Winning the Prize

Are you tired of doing your best, and you or your Art still not being chosen?

Sometimes, it can be so devastating.

You put your heart into your work, hours and hours of effort, believing this will be IT.

You watch someone else
win the prize
get the award
book the gig
sell the art

And sometimes you want to scream,
Why isn’t it ME?
When is MY turn?

As  Artists, we know intimately that it’s not always about talent.  In fact, we can all think of several celebrities who have raging success to our complete disgust and confusion.

It just feels UNFAIR.

So, what do we do in that moment?

 

This past week, I spoke in front of 700 people at my coach’s big annual event, called The Zone.

I was one of 7 of her clients that was chosen for a Speak Off competition, where I could win $10K, for the best 4 minute talk.

The audience was deciding who the winner was.

I was OVER the moon for this opportunity and had only a week to prepare.  I actually had a really solid two minute talk to draw from and dove in with all kinds of cool ideas.

I decided to create a unique experience, and really put all of me into the talk, including using some small dance moves. I thought,
No one else is going to bring the stage what I do!

Have you ever felt that with your work?

I was convinced I would win, and was so excited for the chance to show up not only for my community in this way, but for all the people that were in attendance.

I wanted to make a difference.
I wanted to move the audience.
I practiced like crazy.
I asked for tons of feedback.
I performed it for several people.

And I was deeply passionate about the topic.

Ironically, the talk was about releasing competition and the radical effect this had on my life as an Artist…..

Yes, I was in an actual competition talking about the fact that we really only thrive when we RELEASE competition.

Definitely a head trip.

So, the big day came, and the talk was a HUGE hit.  The crowd roared, and then when the voting was done at the end, my coach said,

It’s a TIE!

So, I had to stand up there with the other speaker and be voted on again.

The crowd roared for us both, but my coach had seen the applause meter, and squeezed me around the arms, saying,
Nikol….

For a  moment, I thought,
This is IT!

And then she said,
We love you.  It’s not you.

I felt like I was in the end of the musical A Chorus Line, and hugged the other speaker and then stood on the sidelines while I watched her jump with glee and sign the huge check for $10K.

I heard my coach saying,
There always has to be a winner

And I could feel years and years of “not being chosen” for shows and roles I wanted so desperately rising in me.

My stomach turned into knots, and I clapped, and then exited the stage.

I had done my best, and it didn’t win the prize.

Have you ever felt this?

 

When I came back to my seat in the audience, so many people started to come up to me, smiling with large eyes saying,

Thank you for your talk!
I’m an artist too…that meant so much
You made me cry
That was incredible
I wanted you to win
I love dance!

The response was consistent, and it went on for two days, people coming up to me at the event sharing how my talk made them feel, and thanking me.

I stopped and LISTENED.

And I went back to my original intention,
I wanted to move the audience

In the midst of my disappointment, I was faced time and again with evidence that I actually had been SEEN.

My work was acknowledged and so many artists resonated with the talk.

So, while I didn’t win “the prize”, I did win.  I spoke to the largest crowd ever in my speaking career, and showed up the way I wanted to.

I truly did my best. In fact, I was “chosen” by hundreds that day.
And doing the talk, opened up a new thought,

Perhaps my $10K is coming another way….

And what about you?

What is the “prize” you are striving for in your Art?
Have you decided there is only ONE way it will appear?

So many artists become “overnight successes” after years in the business.

Why?

Because they don’t stop.
Because they don’t let rejection stop them.
Because they keep going, and recognize that there WILL be disappointments along the way.

That big check is waiting for you.  And it will come by staying in the game.

It will come by placing your focus on where your wins are TODAY, and staying connected to your audience.

Release the competition, and come back to your vision of what you want.  Take a breath.  LISTEN to what your audience is saying and asking for.

Stay on the stage and in the game, so they can find you.

Because, the truth is, they truly want what you have.

Your turn comes when you decide it’s coming regardless.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

The Zen of Art

You Need Meditation

The voice was pretty clear and distinct.

