Tag Archives: career

!nsp!re – Walking Away From Your Dream

I wanted to share this article from Allison Ford on The Gloss. In it, she details her decision to “give up on her dream” of becoming an actress. Her words and perspective resonated with me; and I think anyone who has struggled with career choices could benefit from reading her story.

Here’s the thing: You can have more than one dream. So many who pursue a career in the arts become obsessed with the one thing they THINK they want that they become blind to all the other possibilities that are out there waiting to be explored.

This situation is exacerbated by parents and teachers who encourage students to “follow their dream” and “pursue their passion” despite being able to (sometimes) see that the student is poorly suited for the path they are choosing.

When I was young, I wanted more than anything else in the world to be an architect. It took a while for me to understand that unless I could muster some interest in math, my career as an architect was an empty, pointless pursuit. As it turns out, I loved the IDEA of being an architect; but not enough to put in the hard work it would take to become one.

That situation repeated itself with music. Again, I had a huge passion for music, living and breathing records, tapes, and going to see concerts. My parents bought me a guitar and after two years of practice, I had gotten to be… atrocious at playing guitar. I was unable to parse that musical dream into distinguishing between loving music and playing music.

And then, finally, there was art. Always art; since early in elementary school. I dove deep into sketching, painting, sculpture, oils, watercolors, graphics, batik, etc. I was going to be a great artist. Except for the fact that I wasn’t a great artist. I was fine but far from exceptional. That was a hard pill to swallow.

Once I got into theatre, I fell in love with scenery design. I had a teacher who encouraged that love and I made up my mind to be a set designer. My reasoning was that it was sort of like architecture and relied on my art training as well. But again, that dream died.

It died when I saw The Police on the Synchronicity tour in 1983 at the Houston Summit. That night, I saw moving lights for the first time (they were in their infancy). I didn’t know what THAT was – but I knew I wanted to do it. So on my way to becoming a lighting designer, I left at least four dead dreams in my wake; and I regret it not one single bit.

As it turns out, my chosen career combines elements of many of those discarded dreams into one pretty sweet package. Had I known that could happen 30 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble starting down paths I then abandoned.

But each of those paths added to what I ultimately became, so they were worthwhile after all. I still engage my passion and love for architecture, music, and art; in my career and in my life. So, ultimately, they don’t feel like discarded dreams – they’re just elements that added to the whole.

Pursuing your dreams has to be done with diligence, care, and thoughtful self-examination. Note that I said dreamS. You can have more than one!

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Go Do: ARTS ADVOCACY DAY TOOLKIT

Today, the first day of spring, is also Arts Advocacy Day. In case you’ve missed it, the arts and humanities are on the chopping block in the proposed federal budget.

It comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that I’m a huge advocate for the arts. I found this link incredibly useful in that it offers a variety of ways to reach out, respectfully and thoughtfully, to your representatives. Your reps (remember, they work for US) need to hear from you regarding your opinion on matters that important to you.

If being in band shaped you into a better math student (and it probably did – they’re closely related); if being in theatre helped you overcome a fear of speaking in public; if sculpting helped you decide to become a mechanical engineer – then you benefited from an arts education.

If a play made you think, or a dance made you feel, or a painting made you question, or a symphony made you weep – then you have been touched by the arts.

If those things are important to you, your family, your children, your community, our culture and society, I urge you to connect with your elected representatives and explain specifically WHY it’s important that the arts remain a part of the federal budget.

There are a variety of links on the page that explain in greater detail what I’m talking about. Click on each one to gain a greater understanding of how the federal money is distributed, used, and matched.

Click here for the Arts Advocacy Toolkit.

Click here for Americans For The Arts.

future cre8tors – Should I Go To College?

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve conducted six different workshops for high school arts students. At the end of each workshop, there is time for Q&A. Invariably, no matter what workshop I’m doing, one of the questions I always get is, “Should I go to college for an arts degree?”.

Well,  that depends.

There are a variety of factors that can influence this momentous decision; among the many are location, financial feasibility, desire, and expectation. Making the choice to engage in higher learning is a deeply personal one and, sadly, it is one that few high school students are equipped to make.

My real answer is that it all depends on what you want to be when you grow up and what you want from life. What are your long-term goals; and I do mean long term (30-40 years from now)? If you desire to be a Broadway designer or a professor at a University; it helps considerably to be packing at least an MFA. If you want to teach at a junior college, you may just need a teaching certificate along with the appropriate coursework. If you want to be a roadie, traveling the world on concert tours, then an MFA might be superfluous. Again, though, if you look at the career of a roadie, it’s important to look past the 25 good years of your youth (when the job is physically easier) and into your 50’s. What does life look like then?

When you’re a junior in high school, projecting that far into the future is difficult. It’s too abstract; but I encourage students to try nonetheless. What is the future? City or suburbs? Buy or rent?  Spouse? Kids? Travel for work? Vacations?  The inklings of answers to those questions can point you in the right direction.

