost, and you’re crying—and what chess teaches is that understanding what just happened does make it easier.  And I think that’s an important thing for [the students] to understand in life, as well. Nothing is really so terrible once you figure it out—and that working through something does make it better.”  – Elizabeth Spiegel, The Creativity of Chess: a Conversation with Elizabeth Spiegel

This objective study provides the foundation so our creativity and inspiration can shine.  We rely upon inspiration when time is of the essence and we can’t afford to hesitate, like when we’re playing chess with a minute left on the clock, or we’re improvising a scene, or we have an epiphany on how the world works. We need these bursts of creativity to expand the limits of what we already know. Once the urgency that birthed the inspiration has passed, evaluation takes over again, thus restarting cycle of constant study and performance. And while material award and fear of failure can provide motivation, I’m inclined to believe that the cycle itself is its own reward, since the infinity of the cycle is one of the few things that can fulfill the human heart.

I.S. 318 continued to dominate long after Brooklyn Castle finished filming. In April of this year, even after facing program-threatening budget cuts, I.S. 318 became the first middle school to win the US Chess Federation High School National Championship. Knowing what these kids have overcome, do we have any excuses?

Read Full Post »

Eddie Guerrero

It was only a matter of time. When I started this blog, I knew I would honor a few of my personal heroes, but I wanted to wait for the right time. Seeing that we are approaching the 7th anniversary of his death, it would be appropriate to honor one of my biggest inspirations: Eddie Guerrero, pro wrestling legend.

Pro wrestling has had its share of larger-than-life performers: Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, etc. Over-the-top personas who were impervious to pain, withstanding the most brutal of attacks and still able to overcome, finally standing triumphant in victory. They were fantastically unreal, characters through whom we could live vicariously and, if just for a few minutes shed our vulnerabilities. Through them, we were invincible.

Eddie Guerrero wasn’t invincible. He couldn’t overpower many of his opponents. His motto was ” I lie, I cheat, I steal.” Whether he was a face (a good guy) or heel (a bad guy), his victories usually came by way of manipulation of a foreign object.

But the flaws in Eddie’s character went far beyond the scripted stories of the squared circle. Eddie battled alcohol and drug abuse during much of his career, often coming to wrestling events while intoxicated or high. The constant physical stresses of wrestling led Eddie to painkillers, to which he would also become addicted. By November 2001, his addictions led Eddie to divorce, enormous debt, and dismissal from the World Wrestling Federation. In a world of fantastic supermen, personal demons made Eddie all too real.

But Eddie’s love for his family and his profession were just as real. And it was in his darkest moments, having lost everything he loved, when Eddie would start rebuilding his life. In the 2004 documentary “Cheating Death, Stealing Life,” Eddie described how his outlook changed after hitting rock bottom:

“I had to start living my day moment by moment. I’m talking hours at a time. That’s how I live my life now. If I say I gotta stay sober for the rest of my life, that looks like an impossible mountain to climb. But if I say I gotta stay sober for today, I can do that.” – Eddie Guerrero

He would return to the WWF in April of 2002 (which by May would be re-named World Wrestling Entertainment), and it would be another two years of hard work, staying clean, and perseverance when the WWE would give Eddie the opportunity of a lifetime: a run with the WWE Championship. At the start of 2004, Eddie was placed in a feud with then-WWE Champion Brock Lesnar (pre-UFC), leading up to a title match at the WWE’s next pay-per-view, No Way Out, on February 15th. On February 10th, during the final WWE television taping before the match, wrestling storyline and reality merged as Eddie brought the full magnitude of his personal struggles into the ring, giving one of the most electric, emotional promos in WWE history.

Five days later, on Sunday, February 15th at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, in front of his family, friends, and a passionately fanatic crowd, Eddie became champion.

It would be Eddie’s only run with the promotion’s top prize. He would be scheduled in November 2005 to win WWE’s other big prize, the World Heavyweight Championship, but by the morning of November 13th, the day before he was scheduled to win the title, despite 4 years of clean living, Eddie Guerrero would be dead, his heart failing after years of drug abuse.

Seven years after Eddie’s passing, his memory is my everlasting reminder that victory is always possible, no matter broken our spirit may be. But we need patience. And faith. Live moment by moment. Count our blessings.

Thank you, Eddie, wherever you are. Viva la raza.

Read Full Post »

On a Sunday morning a few weeks ago I was driving in North Hollywood, listening to 98.7 FM. My car radio is usually dedicated to NPR, but on Sunday mornings I turn to the rock/alternative sounds 98.7 FM for its 9-10 AM commercial-free hour of live and acoustic performances where you’re guaranteed to hear Dave Grohl’s acoustic recording of Everlong at least once.

The selection of recordings is pretty standard: recordings of recent alternative chart-toppers (ex: Mumford and Sons‘s I Will WaitImagine Dragons’ It’s Time) mixed in with a few classics like Nirvana’s Come As You Are from the MTV Unplugged concert. But occasionally there will be a song that sounds eerily familiar but I can’t put my finger on it, when I realize they’re playing a cover.

