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How Going To Live Theater Makes You Professional At Work

How Going To Live Theater Makes You Professional At Work

If you and I were friends and I said to you, “Let’s go see a play,” your first reaction would probably be, “Bwahaha! Man, you’re a crackup!”

I get it. In the digital era, with movies on our phones and DVRs and Netflix, few of us can be bothered even to watch a TV show when the network wants us to. So the idea of driving to a theater, waiting in our seats until the curtain goes up… just to watch live actors standing in front of a hand-built set? No thanks.

But that’s too bad. Because as I learned attending maybe 100 such little plays in Los Angeles in my early 20s, going to these performances can teach you a great deal about how to be a professional. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

1. Perform at every job, at every task, every day, like a talent scout is watching.

What always amazed me as I sat in these 99-seat theaters was how much energy and dedication the actors put into their performances — even when there were only seven of us in the audience.

What’s even more incredible is that many of the actors in those plays were successful men and women you’d recognize from movies and television. Some were big enough that you’d know their names.

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So what was going on? Why would these folks work themselves to exhaustion — and acting live onstage in a two-hour play is exhausting work — night after night, at a tiny theater, if only a half-dozen people even bothered showing up?

Because that’s what you do when you’re an actor. You act. You act your butt off, every time you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity. And even the Hollywood actor who makes a good living in TV or film considers a chance to act onstage two hours a night to be an opportunity. It doesn’t matter how much they’re being paid (often nothing at a little theater) or the size of the audience.

That’s how we all should perform at work.

Yes, some parts of your job might be boring. Some parts might seem unimportant or even unnecessary. Doesn’t matter. Give your job everything you’ve got, every day, and treat it as the opportunity it is.

That sort of approach — which is far less common than you’d think — is what leads to more opportunities.

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2. Find something to love about your job.

Let’s go back to those successful Hollywood players I’d often see at these tiny theaters. I once saw a play written by Kevin Arkadie, the hugely successful TV producer who co-created New York Undercover, and who produced and wrote for NYPD Blue and The Shield, among many other credits.

When I walked into the lobby of that little theater with my uncle Alan (who always took me to these great plays), we saw Arkadie… sweeping the floor. Here was a guy worth many millions of dollars, putting on a play for what would likely be an audience of 30 people, and he was sweeping up beforehand. What’s up with that?

Did Kevin Arkadie have a secret passion for sweeping? Did the stars of his play (some well-known character actors with long Hollywood careers) enjoy showing up day after day for rehearsals, or driving through LA traffic every day to reach the theater? (On that last one, trust me, the answer is No!)

Even actors passionate about acting, and playwrights (like Kevin Arkadie) passionate about writing plays, don’t love everything about the theater. But they put up with the waiting and the rehearsals and the disappointments when a show falls through for whatever reason… and sweeping the floors before the show starts.

Why? Because they all love some part of the process. Arkadie loves sitting in the theater watching his play come to life. The actors love being onstage and performing for us (even all five of us).

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And you know something? There’s some part of what you do for a living that you can love too. Doesn’t matter what your job is — there’s something to love about it. Find it, cherish it, and — if you can — try to make it a bigger part of your job.

3. Remember, there are lots of talented people out there.

This last tip is more of a word of caution.

Something else that always amazed me attending live plays at little theaters was how good the actors were. I mean, they were phenomenal. At almost every show I saw, I’d come out of the theater saying to my uncle something like, “Those actors are as good as any Hollywood A-lister. How’s that possible?”

I never did figure it out. Given how difficult good acting is, how is it that you can find great acting almost any night of the week at almost any hole-in-the-wall theater in Los Angeles (and I suspect New York as well)?

What I do know is that, in an increasingly competitive world with more tools and resources and knowledge available to more people than ever, chances are your profession is experiencing its own little-theater trend. More people are in the game: studying, practicing, honing and mastering the same skills you’ve cultivated. So you’ve got to stay at the top of your game too.

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And maybe that’s part of the answer to why so many successful Hollywood actors show up at the smallest theaters, for no money, and act to exhaustion night after night for tiny audiences. They know there are many up-and-comers right behind them, sharpening their acting skills too. So even a proven actor has to stay just as sharp. They can’t afford to coast.

And neither can you.

Featured photo credit: An old side of the Chicago Theater [Featured as one of the most interesting photos taken with the Leica X1]/ChiILLeica via flickr.com

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robbie hyman

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

Bonus:

If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

3. Take meaningful time for yourself

We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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No time for me-time? Try this:

If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

Bonus:

Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

4. Get productive and feel accomplished

Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

Try this:

Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

The bottom line

There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

The only question is — which tip will you try first?

Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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