Monday Miscellany // 1

19th February 2018

Happy Monday! It’s my first Monday Miscellany.

I’m hoping to start up this new little series to get me posting more regularly. I often feel like I shouldn’t post unless I have something of Relative Importance™ to say, so I figure there’s no better way to face that feeling than by starting a series dedicated to writing about the small things that are making my life just a tiny bit more productive, enjoyable, or better.

Or, you know, also potentially just cute animal videos. What better way to start your week? Here we go!

A few things I’ve been into recently:

1. Roasted, salted pumpkin seeds.

Whenever I’m trying to ~eat better~ (re: not treat my body like various trash receptacles), I consume an ungodly amount of pumpkin seeds. In their little delicious seed coat. Pumpkin seeds satisfy my intense craving for salty snacks … and I get like, 20% of my fiber requirement in one serving!

2. Atlanta Monster

Podcasts are really having A Moment™ right now. It seems like every blogger and their mom has one. I listen to podcasts. You probably do, too.

I wouldn’t call myself a true crime podcast junkie; most of the podcasts I listen to are about music, politics, pop culture, or self-improvement. But there are a few in the genre that I’ve found really interesting/compelling.

On a recent trip home to Arkansas, I started listening to Atlanta Monster, which is an investigation into the Atlanta Child Murders of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I didn’t know anything about these events, so it’s been really informational for me on that point, but this podcast doesn’t stop at exploring case facts … it also delves into race relations in Atlanta during this time period. Very thought-provoking.

There are only ten episodes (seven of them are available right now) and the episodes are about an hour each, so it’s not a huge time investment. I find it really well-done and the editing really ups the thrill factor. Shout out to whoever wrote the music. A lot of true crime/investigative podcasts have some like, embarrassingly-weird soundtrack. Not this one.

Anyway, give it a listen. I really like it.

3. Plant Nanny

You know, for a singer, I sure have a hard time drinking enough water. Enter Plant Nanny: an app that allows me to game-ify my water consumption. Every time I drink water, I get to water my little virtual plant and it grows and it’s really cute. The app even reminds me when my plant is thirsty.

I am ashamed to say that since beginning to use Plant Nanny, I have killed my little virtual plant and have had to start over with a new one, but I can also say I have seen myself make a great effort to drink more water. And the days when I don’t drink water? I can really, really tell. HYDRATE YOURSELVES, EVERYONE.

Look! Technology! It’s helping us live our best lives!

4. Vegetable and Rice Casserole

During Advent, I decided to do this thing where I made a new recipe every week. This particular recipe was not one of the recipes I made over those four weeks, but cooking new things during that time reminded me just how much I love being in the kitchen and making something new.

I stumbled upon this veggie and rice casserole while I was logging my meals into MyFitnessPal and it was just the perfect thing for these weird mid-winter days. Warm and hearty and full of leafy greens.

Yes, I am that person who searches for “healthy casserole” recipes. You can take the girl out of the South but …

5. Lysol Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Y’all know it’s flu season.

So, there you have it, folks! I hope your Monday’s going swimmingly and you find all sorts of miscellaneous things to brighten your week. What sort of things have you been into recently?

Southern Fried Soprano - In medias res

In medias res

12th February 2018

Southern Fried Soprano - In medias res

Look, y’all, it’s 2018!

And where have I been? Rather than start by relaying everything I’ve missed or been doing, let’s just start where we are. Right in the middle of it. In medias res.

Did you know that overwhelm is a real thing? This is probably not news to you. Honestly, it’s not really news to me, either. I think we are all pretty overwhelmed by something in our lives. My overwhelm is probably a little bit different than yours. And that’s a verified Martha Stewart Good Thing™.

I think overwhelm is why I have avoided writing. What do I say? It’s going to take forever to catch everyone up on all the things I’ve done, seen, whatever. I’ve kind of been feeling that way since 2018 started. There’s so much to say. I’m overwhelmed.

