The Capes Coaching blog has moved!

Capes Blog

I just wanted to take a quick moment to let everyone know that the Capes Coaching blog has moved. We launched a new Capes Coaching website a couple of weeks ago (same web address — new site) and we built the blog into the new website. So, you can find all of the old posts from this version, plus any future posts at

Those of you who receive our blog updates via email will no longer be getting those emails. However, we notify our audience of every new blog post in our email newsletter. If you’re already signed up for our newsletter, then you’re all set. If not, you can sign up at the bottom of every page on our new website.

Early next week, this WordPress version of the blog will automatically redirect to the new blog, so if you stop by here and notice that things look a bit different, it’s not just you. I hope you enjoy the new blog and look forward to sharing all kinds of coaching tips and information with you in the future!

Friends with (creative) benefits

Tumultuous? Absolutely. But, in the end, Don Draper and Peggy Olson had a deep creative friendship.

Tumultuous? Absolutely. But, in the end, Don Draper and Peggy Olson had a deep creative friendship.

In this day and age, we have the ability to share our thoughts and creative endeavors with a vast number of people and receive their input almost instantly. It’s one of the benefits of technology that links us together with whomever we choose, whenever we choose to do so. And while it’s great to get a wide variety of responses to whatever you’re putting out there within a short period of time, there often tends to be a lack of depth and serious thought behind this process. “Easy come, easy go,” as they say.

History is rich with creative friendships — relationships that involve two or more people who engage each other in ways that support, challenge, provoke, and ultimately champion one other’s work. Literary titans Edith Wharton and Henry James; 20th Century musical geniuses Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein; the 70s Movie Brats, including Francis Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese. What made these old-school relationships so resonant was a commitment on the part of those involved to give their undivided attention to their friends’ work; to take things in and really let them marinate; and to provide honest criticism along with overall support and enthusiasm.

The Movie Brats: Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas.

The Movie Brats: Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas.

The wonderful website Brain Pickings featured just such a relationship earlier this year, in the form of Charles Darwin’s correspondence with his best friend, Joseph Dalton Hooker (a well-regarded botanist and explorer). It’s a touching and inspiring look into a deep, respectful friendship between two men who pushed each other to live up to (and beyond) their potential. And it’s just the sort of thing that we are more or less losing as we become enmeshed in the multitasked, short-form lives that are becoming the norm. What we gain in productivity and instant information, we lose in deep connections and serious contemplation. I urge you to read the Brain Pickings post not only because the correspondence is illuminating and lovely, but also to witness the very tangible benefits of true, creative friendship.

I’m not saying that we should give up our technology for writing letters with quills by candlelight. But there’s a strong case to be made for cultivating relationships that operate in a long-form manner; relationships where real investments are made in one another’s creative work and the ultimate gift is one of sacrifice — that is, the sacrifice of our time, which has become a precious commodity these days.

So, take a moment to look at your relationships and ask yourself, “Who do I share my creative life with? Whose honest feedback do I seek out, knowing that they’re championing me to go even further than I may believe I’m capable of?” If you already have someone that fits that bill — my goodness, hang on tight and nurture that friendship. Acknowledge that person for the place that they hold in your life, and make sure that you are doing likewise for them.

And for those of you who don’t currently have that person in your life, I realize that it’s not as simple as stumbling upon someone on the street to be your creative confidante. It can be a real challenge to find someone who you trust and respect. Here are some tips for finding this special someone.

  • Clarify for yourself what kind of person you would like to attract.
  • Think about who in your life right now might fit this bill — maybe someone you respect but aren’t super close with.
  • Cast your net wide. Consider friends of your friends whose work you admire; people who seem to share the same creative values as you; someone you took a class with who did or said something you really respected.
  • Take a risk and reach out to someone. Ask them to coffee or lunch. Be willing to share with them what you are working on and see if perhaps they are also looking for someone to bounce ideas off of or share early drafts of work with.

That last part — reaching out — can seem a little scary, I know. But, really, what do you have to lose, especially when you have so much to gain? I really feel that the rewards are worth the effort. In the end, a creative friendship is not just something that can enrich your work (though that is a HUGE benefit, believe me), it’s something that can also seriously enrich your life.

Don’t put your career in the corner

It’s here. Summer, glorious summer. I think it must be ingrained in us from having summer vacation for at least the first 18 years of our lives, but we generally have a natural tendency to check-out during this time of year. Auto-pilot season, as it were.

