Just Asking

Sometimes I’m able to pull off cool stuff (with the help of friends, of course). Over the years, I’ve been consistently surprised at the number of people who are shocked by whatever shenanigans I’m able to put together. mother may i

But I live by a very simple policy that often allows me cool opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. That policy is this: Just Ask.

Years ago, even though I had already implemented this policy in many different projects, I was working on something important to me. And I was nervous about inviting important people to see my important project. I felt like maybe they were out of my league and maybe I’d be overstepping boundaries by inviting them. I’m not big on “frontting” as the kiddos say, which sometimes means I don’t invite people to things they’d be more than happy to come to.

But a very close friend at the time put a very clear insight on why it’s important to “just ask.” He said, “The worst that could happen is that you ask and they say ‘No.’ But if you don’t ask, they’re already saying ‘No.’ And there’s a chance, when you do ask, that they might actually say ‘Yes.’ So you really can’t lose.”

Articulating this so specifically helped me solidify how important that policy really is in my life. Though I had an intuitive feeling for that idea, I can remind myself of that simple idea whenever I feel myself hesitating. By not asking, the answer is already “No.” So I might as well take a chance that I’ll hear a “Yes” and ask.

That’s probably why I hear more Yes-es than the average bear. I do a whole lot more asking.

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A Year Ago

back in timeA year ago, I got some news that surprised me. Someone tried to tell me I wasn’t good enough for something. Well, the truth was, they did tell me that they didn’t think I was good enough for something. He basically told me I didn’t make the cut.

After I got over the initial shock since I found the assessment completely unfounded, I thought about the deliverer and I thought about the actual outcome of this news and its impact on the rest of my life. I realized that the deliverer wasn’t someone I admired who’s opinion I needed to listen to and the outcome I thought I wanted was absolutely unnecessary to the goals I had in my own life. Another outcome would have allowed me to check off a box that didn’t need checking in order to prove I live up to arbitrary standards of a system that’s becoming more archaic daily.

But rejection is never fun no matter what perspective you can later spin it into. It can bother you. And, despite the fact that I am now more relieved and well-aware that world is not one I want to be a part of, this one still bothered me for a while.

I mean, you want to get in an invite to the party even if you have no intention of attending.

So I was going to write a whole article in response going into detail about all the things I’ve done in the year since this day. But when this day neared, I lost my edge to write a vengeance-filled post bragging about all my accomplishments. First of all, it’s not really my style. And secondly, I just didn’t care enough. The truth is, this mattered so little to me by the time the day came and went, that I just let it go and forgot about it. I was too busy actually doing the things that I love to take time out of my day to focus on telling people that I’m doing the things that I love.

And when I realized I missed my chance for my year-later response, I couldn’t find a shred of me that really cared. It all felt so long ago and my life has been progressively getting better, more fulfilling, and happier since that day.

When the issue comes up, of course I’m candid and honest about how I felt about the whole situation. But the underlying truth of the matter is that I care about it a lot less now that I thought I would. Which, for the most part, is liberating. But a little part of me still wishes I were angry so that I could let their rejection continue to fuel me.

But I’m not angry. While initial frustrations and rejections can make for good tinder for a fire, they ultimately cannot sustain the flames. They can provide a little help making it burn brighter, but they flare up and burn out quickly. It’s the thick logs and constant care that keep a fire burning. For me, those thick logs are my own passion for creativity and storytelling, and the constant care is the diligence and consistency with which I approach turning my passion into a daily, viable reality.

To put it bluntly, I realized that the best way to show ’em up is to show ’em you don’t even need ’em. Cuz you don’t.

Show Me The Goodies

Listen, I’m open, people. I love new ideas and get extremely excited about the possibility of working on all sorts of new and enticing projects with passionate people.

But I’m at a point in my career (and life) where I don’t have time for empty promises. I don’t dislike people who make them, because I know most empty promises are not made by people who realize they’re empty. And many times, they may not be.

show me the moneyBut a whole lot of times, they are.

My point is simply this: Let’s be reasonable with each other people. If you’re going to ask me to take a meeting with you, and you pick the date, place, time and venue and are pitching your idea to me, I need to see some goodies that I get out of it before I’m enticed. That’s not because I’m selfish or an asshole. That’s because I’m busy and it’s human nature.

I’ll probably love your idea. I love most ideas because I’m just generally a fan of ideas.