I spend weeks or months kicking myself for not saying anything, knowing that I should say something, and then, for whatever reason, one day (and it turns out that this day is February 12th), I decide to just open up Notepad and start typing.

So, here I am. In medias res.

In some English class or another in school, we learned about narratives that started in medias res: works of literature that began in the middle of action or the events in the book. Past events and exposition are revealed in various ways, but you don’t experience those events in real-time.

For now, let’s just say this is a narrative that is beginning in medias res. Maybe I’ll explain what’s been going on, where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing … but let’s just start here, in the middle of the present, the now.

I look forward to writing even more frequently and voraciously as I realize that it’s not necessary to recount the past, but merely describe the present. I don’t have to go back and write a history.

I can live in the now.

In medias res.

Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash

I Apologized to My Harasser

21st September 2017

It’s 8:00 AM on a Wednesday. I have stumbled out of my apartment to walk my dog. I haven’t yet brushed my hair or my teeth. I’m wearing a Minions shirt (adorned with some very nice paint splatters from a show work day last year), yoga pants, and off-brand lime green Crocs. Clearly, I am a fashion plate.

My morning walk is often one of the most pleasurable parts of my day.

I put in my earbuds, switch on a podcast (NPR’s Up First is great to get me updated on the stories of the day), and walk. If we time it just right, Lily Munster and I can catch the ducks from the lake as they parade across the street to the house that always has breadcrumbs for them.

I was looking forward to my walk yesterday. And everything went just as it usually does. Earbuds were in, podcast was on, dog was walking and sniffing and doing all the things that dogs do.

As I walked along the edge of one of my apartment complex’s parking lots, a pickup truck pulls into a parking spot. Nothing out of the ordinary; I ignore it. People come into parking lots all the time.

But then I notice a man poke his head out of his driver’s side window and motion for me to remove my headphones. I do.

“Could you tell me where 603 is?” he asks.

I live in a different building, so I look around for the structure that has those numbers so I might be able to point him in that direction. My eyes search the buildings surrounding us. It couldn’t have taken more than five seconds.

“I’m just kidding you,” the man says.

I stare blankly back at the dude, unsure if he’s aware that he just made the Unfunniest Joke Known to Man™. I’m not particularly annoyed, just confused. Does the man think he’s funny? Why is he talking to me? How do I respond?

I force a laugh and begin to put my earbuds back in, but before I do, the man has something else to say.

“I was wondering if I could … see your tits?”

Nope. I heard wrong. No way. There is no way this guy just asked me to take my top off in a parking lot at 8:00 AM.

“What?” I ask, convinced that my ears are somehow deceiving me. But they weren’t deceiving me.

“Can I check out your tits?”

“No,” I flatly stated.

“Please?” the man asks.

“No. I’m sorry,” I replied.

And then I walked away and I didn’t look back.

In these moments, you always think you’re going to transform into Wonder Woman and use your Lasso of Truth to whip guys like this into shape. You imagine that you’d give them a piece of your mind. You’d tell them off.

I’ve done way more dangerous things than tell a dude off. 

But I didn’t tell him off. I apologized for not showing him my breasts. I actually said sorry to the creep who was sexually harassing me.

I apologized for being violated.

This is not the first time I have been sexually harassed or catcalled. I am, unfortunately, just as sure that it won’t be the last time. Things like this happen to women every day, in every possible place.

It happens on the street. It happens at the supermarket. It happens outside churches.

It even happens where you feel you might be safe, walking your dog in your apartment complex parking lot while wearing a paint-covered Minions t-shirt, gray yoga capris, and off-brand lime green Crocs.

It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t even matter if you say no.

I told a male friend later that night about my experience and he said, “Man, you don’t think guys like that really exist.”

But they do exist. They always have. And what’s more?

We’ve been telling you about them since time immemorial, and you didn’t believe us.

You didn’t want to believe we were lying, but … really, come on, who would actually do that, right? How could someone be so brazenly horrible? Seems like a big city problem. You’ve got to expect that kind of stuff in Chicago or New York City. Pretty sure that stuff just happens in movies.