Now, I’m all for having an extended period of time where we relax a bit more and take up a leisurely pace of life. In fact, it’s probably essential for self-care. But, there’s a difference between relaxing and completely disengaging. If life is going spectacularly for you and you can afford to drop out of it all for months at a time, then by all means — you do you (honestly, who wouldn’t love that luxury??). For everyone else, summer should really be about balance. Chill out, but keep an eye on the horizon.

Just like Baby, you can do a little work while still enjoying your summer vacation at the lake.

Don’t put your career in the corner. Just like Baby, you can do a little work while still enjoying your summer vacation at the lake.

This is actually easily accomplished. What I’m talking about here is not spending your summer working your butt off (unless you want to…again, you do you), but setting aside a specific amount of time every week to check in with your career. Maybe it’s 30 minutes every weekday morning. Maybe it’s an hour or two every Thursday. For my Path alum, this is basically your WAP (Weekly Action Plan); you old time Path-ers know this as your POW Time (Path Open Work Time). The point isn’t what you call it, but that you actually DO it — show up for yourself once a week for a little bit of time. The benefit of this low-key approach is that you’ll still be on top of things and have an easier time getting back into the full swing of it all once autumn comes around.

Plus, if some amazing opportunity comes around in the summer, you’ll be prepared to take advantage of it. Anyone who’s gone away for an extended trip and returned home the night before having to go back to work knows how difficult it can be to get reoriented. By spending just a small amount of time every week focusing on your career goals, you’ll be ready to spring into action if need be.

Keep your career in shape without sacrificing your suntan. Regardless of what you hear, you actually can have it all!

Are your goals “goal-worthy?”

I want to discuss the difference between setting a goal for something you want vs. setting a goal based on something that you’ve already been working toward. You know, even once we settle on a goal, it’s quite common to question whether it’s the best goal to be focusing on right now, especially if we have other things happening in our lives and careers.

I remember a very specific example of coaching someone through this in one of my previous Path classes — Chris, who was setting a goal for his acting career. Chris had booked a handful of national commercials and he came to the Path Course ready to focus on booking jobs in tv and film, as well as commercials. When creating his one year goal, he was questioning whether or not there should be a part of his goal focused on booking more commercials. After I coached him in class, it became clear to Chris that focusing on commercials did not belong in his goal for this upcoming year. How did he know that this part of his goal was not goal-worthy?

What I shared with Chris and the whole class was this: just because he wasn’t including commercials in his goal, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t continue to audition and book them. The fact of the matter is, that part of his career was already set in motion. Because Chris came to the class with the intention of growing the tv and film side of his career, as far as commercials went it was really more about maintenance.

So, how do you know that every part of your goal is goal-worthy? If you think it will probably happen without you writing it down and making a concerted effort to plan for it, trust that and take it out of your goal for now. Ultimately, I always say that if it’s not absolutely necessary then it doesn’t belong in your goal. So, for Chris, it would’ve been nice to book more commercials, but that wasn’t what the year was about for him. If it happened, great, but he wasn’t going to go to great lengths to plan for it. When you look at your goal, you should want to go to great lengths to make each part of it happen — just like Elaine in that Seinfeld clip, using a screening process to make sure someone was “sponge-worthy” 😉

So, I want to do something different today and give you a small assignment: Take a look at your current goal and review it to make sure that every part of it is 100% goal worthy. This is such a simple and effective way to make sure you’re on track and will give you a boost of confidence in knowing that you’re focusing on the right things.


A “simple” goal-setting reminder from yours truly…

For those of you who don’t know exactly what your goals are or need help clarifying them, this is the kind of goal work that we do in the Path Course (in fact, we just went through this in my current class!), and it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to goal setting and putting a career plan together. If you want to do more of this work in depth, we just announced a summer session beginning June 7th. Click here for more information. And have fun with your assignment!

You don’t have one true calling…and that’s just fine!

Not so long ago, a client of mine had seen a TED Talk by a writer and career coach named Emilie Wapnick and compelled me to check it out because it was so connected to what we do at Capes Coaching. Whenever I get this kind of recommendation, I always put it on my Action List, knowing that I’ll eventually get to it…usually. But, then a curious thing happened — another client suggested the same thing. And then another client. And another. It was like one of those situations where friends of yours keep telling you that you HAVE to meet some other friend of theirs because everyone thinks that the two of you would really hit it off. So, of course, I watched Emilie’s Wapnick’s TED Talk…and I got what all the fuss was about.

