I think most of us get to this time of year and we look ahead to the next, setting goals and kindling that feeling of excitement of going into the New Year with a fresh start. I know I’m the guiltiest of all for setting unrealistic expectations for resolutions (Last year on my list were: Learn Chinese, and Trapeze Lessons. Huh?) but this year I decided to, before making a list, look back on 2010 and figure out what things I actually LEARNED as a human being. Writing these things down really helped me put things in perspective, and made me more excited to set realistic goals for the next year. I wanted to share these because maybe they could help someone else too, or at least inspire your own list!
FIVE THINGS I LEARNED IN 2010:
1) Improv will save your life.
I don’t mean this literally, but I do mean that studying improv forces you to follow your gut, and that’s something that I think, nine out of ten times, serves you better than ruminating about something, on stage OR in life. Almost every time I’ve ignored my gut instinct I’ve regretted it, in my personal life or my career. The problem is that thoughts like, “Make sure not to make anyone mad!”, or “That won’t work, no one does it like that.” etc etc, have gotten in the way of hearing that instinct’s voice clearly. Training myself to RECOGNIZE that my gut is talking to me, and dismiss those “logical” thoughts that squash it, has been an ongoing process for me this year, but one that, now I’m conscious of it, has let me make decisions faster and made me more secure and decisive. And headed off a few disasters during production!
2) If you want the prize, you have to build the ladder rung by rung. There are no shortcuts.
The process of writing has never been fast and fluid with me, but I recognized the fact this year that I had unrealistic expectations with my first drafts; that I expected them to come out fully formed and perfect, and that the need to rewrite made me feel like I was a failure. Then I read some biographies and some great writing books, talked to some writers I admire, and realized that good writers lay down a foundation and then refine and refine. The first draft is a first step, nothing more!
I’ve realized that this point applies to other things in life as well. A lot of us see people we admire, and we might envy them and feel like we deserve to be where THEY are, think things like, “Why do THEY have that role and not me?!” (I know I felt that early in my acting career a lot.) But the reality is, that those people built their careers rung by rung, role by role, draft by draft. Yes, sometimes it’s luck, but mostly it is HARD WORK that shouldn’t be resented: That work is what makes success all the sweeter, so learning to enjoy that BETWEEN work is the key to success, I truly believe it.
3) Knowing yourself is your greatest strength.
Corny as hell, I know, but honestly I never really UNDERSTOOD this phrase before this year. Wil Wheaton actually helped my AHA about this on the set of Eureka. One day he mentioned that he usually wakes up two hours before he’s due to be picked up to go to set to act, and I honestly thought he was bugnuts CRAZY! I asked him, “Why would you do that?!” His answer: “Because that helps me do my best.” Oh…OH! Wow that…made sense.
Wil has worked a LONG time as an actor, and has been able to recognize how to be his best with the things he can control himself. It was quite inspiring, and made me be more aware of MYSELF that way. Having the opportunity to act a LOT this year, and write a LOT, and produce a LOT has made me recognize things that honestly help me perform better. These things might be as simple as eating oatmeal first thing in the morning, or writing scenes on a tablet BEFORE the computer, but the awareness has helped me do better work, and be more confident as an artist.
4) In order to grow, you have to learn how to delegate.
With the Guild, Kim and I have done EVERYTHING from day one; production, advertising, marketing, I promise, EVERYTHING! This has led to The Guild consuming every single minute of our days, with no room for doing anything else production-wise. Last year we made a decision to try to develop other properties, but it’s been quite a learning process over the months to let go of some tasks, like hiring a bookkeeper, or having Brian Kameoka help us with the Social Media, getting interns, etc etc. It was a challenge to even figure out HOW to use an intern, because we automatically did things solo; it didn’t occur to us to ask someone to help us even if they were sitting in the same room waiting for work!
Slowly but surely I’ve forced myself to ask before starting a task, “Is this the best use of my time? Could someone else help me do it?” And if the answer is NO, I find someone to help us with it, because there are so many things I need to do that I CAN’T have someone help with, I HAVE to get help, or nothing will get done at all! Don’t get me wrong, we don’t really have a staff or anything, (or even an office), but just being aware that there are resources we can use to lighten our individual loads, has led to us being able to work with creators and develop other things that hopefully we will be shooting next year!
5) Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s real.
I can’t tell you how much this simple statement made a huge difference in my life. Until this year, work-wise, I lived with a tremendous amount of anxiety, to the point where, if I DIDN’T feel anxious, I had guilt set in that either I didn’t CARE about something enough, or that relaxing and trusting that plans would happen correctly was sheer hubris, and was inviting disaster. This method of living led to me not being able to enjoy the successes in my life as much as I could, made me kind of a pill to work with sometimes (sorry Kim Evey! ) and put me in a depression that led to writer’s block before Season 4 of The Guild.
It was an amazing revelation one day to wake up and say to myself, “Is this anxiety actually HELPING solve anything about my problems?” And when I thought about it, REALLY thought about it, I eventually said to myself, “Actually…no…” And like a mist, the feeling dissipated, and I was left with a clear vision: Those emotions were not necessary to do good work. There was something working against me, inside my own head, that was not reality anywhere else outside it. AND: I had power over it.
Because of that simple realization, my acting and my writing and everything else I do has improved and I’m enjoying everything more. Not to say that anxiety hasn’t reared it’s ugly head again time and time again, but all I do is take a few breaths and ask myself, “Is what I’m feeling necessary, or some kind of reflex? Is this real and justified?” 90% of the time, the answer was no.
I hope this list has inspired you to make your own list, and help you launch into the New Year feeling confident and optimistic, and PROUD of what you’ve accomplished. You deserve to celebrate yourself!
Now I’m off to see the New Year in, probably playing video games, haha!