A call to live your passion

My friend Jarrod Terrell, whom I met through Kevin Scott‘s Effortless Alphas group, recently challenged his fellow Alphas to share their goals and dreams for life in a Facebook video.

In part, the idea was that verbalizing your dreams made them real for you, but it also opened the door to others in your community who might be able to help make those dreams come to fruition.

Here is my video.

How can I help you discover, explore and share your passion?

See also:

So, What’s Your Story? (web site)

So, What’s Your Story? (FB page)

Contagious Adrenaline (FB page)

 

Writer’s terror

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Writers don’t get blocked. They get scared.

They get scared of looking stupid. Of having nothing to say.

They get scared of being found a fraud. Of the blank page.

They get scared of choosing the wrong word. Of being unable to complete a piece.

They get scared of having to explain themselves.

But whereas the fear is real, the reasons are not, and the only way to proceed,

Is to ignore the fear, ignore the world, and write.

Write without a care.

Write without a plan.

Write with total abandon.

For much as the only true cure for suffocation is to breathe,

The only real cure for writer’s block is to write.

Every word written is another gasp of oxygen.

Every line completed is another lung full of air.

You may struggle…you will struggle…but even your struggling

Is a sign you are still alive, that you have not yet given up.

(Image is property of its owner and is used here without permission because I wasn’t blocked from doing so.)

Child’s play isn’t child’s play

Colloquially, when someone—an adult—states that some activity was child’s play, they are trying to convey that the action was simple or easy, that it took no effort. And yet, their use of the expression couldn’t be more wrong.

I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon yesterday with a few friends and their kids at the local beach. The kids ranged in age from infant to teen, although the majority were in the 3-5 range, I think—at my age, anyone under 30 looks 12.

Regardless, when lunch was over, the younger set and a few doughy adults headed to the water, where things got serious. Not for the adults, you understand, whose toughest job was to retrieve a tossed flip-flop from the frigid waters of Lake Ontario. No, it was at this moment that the child’s play began in deadly earnest, for four of the middling sprites decided to build a canal system that would have made the Panama and Suez engineers blanch.

Miran, the eldest of the group, became overseer, designing a series of causeways that challenged the imagination. Mounds of sand became islands in the stream. Canal walls were carefully constructed, through trial and error, to ensure sturdiness in the face of aquatic onslaught.

Cole, the lone boy in the group, became a human bulldozer, carving access channels to the lake itself that would help fill the channels with each invading wave. Samantha and Hana, meanwhile, worked bucket brigade, supplementing Cole’s efforts with frequent trips between lake and canal system.

This was not child’s play, despite it being play by children.

With each set back—a minor sand slide, a misplaced deluge, pee break—there would be a momentary expression of frustration followed quickly by brief meeting to discuss options and then an action plan to right the wrong. A lot of adult companies could stand to learn from this lesson.

This is not to say the process was flawless. At one point, Miran decided that she wasn’t crazy about the canals under construction and instead wanted a massive lake, which would have necessitated the removal of a large island. A new corporate executive is born.

She was quickly talked out of this by her subordinates who felt challenged enough to complete the canal system, let alone initiate island removal.

The children worked tirelessly for an hour or so and made substantial headway, but like all good infrastructure projects, senior management (parents) eventually got bored (and not just a little sun-stroked) and wanted to head back to the house.

Reluctantly, the children packed up shop and abandoned the construction site. Unbeknownst to them, however, as quickly as they left the site, another altitudinally-challenged crew appeared to continue the job.

This is how I want to live my life; playing with fervent intensity. I accept there will be momentary setbacks—as I approach 50 years, pee breaks are a necessary evil—but I will not let those setbacks deter me in my goals or disturb the pleasure I get in pursuing them.

I am embracing child’s play 2.0.

Faith

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Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.

– Fred Gailey (John Payne), Miracle on 34th Street

 

We all have doubts.

Doubt that we are good enough to accomplish our goals. Doubt that our goals are even realistic or rational.

And sadly, most if not all of us have had or currently have a long line of people who are more than willing to feed those doubts with their own. Often, their superficial motive is to be supportive, to help cushion the blow of failure, to save you from certain doom. But more likely, their motive is to take comfort in the belief that your doubts make it okay for them to have doubts about their own lives.

But, if you’re lucky, you have those special few in your life who have absolutely no doubt in your future success. They’re the ones who listen to your ideas with a smile, an eager nod, and perhaps some sage constructive advice to help make your goals even more realistic.

The latter group are the people you need to heed, for they see the potential of your efforts in the absence of your fears and just as importantly, in the absence of their own.

I am not a religious man—although I have become quite spiritual—so faith has never been top of mind for me until recently. It’s not that I didn’t have faith, in hindsight, but rather that I had a very narrow definition of it. And, like my friends for me, it was easy to have faith in things external. It was faith in myself that I lacked.

More recently, however, I have realized that faith isn’t about rejecting the possibility of failure. Rather it is about accepting the possibility of failure but with the further understanding that failure does not mean your journey has ended.

Failure does not put your destination off limits. It is merely a diversion from your original path to that destination.

I know I am a good writer and story teller, but I also know I have challenges ahead in translating those skills into the money I need to make to continue writing and story telling.

Faith comes in telling myself (and believing) that through hard work on my part (e.g., networking, classes, practice) and unknown forces outside of my control and understanding, those challenges will dissipate at the appropriate time.

Like those well-intentioned naysayers, drawing a line in the sand about giving up (e.g., going back to my former career) only gives voice to my doubts. I will not allow myself to do that anymore.

I have faith that I will endure failure and that I will succeed at whatever it is I am to accomplish, no matter what street I live on.