Wapnick’s talk, titled “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” explores the idea of multipotentialites — people who, rather than having one overriding passion that they spend their lives focusing on, have a dynamic range of interests and jobs over the course of a lifetime. Multipotentialites are essentially allergic to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And the reason isn’t because they don’t want to be anything, but that they want to be many things, which (unfortunately) can be seen as somehow “wrong” within the culture-at-large. Multipotentialites often feel guilty about the fact that they aren’t compelled by one major life pursuit; they feel tentative when speaking about their careers and interests, because they can appear to be lacking purpose and discipline. They can feel judged, and, to be honest, they often are. All of this tends to lead to the rise of some nasty inner critics.

Wapnick goes on to talk about the benefits of being a multipotentialite (including a wide-breadth of knowledge, a lack of fear in starting new things, and the ability to be flexible in numerous scenarios) and how the combination of multipotentialites working in tandem with specialists often produces the best results. She encourages multipotentialites to embrace their unique characteristics and to see their natural tendencies as a benefit. And I couldn’t agree more.

James Franco

James Franco: Possibly the modern poster boy for multipotentialism and how it can work for you. [Photo: Getty]

This brings me back to why all of those clients of mine were so excited about sharing this particular TED Talk with me. At Capes Coaching, we’ve been helping clients work with a trait that we call Multi-Goal Syndrome, which is essentially a variation on multipotenialism. We call it a “syndrome” because it tends to overwhelm people, particularly when it comes to defining goals and making plans to achieve them. This trait also tends to pop up in creative types on a regular basis, which isn’t surprising, given that the creative urge often has a wide reach. Often times, when people hear us identify this idea, it’s like a lightbulb goes on — “Yes! That’s exactly what I’m struggling with!” — and they get excited that it’s not specific to them alone.

The bad news is that sometimes identifying the issue isn’t enough. Many people still don’t know how to embrace their multipotentialism and make it work for them in their careers. This is where we come in. I’ve been helping people sort through the chaos and overwhelm for over a decade now, and trust me when I say that a good percentage of students in all of my Path classes have Multi-Goal Syndrome. It’s something we actively address and work through in the course, and I can confidently say that nearly everyone who leaves the class does so with a sense of clarity and empowerment. Not all multipotentialites need this kind of support, but for those that do, it can be a VERY powerful experience.

In any case, I encourage you to watch Emilie Wapnick’s TED Talk — it’s enlightening stuff, whether you’re a multipotentialite or not. And if you happen to be one and need some guidance with your career, we’re here to help 🙂


My interview with Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Photo courtesy of Getty

Photo courtesy of Getty

While most people know Jesse Tyler Ferguson from his Emmy-nominated role on the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family, theater fans have been aware of his many talents and dynamic range long before his tv career took off. I worked with Jesse when he did the off Broadway musical Newyorkers at Manhattan Theatre Club, and our paths also criss-crossed a lot in the early days of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, before it went to Broadway and became the phenomenon that it was. So it was with great pleasure that I was able to connect with Jesse a few years back and interview him for our Artists In Action program (along with some other fantastic artists that you may recognize). Since Jesse is back on Broadway in Fully Committed — where he plays 40(!!) different characters over the course of the one-man-show’s 90 minutes — this seemed like the perfect time to share his interview with those who haven’t heard it.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in FULLY COMMITTED. Photo by Joan Marcus

Jesse Tyler Ferguson in FULLY COMMITTED. Photo by Joan Marcus

Jesse talks about his experience navigating the industry and offers some great advice to anyone struggling to find success in their career, specifically that if you’re still not clear on what makes you unique, spend time discovering it. He goes on to say, “Trust your sense of self and know that what you have, no one else has.”

Check out my interview with Jesse here, and if you’re going to be in NYC anytime from now through the end of July, go see Jesse in Fully Committed.

