On my way to work this morning, I stopped at a street blocked off by emergency vehicles, and saw first responders giving CPR to someone in the small park nearby. I turned off my radio as I sat at the light, next to yet quite part of this scene taking place. I was struck by the contrast between the urgency in the movements of the emergency crew and the slow strolling of the tourists who happened to be approaching the park, not knowing what was happening just a few yards away.
We know what’s going on in our own heads, and that’s about it. What would it mean to broaden our scope of awareness, to wonder what is happening with others, to develop deep curiosity about the perspectives and experiences of people who are different from us? We can never know what’s happening down the block, out of sight. But we can work to truly see and hear those around us.
It’s Election Day in the United States, and that calls for some good old fashioned deep breaths. Fortunately, Neela has your back–
There’s a big misconception about what actors do. It’s this: some people think that the actor’s job is to feel feelings, when the actor’s job is actually to do something that makes the audience feel feelings.
What can actors do? Aren’t they just saying lines someone else wrote?
Yes. This is why acting is so freaking amazing and kinda magical, and it’s a super-specialized craft. Actors look at those words on the page, and they figure out what their character needs, what they want, what their desires are, and most importantly, what change they are trying to make in the other people onstage.
I’m telling you this because it’s true of all human communication. When we speak, we want something to happen. We want to be heard, to connect, to hurt, to inspire, to cajole, to persuade, to convince, to negate, to chastise, to invite, to ignite, to exhort, to cheer, to console, to admire, to rally, to negotiate, to assert our position…the list is endless.
Start noticing what you want to happen. Start thinking about how your communication is really operating. What are you already great at? What could be better?
I’m re-reading Cal Newport’s “Deep Work,” an accessible and forthright book about how you can—and why you should–forcibly abandon the distractions that keep you from doing your deepest and most valuable work.
One of the points he makes is that we need to set up our lives to accommodate this type of work. We have to train our minds and our habits to support times of extended focus on thinking, reading, and writing, and we have to do it because the world is clamoring for our attention.
Newport uses several examples of people who have made huge breakthroughs in science and art and other fields, and points out the rigorous schedules of deep work that they keep. Whenever this topic comes up, I think about Shakespeare. At this long remove from his life and times, when basically all we have is his body of work and a few biographical tidbits, it’s easy to label him a genius (and he was.) But “genius” is a cop-out. What Shakespeare had was a talent for writing and a whole bunch of bills—he made his living as a writer. He couldn’t wait for genius; he had to sit down and churn out the pages. Without the script, the play wouldn’t go up on time, and he wouldn’t get paid.
When we call someone a genius we are shortchanging their hard work and our own potential. What could we produce, given enough time and space to really immerse ourselves in our deep work? What is there, waiting to reveal itself once we get away from the pings and dings and open-office distractions?
I really recommend Cal Newport’s blog. Check it out here: http://calnewport.com/blog/