Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Importance of Being Happy For Others

The entertainment industry is competitive to say the least. You always have to be on top of your game. Someone is always prettier, younger, a better singer, a more skilled dancer, funnier, a more awesome wordsmith, you name it. That is why it is important to know who you are and have a good attitude. That brings me to another matter, the journey. You work for that moment in time. Sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes it comes slowly. As you sweat away at the odd jobs you wonder when will it happen?

As I said for some it happens quickly. Sometimes they are at the right place at the right time. Whether they have a certain look, are a part of the hottest ethnic trend (especially true in comedy), or just have the right connections it seems like it falls into their lap. Sometimes it happens slowly. There are people, especially character actors and comedians, who slave for years unknown in theatres and live on the poverty line until they are almost forty. Suddenly we talk about how awesome they are. Am I repeating myself? Yes. I am making a point.

When it happens quickly for some, or seemingly so, it can be easy to fall into the trap of jealousy. It not only denotes a lack of gratitude, but also takes away the focus from you and your goals. I remember several years ago, as it seemed everyone's career was taking off and mine was not, I found myself saying some awful things about others who were "making it" on comedian car trips. The convo started where someone brought up a guy who got something and we ragged on him as a good looking douche bag. We never talked about how we worked hard touring most of the year and was living out of his car. Or we talked about a hottie who wore next to nothing that was on TV a lot. We never spoke about her work ethic or the fact she never took no for an answer. We wanted to hate. It put the focus on them and took the focus off of us and our shortcomings.

Then things started to happen for me. Some of it was luck. Much of it was hard work. I found my fellows, people I once called friends, turn on me. Some showed their true colors by sharing their feelings about me anonymously online. Others would smile to my face but as soon as they believed I was out of ear shot they would gossip. Then there were those who stopped speaking to me in general. These were people I shared car rides with, or kvetched about how the business was giving us all the short end of the stick. Now they were strangers when they saw me. Finally, there were those who went right for the jugular. Once I came to an open mic and made an off the cuff comment and someone who had once been a friend bit my head off to the point where I was near tears. Another time I mentioned to someone I had too many facebook friends and she replied, "The more friends on facebook the less friends in real life." Another friend if you will. Suddenly I found myself alone, angry, and wondering why this was happening.

I got a worse dose of kharma. Someone who I had gossiped viciously about came to my defense and sought me out to tell me how proud she was of not only my career, but where I was going. Then it occurred to me. If I wanted people to be happy for me, I had to learn to be happy for others. Not only because it was good energy,  but I knew how it felt when people were mean and nasty in response to my success.

So here are some things you need to remember, and it will help you be happy for others.

1. You never know how hard someone had to work or what someone had to go through prior to what they achieved. Despite outward appearances, they may have a hellacious backstory. They may have escaped an abusive husband, terrible childhood, lived in a car. Or they might have worked hard, busting their behinds and working their fingers to the bone paying their dues in ways you could never imagine. So they might not just deserve this. They might triple deserve this. Envy is not only arrogant, but it shows a total lack of general awareness.

2. Say they did just get lucky. Luck eventually runs out. Just remember every dog has their day. And just as that dog is having their day, you will too soon enough.

3. Everyone's path is different. The way I explain this to young people is during the race everyone starts at the same place. However, eventually everyone goes to different lanes in the race. Some people continue performing. Others work behind the scenes. Some become writers. Then there are those who become managers and club owners. The beautiful part is, if you continue to run the race and focus on your own game, everyone who finishes the race ends up working together.

4. They may have worked for this particular thing. Yes, sometimes people get breaks and we are like, what! Well if they have been singing since they were little and get a record contract, they worked for it. If they have been auditioning for years for a Broadway show and book a role, they worked for that. If they have been slaving away in the comedy clubs for years and book a TV special. They worked for that. Yes, they earned it. This was their gift. Get over it and move on.

5. Not Every Break Is For You. While it would be awesome to be right for every job that comes your way, it just ain't going to happen. A few years ago a classmate of mine from college was in a Tyler Perry flick. It was cool to see her on screen. But also, there was no way in hell I was even going to be scouted for that job. Another classmate of mine did a stunt job. Wasn't getting that one either. Just as they probably weren't going to be called for the puppet stuff. So concentrate on who you are and what you are good at.

6. This Might Be It For Them. Back in the day a girl I knew graduated high school early and got a national tour. I was pissed. Why not me? My mom told me that I should be happy, because this girl was probably reaching her peak. Yes, my mom was right. Soon after that tour, she worked in Disney, met her husband and got married. While she now sings in a corporate wedding band with her husband, she did not have the big Broadway career she was touted to have. So be happy for them, this might be their first and last.

7. Hocus Pocus Keep The Focus. Yes, focus on your own damn game. The more time you spend grinding your teeth and wishing for them to break both legs in a car crash in time taken away from achieving your goals and reaching where you need to be. Their game is their game. Yours is yours. Focus on yours. That is the only way to win.

8. It's A Marathon. Several years ago, it seemed like several people got things handed to them. Well when things got hard they decided this wasn't for them and quit. I also ran into several women who decided the path was to be a wife and mother instead of an artist. Bottom line, while someone might run out of the gate quick it doesn't mean they finish the race. Part of success is staying in the game. When you continue to show up and play, it will pay off.

9. Use Their Success To Inspire You. After writing my book, I remember seeing at Brown I was on the bookself next to Junot Diaz. At NYU I was next to Ophira Eisenberg. One won a MacArthur Fellowship. The other has a movie deal. In the old days I would have said, "Screw them both." Now I flip the script and say, "Look at who I am blessed to share shelf space with. Maybe I could do these amazing things too if I keep up the good work."

10. Jealousy Doesn't Have The Outcome You Want. Yes, bad mouthing that jiggle bunny in the low cut dress feels good. Or spreading the rumor that she got her record contract because she blew some dude feels better. But you also look like a total tool. Or doing something to ruin someone's efforts blows up in your face. Bottom line, jealousy is a terrible color and makes you look like a vicious troll that lives under a bridge.

Hope I helped

Follow your dreams and your heart

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

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