A Standard for Greatness

Geno AuriemmaLet’s get something clear, I spent the first 30 years of my life unable to tell you one simple fact about Women’s College Basketball, much less the UCONN Huskies. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know they existed. The most I knew about this particular world of sports was that it was on a random channel like ESPN2, 3 or 23, and if it was a rainy Saturday afternoon and I happened to be home, bored out of my mind and flipping channels because there was nothing else to watch, I might have noticed some girls on a court and thought, “That’s cool,” and then continued on until I stumbled upon the second half of a romantic comedy — like 50 First Dates or Sleepless in Seattle — that I would happily re-watch for the 68th time while intermittently dozing on the couch. You get my point. Although I’m sure it’s great for those who care about it, women’s basketball is just not my jam. Or, rather it WAS not my jam (grrrr…I hate that I’m even admitting it in writing).

Enter my future husband into my life ten years ago, and with him came UCONN basketball. Just as he was going to have to endure thought-provoking off-Broadway theatre that he would eventually grow to appreciate but never choose to attend, in getting married I was choosing a life of February and March evenings that would be forever dictated by the schedule of March Madness. During the first five years, I was too cool to bother with it. But over these last five years, especially since having a child and seeing her begin to embrace the game, I decided to accept the fan I was becoming, for better or worse. Actually, it’s for the better, because upon closer inspection, I began to realize that I was in fact watching greatness. Did I mention that if they win tonight, they will have won four national championships in a row, which has never been done in NCAA basketball history — women’s OR men’s(!)? So my coaching ears started to tune in more, and along with the games, I began to really pay attention to the interviews with the players and their infamous head coach, Geno Auriemma.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and his team. (*photo by Jessica Hill, AP)

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and his team. (*photo by Jessica Hill, AP)

So what makes this team so special? What sets them apart from every other skilled  basketball team? Don’t they all work hard? As they are on the brink of making history yet again tonight, I thought I would share the top 5 things that make Geno and the UConn Women’s Basketball Team the best at what they do, and why I believe it matters.

What all artists (and humans alike) can learn from the UCONN Women’s Basketball Team…

1) They don’t apologize for being great. 

With all of their dominance over the sport, a national debate has begun to ensue on whether or not this team is bad for the sport. Geno is unapologetic. Watch this video for a good idea of what this is all about.

My coaching advice for you: Master this one before you do anything else. Get to a place where you are so comfortable with your greatness that you don’t have to brag and you don’t shy away from it, and you certainly never apologize for it. You simply embody it and trust it — do this and it will come out in how you behave, engage, and do your job every day. Through every email, phone call, meeting, rehearsal, performance, you must first BE great and then be proud of your greatness.

This is what happens when you own your greatness.

This is what happens when you own your greatness.

2) They practice harder than they have to play in a game.

Geno expects the practice to follow the game. In other words, if you have a lousy practice, you’re going to bring that mindset to the game. Ultimately, it’s how you execute that’s important, and that execution begins (and gets honed) in practice. Geno sets a bar and expects each player to rise above it whenever they’re on the court, whether scrimmaging against their own teammates or playing a tournament game against another team. By fully preparing themselves for every possible scenario on the practice court, the team will be ready for whatever comes their way in front of a crowd of thousands.

My coaching advice for you: Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Do the work you need to do to be in the right mindset for anything to happen, because it will. Be ready for everything. You can master the art of auditions and story pitches, but go the extra mile and prepare for any scenario that could arise. Just as important, make sure you’re in the right mindset when you’re going into “the game.” Going above and beyond before you step onto the court will make all the difference once you do.

3) Geno Surrounds himself with a powerful coaching staff.  

Upon winning National Coach of the Year for the eighth time in his career, the first person Geno thanked was Associate Coach Chris Dailey, who has been at Geno’s side for the entire 31 years that he has been at UCONN. His assistant coaches are former players who understand the culture and believe in making the most out of every moment. Geno is often compared to John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach from UCLA in the 70s, who said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Geno’s staff supporting the vision is a thing that won’t show up in any box score, but makes all the difference.

My coaching advice for you: Have a stellar team supporting your big vision — whether it’s your manager or agent, your coach, teacher, mentor, family or your best friend — because no one can navigate this business alone. Build your support team and feel empowered by knowing that they not only have your back and want the best for you, but will also push you to be better than you ever imagined you could be. (*Click here for more inspirational “Wooden-isms.”)

4) They bring genuine enthusiasm to every game.

In the above clip from an interview on Sunday, someone suggested that the secret behind this team’s consistent excellence and dominance of the game is their tremendous enthusiasm on the bench. Watch the clip and imagine that Geno is the casting director or producer or whoever is responsible for hiring you for your next job.

