Once upon a time I had a wild idea that my Dad should star in his own show. And then I had a wild idea that maybe I could direct it.
A multi-faceted artist who spent the majority of his career directing and artistic directing opera, my Dad is also an extraordinary singer.
Though he has sung throughout his life, a singing career proved too risky in his earlier years, and when opportunities for leadership positions emerged, he took them so that he could provide more consistently for our family.
Childhood memories revolve around his singing: sitting on the floor of church choir stalls while he sang (cheaper than babysitting), high C’s at the end of every happy birthday (I was embarrassed but secretly proud) late nights banging away duets on our out of tune piano (more fulfilling than high school parties). When I went to see his star turns at summer theaters, I remember looking around at the other audience members and grinning because I had the best secret in the room: I was the daughter of my dad.
He tells me that back then he wasn't exposed to ideas or support on how to make a career as a singer. He could have used a coach like me, he says.
Maybe I am devoted to buoying creators with big dreams because I wish I could buoy Dad's younger self.
Last Spring, I was walking through Prospect Park in Brooklyn and feeling particularly clear in my brain. Maybe it was the fresh air I hadn’t had access to all winter, or because I was on a fasting phase of a cleanse, I all of a sudden realized that someday will continue to be someday until you take the leap.
Actually this is of course obvious and I entirely already knew this. I sing this refrain to my clients and students daily. I teach workshops and programs on how to take the leap before you feel ready.
Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle says a proverb from the Asara Tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinuea.
I had been talking about this show for years and I asked myself what exactly I was waiting for. To become what I deemed was a worthy director? For our calendars to completely clear? For someone to hire us to do it? For a drastic event to remind us that life is indeed shorter than we thought?
I heard my own voice to my clients: There will never be a perfect time for your own projects. You will always be lured by urgent and maybe shinier but less-energizing priorities. Nominate yourself.
So I called Dad up and said this was my official offer and would he want to do this. He said he had to ask his agent and then he said yes. He doesn’t actually have an agent but he is great at jokes. He said he was scared but he still wanted to do it, and I said I was scared, too, but if not now, when?
There is a giant chasm between thinking and talking about doing a thing, and the actual getting going.
Thinking and talking are intoxicating, safe, addicting.
Before you start you absolutely cannot fail. Your project is always brilliant in your imagination. Then people corroborate your brilliant idea and you start to feel even more brilliant, luxuriating in imagining all the what ifs…
Then thinking and talking quickly evolve into a purgatory. When the idea or desire sits in you, uncherished for months and then years, creative life slowly seeps out of you like a tire with a leak.
You start to beat yourself up and tell stories that begin with Someday, once I get my confidence back...
Your thoughts are on repeat: instead of next-level, new, and different thoughts each day, you repeatedly disappoint yourself with broken promises.
You start to categorize yourself among the unbrave.
Our whirling schedules meant we had to wait a year for the first meeting. Maybe we could have done it sooner but we put it off because both Dad and I are black belts at throwing all of our energy behind other people’s projects.
We wait for humans or institutions to say We pick you! Here is a little or a medium amount of money and a confusingly-formatted timeline! Believe it or not you are legitimate! Go!
Several years ago, I started writing because I felt like I would burst if I didn’t. No one asked me to. No one gave me a single deadline. I didn’t know if anyone other than my family would read any of it, but I could not stop the ideas in my brain so I leapt anyway. From that moment on, I felt a deeper creative release than I had ever known. It was the first moment in my adult history that I had risked creativity without a nudge from anyone but my own intuition.
At this point on my journey, writing doesn’t involve many collaborators (save for you, dear readers, for whom I am endlessly grateful), and there is a safety in knowing if I back out, I won’t really be letting anyone down but myself.
Things get real when you nominate yourself and then make a direct ask to a collaborator to take the leap with you: you could let down an actual person.
This week I learned that when that real person collaborator is your Dad, you extra especially don’t want to let them down.
We met at a coffee shop for an initial ideas meeting. I sat down with my green and black tea blend and felt instantly nervous, thinking how much easier it would be to opt out of my own idea.
I made sure to confirm he was still on board. A top 10 fear of mine is people pretending they like me or want to do something with me when they actually don’t. I was afraid he had said yes because he’s my Dad and he is skilled at putting my happiness before his.