When done well, covers are artistic revelations, uncovering new meaning from an already established piece of work. Case studies great covers include The Fugees’ cover of Roberta Flack’s Killing Me SoftlyWhitney Houston covering Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, and Lena Horne’s quintessential cover of Ethel Water’s Stormy Weather.  However, for the artist, doing a memorable cover requires walking a thin line. Hold too closely to the original, and one becomes a cheap imitator. Stray too far and one loses the spirit of the material.

So towards the end of the hour, Everlong had just finished and transitioned to this slow, morose arpeggio. Immediately I thought Johnny Cash, but it’s too slow for Ain’t No Grave. Hmmm…

“She was more like a beauty queen…”

Huh. OK, that’s Chris Cornell, but this doesn’t sound like anything from Soundgarden or Audioslave.

“…from a movie screen…”

Now I’ve DEFINITELY heard this song before…

“…said don’t mind but what do you mean…”

Wait… am I hearing this right?!?

“…I am the one…”

Wow! This is friggin’ ballsy.

When I got home, I found I was really late to this party, like five years late. In 2007, Chris Cornell recorded one of the greatest covers in history, tackling one of the most iconic songs in pop: Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Its brilliance was embedded in Chris’s unapologetic determination to make Billie Jean his own masterpiece, not recreate Michael Jackson’s. Earlier this year, Chris would create yet another brilliant cover, his own take on I Will Always Love You, in honor of the late Whitney Houston.

Chris was following a common adage of most self-help books: be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else because you can’t compete with the real deal. But there’s only one you, and you have a special, unique perspective that no one in the world has, so just be the best “you” you can be. Simple.

It’s around this time when I set the book down, admire myself for the $14.95 + tax + shipping well spent, and proceed to ruin the experience by doing something really dumb; I start thinking. That’s when the big gorilla of a question enters the room:

What the hell does that mean?

Don’t I embody the entire spectrum of human experience? If so, isn’t being angry, detached, apathetic, and generally angsty just as valid an embodiment of myself as being joyful, energetic, and happy? What if “I” am not a good person? Am I not being “myself” when I practice self-restraint and allow the teenagers who egged my car to get off scot-free? Why does being “myself” require me to be relaxed? What if “I” am just a stressed person? Who’s to judge that my fears aren’t part of who “I” am?

I can’t say I’ve found any definitive answers to those questions that have perplexed me since my teenage years, but I have my own personal theories to addressing them. Yes, all emotions, including those society would consider destructive, encompass who we are. In fact, those destructive emotions like anger and detachment can serve to protect us when surrounded by threats. However, survival is not advancement, and the advancement of the human race, and thus our own personal success, is predicated upon our ability to cooperate and share information, so behaviors that facilitate such interactions better serve our personal advancement. These behaviors are the actual foundations of being our “true self.”

So here’s a non-scientific, non-definitive list of clues that you may be acting like your “true self”:

1) You are more concerned about others than their perception of you.

Cooperation compels us to focus our attention to our environment so we can properly process, communicate, and affect our environment. Focusing on ourselves means ignoring what is around us, making communication difficult, and cooperation impossible. Even our biology is geared toward perceiving outwardly; after all, aren’t our bodies engineered to see what’s around us more easily than to see ourselves?

2) You become more aware of the possibilities to build, and less concerned about protecting what you already own.

Building is an external action, requiring that one interacts with the environment. Such interaction encourages the attention from others, some of whom may find it in their own interest to assist your creation. While preservation is important, if you spend more energy protecting than building, then you’re effectively limiting your opportunities to interact with others, thus cutting the opportunities to cooperate.

3) You find you’re surrounded by more allies than adversaries.

If you are experiencing clues #1 & #2, then chances are you’ve found a solid group of allies. Allies allow you to spend more of your energies building and cooperating and less on protections since you don’t need to be as concerned about personal attacks. So if you believe you are surrounded by few allies and more adversaries trying to pull you down, while it may be necessary to leave such an unhealthy environment, consider too it may just be your own perception, and your perceived adversaries have actually been potential allies all along.

(PS: If anyone has any more clues to how to “be yourself,” please share them in the comments. We can use your wisdom.)

So how do these clues apply to Chris Cornell’s Billie Jean?

1) Chris’s performance is completely dedicated to communicating the story of Billie Jean to his audience, with absolutely no concern about his own self-image, how he shapes up to Michael Jackson, or any other distractions that don’t concern Billie Jean.

2) In Billie Jean, Chris saw an opportunity to build upon a story, knowing full well he didn’t need to worry about protecting his image, his previous work, or Michael Jackson’s. Without those burdens, Chris could bring his full creative strength to his endeavor.

3) Chris saw his audience as allies, not critics, allowing him to perform with a compelling vulnerability lesser artists couldn’t reach. Less protections lets Chris communicate more, which makes the performance that much more powerful.

So in essence, being yourself means not thinking about yourself. That’s MY strong advice.

And practice safe “dance on the floor in the round.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »