Rising to the Top

Do you feel like the “good guy” finishing last in your Art?
Do you watch others rise to the top, achieving stardom, who are essentially egomaniacs?

Why do THEY succeed, and you feel like you are barely being noticed?

You come to your Art from the deepest part of you, desiring to evoke change and emotion.  You want to make a difference in this crazy world, amongst so much current turmoil and pain.

Meanwhile the latest Transformers movie is raking in millions of dollars.
A song about killing and violence is top of the charts
Shady Artists are getting the record contract, movie deal, and gallery opening….

And it can be really easy to start going down the rabbit hole of,
Is this the ONLY way to make it today?
Is this what it takes to stand out from the crowd?

How do you stay in integrity with your Heart, and actually receive the acclaim you desire?

Are these two mutually exclusive?

It certainly can feel like that……

 

This week I watched a dear friend and colleague suffer.  She entered a contest where she created results that were astronomical.  She came to this contest with a pure heart, and pure intentions.

But her competition used bribery.
Her competition used dirty tactics.

And her competition won.

I found myself re-living so many moments of absolute frustration from my performance career.  I watched fellow performers rise to Broadway stardom, and behind the scene they were ungrateful, complaining, and in some extreme cases, were abusive.

I remembered a dancer who joined the Evita National Tour who showed up drunk and high for work.
I remembered a middle aged character man who sexually harassed several chorus women in my show, at a very highly respected regional theatre, and WASN’T fired.

How did we get there at the same time?

Did it matter WHO I was being, and HOW I showed up?

I found this week really coming into contact with a very strong need,
INTEGRITY

And I began to remember several other stories of success,

The Broadway star who welcomed me to his dressing room and posed for a silly picture.
The Acclaimed Director who shared stories of her children and gave me freedom to play in rehearsal.
The TV/Film star who shared his story with my whole tribe, offering free teaching and mentoring.

And I remembered sitting in a healing circle five years ago, my hands shaking as I wept, sharing my own story of shame and vulnerability and being shocked to the core when in this state, something truly special happened….

I wasn’t rejected. The group moved closer. And I experienced what I had been WANTING to experience all along,

CONNECTION.

I let the walls come down, and realized there had been a part of me I had kept hidden.  I kept it hidden behind blame, complaining, and comparison.

And I had a complete resurgence of my performance career.

The biggest difference?
HOW I FELT.

Tapping into this allowed me to build a whole new life from scratch, and build a business.  It allowed me to become the decision maker after years of feeling like my career and Art were completely out of my control. I wasn’t asking permission from the casting directors, or agents……I realized I actually had the power all along.  It took letting down the walls to see this.

I came into contact with HOW I wanted to succeed.

HOW I wanted to show up.

I was clear I wanted to affirm not only my life, but the lives of every Artist out there, as many as I could reach and touch.

It became clear I wanted to affirm you.

 

Indeed, there are going to be Artists out there who rise to the top without integrity.

But my question will always be, for how long?
Is that sustainable?

Our industry is filled with suicides, addiction, and misplaced obsessions.  There are so many Artists who have no idea who they are, they are so busy chasing an image or an idea….which is why they suffer so deeply and after a quick flame, burn out fast.

So, the power lies with YOU.

WHO do you want to be?
HOW do you want to show up?

Turns out, you don’t have to rise to the top one way.

You can rise in a way that affirms life FOR you and FOR your audience.

Take a moment, and ask yourself deeply,
What does SUCCESS mean for me?

 

Now create and connect to that every day.

Surround yourself with evidence and give yourself the support you need. We were never meant to do this alone.

You can create Art that rises to the top, and do this in a way that feels good; free, joyous, and full of connection.

Clarify how you want to show up, and watch your audience roll in.

I see your light, and it’s brilliant.

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

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