My Coaching advice for you: This is real in our business. How you are “being” in every moment that you’re out there has an impact, whether you realize it or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re auditioning, in a development meeting, or at an industry party. Geno says, “I’d rather lose than watch certain behavior on the bench.” People want to work with the best — not just the most talented, but the best people. And if you’re not feeling enthused, find a way to plug back into your joy for this business. That’s your responsibility for as long as you are going for it.

5) They are not afraid to set goals and say them out loud.

Check out this article — UConn Women On Brink Of History: 11 National Titles And Four In Row Possible — and read about how Breanna Stewart, Player of the Year and first team All-American, told Geno that she wanted to come to UCONN to win four national championships. She is now one game away from realizing her goal. Regardless of whether they win tonight or not, she is damn close to fulfilling a major dream, and if I were her, I’d be proud as hell to have gotten this far.

My Coaching Advice for you: Don’t be afraid to go after what you really want. Set your goals and commit to them. No more procrastination. No more excuses. Just get clear about what you really want to do, say it out loud, and get started doing it.

At the end of the day, it’s about commitment. These girls come to UCONN because they want to be the best players they can possibly be and they believe that this program and Geno have the ability to make it happen. While I don’t profess to be Geno or a coach at his level, I’ve become a better coach by watching him remain committed day in and day out, year in and year out, not just to every game, but to every play. Each and every moment is an opportunity to be great.

So, tonight at 8:30pm, I invite you to watch history in the making. It’s either going to be the greatest victory or the greatest upset in the history of the game. Either way, one thing is for sure — my husband will be pacing around the living room nonstop like a crazy person, along with the entire state of Connecticut.

Proudly signing off: GO HUSKIES!

Healing the world with creativity

Can art heal the world? It’s a question that’s been asked numerous times throughout modern history, particularly when society has faced large-scale tragedies and struggles. Whatever the answer, it’s clear that art can act as a salve, a unifier, and a provocateur during tumultuous times. In an emotional sense, it’s as powerful as any force on this planet, and one that is desperately needed in these modern times.

With that in mind, two creative legends — Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock — recently responded to this question put to them by Nest HQ: Given the current state of the world, how can the next generation of artists respond? Their response, composed as an open letter, is insightful, gracious, and inspiring. At Capes Coaching, we’ve always believed that art has the ability to change the world, and that belief has fueled our mission to empower and support artists as they set off on their creative journeys. In that vein, this open letter really struck a chord with me, and I want to share it with as many artists as I can.

Below is the entirety of this letter, as originally posted on Nest HQ:

Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock

To the Next Generation of Artists,

We find ourselves in turbulent and unpredictable times.

From the horror at the Bataclan, to the upheaval in Syria and the senseless bloodshed in San Bernardino, we live in a time of great confusion and pain. As an artist, creator and dreamer of this world, we ask you not to be discouraged by what you see but to use your own lives, and by extension your art, as vehicles for the construction of peace.

While it’s true that the issues facing the world are complex, the answer to peace is simple; it begins with you. You don’t have to be living in a third world country or working for an NGO to make a difference. Each of us has a unique mission. We are all pieces in a giant, fluid puzzle, where the smallest of actions by one puzzle piece profoundly affects each of the others. You matter, your actions matter, your art matters.

We’d like to be clear that while this letter is written with an artistic audience in mind, these thoughts transcend professional boundaries and apply to all people, regardless of profession.


We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life.


The world needs new pathways. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by common rhetoric, or false beliefs and illusions about how life should be lived. It’s up to you to be the pioneers. Whether through the exploration of new sounds, rhythms, and harmonies or unexpected collaborations, processes and experiences, we encourage you to dispel repetition in all of its negative forms and consequences. Strive to create new actions both musically and with the pathway of your life. Never conform.


The unknown necessitates a moment-to-moment improvisation or creative process that is unparalleled in potential and fulfillment. There is no dress rehearsal for life because life, itself, is the real rehearsal. Every relationship, obstacle, interaction, etc. is a rehearsal for the next adventure in life. Everything is connected. Everything builds. Nothing is ever wasted. This type of thinking requires courage. Be courageous and do not lose your sense of exhilaration and reverence for this wonderful world around you.


We have this idea of failure, but it’s not real; it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as failure. What you perceive as failure is really a new opportunity, a new hand of cards, or a new canvas to create upon. In life there are unlimited opportunities. The words, “success” and “failure”, themselves, are nothing more than labels. Every moment is an opportunity. You, as a human being, have no limits; therefore infinite possibilities exist in any circumstance.