I wish you that faith as well.

 

For an interesting piece on questions about talent and faith therein, check out this post from Plotting Bunnies: The ingredients of Writing: Talent…?

(Image is property of owner and is used without permission because I have faith they’ll get my point.)

(Ab)Use your imagination

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Four more reps! C’mon, you can do it. Three more reps! Don’t quit now. Two more reps! You’re a champion. One more rep! Almost there. Annnnnd, you are done. Way to go!

Phew!

As you may be able to tell, I recently started a fitness routine, a boot camp if you will. The nice thing about it is that I can still eat and drink whatever I want and the only reason I break into a sweat is because Toronto’s experiencing a nasty heat/humidity wave.

Just over a week ago, I started a screenwriting boot camp of sorts called Screenwriting U, which is designed to teach you how to create the most stunning and saleable scripts that Hollywood will eat up. (My apologies if this sounds like an infomercial.)

All I know right now is the program—the ProSeries—is kicking my ass.

For the next six months, I will have an assignment practically every day (including weekends) that is designed to push me to excel at EVERY aspect of screenwriting; e.g., concept, plotting, character, conflict, narrative, marketing.

I won’t go into any detail as to what we are doing—that would be improper and unethical as the fine folks at Screenwriting U have to make a living—but I can tell you about the outcomes.

At the moment, we’re working on concepts.

Once most of us come up with a concept that really interests us, we typically start writing right away, whether actual dialogue or mapping out plot points. We’re excited. We want to see our amazing idea come to life. Tomorrow is too far away.

No such luxury here.

In the true Full Metal Jacket sense, the instructors are making us break our ideas down to build them back up. And once we’ve done that, we do it again. And again. And again. Each time with a slightly altered method and/or goal.

In nine days, what was six interesting ideas (to me, at least), has become 30 new ideas, some of which are completely lame whereas others are pretty damned good, and more importantly, a hell of a lot more solid that the originals.

It’s a brainstormers wet dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

No matter how thoroughly I think I have developed an idea, just a little more time (or time away) shows me that I can go a little further with the idea or take it in new directions. As with the writing process itself, it is the permission to fail spectacularly with an eye toward finding something truly amazing.

And like physical exercise…what, I did that once…it is painful as hell in the early going, but it does get easier. And when it gets easier, I’ve got to make it hurt like hell again. I’m building imagination muscle memory. I’m making these thought processes second nature.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change…oh, wait, that would be telling.

PS Hal Croasmun, our drill sergeant, is nothing like the guy in Full Metal Jacket, unless you wanted to imagine verbal enthusiasm replacing verbal abuse.

(First image is used without permission because I like to push the envelope, or any other piece of stationery, for that matter. Clip art below clipped without permission.)

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My Creative Journey – Part Two

Picking up from my first realization that my passion might also be a gift, as explained in Part One.

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Over the years, I’ve had opportunities to display my creative demons before an audience. An effective little soap opera episode in Grade 12. Geeky science humour in my own magazine. Heart-wrenching poetry following the end of a close friendship that might have been much more.

I worked my way into the magazine world, writing interesting stories about interesting discoveries and advances, but it wasn’t the same. The words poured forth and the story-telling skills improved, but I was always a chronicler of someone else’s story.

Creativity expressed itself in my approach to the story. In seeing a story that no one else saw. In context that was invisible to everyone else. Creativity manifested itself in identifying authors and writers from all walks of life to fill gaps in the magazines. I may not have been the best project manager, but I was definitely the most creative.

As I matured in my jobs, I extended this creativity to everything I did. Looking for effective solutions to seemingly intractable problems. But it wasn’t enough. That voice within me cried out to be heard. And the more I worked—and overworked—to distract it, the louder it screamed. So loudly, that even my wife could hear it.

While sitting in an Orlando hotel bar one night, she finally challenged me and my workaholic tendencies, demanding that we come up with a hobby for me. When pressed, I admitted that I had always felt like I’d been born 30 years too late. That if I could have any miracle in my life, it would be to work on those old sketch comedy shows from the 1950s as a comedy writer. Sid Ceasar’s Show of Shows came to mind. Imagining myself in the writers’ room with Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen and Neil Simon.

Neither of us knew how to make that happen, but my wife challenged me to find something at home that would set me up in that direction. The next week, I signed up for my first improv class at Second City.

Although it still wasn’t where I wanted to be—more performance than writing—the improv classes were amazing; therapeutic on a variety of levels. Eventually, though, I stumbled onto their sketch comedy writing program and that’s when I hit my stride. A wonderful instructor, talented zany fellow students.

The words flowed incredibly quickly. Within weeks, I had dozens of sketches and felt like I was making serious headway in my education of what worked and why. If there was a problem with the class, it was that my production vastly outstripped the need. I tried new things. I broke out of my comfort zone. I pushed my limits. My only goal was funny.

As I honed my sketches, I prepared for the reality of rehearsals with actors, when all of this work would really come true; when my efforts became more than an academic exercise. Rehearsals went well. Out actors seemed genuinely grateful to be performing our work. I saw what worked and what didn’t, even in the work of others.

Interestingly, I wasn’t in control of the process and I was okay with that. There’s something to be said for being so far out of your element that you recognize the limitations of your control. I had complete faith in the director and our actors. I believed they too wanted this to work as badly as I did.

And then the day of the performance arrived. Nervous energy ran through my body and I couldn’t sit still. I could barely communicate. There was no fear. Only anticipation and potential validation. Was I funny?

The day we premiered Da Tory Code was easily one of the best days in my life. The audience laughed. Not at everything, which was a valuable lesson, but they laughed at enough to validate my talent.

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