I know a part of me was wanting and secretly encouraging him to back out on me, so my Tiny Terrorist could say See! Thesis proved! delighting at the hard evidence that I’m unwanted.
Delighted also to skip any charting of unknown territory, my Tiny T wanted to restore time and energy for more sensible projects like checking things off to do lists and saving for retirement and pretending like I know how to hook up computer keyboards to desktop monitors.
He said he still wanted to do it.
My heart fluttered.
He was hesitant, but it was a yes.
Here we go.
I was officially on the hook.
I wanted to impress him with my directing skills (he had never before seen me work); I take pride in cultivating a safe and brave space where performers feel empowered to unfold their deepest and most alive artistry. I made sure to emanate confidence because I wanted him to know what I was made of.
Underneath, a familiar chorus of doubt:
what if he is lying / what if this isn’t good / what if he doesn’t think I’m a good director / what if no one comes / what if we lose steam halfway through / what if our aesthetics don't align / what if this is a waste of time / what if we don’t know how it’s going to turn out
What if we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
We might not know how it’s going to turn out.
We will never know how it's going to turn out.
Our Tiny Terrorists demand guarantees: Sure! We are absolutely willing to be on board with this plan as long as we can get 100% confirmation that this will be 100% worth it and we won't have to ask for any help along the way and it will result in tangible success that we can 100% guarantee will be impressive to The Very Important People Who Matter.
Luckily, the newly discovered Creator Goddess Warrior Queen is becoming increasingly vocal at my internal leadership circle of standing desks.
And she is 100% over the Tiny Terrorist's Patriarchal BS.
She declares that there are no guarantees from anything worthwhile but that following intuition is the most important thing. There are only guarantees when you are replicating something that you know already works.
And that will be a yawn, she says.
Nothing new to learn there.
She looks away, dramatically bored.
She laughs if I ask for a WHY behind the intuition. She gets that it may be useful to craft your why statement for marketing language but the only WHY you need is the person you will become by taking the leap. Outside recognition or leverage or anything else is merely a bonus.
(Also, safely releasing stuck creative energy inside human beings is extremely good for the planet and the evolution of humanity. But that is a story for another day).
So do it, she says playfully.
Duh. She is new around here but she seems to know everything.
These days I am no longer interested in letting myself or any of us off the hook. We can exhaust our energy contemplating the leap and getting really angsty about it or we can give a few less f***s, leap, and gift that energy back to our dream.
Actually the entire creative process is made up of leaps.
Perhaps you are in the middle of something and feeling a familiar tug of wanting to give up: I am awesome at beginnings but not at middles, is a story you have become an expert at telling.
Or you have made something and now you say you don't know what to do with it when what you are actually feeling is fear over allowing yourself to be known, seen, and heard.
One of the fastest ways to spark momentum as ambitious creators is to stop writing ourselves as the victims of our own patterns and relinquish our expert-status on all the reasons we don't measure up. Instead, we can redirect our energy to intimately know the alchemy of:
1. What it takes for us to leap
2. What it takes for us to stay accountable once we do
Most of us did not learn this in school, and it does not mean following someone else's 10 steps, of course, since our individual alchemies are mysterious and unique.
The alchemy is basic but not always easy to uncover or follow. Mine involves a vast amount of support, liberal amounts of parmesan cheese, and these rules / not rules. (#8 in particular). And here is what I keep close to remind myself about priorities.
One thing I and most likely you and just about everyone I work with know about leaping is that it is uncomfortable. We are biologically wired to move away from discomfort; we must re-teach ourselves to move toward instead of away.
Discomfort is courage's righthand woman.
I didn't realize how significant finally starting this project - the tiniest, unpaid, most low-profile project I may have ever endeavored - would be to my own evolution.
I now am my Dad's daughter and also his collaborator. We don't know anything about how this will all go down, but we are already becoming new people in the process.
If I were to ask what leap you will nominate yourself to begin / continue / finish this Spring what would your intuition say before you had time to think?
What kind of support would it take to stay on the hook?
Get radically accountable.
You are braver than you think.
With endless encouragement from both me and my CGWQ,