Riddle me this: why would women lie about men being horrible to them? For sympathy? Why would I degrade myself for sympathy? Why would anyone do that? What possible benefit do I get from telling someone about being violated? Does a pile of money just drop into my lap? Do I get a star in my crown?

We aren’t lying and we aren’t exaggerating. This sort of thing happens all the time. It’s happened to probably almost every woman you know (although I wish I were wrong on that one). It happens in New York City, but it also happened to me in Wichita, Kansas. It happens to your little sister, your best friend, your mother. But it doesn’t matter who it happens to, because it’s wrong to happen at all.

Believe women when we tell you about our experiences. Believe that these men exist. Believe that there is so much work to be done to make the world safer for us.

I want to believe that I will never again have to apologize to my harasser for not giving in to his will, but I also know that my self-preservation instinct will do anything it can to keep me safe in this world.

Dear Internet, dear reader, dear anyone, please believe women. That’s all I ask. Believe us.

Questions Won’t Kill Opera, Unless We Don’t Ask Them

16th July 2017

Every few months, there’s a new panic about the state of opera.

We ask a lot of questions. Is it dying? Have we killed it? We attempt to diagnose the problem. Who (or what) is responsible?

Aging donors? Often archaic, over-the-top, un-relatable plots of standard repertory? Overhead costs for lavish productions that might rival the Baroque in scope? Language barriers?

And I suppose these are relevant, important, timely questions. Obviously, people (myself included, duh) have a lot invested in the genre. Performers, directors, designers, creatives of all sorts want meaningful work. Businesspeople want meaningful profits. We care deeply about these things. We want our art form to proliferate, to be fruitful, to multiply.

We don’t just want opera to merely survive, but thrive.

Yeah. I said it. Thrive, even in the face of virtual reality headsets or big-budget Hollywood films. War for the Planet of the Apes (which I probably won’t be seeing in theaters, no shade really, just not my gig), for instance, had a production budget of $150 million.

The LEGO Batman Movie (much more my gig) had a budget of $80 million. It grossed around $310 million dollars worldwide in theaters. Some of that money was mine (you’re welcome, LEGO Batman). I was one of those theater-goers. I saw the LEGO Batman Movie. In 3D. I got to wear those goofy glasses. There was popcorn and Buncha Crunch. And it was good.

A disclaimer: I’m not good at math. I’m really, really bad at it. But I’m going to attempt to crunch some numbers here.

According to a May 2016 New York Times article, the Metropolitan Opera, the United States’ largest performing arts organization, had an operating budget of approximately $300 million dollars. It offered 225 performances of 25 different operas over the course of one particular season.

The gross earnings of the LEGO Batman Movie (in theaters for approximately 117 weeks) could pay for the entire Metropolitan Opera season. A single movie! One film!

And yet the Met projects to fill only 72% of its seats. So we ask more questions.

Over the past few days, there’s been some hullaballoo on Opera/Classical Music Twitter (yes, it’s a thing) with regard to the new Mason Bates opera, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, set to premiere within the next week at Santa Fe. Both Seattle Opera and San Francisco Opera have signed on to give the work performances within the coming seasons.

Before I go any further. Let me be crystal clear: any new opera is worth attending. I do mean any. If I were in Santa Fe, you’d best believe my keister would be filling a seat to see the premiere.

You don’t know what’s going to become the next warhorse of the standard repertory. Two hundred years from now, if we haven’t demolished the planet by then, companies may mount the Steve Jobs opera like they put up La Bohème. It’s entirely possible. Plausible, even.

Barring some pretty substantial and rapid medical advance, though, all of us reading this will be dead, so I guess we’ll never truly know. Anyway.

Back to Twitter. So, a few folks started talking about the Steve Jobs opera. They asked some poignant questions. Questions with no easy answers (or maybe answers at all). Some of them made statements expressing sadness that yet another opera was being produced with the plot of “successful white man is successful.”

And some other folks got wind of the criticism and mused that perhaps these critics were telling composers what to write about.

