Ok, here are the next few traps along the way to avoid…

TRAP 4: AUTHORITY FIGURE STUDY

YOU: “I don’t like how you’re leading this workshop. I quit. (And I know it’s non-refundable, but can I have my money back?)”

ME: “You may not like me, and you may find my leadership style irritating. I seem bossy and maybe you don’t like how I arrange the chairs or the tone of my voice. (Sometimes that’s just your unconscious sexism, sometimes I’m just annoying.) But often, we externalize our resistance to the work. Of course I do annoying things, and I’m an imperfect leader, and I’ll apologize if I’ve done something wrong. (And sometimes when I haven’t. That’s just my unconscious sexism.) But if the way I arrange the chairs makes you want to quit, it’s probably most productive for your creative expression to STAY in class, keep showing up, (and annoy me), examine what’s driving you crazy, and tell a story about THAT.” (People who keep showing up, and examine their authority issues, have amazing final performances, and they’re so glad they did pushed through.)

(Another version of this is finding fellow classmates annoying or offensive or difficult. Of course they are! But what’s it bringing up in you that you’re letting them get in the way of your creative success? Can you prioritize your creative life over your difficulties with others?)

TRAP 5: COMPARE AND COMPLAIN

YOU: (SECRETLY, INSIDE) “Maria is so good. Can I even compete with her brilliance/humor/presence? (I can’t.)”

ME: “It’s so difficult for us to see our own gifts. We are literally blind to our own genius. Our brains evolved to escape from tigers and bears. That’s how we survived for millions of years. So every time we saw a tiger, the adrenaline started pumping, and we remembered that terrible moment REALLY clearly. So we would stay alive. And now here we are, alive! But all those wonderful moments seeing a rainbow or watching the sunset are harder to remember, because we’re not built to focus on and remember what’s going well.

So now, there are fewer tigers hunting us, but our brains haven’t evolved to focus on what’s going well for us. Couple that with watching someone else tell a great story, and you get a comparison monster the size of a small island. Even if you all go on stage together, no one in the audience will be thinking the terrible thoughts you’re thinking. They’ll be thinking, “Wow, each performer is so unique in their own way! I love how Maria does that thing and how David does that other thing.”

Try imagining that what you’re feeling about Maria’s storytelling is what David feels about your storytelling. We each have our own unique medicine to share with the world, and we have no idea who we’re going to touch and how we’ll impact others’ lives. Try that thinking on. Get back on that stage, silly!”

TRAP 6: COMPARE AND CONTRAST

YOU: “I feel a bit out of place here, being a professional comedian/speaker/actor (or other kind of professional). It’s not that I’m… better than you all, but I’m just not learning as much as I’d like to, being surrounded by, let’s face it, people struggling with all this beginner stuff. This really isn’t for me.”

ME: “Yeah, you’re probably right!” (Kidding.) And also, “Hmm… maybe you’re here to learn how take your work to the next level, regardless of where you are and what other folks are up to. Maybe you’re here to be a leader for the others. Maybe you’ve learned so much about performing that there isn’t much left to gather. When you’ve mined almost all the gold, those last nuggets become more precious, few, and far between. Perhaps this is an opportunity to gather just one rare nugget you overlooked in the past. 

Maybe you’re here to work on humility. I recently took a workshop on authentic relating, where I knew the material inside and out, and I found myself bored and kind of arrogant about it. I named that experience with a participant at one point, owning that I was feeling that, and she said, “It’s written all over your face.” I laughed in embarrassment. Given my tendency to undercut myself, I cut myself lots of slack when I get arrogant about what I know, because there’s room for me to grow in confidence. But what I realized I truly missed out on was being present, and allowing myself connecting with others deeply because of my hubris. 

Remember, an audience is comprised of humans, and they also want to feel you with as few layers as possible between you and them. You can use this time to return to a “beginner’s mind”, and continually create a fresh experience of being on stage, as if for the first time even!

Missed Part 1? Here is it.

Stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4!