The world needs more one-on-one interaction among people of diverse origins with a greater emphasis on art, culture and education. Our differences are what we have in common. We can work to create an open and continuous plane where all types of people can exchange ideas, resources, thoughtfulness and kindness. We need to be connecting with one another, learning about one another, and experiencing life with one another. We can never have peace if we cannot understand the pain in each other’s hearts. The more we interact, the more we will come to realize that our humanity transcends all differences.


Art in any form is a medium for dialogue, which is a powerful tool. It is time for the music world to produce sound stories that ignite dialogue about the mystery of us. When we say the mystery of us, we’re talking about reflecting and challenging the fears, which prevent us from discovering our unlimited access to the courage inherent in us all. Yes, you are enough. Yes, you matter. Yes, you should keep going.


Arrogance can develop within artists, either from artists who believe that their status makes them more important, or those whose association with a creative field entitles them to some sort of superiority. Beware of ego; creativity cannot flow when only the ego is served.


The medical field has an organization called Doctors Without Borders. This lofty effort can serve as a model for transcending the limitations and strategies of old business formulas which are designed to perpetuate old systems in the guise of new ones. We’re speaking directly to a system that’s in place, a system that conditions consumers to purchase only the products that are dictated to be deemed marketable, a system where money is only the means to an end. The music business is a fraction of the business of life. Living with creative integrity can bring forth benefits never imagined.


Your elders can help you. They are a source of wealth in the form of wisdom. They have weathered storms and endured the same heartbreaks; let their struggles be the light that shines the way in the darkness. Don’t waste time repeating their mistakes. Instead, take what they’ve done and catapult you towards building a progressively better world for the progeny to come.


As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. Look up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a pilot. Imagine exploring the pyramids or Machu Picchu. Imagine flying like a bird or crashing through a wall like Superman. Imagine running with dinosaurs or swimming like mer-creatures. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.

How does any of this lend to the creation of a peaceful society you ask? It begins with a cause. Your causes create the effects that shape your future and the future of all those around you. Be the leaders in the movie of your life. You are the director, producer, and actor. Be bold and tirelessly compassionate as you dance through the voyage that is this lifetime.

Choosing your network

We all know the cliché: Hollywood is a soulless mecca of slick opportunists, corporate vampires, and vapid artists — a place where people speak a morally questionable language consisting of either half-truths or downright lies. And to the average American, this stereotype likely extends beyond the borders of Hollywood to any corner of the entertainment industry. As The X-Files bluntly put it: “Trust no one.”

This isn't the type of Hollywood vampire we're talking about...

This isn’t the type of Hollywood vampire we’re talking about…

That image certainly makes for a good movie or novel — the classic “fall from innocence” story — but, experience tells me that the vast majority of people in the industry are decent, hard-working, and no different than anyone else striving to make a living in their chosen field. Trust me, I would not be doing what I do if it were otherwise. That said, like any other industry (or, heck, like life itself), there is a small percentage of people within the creative arts that are…unsavory (whether purposefully or unintentionally so). And, unless you’re amazingly lucky, chances are fairly strong that you will encounter them at one point or another. For some people, this isn’t a big deal — it’s simply part of the work. But for others, that sense of pragmatism is more difficult to attain. So, if you fall into the latter category, what can you do about this?

I have good news and bad news. Let’s just get the bad news out of the way: It’s not a perfect world — you simply can’t avoid this type of person 100% of the time. Such is life. There are instances where sucking it up makes sense, and this is really only something I would advocate when the situation feels more irritating than toxic. Let’s face it, this is the sort of thing we all deal with on a regular basis — people that come in and out of our lives that kinda grate on us. It is what it is, and as long as the situation is finite, you can take solace in the fact that the relationship is temporary. Do your thing and move on.

See how happy they are to be around one another? If you feel this way about your network, you're doing something right.

See how happy the Tanners are to be around one another? If you feel this way about your network, you’re doing something right.

But what if you just can’t suck it up? This is actually where the good news come in. When it comes to relationships that are toxic or people who make you feel uncomfortable, you can always say “no.” There’s a misconception that, in this industry, networking is EVERYTHING. And, while it certainly counts for a lot, it’s not something that you have to give yourself completely over to. Regardless of what anyone else may tell you, you do not have to foster or maintain relationships with everyone you meet. If having a relationship with someone feels inauthentic to you, then the effects of maintaining that relationship may very well be worse for you than the benefit that it could be to your career.

