Interview Series: Learning From the Masters

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I attended a workshop a couple of weeks ago with four-time Tony nominated, American musical theatre singer and actress, Victoria Clark. I was so inspired by her teaching style, presence, and class. There were a few things that stood out to me which I believe are applicable for our lives and business.
#1 Embrace the Detours
Victoria worked with a student from Carnegie Mellon who was clearly well trained and committed to his craft. However, his performance felt “staged” and disconnected. When Victoria asked him how he had prepared for this class, he stated that he had carefully mapped out each measure and arc of his performance. Victoria reminded him that in theater, as in life, it is the truly talented who have studied, practiced and perfected their craft so they can be present with their audience and fellow cast members. This presence allows for ANYTHING and embraces what is in the moment. This way of acting allows for play with the unexpected.

Her instruction was timely as I considered where my business has taken me over the last couple of years. I have made a few big decisions over time that were great lessons, but not great profit generators. I was also reminded of several of my clients who have experienced similar unexpected detours. In truth, this is our temporal life, a series of detours which seem to interrupt our best made plans. It is in these moments where the seeds of opportunity lie. There is a way of being that allows us to release our attachment to what we believed was in our best interest, honor what is, and seek for continued internal wisdom and guidance to take the next step.

Buddhism supports this idea- “Attachment is the root of suffering.” Most high functioning executives create practices and systems to help manage their day to day lives and businesses, including meditation, study, exercise, sales conversations, team building, team management, operational decisions, etc. These are all tactical skills that I help my clients with. What we can’t predict and plan for is the ultimate final outcome. And it has been my experience that the greatest opportunities are often the result of the detour.

#2 Know Yourself
Another student was a Junior at Julliard. The rigors of his music studies had helped him fine tune his vocal instrument. From a classical performance perspective, he was a master. But on this day he was asked to step into a musical theater role as an actor and vocalist. His interpretation and connection to the material was far more important than his technique. In the moment, he was the translator of art and prose for his audience. The power and impact was in his delivery. Who he was as a committed, talented, and trained artist didn’t change. He simply had to access that part of his soul and purpose that demonstrated trust as he guided the audience on their journey.

In life and business we often ask the question, “What does my target market need?” The deeper question is what do you need? What do you need to show up fully and authentically? What do you need to inspire you to do your best work? What needs have presented in your life that you had to find solutions for? What solutions were effective? How did those challenges and opportunities inform who you are and how you show up today?

Taking the time to self-examine, frequently, with the help of a peer, advisor, or trusted friend is something many of the executives I work with find to be the single greatest discipline that pays the biggest dividends. This can help inform how you lead your teams, who you target to work with so you only work with ideal clients, and to increase your satisfaction level in life and business. This introspection will inform your ability to effectively communicate and help your clients create amazing results.

#3 Release Yourself
As Victoria worked with another student, she asked the student to connect with the audience through music as if her audience lives depended on it. The only way to do this was to release her belief in being separate from her audience and give herself to them fully. This required vulnerability and trust that she knew her role, she was prepared, and that she was ready to play with the audience. This practice has shown up in my life in so many ways over time. Raising 10 children – okay they raised me – has taught me that I have to be fully present and release attachment to any specific outcome; otherwise, I miss out on opportunities to join with them and stand in the highest level of love and service.

In business, I have learned that I am at my highest good when I release myself from any preconceived expectations of how things need to be and show up prepared for the moment of connection. When I began my practice 13 years ago I showed up to my clients with a blank yellow pad and an open mind, trusting that our combined training and experiences would help us find the right answers for their lives and businesses. In an age when everyone is pushing a package and program, I started to forget the power of being in the moment. I was led to believe that my clients wanted MY program. Over the last year, I have found myself returning to my roots of showing up with an openness and trust that at a deep level my client knows what is in their best interest. All I need to do is show up willing to walk the journey and support them. 30 years in corporate, executive management provided all the skills. All I need do now is pair my willingness with my client’s and the tools, skills, and path forward will be obvious.

So, embrace the detour. Find the lesson. Be gentle on yourself and others. Keep putting one step in front of the other. Never, ever give up!

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