They implied that criticism stifled the conversation by asking questions.

I’m not going to make this post about what I personally think re: the Steve Jobs opera. I haven’t heard any music from it. I don’t know much about it other than that it exists. I’ve read every piece of related content I can get my hands on about it, because I’m just that invested in opera. In new opera. In every opera. In the state of our art form. Where it’s going. What we’re doing to give it direction, to make it more of a purposeful journey rather than an aimless amble toward survival.

The thing I do know is this: we have to be willing to ask questions about opera.

“Beloved” works, like Turandot or Otello. New ones, like The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.

Without asking questions and critically engaging with the work, the future of opera looks a lot less promising.

You’re going to tell me, “But Georgeanne, are people really critically engaging with the LEGO Batman Movie?” I don’t know. Are they? Maybe there are. Can someone on the Internet verify? If you find someone, let me know. But I think that really isn’t the point.

My point is that asking questions doesn’t lessen the impact of artistic work.

It doesn’t reduce its importance or worth. Questions aren’t a wet blanket. Asking questions about something isn’t going to stop me, personally, from seeing something. It’s not going to stop a composer from writing if that composer feels they have a story tell to tell and it’s that story.

Asking questions about something means just the opposite—that whatever we’re questioning is worthy, that it is alive, that it’s worth cultivating, saving, supporting.

Isn’t any conversation about opera worth having? Like I said before, we ask a lot of questions about the death of opera.

Shouldn’t we similarly be asking questions of what is bringing opera life in the 21st century?

I hope that you, dear reader, will continue to ask questions about everything you consume, opera or not. And more than that, I hope you go see an opera.

If you’re in Santa Fe? Go see The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. And tell me how it is. Maybe you’ll have some more questions after seeing it. Maybe you’ll have some answers, too.

That is how an art form doesn’t merely survive. That’s how it thrives.

PS. If you’re interested in writing an opera (and I hope you are), why not take a look at Four Historical Women Who Need Their Own Opera (because they do).

PPS. If you’re curious about #OperaTwitter, follow me @absolutment

Photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash

Why not?

28th June 2017

It’s my favorite day — Wednesday. We’re halfway (kind of, y’all know math doesn’t really work that way or something) through the week. Wednesday is just a good day. It’s the best day.

I started loving Wednesdays a few years ago, thanks to Russell Westbrook (or should I say 2017 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook). You see, Russell used to take to Twitter on Wednesdays and retweet a whole bunch of folks who were doing all manner of things because … well, why not?

Russell Westbrook - Do What You Do

Some people were taking tests or talking to their bosses about a raise or working out really hard. Russell would encourage them in his own distinct Brodie way. It was really charming and adorable and all those cute adjectives you use to describe NBA players and other people on the verge of massive fame but who weren’t too famous to stop using social media in an ~organic~ way.

Why not do something different or new or fun or maybe completely out of your comfort zone? Why not try your very best in whatever it is that you’re doing, whether that be physical fitness or starting a new job or taking your AP Calculus test?

(Full disclosure: I took AP Statistics and don’t ask me to regurgitate any of that information, as I cannot. I actually drew a comic of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit Em Up Style (Oops!)” on one of my free response sections on the test rather than actually answer the statistics problem. Yes, Mom, I am proud of that. I’m admitting it on the Internet.)

I have adopted the #whynot mentality. It is not just something I do on Wednesdays. It is a 24/7/365 kind of thing.

Russell and I take the #whynot mentality very, very seriously, of course. Russell started the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation (because that’s what you do when you have influence and a lot of money).

I, very bereft of influence and even more bereft of money, named my 2001 Chrysler Cirrus the #WhyNotMobile. Maybe that’s not on the same level as starting a philanthropic foundation, but … I’m sure I’ll get there. 

Sure, the #whynot mentality allows me to do silly things, like have ice cream for dinner or stay up too late reading or wear mismatching socks. But I also use it for more serious stuff, too. Whenever I’m scared or anxious about things, whenever I’m being tentative because of my propensity to self-sabotage, I invoke the #whynot mentality.