Simply ask yourself, “Is this someone I want in my network?” and trust your gut on this one. If the answer is “no,” then remember that you are in control of the situation. The better you feel about the relationships you have, the better you’ll feel about networking. And if you fill your network with people you respect, you’ll not only WANT to work with them, you’ll feel good about doing so.

When “The Hum” stops…

Every once in a while I stumble upon something that strikes a deeply resonant chord within me and my gut reaction is, “I can’t wait to share this!” And this is exactly the reaction I had when I watched Shonda Rhimes’ recent TED Talk, the gist of which is this: What happens when The Hum stops?

To get a good idea of what The Hum is, you should definitely watch the video, but in a nutshell, it’s that feeling you get when everything feels right…when you’re in sync with life… when you’re in the zone. For Rhimes, it was that underlying sensation she felt when she was in the midst of the chaotic whirlwind that was her work — multiple shows in production, crews and executives in the hundreds relying on her, tens-of-millions of expectant audience members…you get the idea. It all made her feel alive. Her work was The Hum, and The Hum was her. Everything was perfect. Until The Hum stopped. She lost the love…the fun…the excitement. This is how she puts it: “What do you do when the thing you do, the work you love, starts to taste like dust?”

It’s the sort of experience that can cause a real existential crisis. If the work is The Hum, and The Hum is you, who are you when The Hum stops? What are you? These are the questions that Rhimes had to address as she began to feel a disconnect from the very thing that gave her a sense of purpose. Along the way, she realized that she had been so into her work (and The Hum it brought) that she’d been oblivious to major changes in her life that were happening right in front of her — namely, her children growing up. She lost track of who she was because she defined herself by The Hum…only, she also lost sight of what The Hum was really about. Instead of the love it once represented, it became more about “the doing.”

Not only did Rhimes need to find her way back to The Hum, but she also needed to redefine it. And the path to both of those things resided with her children — namely, her three-year-old daughter who simply asked her to play. You’ll need to watch the video to hear Rhimes relate the experience of how she ultimately got her groove back, but one of the reasons it resonated so deeply with me is because I can absolutely relate to her experience. Over time, I had come to define myself so much by my work and my company that it was impossible for me to separate Betsy Capes from Capes Coaching. I was in it, day and night, and rarely did an hour go by that I wasn’t either thinking about or actually doing some work. By the end of last year, I was overworked, burnt out, and feeling very little joy for what I was doing. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

And, like Shonda Rhimes, I began to discover that lost sense of joy through my daughter, Zoe. Looking at the world through her eyes and giving myself over to playing with complete abandon radically shifted my perspective. It made me remember where my priorities truly lie and what really makes me happy in life. And, the beautiful realization was that I didn’t need to abandon my work — there was still resonance to be found there. I just needed to understand where the resonance came from.

Rhimes says it perfectly: The real Hum is “not work-specific. It’s joy-specific. The real Hum is love-specific. It’s the electricity that comes from being excited about life…” For Zoe, it’s easy to tap into the real Hum — joy, love, and excitement are uncensored. They don’t pass through the filters that we acquire along the way. For the rest of us, it’s about keeping everything in perspective (and you don’t need to have a three-year-old child in your life to remind you of this). When The Hum stops, take the time to look at how you’re defining it. Make sure you’re not mistaking the feeling you get from doing something for that actual something. The latter puts too much of a burden on whatever that something is, whether you’re manning a multi-tv-show production company, making pastries for a bakery, or helping people do their taxes.

Another way of reconnecting to The Hum is by taking the time to fully interact with the things that bring you soul-level happiness. Family and friends are an obvious one, but when was the last time you spent a day indulging in the arts? Not your craft — I’m talking about reconnecting with the part of you that is a lover of the arts. I have some tips on how to do this in a previous blog post. Other things that may help you rediscover The Hum include a vacation (a real one — no work allowed), even if it’s just for a weekend; meditation/yoga; journaling; cooking…you see where I’m going with this? The Hum is the joy, the love, the excitement, and it will ebb and flow throughout your life. It’s not there to be worshipped, but rather respected. And as long as you do so, it will remind you of the resonance that made you Hum in the first place.