Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Are you afraid your audience will Boo you?
Do you find yourself in front of your audience tongue tied, dry mouthed, and so nervous on how you will be received?

Do you find yourself working on your projects again and again, hoping it will actually work and be adored?

You look at other artists and performers who seem to have the Midas Touch, where everything they release is a HIT!

How the HECK do they do that?

Our audience can feel so elusive….have you ever felt like this?

What would be possible for you, if you really knew?
How would it feel to look into your audience’s eyes and see not only joy, but that you have moved them?

 

Alright Rogers, you’ve got the floor.

1969, Fred Rogers was testifying in front of a Senate committee, headed up by the very gruff, Senator Pastore.

The future of PBS lay on the table.

Nixon wanted to cut public funding, and $20 Million dollars was at stake.  With this, PBS could continue it’s programming.  Without it, it would disappear.

Senator Pastore had spent the last two days closed off, unconvinced, and PBS had saved their most valuable speaker until the end, Fred Rogers.

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood had been on the air for over a year and was radically different than all the other children’s programming. Instead of cartoons showing violence, and pies in the face, Fred Rogers was writing and performing content that dealt with much larger issues, like childhood anger, and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

Fred began to speak, and share what made his program different.

Our show is about a Neighborhood expression of care, helping each child to realize he is unique.  At the end of every show, I say, “You’ve made this day a special day, just by being you.  There’s no one else in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

If we, in Public Television can only make it clear that Feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.

I think it’s much more dramatic to show two men working out their feelings, much more dramatic than gunfire.

Senator Pastore had become transfixed, quiet, and a change was occurring over his face.

He was softening.

He was listening.

Fred then shared the lyrics to a song he wrote called,
What do you do with the ‘Mad” you feel?

And then he spoke,
I’m supposed to be a pretty touch guy and this is the first time I’ve had goose bumps in the last two days.  You just got your $20M.

 

Why was Fred Rogers able to turn the tide when other men had not?
What was different in his performance?

In 1969, it was not common to have a grown man talking about feelings, and talking about self acceptance.

But, this was absolute truth for Fred.

He was CLEAR.
He knew WHAT he was talking about.
He believed deeply in what he was standing for.

Fred Rogers had great conviction, but he also had great respect. He never spoke down to the Senator, and included him the entire time he was speaking with him.

But, the piece that resonated most was WHAT he was speaking about.

Humanity.

He wasn’t trying to be clever or pull tricks. Fred wasn’t making something up on the spot, he was prepared.

He looked at Senator Pastore and spoke to him, not as someone on a pedestal…but just as another human being.

For years, as a performer, I would give all of my power to my audience. I would place their opinion over mine, put them on a pedestal, and meekly HOPE what I was presenting was worthy.

Where did this get me?
Years of frustration, resentment, and feeling like I wasn’t enough.

The incessant voice of
Will they like me? was exhausting.

Without even realizing it, my deep desire of approval was actually putting up a wall and repelling the very people I wanted to connect with the most.

Everything turned around when I placed the audience on the same level. I felt joyful because I now experienced my audience as equal.

In truth, we have so much more in common than differences with our audience.

I imagine when Senator Pastore heard the song about dealing with anger, he was recognizing how that was alive in him.

Because this is what our audience does….they look for what you SHARE. They are listening to every word, every note, reading every word to see,
Is this like me?

Because underneath it all, we really want to BELONG.

And Art allows that.

Your stories
Your talks
Your music
Your dance
Your paintings
Your photography

It brings you AND your audience to a place of belonging.

Or as Fred Rogers said,
An expression of care.

 

So, where are you placing your audience?
How would it feel to be on the same level and just SHARE what you have in common?

When you transform from within, your audience will do the same.

This is when they will be WITH you, and your confidence soars.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

This feels much better.

The Flood

The Fire Chief is in my driveway.

Water is pouring down the black macadam like a river, and rain is pounding on the windows of my house.

Flashing red lights bounce off my living room walls, as I stare out at the street, water levels rising.

It’s a flood.

I’m home alone, and call my fiance to make sure he is ok, and to let him know our street has been closed. When I go outside I see three cars halfway submerged, being towed onto a flat bed truck.