But if you don’t have anything in place- no structures, no commitments, no tangible way of making the idea into a reality or not even a blueprint for how to get started- why should I care?

Again, not because I don’t care about you… but because I’m busy and have lots of ideas of my own. Because we’re human. And we need to know how something will serve us and make us as individuals better or more fulfilled. Otherwise, I’ll feel like you’re wasting my time. And I don’t have the luxury of time to waste.

So if you want someone to be as excited as you are by your project, actually show them something what they’ll get out of it. Show them what you’ve done, what you’ve already got in place to make this idea a reality, or show them your enthusiasm for having them on board and why it’ll be so good for everyone involved.

And for god sakes, pay for their coffee/meal/drink. If they’re giving you time to listen to your idea, have the courtesy to show them that small respect for their time.

Otherwise, they’ll walk away and be like, “Cool. That was an idea someone else had about a project they’re obviously really excited about and I don’t know why I should be too and not sure why I left work and drove 45 minutes to pay for my own lunch and listen to someone else’s idea and don’t know why I should be involved at all.”

Believe me. I know from experience.

Stay In Class

happy-studentI love learning. I’m an advocate for life-long learning. I download audiobooks for fun on all sorts of subjects. I get excited by the prospect of learning something new. I love being in learning settings with like-minded people. I often don’t even care if I’m going to ever apply or need the knowledge. I’m ok with just learning what someone thinks about something.

Like I said, I love learning.

I also love criticism. I love being evaluated. Of course it takes pretty tough skin because it’s hard to always divorce your ego from whatever evaluation you’re getting. But once you learn that what someone says is just their opinion and how they view a situation, you can learn more about both yourself and whoever you’re getting criticism from in the process. Once you see criticism as a valuable tool for gaining perspective on how the world sees you or your product- rather than something that should be avoided or something that always needs a response- you get to enjoy being critiqued and you get more opportunities for constant growth.

And growth means more chances to learn. And like I already said, I love learning.

But not long ago, I took a short “class” wherein we were evaluated afterwards. I put “class” in parenthesis because it’s not really a course. It’s what’s called a “learning opportunity” where you can get in front of individuals who may or may not be able to help your career and they give you feedback. It’s a little tongue and cheek because of some laws involved, but I’ve found a lot of success in these “learning opportunities” and have no real problem with them. One night, I had the chance to do a short scene in front of five different people. You only get a couple minutes or so in front of each one, so it’s not like there’s a ton of time to get to know someone. So I like using the chance to learn how I come across in an audition setting with other people. My feedback usually involves what type they see me as and some relevant or irrelevant descriptions of how I did.

The only reason it’s significant that I had several people this particular night is because the first four were pretty standard. I did well, they gave me feedback- some positive, some neutral- and we all went about our merry way.

The last guy I did my scene for was pretty proud of himself. Just in general. I didn’t like his vibe from thecocky-guy moment he walked in, but I let it go and did the work anyway. We don’t always get to choose who we audition for, so I used it as a LEARNING opportunity (see above) and went for it anyway.

His feedback was short and sweet. It was simply “Stay in class.”

That’s it.

Let me pause and tell you three ways to make my blood boil: Be passive aggressive, be consistently lazy, or tell me cocky bullshit like “stay in class.”

So, as you guessed, my blood boiled. I completely forgot about the other four evaluations I had that night (let alone the countless feedback I’ve gotten over the course of my near-decade long career) and wanted to walk back up and get in that man’s face.

It was a lazy thing to say. And a pointless one.

Sure, if you didn’t like what I did- I’m ok with that. But you need to give me a specific feedback if you want my respect. You need to tell me, “Your facial features were too big and unbelievable” or “It felt rehearsed” or even the generic, “I didn’t believe you.” Cool. Fine. I’m totally with you and those are things I get to think about and decide.

But this guy was essentially doing what another teacher did to me several months before that made me almost go on a rampage. The other teacher said, “General note… not enough specifics.” That means nothing. That’s a worthless sentence and serves no purpose. When I’m paying for an evaluation, I expect to be given one. It doesn’t mean I need to listen to you or believe you. It just means I need to be given to opportunity to know how you see me so I can decide within myself if I agree that whatever your pointing out is something I need to work on. I get to be the one to do that. You don’t get to keep that information from me as if I can’t handle it. It’s your job to tell me something you think is of value. And it’s my right to decide whether or not it’s of actual value to me.