If I don’t think I’m good enough to apply to something — #whynot me? Why can’t it be me?
If I don’t think I’m smart enough to figure out a problem — #whynot forget that negativity?
If I don’t think I have the courage to say what I really mean — #whynot say it anyway?

I’m not joking when I say that I have spent nights avoiding clicking “send” on applications. I have literally screamed “#whynot” aloud, alone in my room (except for my dog, Lily Munster) and pressed the button. It works.

Don’t misunderstand me. While very useful, the #whynot mentality is not magic. I wish I could say that all it takes is a mere mindset shift to overcome some very pervasive, intrusive, and potentially destructive habits and thoughts. I’m silly, but I’m not silly enough to think that it’s as easy as saying #whynot and being done with it. The #whynot mentality doesn’t necessarily make the mountain of The Thing That Needs To Be Done™ any more imposing. It doesn’t make the doing of the thing any less hard.

But what I will say is that every time I invoke the #whynot mentality, things do tend to seem a little less dire. Things don’t seem so end-of-the-world. The climbing of the mountain and the doing of the thing are a teensy bit more fun when you’re thinking about it from a #whynot perspective. 

What’s the point of this post? Y’all, really, I don’t know. I wanted to write something and I was planning on dumping a few links on you guys for a Midweek Reads post and now here I am waxing poetic about the #whynot mentality. I am overcome with #whynot.

Sometimes I get the impression that people think my endless #whynot-ing is a joke. And it can be very, very funny. But it’s helped me do a lot of things that I might not have otherwise done. And that’s what it’s all about — trying. Maybe not always succeeding, but trying anyway. Because #whynot?

So, dear readers (if you’re out there), I challenge you to have a taste of the #whynot mentality this week. What have you been putting off because of fear or apprehension or tentativeness? What new thing can you try? What new, unfamiliar experience can you have? How can you be just a little bit better than you were the day before?

It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment. There’s no obligation with the #whynot mentality. Start small. Get bigger.

What can you do this week that can bring a little bit of #whynot into your life? I’d love to know! Drop me a comment. And happy #whynot-ing!


3rd June 2017

We’re halfway through 2017 and I haven’t yet written a word here. That’s mystifying to me. So much has happened!

There have been times where I halfway thought I would sit down and write. Maybe about the last semester of graduate school, about the spring opera, about my master’s recital (!), about graduating, about what’s next for me.

I only ever got halfway. I never fleshed out my ideas. I never sat with certain uncomfortable truths about things and parsed them out. I ignored them. I halfway thought about them, I promise. But for whatever reason, I decided I’d rather not write about them.

The truth is, I’m not particularly comfortable with the concept of halfway. I don’t like to ‘halfway’ do anything, let alone this blog.  I would prefer to just not if it means I have to halfway do something. Anything.

I think this is generally a good thing. Being 100% committed to things is a good thing to do, most of the time. I think we can probably all agree on that (and that’s something that’s quite rare these days).

But you know what? I’m in this very transitional, semi-scary part of my life, and I think that maybe I need to grow a little more accustomed to halfway. Halfway isn’t the goal, it’s a starting place. But I have to start. I must start.

If I start this halfway, maybe I’ll get all the way there tomorrow. But the first step has to be taken, right?

So, here is a halfway blog post. A halfway hello. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe there’ll be a whole blog post. A whole hello. A whole update on what I’m doing.

But for now, I’m halfway there. And I like that.

image: Unsplash

Goal Setting: Get SMART

26th December 2016

Y’all, it’s time to get SMART about goals.

Most of the musicians I’ve gotten to know so far in my life have been big, bold, bright thinkers. They have no problem coming up with grand ideas. They dream big. I’d like to think I’m among that group (jury’s out, though).

Being a big, bold dreamer is a great thing! But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of achieving things, they can get overwhelmed with their larger-than-life, abstract ideas and get stuck when it comes to the actual doing of the thing.