I was in tech for a production of A Christmas Carol out in Salt Lake City, and my life was falling apart.  My husband had just flown out and told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. I thought we were going to spend the holiday trying to have a baby, not end our 19 year relationship.

You can imagine, I was in a LITTLE bit of shock.

I had been practicing yoga for a while, and it was at the end of my practice, that the voice came in.

I had never had a meditation practice, and honestly, wasn’t even sure what it really meant.

All I knew was I was in a ton of pain, and I needed something new.  Something was missing.

Clearly, something needed to change.  I felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.

Have you felt this?
What do you do when life seems to cut you off from your Art?

Somehow I was getting through my performances, but felt like I was moving through a terrible nightmare.  I didn’t feel connected to my art.

All I felt was fear.

You can imagine, my performance career came to a grinding halt.

 

Two months later, once I had returned to NYC, and the divorce was under way, I went and took my first yoga class.

The holidays had been the worst time of my life, opening presents with a man who didn’t love me anymore, and I hadn’t been on the mat in weeks.  Today, I was starting to take the reins back on my life and what I wanted moving forward.

I went to the library with the intention to buy a book on Meditation.  Here we go!

A title caught my eye, and I pulled it out and opened to randomly read.

It was as if every word was jumping off the page, saying,
YES!

The biggest surprise was I actually had picked up a book on Tibetan Buddhism, not meditation.

Wait….I came here today looking for meditation…

This simple book (which I devoured in days, underlining and dog earring) opened the door to a whole new search, and I began to explore different Buddhist centers in the city.

Who knew I was actually seeking Buddhism?  Apparently I did…I just hadn’t heard it until NOW.

I tried many of them, and while all were helpful in some way, none seemed to feel like HOME.

Something was still missing.

Until I took an intro to Zen Training weekend up at Zen Mountain Monastery. I woke before the sun to meditate with many others in this beautiful monastery, the ceiling rising high above me.

In the stillness and dark of the early morning, as I counted my breath, tears began to fall. Tears of recognition, and tears of sweet relief.  This is what my body had been calling for.  THIS is what was missing.

A way to work with my mind.
An experience of true space.
The ability to actually HEAR what is rising and falling.

And the tools to let go.

I had gone through a career of holding on for dear LIFE my expectations, my perfectionism, and comparing myself constantly to other performers. And now, as I had NO control of the immense loss of my marriage, I was being given the tools I needed to face it.

And actually they were the tools I needed all along.

I just wasn’t listening to my body’s messages.

 

What are you holding on to?

What is your body calling for to help you become the Artist you truly want to be?

Can you even hear it?

In that moment of absolute pain, there was NO denying what I needed. I certainly didn’t think it was going to turn into becoming a Zen practitioner, but once I found the practice, my whole life fell into place.

I had a complete resurgence in my performance career.
I found the work I REALLY wanted to be doing as an Artist, and launched ZenRedNYC.
I built a business from scratch, doing work I love that makes more money than ever before.

I now could HEAR what I needed.

In having a practice that connected me to my breath and the present moment, my whole outlook changed.

We can so often get caught in the static,

No one wants your work
Artists have to starve
Making money is selling out
Claiming the spotlight is selfish

There is so much JUNK out there that we take in, on a daily basis not only from fellow colleagues who want you to join their pity party, but from parents, society, and the news.

What’s the answer?

SILENCE.

All that junk?  It’s just noise.  And it’s not helping you move forward and step into your full creative power. The junk is keeping you stuck and filling your airwaves with confusion.

If you are feeling something’s missing, then you haven’t had the clear open space to really hear what you need.

Today, you can begin to incorporate one of the most important tools as an Artist,
CURIOSITY.

So, take a moment today, and sit down for 5 minutes. Close your eyes, and come into your body.

Place your attention on your breath.

And from this experience of SPACE, simply ask,

What is it I most need?

It’s all inside.

Create the space, so you can hear.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography