Open Letter to the Graduating Class of 2017 (and Anyone Else in Transition)
YOU’VE GOT THIS.
First, let’s start with a huge fricken CONGRATULATIONS!!!
I mean, HELLO-you’ve done a TON of work to get to this point. And I bet you haven’t taken a moment to actually pause and take stock of just how hard you’ve been working and all the many things you’ve accomplished.
You have (among many other things):
- met deadlines
- given performances
- passed exams, auditions and juries
- dealt with difficult personalities
- faced unbelievable challenges
- overcome procrastination (aka fear)
- overcome doubt (aka fear)
- overcome overwhelm (aka fear)
- overcome criticism
- overcome the doubters and the haters
- faced your demons
- didn’t give up no matter how many times you wanted to…
- so much more…
I start with this because if you don’t stop now, right this minute, and take stock of what you’ve done, you’ll always be focused on what’s next, what’s not working, what could be better, etc. You may be putting 100% of your focus on what may or may not happen in your future and fear takes over.
Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger,
anger leads to hate,
hate leads to suffering.
This time of year marks important transitions. So many people are hustling towards what is next and there is little if any time to pause and evaluate. We can even judge being slow and not having anything on the books as a sign of failure or lack of success.
But here’s the truth: it’s essential to pause and take the time to really sit and reflect, assess, FEEL, process and give voice to all the things that have gotten stuffed down.
As you transition from the end of whatever it is you are leaving (school, a job, a residency, a relationship, etc.) to whatever is NEXT, here are a few points I’d love to share.
1.) YOU ARE MAGNIFICENT. You ARE. There is ONLY ONE of you, and it’s up to you to be YOU.
I cannot begin to tell you how important you are, how much you matter, how your voice and point of view is needed and necessary. But what is more important is that YOU know it and OWN It.
Our world is filled with people who are insecure, doubting themselves, afraid, playing small and terrified to step up and shine. We keep thinking that someday someone is going to give us permission to be successful or fulfilled. So let me just say right here, right now that NO ONE will EVER be able to do that for you. IT IS UP TO YOU. That’s the good news. You’re the one in charge of your own success, fulfillment, and achievement.
What matters is that you can define it, visualize it and get crystal clear on the steps you’ll take to achieve it.
2. YOU MUST KNOW YOUR WHY.
You must know who you are, why you’re here, and what you want to share with the world. This connects to the first point I made about owning your magnificence.
This WHY is so essential. Because if you don’t know your WHY, you’ll spend your life doing what other people tell you to do and at best being a cheap knock off of someone else.
This video is my favorite explanation of how to find your WHY:
3. MASTER YOUR MINDSET.
What you think about and thank about, you bring about. -Dr. John Demartini
Here’s what this means. When you put your thoughts on what you WANT and are grateful for what you already have, you bring more to you to be thankful for.
Another way to say this is:
Worrying is praying for stuff you don’t want. -Jen Sincero
Become a Jedi Master at mindset. This means that you are conscious and purposeful about the thoughts you think, the beliefs you choose and the words you speak.
Here are examples of things I hear people say with certainty on a daily basis:
- “It’s so hard to make a living as a musician.”
- “I’ll never make it.”
- “I can’t afford to take time off.”
- “They’ll never hire me again if I say no.”
- “It’s rude to talk about the fee.” (Even if I don’t know how much I’m getting paid, how or when.)
- “The only way I’ll make it is if I say ‘yes’ to everything.”
- “If I ask for a higher fee, they will think all I care about is money.”
- “People don’t value the arts.”
- “People only care about technique.”
- “I can’t set a boundary because people will think I’m inflexible and don’t care about the music.”
- “I can’t speak up because it means I’m difficult to work with.”
OY! SO PAINFUL! But guess what? If these are the thoughts and beliefs you have about the world then this will be the truth of your experience. And guess who suffers? YOU. I challenge you to pay attention. Listen to the words flying out of your mouth. Where did you learn this? Why do you take it as fact? Can you prove with 100% certainty that these beliefs are true? Have you taken the time to prove them wrong?
4. SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES.
Study the people who inspire you. Many people get this part wrong. They look at someone they think is successful and then they try to repeat the steps of their bio by going to the same school, getting the same degrees, taking the same auditions, doing the same residencies, studying with the same kind of teacher, etc.
This rarely works and leads to what I call “empty success’. Empty success is what happens when you work your tail off to achieve a goal and then when you finally obtain it, you feel drained, empty and lost. Instead of celebrating and feeling fulfilled, you wonder “what’s wrong with me? I thought I’d finally feel successful when I got this job (or won this award, or fill in the blank). But instead, I feel just as bad as before.”
Instead, if you REALLY dig and thoroughly study a person, you will see they had pain, setback, failure, heartbreak, illness and the same kinds of challenge as you, but in their own way. Pay attention to HOW they overcame those challenges to achieve what they did.
True success is up to you.
But what I know for myself, is that success is a lot of small moments over time. It’s the tears of gratitude I feel when my client calls me to tell me he risked everything and rocked it on stage, or when a client celebrates negotiating a contract and is finally earning a salary that feels congruent, or when a client has joy for the first time in performance after years of fear and self-criticism.
The degrees, the awards, the bio-these are empty words if not linked to the actual moments that make a difference in people’s lives.
If you are delegating what success means to the outside world (teachers, family, mentors, social media) and letting someone else tell you what dictates your worth and value, you will suffer. You must decide what success is and what it means for you. Only you can do this.
5. BE METICULOUS ABOUT WHO YOU HANG OUT WITH.
You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
If you surround yourself with people who are angry, frustrated and resentful, it will be ten times harder to hold hope and see possibility.
If you surround yourself with people who sit home and complain, feeling sorry for themselves wishing things would be different but drinking beer and watching tv instead of hustling, it will be that much harder for you to hustle and go after what you dream of.
Pay attention at your next rehearsal or gig and really notice what people are saying and how they are saying it. Are people gossiping and complaining? Are they critical and judgemental? Or are they go-getters talking about inspired projects?
Do you get how this goes? You take on the energy and mindset of the people you hang out with. It takes SO MUCH EFFORT to go against the culture and hold hope or take action when everyone else thinks you’re naive, stupid or crazy.
Go out and find your tribe. Find the dreamers, the doers, the inspired visionaries, the heart-centered people taking action.
Surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. -Bill Gates
6.) YOU WILL LOSE YOUR WAY. You will doubt yourself. You will want to give up.
Success is falling nine times and getting up ten. – Jon Bon Jovi
I promise you that success is not one big shiny moment that you finally arrive upon like an Olympic gold medal.
Success is holding hope when you are lost in the shit. Success is calling your friend to ask for support when you feeling like giving up. Success is trying again when you’ve lost your vision, lost your way, forgotten why you love what you do…
There is no successful person on the planet who has not felt unworthy, lost, discouraged, overwhelmed, insecure, insignificant, and super shitty.
Success looks great on paper when asked to sum up your life in a 100-word count bio. People don’t openly talk about their failures, their moments of deep despair, the moments of feeling kicked in the teeth, on your knees, crying the soul cry of suffering because you want to get your work out there and you’ve gotten a crushing “no”, again and again. But there is no human on the planet who hasn’t faced this pain.
It’s what you do about it that will shape your life. Some people never get up off the floor and limp through life with broken wings. No matter what it takes, pick yourself up. Get off the floor. Get back to work. One step at a time. I promise it’s worth it.
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
7. YOU’VE GOT THIS.
As you gather yourself together and prepare for whatever is next, I PROMISE you, it’s going to be ok. It’s going to be more than ok.
Everything you need is within you. You are not broken. Nothing is missing.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
You will get tested again and again. That’s ok. Each gut-wrenching, heart-breaking challenge we face makes us stronger and enhances the gifts we are here to give others. There is no such thing as a person who has it all together and just glows through life. Greatness is the mastery of getting back up after falling down while not giving up on your inspired vision.
Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.- John Lennon
And now, when you’re ready, get back to work. The world needs you.