The day I was introduced to SMART goal-setting, though? That changed my life.

Set goals you can actually achieve with the SMART method.

In my last goal post (tee-hee), we talked about choosing a single word to define our year. That single word helps us see the Big Picture–our “why” of our to-do list.

Stay with me, y’all, but in this post, I’m about to tell you to.. zoom in.

It’s time to turn that Big Picture into goals that aren’t just nice, fuzzy, grandiose things.

Our Big Picture becomes actionable when we set SMART goals.

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable/Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time-Bound

Let’s break this down a little.

1. Specific

I’m a creative, which means I can spurt out purple prose and vague nothings with the best of them. I love the abstract and the inexplicable, but those things are liabilities rather than assets when it comes to setting goals that are actually achievable.

For instance, consider the following:

“I want to improve my technique.”
“I want to be happier.”
“I want to grow my savings.”

These are all wonderful things, but unfortunately, they’re not very specific.

Take the second goal on our list, “I want to be happier.”

Well, sure. Everyone wants to be happier. But.. how? What does that mean? What does being happy look like for you?

Getting specific about that particular answer may help you write your question.

2. Measurable

For those of us in creative professions, finding a way to measure goals and progress can be difficult.

We can’t measure success by our audition-to-gig-ratio (every soprano would likely want to die).

How can you measure your goal without relying on a gatekeeper?

What are other ways of measuring success?

Let’s take a look at the “improve my technique” goal. When I’m working on my vocal exercises, day after day, it can be difficult to measure progress or success. You can’t measure an improvement of technique by how many compliments you get or how many auditions you land. Those measures of success rely on other people.

What we want is a measure of achievement that is reliant upon only you.

Take a look at your goals and ask—how will I measure this?

For our technique goal, maybe you say “I will sing my Marchesi exercises for 5 minutes every day for 20 days straight.”

That’s something you can measure.

3. Attainable

We all want to hear “shoot for the moon!”, but the truth is that some goals just aren’t realistic for us at present.

I’ll do myself the supreme honor of throwing myself under the bus.

For instance, it is not realistic for me to assume that I will be singing leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera by the end of next week or even 2017 (unless someone from the Met is reading this, in which case—hey y’all, call me?). It’s just not.

This is a goal that is certainly achievable or attainable in my lifetime. It is not achievable today.

We set ourselves up for failure by expecting too much of ourselves in too short of an amount of time.

Be gentle with yourself and your progress.

4. Relevant

This is like, the crunchy-granola woo-woo letter of the SMART acronym. When setting your goal, ask yourself: “is this relevant to me?”

Take a look at what achieving your goal would mean. If your goal is to land that high-powered internship or Young Artist Program, it may mean uprooting your life. Is that cool with you? Is that who you want to be?

What’s your objective behind your goals? What’s your “why”? (Think back to your Big Picture!)

5. Time-Bound

Creative professions and solo entrepreneurship can suck because at the end of the day, the boss is you.

You don’t have someone telling you to go practice because you have to sing a jury at the end of the semester. You don’t improve your languages because you don’t have a French or a German test. There’s no deadline.

Your goals are dead without deadlines.

Do you know how many times I’ve said I wanted to do something? Do you know how many times I’ve written that something down without a date of completion? Do you know how many times that goal has actually been achieved?

Spoiler alert: very few times.

Give yourself a deadline for your goals. Instill a sense of urgency and importance in yourself. These things are important! You want them! And they’re going to take some work. They’re going to take time. They’re going to take planning and resources. If you want a realistic chance of getting the thing done… buck it up and set a deadline.

An example? Take my “improve technique” goal. Maybe I decide that I want to go through the entire Vaccai book. How long will that take? Sit down and think about it realistically, then write down a date.

Get SMART about your goals, you big, bold dreamer. How can you take your resolutions for this coming year and make them SMART?

This Holiday Season, Hug a Musician

24th December 2016

It’s Christmas Eve. At 8:30pm tonight, I’ll be singing downtown in a beautiful Christmas Eve service. There will be Christmas trees, there will be lights, there will be “O Come All Ye Faithful.” There will even be a party afterwards, complete with champagne.