But to top it all off, what made me really ticked about the evaluation “Stay in class” was more ideological. Yes, classes are valuable. Yes, it’s interesting to learn more. Yes, I’m obsessed with learning and a firm believer you always need coaching and further challenges and goals for your own growth. But, when it comes to self- expression, classes don’t teach you shit.

We live in a world where our youth have been over-educated (myself included! No complaints and thank you mom and dad!). There’s a class for everything now. And that’s great because classes can provide opportunities to delve into worlds you wouldn’t otherwise know and sometimes give you courage to do something you wouldn’t otherwise ever do. But at the end of the day, you can’t teach self-expression or creativity. They’re inherent. Your voice is your voice and you don’t need something or someone outside yourself to validate that.

And because there’s so many classes and so much available education, people can spend a whole lifetime believing they’re “not ready” or they’re “not good enough” or they “need more education.” Or even as troubling, people can choose to stay in school rather than following their passion because school provides security and following your passion means taking big risks and risks are terrifying. So we stay in school. We don’t venture out. We squash the creative voices inside of us that are begging to be let out to play because they don’t seem to have as much value in the real world. And eventually they get quiet. And they get sad. And you get sad, but you can’t remember why. And it’s because a part of you inside has been systematically shut down.

Fight back. Bring it back alive. People are infallible, no matter how much they pretend to be perfect. Don’t listen to anyone but your gut. If you do choose to listen to a few people outside yourself, choose them wisely. And only take a few to heart. Otherwise, let people’s opinions be just that- opinions. You can learn from them or ignore them. It doesn’t matter. By the time you decide one way or another, they could have changed them anyway.

If you think I’m a “bad actress” as was the case of this particular dipshit, fine. Cool. No problem. But I need you to give me a specific. I need to know something I can work on to get better. I don’t yet have an Oscar or my own sitcom, so I’m willing to bet I’ve got plenty to learn still. But if you’re saying you don’t like my style, that’s a different story. But don’t be lazy and give me shitty worthless feedback like “Stay in class” because not only does that mean nothing, it doesn’t serve any purposes. Classes can’t teach you how to be you. You have to teach yourself that. Then classes become enjoyable because you know what you want out of it, so you’re not attached to any sort of outcome.success kid

So here’s what I have to say to you, you lazy man who wrote “Stay in class” to me:

Stay out of my way.

Because I’m coming. And I know what I want and I know I have a valuable voice that won’t be served by listening to people who are lazy and don’t know the first thing about creativity. I’ve faced much bigger obstacles than you, and I look forward to making sure people know that they don’t need to be told it’s ok to be yourself, even if not everybody approves of who you are.

Femoir: The Podcast – Partners! Show Notes

GoT-6I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately… so forgive the very specific partnership picture. I talk about being a lone wolf, but if you watch the show there’s a wolf in this picture so I’m counting it (nerdy laughter!).

Anyway! The latest episode of Femoir: The Podcast is live in iTunes. And it’s talking about PARTNERSHIPS!

I talk about how I’m going to vary my intro like the Simpsons, then I dive into being “particular about my company,” and talk about a famous song from Chicago about partnership. I discuss my solo show and my stand up comedy, make a reference to a delightful Chris Tucker moment, talk about how I write about partnership often, discuss Stage 32, The Other Client List (my web series), talk about Closure, and how not all partnerships can work out.

And I also discuss my upcoming Western.

So much discussed! Take a listen and subscribe for free if it please ya!

And now back to Game of Thrones for me…

So Much Partner, Talk!

partners_backgroundI’ve been working on lots of projects lately. Which means I’ve had lots of partners. And I got to thinking about it. Then I got to writing about it. And then I got to publishing the writings about it. And now I’m sharing it with you.

3 Characteristics of a Good Partnership – Ms. In the Biz

And now I’m gonna go keep working on things. Perchance and perhaps you should do the same.

 

Why I’m Monogamous

Monogamy-SWANSI grew up in a family with a mom and a dad in the traditional-valued Midwest who are still married after over 35 years together. Every relationship I knew and saw growing up I took for granted that they were monogamous. Of course I didn’t know the in’s and out’s of other people’s business- because it wasn’t my business so I certainly didn’t need to know- but it was the underlying assumption. It was the culture I grew up in. I heard stories of my grandpa doting on my grandmother. I saw my father doing the same to my mother. Every healthy relationship I saw in and out of my family was on based on monogamy.

