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.

Wild Creativity

Into the Wild

Are we on the lonely side
Are we so lost in the dark of our hearts
That there’s no light of day

Somebody left the gate open
You know we got lost on the way
Come save us a runaway train
Gone insane

How do we not fade
How do we not fade away

Into the wild
How are we living living living
Into the wild
How are we living living living

My ears fill with LP’s soaring voice of her song, “Into the Wild”, as I stare out the window of the Airtrain, smoothly gliding along the rails towards Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport.  I’m going to Peru.

And I’ve decided this will be my theme song.

I’m going to a new place.  One I’ve never been to, unknown.  Temperatures ranging from high 20’s to low 70’s, altitudes up to 14,000 feet, ancient Incan ruins…..rising mountain ranges, and an indigenous culture that survives in harsh conditions.

And birds…hundreds of them.  Birds I’ve never seen before of all shape and sizes, with long tail feathers, piercing calls, and wingspans up to 11 feet.

As I lift off from my life in NYC, and the schedule, calendar, and to-do’s….LP’s words ring in my ear.

Into the Wild.

 

How ARE we living?

As Artists and Creatives, we have something to say.  We have a story to share, an expression to put out to the world, and the question arises,

How are we LIVING?

Our Creativity is not separate from our lives, and most of all, not separate from our mindset and perspective.  If we are to leave a legacy, in the form of our art, words, and work, are we doing that in a way that is sustainable?

Your passion and message has a purpose.  When you share your story, it opens the door for your audience to do the same.  When you have the courage to step forward with honesty, it reads.  Your audience can tell.  They can also tell if you are lying, or creating your work based on what you think you “should” say, or what others are saying.

When we think of iconic celebrities and change-makers, there is usually a commonality.

Their uniqueness.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Beyonce, Oprah.  They are not afraid to share their struggles, their vulnerabilities, and their power.  And each of them are doing it from a place of honesty.

You may even call this WILD.

And as their audience?  We experience absolute magic, believing this is possible for ourselves.  We are inspired, and a loop is created that initiates our work that is then seen by our audience.

And it goes on and on….

Imagine if what you created, what you said, and put out to the world helped someone else to get out of bed?  Just like the song, or book, or speech that motivated you to pursue your dreams?

In this way, we never fade.  We are actually stepping INTO the Creative flow that is happening every minute.  And feeding from a source that sustains, not destroys.

When we isolate as Creatives, we become lost.  We are cutting ourselves off from our greatest source and ultimately our audience.

That runaway train will derail you.

So, how are you Living?

 

My ears fill with LP’s soaring voice, as the Airtrain glides along the rails away from JFK airport and heads towards the E train to take me back to my home in Queens.

My face is sun kissed from the altitudinal Andes light, and my backpack filled with a new list of 181 species of birds I’ve seen. My mind full of Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, and Cusco City.  In my suitcase, my hiking boots still carrying the dirt from ancient ruins….traveling from centuries ago in Peru to present day NYC.

I had left for Peru ready to relax, feeling the pinch of my tight schedule and many obligations, ready to step into an environment I didn’t know.  One where I was going to meet new people,and spend time with family.

I felt I was “flying”, setting myself free from my NYC life for a week, heading into a Wild setting.   

As I looked out over the New York skyline, I remembered standing in the early morning up on the Abra Malaga pass in Peru.  It was freezing, and the mountains rose on all sides of us.

Except for this break, where two mountains sloped down.

Within the break, clouds were dissipating as the sun rose, and my eyes caught a silhouette against the white, soaring.  This was the largest bird I had ever seen, and I pointed it out to the guide who identified it immediately.

The Andean Condor.

With a wing span of 11 feet, it glided easily and I couldn’t take my binoculars off its magic.  I had never seen one in the wild before.  This was a first.

Regal, expansive, and beautiful.

I was inspired, and I knew this magnificent creature would make it’s way into my writing, into my story.  I could even feel my own shoulders flexing, the wings underneath remembering their ability to fly.

Remembering MY ability to fly.

I had thought that LP’s song would just be a theme for the trip to Peru, but as I turned the key in my apartment, I had a new thought, one that included where I was headed next.

Into the Wild.

Every day.  Here in NYC, here in my writing, here in my offering, and here with you.

How are we living, living, living……….