But I won’t be home. I’m here in Kansas.

I’m a singer, and that’s part of my job.

My mom is in Arkansas. The rest of my (small but mighty) family is in Illinois. This is the second year I haven’t been home for Christmas, which seems like it’s Not a Big Deal, but.. it is.

Don’t misunderstand me. Being a singer is awesome. I love it more than anything in this world. I get to enrich people’s lives with music, enhance their worship experience.

Travel is pretty cool, too.

Being a forever tourist has its perks–for one thing, I can always claim “I’m not from here!” when people try to shoot me nasty looks while driving. I love seeing new places but not being tied down to them. I can stay in a place just long enough to get tired of it–then I’m off somewhere else.

Still, there’s something special about being in the place you call home, especially during this time of year.

For those of us who have devoted our lives to music and won’t be home for Christmas, this can be a tough time. It isn’t really sad, it’s just strange. And we make it work. We seek community and love from those around us. We build small families at our church jobs, our Messiah gigs, our concerts.

But friends?

If you happen to meet a musician today or tomorrow–ask if you can hug them. They very well may need it more than you know.

It may just feel a little more like home.

Goal Setting: Choose One Word

23rd December 2016

There’s a billion things you want to do and a billion obstacles in your way.

How can you cut through the clutter and clarify what’s important for the new year?

So far, we’ve started our goal-setting journey and we have taken a look back by asking five essential questions. We’ve seen a little bit of what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and we hopefully have a bit of an idea where we (maybe, kinda, sorta) want to go from this point forward.

We know where we are.

And boy, it seems a little messy, doesn’t it?

It’s easy to look at our list of completed goals and unfinished business and see an incoherent jumble. There’s no rhyme or reason, no grouping, no theme.

Cut through the clutter of goal-setting and choose one word to define your year.

Today’s challenge is to choose one word to define your next year.

I am in no way the first person to think of this concept. Many creatives, writers, and visionaries incorporate this idea into their planning and goal-setting.

To name just a few: Ali Edwards has One Little Word®, Susannah Conway has Find Your Word, Gretchen Rubin has a mini-sode of her podcast Happier, and even my dear friend/mentor Jackie Wolven is helping others find their word.

Cool. It’s trendy. What’s the point, though?

Anyone with a to-do list will tell you it’s incredibly satisfying to cross things off of it. It’s rewarding–so much so that we sometimes write tasks we’ve already completed at the top of that to-do list just so we can cross them off (guilty as charged).

But goal setting isn’t about making a to-do list. It isn’t about checking things off.

It’s about the bigger picture.

The weird paradox of goal setting is that in order to achieve the bigger picture, we’ve got to get specific with our goals.

Our lives aren’t lists. They can’t be. Our lives are big picture things.

By choosing a word to define our year, we keep our eyes on our own big picture.

Go back to that jumble of things you wanted to do last year and the awesome things you managed to get done.

What jumps out at you?

What did you want but not get? What did you have that you didn’t expect?

All of these questions can help you find your word.

Maybe your word is “faith,” because you want to explore your spirituality.
Maybe it’s “authentic,” because you haven’t really felt like yourself in a long time.
Maybe it’s “home,” because you’re finally building that dream house you’ve always wanted.

Your word doesn’t have to be an SAT vocabulary word.
It doesn’t have to be anything but meaningful to you.

Your word is short and sweet, so when life gets complicated, you can remain clear on what your purpose is. The Big Picture.

Your word should summarize your Big Picture. What do you want this next year to look like? What do you want to be doing?

More business opportunities or auditions?
More time spent with family?
Less time hustling, more time savoring?
Building relationships with those you love?
Living less out of fear and more out of faith?

Go on, pick your word. Once you’ve got it, share it with me in the comments.

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Goal Setting: Answer 5 Essential Questions

22nd December 2016

You know you want next year to be different.

If I had to guess, you’d probably say you want it to be better.