For those of you salivating right now thinking, “My god! She’s gonna delve into details of her personal life! She never does that! I can’t wait!” Sorry. No go. No details. Generalizations and philosophy only. I don’t like other people knowing my personal business. Because it ain’t yours.

Though I do like talking the juicy details of yours. Feel free to dish because I genuinely love that shit.

But here’s what I will say:

A couple years ago, I got thrown into a loop. I was introduced to the notion that monogamy might be an unfair cultural expectation that we force upon our relationships and thereby nearly doom them to fail because in many ways it’s unnatural. I read the book, “Sex At Dawn,” which is an extremely interesting and fair assessment of how we’ve become what we’ve become in terms of our cultural expectations of our traditional relationships. It makes a strong case for reevaluating how we view the nature of our relationships and how they can better serve our own innate human sexuality.

And over the past couple years, I got to really evaluate and asses what that means to me. Like the good student I am, I was willing to question completely my own belief systems and challenge them. I had a number of first-hand experiences where I got to learn and question and be open to different lifestyles that what I was accustomed to. I willingly tried on different values to see if something fit me better or enhanced my lifestyle in unexpected ways. I challenged myself, grew, and learned a whole lot about what I truly want in life.

I learned, at my core, that I’m still monogamous by nature. Or maybe it was by nurture. Either way, that’s the path for me.

I challenged it. I pretended I wasn’t. I tried to be the chick that strings along a lot of dudes. I tried to be the person who didn’t care about certain things and cared a lot about others. But no matter how many ways I stretched it, my mind always snapped back to the basic ideas I grew up with. I wasn’t my best self. I was weirdly insecure and indecisive. I sacrificed too much of my basic wants and needs and ended up losing myself. And learned from the process.

But the biggest reason why? I’m too busy for anything but monogamy.

That’s basically it. I’ve got too many other passions and projects on my plate. If I have a partner help me, support me, and delight me as I sail through these adventures, that’s all I want. I don’t need anything else. I appreciate the people who explore other lifestyles because it’s obviously important to them. And I appreciate that my choices aren’t for everyone. If I’m happy and satisfied, I’m too busy nurturing and caring for and investing in my partner to worry about what’s out there that I might be missing. I actually like working through things. I like being challenged and growing. I don’t believe in our constantly upgrading culture that seems to think our happier self is outside of the world we have access to right now. As long as I got a guy who wants the same things in life, and we’re bringing out the best in each other, that’s all I need. And I’ll save the rest of my energy for the millions of other elements of this life that I’m passionate and curious about.

Let me be clear- if you’re not happy in a relationship and it’s not salvageable, certainly move on. I don’t believe that we all have to mate for life and resign ourselves to whatever fate we chose in a partner when lives and people and wants and needs can change in dramatic and unforeseeable ways. You have to be true to yourself and your own happiness. So you have to be willing and open to whatever that means for you.

It’s just for me, I have a tendency to go all in with anything I’m investing in. Whether it’s a project or a person, I get focused on making the most of any opportunity. And if I spread that focus out too thin, I don’t feel like I’m giving it my best. And it’s not everything it could be. And then I regret it. And wonder what it could have been if I had just been more willing to focus on it.

So that’s what I do. I focus. I get tunnel-visioned. I invest. I care. And I’m willing to take whatever emotional blows come with actually caring about the outcome of something. I’m willing to go this distance and fight to the end of the line. If it ends, so be it. But at least I can know I gave it my all.

Plus, romantic relationships are just one element of life. There are so many wonderful things to experience and learn and create. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

And by nobody, I mean me.

And by dat, I mean dating multiple people.

But different strokes for different folks. My own values and choices are certainly not meant to threaten or judge anyone’s lifestyle. You do you, honeybear. What you do in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults is none of my business.

Unless you want to make it my business and tell me about it. In which case, like I said before, I’ll totally be into because I’m a sucker for listening to other people’s love lives.

Though sharing the details of my own isn’t my thing. Nor is sharing in general.

So if you’re the lucky suitor who wins my affections- you my boo, my bae, my mans, my babymomma- good luck and may God have mercy on your soul.

Femoir: The Podcast – COMPARISON – Show Notes

It’s another Femoir: The Podcast, friends and here are the show notes for all the things that are chatted about during this episode.

It’s a lot this time, so strap in… here we gocompare!

I mention 123 and me. I meant 23andme. Silly mistake!

I also talk about The Chicago Comedy scene, Wikipedia, and my previous podcast called “GUT.”

