10 Daily Tools to Survive and Thrive
“The artist committing themself to their calling has volunteered for hell, whether they know it or not. They will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” -Steven Pressfield, THE WAR OF ART
In 2013 I was miserable, working as a management consultant, cropping screenshots for some user manual that no one was ever going to read. I googled “how to become a stand-up comedian.” A week later I did my first set - it was three minutes in the dingy basement of a bar in San Francisco. Two things happened after that three minutes:
The FBI was on my tail because I bombed so hard
I committed myself as an artist, and officially volunteered for hell
For the next 6+ years, it was a steady diet of exactly what Mr. Pressfield mentioned: isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt and humiliation.
And over those 6+ years, here’s what that diet manifested into:
fractured relationships due to anger, resentment and low self-esteem
an OCD tic where I pulled my hair out due to crippling anxiety
going broke, paying my rent on credit cards and racking up 100k in debt
an addiction to unhealthy forms of validation due to constant rejection
one failure after another from blizzards of negativity and self-doubt
And this all happened while I was booking work, getting repped, training at my craft, networking and seemingly doing all the right things on paper. But the reason any form of happiness still evaded me, was because I was only caring for my professional resume and not caring for myself.
Through therapy, meditation retreats, healthy relationships, being of service, making fun of my good pal Lee Aronsohn, and adopting books like The War of Art and The Artist's Way as my bibles - I’ve developed a list of 10 daily tools to build my self-esteem so I can still focus on committing to my art, but also my mental and emotional well-being.
The SECOND I wake up, I smile. Sure I might’ve just had a vivid nightmare about creating a show and it bombed miserably (with those same FBI agents back on my tail). But I smile anyway! Why? I woke up another day with the chance to do what I love. THAT’S something to smile about.
Smiling = positivity/happiness. Frowning = negativity/sadness. If the first thing I do in the morning is smile, it sets a positive tone for my day. If I wake up not feeling great, you better believe I’m adopting that “fake it til you make it” mentality.
So if you get the sniffles? Smile. Get some notes on your pilot you don’t like? Smile. A casting director says the part isn’t right for you? Instead of a middle finger, throw on that ear-to-ear grin because it’ll keep you happy, healthy, and focused on the next opportunity.
2) Make Your Bed
As a teen I hated making my bed. I saw it as a waste of time. I was just going to get back in it later and mess it up again - so what was the point?!
How about a sense of accomplishment, pride, encouragement, and motivation?
Admiral William McRaven expressed this in his inspiring 2014 commencement speech. McRaven talks about mastering the small tasks before we can conquer the larger ones. If “write 10 pages” is on my to-do list, it can seem like a daunting task. But after crossing off “smile” and “make bed,” I’ve already accomplished two things, and again, I’ve set a positive tone for the day. And even if I can’t get to the full 10 pages, at least I still accomplished SOMETHING that day, which keeps my self-esteem up to jump back into it the next day.
Think about some other small tasks you can do first before the you tackle the large ones:
clean your workspace
organize your closet
scale Everest (ha, kidding! This is more of a medium task)
Then also start small creatively:
write that first page
then the fifth page
then the tenth
then the 100th page
then the 1000th
then hire me as your assistant after you win your third Emmy
I was an expert in negative self-talk. PROFICIENT. FLUENT. My negative self-talk monologues could’ve won me negative self-talk Oscars. It took me years to realize that the words I was using around my body had an impact on all areas of my life.
Francis Ford Coppola said, “I don’t think there’s any artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.”
Self-doubt in our work seems to come with the territory for creators. But it doesn’t need to define us. Positive affirmations change our inner dialogue and reprogram our mind to help us vigorously combat self-doubt and negative self-talk. Because those are the stakes when it comes to committing to our craft - it has to be all-out combat in order to prosper.
Tons of creators have been known to use affirmations to attract success. J-Lo is all about that affirmation-life. I mean come on - we’re talkin’ J-LO, people! A freakin’ octuple threat. So in early January I created this “Daily Affirmations” video for creators. Read them, write them, say them out loud, and as a reward I’ll drop a new one on our YouTube channel every month. If you want to take your affirmation work to the next level, scope out this article and follow these 5 steps.
In 2013, in that dingy basement in San Francisco, I committed to becoming a creator and willingly signed up for hell. But now, I’m also committed to my self-care. And these tools have served as my water, fire-proof suit, and homemade “I’m here to stay” cookies as an F.U. to the devil.
Why am I sharing this? The same reason you’ll share this with another creator:
“The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration.” -Steven Pressfield, THE WAR OF ART
(Oh, and don’t pay for your rent on a credit card. That shit never works out well.)
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of our ‘Self-Care for Creators’ blog on Feb. 9. Think a fellow creator can benefit from this? Be a pal and share the good vibes.
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