You’re staring at Different and Better, as if they were exotic, distant locales for your next vacation. You know you want to go there. But how?

To know how to get somewhere, you first have to know your starting point.

Reminiscing over this dumpster fire of a year (shout out to you, 2016) may not be the most pleasurable task, but remember: we’re here to grow, and growing pains aren’t just a thing that you gave up past puberty.

Want to make sure this year is your best yet? Begin by answering these five essential questions to begin the goal-setting process.

1. What did I want to do?

Time to pull out your list of resolutions that may or may not have fallen under your bed. What’s on that list?

Maybe you wanted to:

  • learn new arias for your package
  • pay down a credit card
  • finally open your private voice studio
  • start a blog or website
  • take a vacation to Disneyland
  • lose 20 pounds
  • go to NYC for an audition season
  • read 25 books

Knowing what you wanted to do this year leads us to the next question…

2. What did I accomplish? What went well?

Alright, slugger. What did you get done?

Don’t be discouraged if some of those things are partially completed.

Maybe you didn’t lose 20 pounds, but you did stop eating fast food four times a week.
Maybe you didn’t read 25 books, but you did read four.
Maybe you didn’t learn those arias for your audition package, but you made a list of repertoire.

Give yourself a pat on the back for your small victories this year, and then buckle in and take the next step.

3. What didn’t happen?

We just took a look at what we achieved this year. Progress is progress, no matter how small!

But. We didn’t get some things done.

  • Making a list of repertoire is not the same as learning the music on the list.
  • Curating a Pinterest board of content ideas is a great start, but it’s not starting a blog.
  • Ordering the book of Marchesi vocalises on Amazon is awesome, but it’s not practicing them.
  • Thinking about going to NYC for audition season is A+, but it’s not making a plan to make it happen.

You can acknowledge that you made progress and acknowledge you didn’t achieve the desired outcome.

Saying “okay, I didn’t complete X” doesn’t diminish or negate the work you did toward your goal.

It is, however, doing the most important thing of this work: being honest.

Which leads us to..

4. Why didn’t I do the things I wanted?

Usually, at least part of the answer is obvious.

“I didn’t go to Disneyland because I couldn’t afford it.”
“I didn’t read 20 books because I was too busy.”
“I didn’t start my professional website because I’m not good with computers.”
“I didn’t learn new arias for my audition package because I don’t know what I should be singing right now.”

These are all truths.

You probably couldn’t afford that vacation to Disneyland.
You didn’t have enough time to read.
You don’t know how to work WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or Weebly.
You never asked your voice teacher and other members of your team about the appropriateness of the arias you wanted to learn.

Pause the movie, y’all. I can almost hear the self-loathing from here.

Remove the judgment from your observations. Let’s not ascribe any existential meaning to them.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the “why” of our procrastination that we attempt to undo some massive, abstract concept that isn’t easily remedied.

What I’m trying to say is that for most of us (or at least me, and this is my blog, after all), the reasons “why” we haven’t done something aren’t going to disappear overnight. They may never disappear at all.

We may never be wealthy enough to have the resources to do all the things we want to do.
We may never have enough time to read.
We may never be comfortable asking our teachers for recommendations or help networking.

The good news is that we can circumvent the “why,” even if we can’t get rid of it.

5. Where are you now? What matters today?

We’ve taken a look back at our goals/resolutions. We identified the things that we did achieve, even if we didn’t complete the overarching goal. We observed what we didn’t finish. We asked ourselves why.

“I am so busy I can’t find time to read.”
“I am afraid of asking for help on my aria package.”
“I am a person who doesn’t have the financial resources to treat myself to the things I deserve.”

Now that we know the obstacles that are in front of us, we can start brainstorming ways to circumvent them.

Next up in the series: how one word can make the difference in setting goals. Don’t miss it! Sign up for my e-mail newsletter here: Southern Fried Soprano newsletter.

(This is part of a series on Goal Setting for the New Year. If you missed the first post, learn why I started this series in the first place.)