Perhaps more importantly than “Should I go to college?”, is “Which college should I attend?” There are a plethora of exceptional schools out there; and it’s important to remember that YOU are hiring them and paying them; not the other way round. It’s perfectly fine to demand the most for your money. The key thing to remember is that this is YOUR decision. Picking the school that fits your learning style, that offers you connections to your industry, and that excels in teaching what you want to learn will take time. Talk to the professors, recruiters, and administrators. Interview THEM; not the other way around.

That sounds like a lot of work; and it is. But I will tell you that I know a number of people who blame their school or college for not preparing them adequately, or who feel their degree was a waste of time. The work you put in is directly related to what you’ll get out of it in the end. YOU have to do the work.

Another way to think about college is to do what my buddy Mike did. He always wanted to work in lighting. He had a lot of experience and was quite good even at a young age. He looked at his industry and realized that most people were free-lancers; and that in order to be very successful, he would want to run his career as a business. He also realized that he didn’t know the first thing about being in business, or free-lancing, or entrepreneurship. He paid his way through college doing lighting gigs, and graduated with a business degree. He’s now incredibly successful. I tell this story because its a great example of someone willing to engage in tough self-examination of their strengths and weaknesses, resolving to do something about it, and then following through with the hard work.

Finally, if you decide not to go to college, that’s okay. Don’t feel like you need to bend to societal norms or your parents expectations. Also, take a look at this story from Mashable, offering 6 ways to succeed without going to college.

future cre8tors – Things You Don’t Learn In School

Just a quick share today of this article, “12 Things They Don’t Teach You In School About Being A Designer” by Jeff Archibald on Fast Company. I found that all of these resonated with me in some way. The article did make me wonder why these things are glossed over in an educational setting. Do instructors not want to broach them? Are they unnecessary for learning?

I understand that higher learning is intended to be conceptual and to teach one how to learn and to grown knowledge. At some point, though, graduates have to get jobs (no matter which design field). Tips like these, as simple as some of them may seem, do not likely occur to a graduating student. I wish every school in every degree offered a single-semester course called something like, “Your Career, In Reality”. It would be geared towards giving students actionable advice about their chosen careers. It would feature people from their respective fields imparting knowledge about their careers; pitfalls and obstacles on they way, things they didn’t expect, what they like and don’t like, etc. I believe something like this would be invaluable to students. I know I certainly would have appreciated it!

!nsp!re – Following Your Passion: Is That Really A Good idea?

I wanted to share this article I read recently on Huffington Post. In it, Cal Newport gives voice to a thought that has been nagging at me for a while.

I’ve heard others, over the years, give the career advice of “follow your passion and your dreams will come true”. It always rings hollow for me because while it sounds lofty, it’s more thin air than anything else. Many of my peers didn’t “follow” anything. They were intrigued by various interests and pursued them, often doggedly. Those pursuits revealed truths (i.e. I’m good at some things, not so good at others, and very poor at many things). That experimentation gave me some insight as to what I wanted to be, but I didn’t become truly passionate about it until I had been immersed in the field for a number of years and had learned more about it and, perhaps more importantly, what I could contribute to it.

My initial curiosity led to exploration, which created opportunity, which led to deeper knowledge and greater connection, which then revealed passion. That was/is my journey and it seems to be somewhat similar for many of my peers.

Perhaps its the term “follow”. Many of the most successful people I know pursued, cajoled, convinced, poked, prodded, inquired, hunted, persisted, persevered, and went after their careers. Rarely, if ever, did they follow. More likely, though, it’s that the advice doesn’t go far enough. For some, “follow your passion and your dreams will come true” is absolutely accurate. For many, perhaps even most, it is not. I talk to too many students whose goal is “to be famous”. The don’t know WHY; and they certainly have no idea how much work it takes to make that happen. They also don’t want to hear that quite often despite hard work and diligence, “fame” still eludes them. Being famous is clearly not a goal, but that’s also not something much of our youth wants to hear, either

I strongly believe that those who have reached a level of success in their fields have an obligation to give back, and to provide advice & insight to the next generation of artists (or workers) in their field. While we want to inspire dreams, we also must provide actionable, concrete advice in order for the next gen to be successful.

!nsp!re – ARTS EDUCATION WEEK: 3 Reasons A Theatre Degree Is Important

In celebration of California Arts Education Week (Sep 8-14), this week’s posts will all focus on arts education.

Today’s post, from Backstage.com on April 13, was written by Harvey Young, a professor of theater at Northwestern University. In the post, he shares his thoughts on three reasons a theater degree is important:

1) Theater is a business.

2) The business of theater is good preparation for other careers.

3) Social importance and salary do not always correlate.

Click here to read what he has to say.

For more information about California Arts Education Week, click here.