Then I mention what my favorite Zen Good/Bad story, Mindy Kaling, a great article by “Thought Catalog” called This is how we date now, my soul buddy Renee.

Then I invent Nude Feeds… naughty! And I make W sounds like “Cool Whip.

Subscribe for free on iTunes. Episodes out every other Tuesday!

Crop Top

crop topI never thought I could pull off a crop top. I mean, look at this guy. I don’t look like him!

Growing up, I was always most self-conscious about my stomach. It’s where I hold most of my weight. It’s the last thing to start toning out when I am getting in shape. I’m not shaped like a tiny slender stomached chick. I’m more athletic (when at my best) so only making major cuts and really going out of my way to work it make a difference.

I’ve gone on about this before.

But as I’ve gotten slowly more confident with my body and pushed the limits of my own shape… I’ve ventured out in my dress too. I’ve actually worn crop tops on occasion.

I feel so naughty for even admitting it! AH!

I’m from Indiana. We don’t wear crop tops there. I certainly never wore them or even considered such a dramatic clothing choice. But I’ve slowly let the land of the people who are more bold and confident with their body and clothing seep into my own thinking. I’m not saying my shirts are that short… but sometimes a little tummy can peek out. And I don’t get self-conscious. And I’m proud of that. Not because I look like a photoshopped fitness model. But because I look good. And I work on it.

But more importantly, I work constantly on being ok with me. So if that means wearing modest crop tops without embarrassment because they make me sort of feel like a rockstar, so be it. Bring on the scissors. I’ve got a tiny sliver of stomach to let peep out.

Attitude Adjustment

attitudeI had to check myself before I wrecked myself the other day.

It was the first Saturday of the New Year and I went to the gym in late morning. And, to no surprise, it was packed.

And, unfortunately also no surprise, I immediately became a brat about it.

As I walked in and looked at the crowds of people on the machines and on the equipment, I got testy. I kept thinking somehow they were in my way. I felt so self-righteous that this gym was my gym. And that they were in my way. And how dare they even consider slightly inconveniencing me.

In short, I was a little biatch about it.

But halfway through my workout (when the endorphins started kicking in and I was calmer than before), I realized I was the one with the problem. Here are a bunch of people who, sure, don’t really know what they’re doing yet at the gym. But you’ve got to start somewhere. They were not at all getting in my way. It’s not like I go there with a really clear training plan of certain exercises I have to hit and certain goals that have to be attained. Usually I go with a body group that I’m going to focus on for the day. And then I look around and see what’s available.

These people weren’t my enemies. They were my new friends.

Sure, many of them may not stick around past February. But some of them will. Some of these people will have made it their New Years Resolution to get in shape and go to the gym all the time, and this will be the very exciting start of that journey for them. These are more people I now have something in common with. New people with whom I can talk working out with. New people who can complain about the lazy people who don’t return their free weights with.

It’s so easy to think you’re entitled to something. So much of our world today makes you believe you are entitled to whatever you want in the exact circumstances you want it and exactly when you want it. IWWIWWIWI, I believe is what it’s called (I Want What I Want When I Want It). I wanted to have the gym completely quiet and to myself. I wanted to be able to choose any time and go without any convenience to me. I wanted to have access to all the equipment I could possibly want for my workout at any given time even if I wasn’t using it or didn’t end up needing it.

Entitlement is gross.

I’m not proud of my attitude that day. But I am glad to be reminded that it’s so easy to fall back into a negative mindset. It’s easy to forget that other people are not your enemy. I live in Los Angeles…like millions of other people. If I start getting frustrated at crowds or traffic or whatever, I’ll never be satisfied in this city. Or any city. In fact, if I start wanting everything in my environment to be exactly how I want it without any distractions, I might as well move to a tiny hermit shack in Montana and hide from the world.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve considered this at times.

Then I remember, I love people. I love LA. I love being out of my comfort zone and having shared experiences and the excitement of a crowd. The only reason there’s even a gym close to me is because there are lots of other people who are members. I don’t keep it alive on my tiny membership fee alone. If there weren’t lots of people who belonged, I’d have to go somewhere else.

We need each other.

So I have to wait an extra few minutes for the leg press machine in January because some girl is doing 20 sets of 10 lbs. Whatever. No big deal. She’s gotta start somewhere. And I’m not going anywhere. So I’ll wait.

And I’ll be sure to check myself before I wreck myself.