This wasn’t even in the forecast today.

It was a complete surprise, a flash flood, with three systems that are dumping an immense amount of water.

I feel unsettled, shocked, concerned for those drivers…..I look up at my house on the hill, and think,
Everything is ok, right?
The water is draining, so we are safe.

I head back inside to take care of some clients, and then go down into the basement, and as I turn on the light switch, I see the bulb reflected in a pool…..a stream of water running alongside the wall…..

Oh no…..

I start moving everything I can into the center of the room, and realize the corners of the carpets are soaked.

I grab towels, cloths….and my mind is racing,
I thought we were safe from flooding
Will this ruin our plans to make the basement a safe living space?

I could feel myself paralyzed for a moment, standing in the middle of the basement, holding a garbage bag, and not sure what to do next.

This is all new for me.
I’ve never owned a house before…..just apartments in the NYC.

Have you ever felt this; the moment of overwhelm when you are in a new situation and don’t know what to do?

How do you handle it, especially when it’s something you’ve always wanted?
Something you’ve been waiting for a long time?

Isn’t everything supposed to go smoothly once you get what you want?

Once you get your
Netflix Original Show
Your TED Talk
Your NY Times Bestseller
Your Sold Out Performance

Isn’t the flood leading UP to the payoff, not AFTER?

 

I’ve always wanted to live in a house.

I grew up in a military household, where we moved around a lot, every 1-3 years.  I used to love going into furniture stores as a child, and imagine picking out furniture for my house.

I had no say in where we lived, or what house we lived in, and certainly no say in how many times it changed.  So, there was an enormous thrill when I moved to NYC and rented my first apartment.

Through all my time in NYC, I held the vision of moving outside the city, starting a family, and living in a house; one I would settle down in.  I loved the city, but was clear I wanted to raise a family outside the noise and cramped spaces of the big apple.

I remember seeing when they announced the location for the 2012 Olympics and thinking,
I’ll be in a house with kids at that time!

Instead, I was unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant and in the last months of my marriage.

Time passed on, I moved into the smallest living space I had experienced, 300 square feet, and kept that vision alive.

Living in a house and starting a family.

I never imagined it would take five years to happen, and yet, when I met my fiance, I almost laughed out loud that he came with a house.

Here it was.
What I wanted!

I moved in, and then the education began.

We had to replace the washing machine
We had to replace the dryer
We needed to put in a new kitchen floor
We had to put in a whole new AC unit when it died unexpectedly
And the list goes on…….and on……

The little girl who used to skip around the furniture stores was so confused.  Is this home ownership?

Why do I feel even more uncertain?

 

We can work so hard on our Art.

We see the vision of what we want, and we spend all our time making it happen,
the promotions
the networking
honing our technique and craft

And then when we get to the next level, where we are starting to experience acclaim…..it just seems like there’s a WHOLE new level of things to do!

You may need to hire a team, agents or publicists, and begin doing interviews.

And really the feeling we want is,
SAFETY

I wanted a house for so long, but the truth is, I had NO idea what it would be like until I was actually LIVING it.

And trust me, I like to know as much as possible BEFORE I enter a situation:)  Can you relate?

Now I’m getting a crash course in duct systems, gardens, waterproofing, and french drains.

I didn’t know about these before, because I didn’t need to.  They weren’t applicable to my old life.
And now they are.

Because my vision wasn’t just to have a house, but a SAFE home, one that will nourish and feed my family to be; One that will nourish and feed me.

I got the house, and now I’m learning how to make it safe.

So, what is important to your vision where you are NOW in your Art?

What is possible if you opened to what you need to learn?
What will allow you to feel SAFE as you grow to the next level of exposure and acclaim?

When we can come back to a Student mentality, or a Beginner’s Mind, it removes the judgment that we are wrong, or stupid.

Which you are not:)

You’re just experiencing something new!
And that can be scary.

 

So, come back to what will HELP you in the flood.
Who do you need on your team?
What is the new skill to help you at this level?

This is a sign of growth. And it’s in growth that anything is possible.

The waters will recede, and next time the flood comes, you will know what to do.

Feeling safe, and floating in the waves……