Thursday, July 28, 2011

NGB guest blog: lessons learned

By Amber Shriver, NGB summer intensive dancer and Patel Conservatory marketing intern.

Advice I Wish I Had Been Told
When I first found out that as part of my marketing internship I would be writing a guest blog, I remember calling my little sister and asking her, “Who is going to want to read about what I have to say?  My life is so boring.”
Now, 5 weeks and nearly 250 readers later, I am more worried about not having enough to say rather than not having enough people listen. However, it is nice to believe that there are people reading my blogs and that my thoughts and words do make a difference. So for one of my last blogs, I thought I’d take a moment and write about the advice I wish I had been told.
To be honest, I have been very blessed to have a wide variety of great mentors throughout my life, so a better title for this entry may actually be Advice That I Was Told and Wished I Had Listened.
Enjoy every class, every audition, every performance, and every moment, good or bad for what it is, because you don’t get a chance to go back.
When I was growing up, my family used to listen to Billy Joel’s Scenes from an Italian Restaurant when going on vacation. One of my favorite lines from that song was, “And the king and the queen went back to the green, but you can never go back there again.” To me, it's such a great reminder that we don’t get to repeat the good or the bad moments in our lives. Whether it’s high school, or a performance, or even just a dance class with a really good teacher.
Often, as dancers we tend to take dancing for granted. By the 5th week of an intensive dance program or the 7th show in a two-week run of The Nutcracker, dancing can seem more like an obligation than a privilege. We forget the millions of people in the world who will never have the opportunity to dance, and who don’t have the opportunity to spend all day immersed in something they love. Sometimes it’s easy to become so absorbed in trying to make our imperfections more perfect and our weaknesses stronger, that we forget to really stop and just enjoy the time we are given.

Appreciate each day that you are lucky enough to go to class, to mess up and to get another chance the next day to try again. And don’t spend your time looking back on when things may have felt better or when your life seemed to work out better. In life we don’t get to go back to the moments when we felt like “the king and the queen”, but we also don’t have to go back to the moments when we did not. And since we don’t know what the future holds as we move forward, it makes sense to enjoy every moment, even the hard ones.
Not everyone in your life is looking out for you.
I’ve always been very lucky in my life to be surrounded by great friends, teachers, family and mentors who look out for my best interests. However, I’ve also learned that not everyone cares about me the way those amazing people do.
As hard as it is not to listen to the people who don’t care, when they tell you that you will not be successful or when they make you feel worthless, you can’t let their criticism dictate how you feel about yourself or your perception of your own capabilities.
There will be people who try to constructively help you grow as a person, and there will those who try to destroy you as a person. Surround yourself with the ones who are willing to help you grow. You don’t get to decide how people view you, but you do get to decide how you react to their opinions. Don’t let people who don’t care about you determine how you feel about yourself because you are far too valuable to let your self-worth be defined by others.
In 10 years your GPA, who your friends were, your S.A.T. score, what colleges you got into, what you wore to prom won’t matter.
I think one of the most shocking moments in my life was sometime during my freshman year in college when I realized that nobody cared what table I sat at during lunch in high school.  I guess in the back of my mind, I thought that I could walk into a job interview and when they asked me what my qualifications for the job were I could tell them, “Well, I sat at the cool lunch table in high school,” and they’d be impressed. It was also equally shocking when I discovered that teachers no longer asked my high school GPA, my class rank or my SAT score.

At some point, all the things which define you in high school cease to matter. And all the time you spent obsessing over those things is wasted. And what you are left with is what you actually learned during your time there, and your ability to apply that knowledge to shape the world around you. Taxpayers invest several hundreds of thousands of dollars to educate you. It’s your responsibility to make a return on that investment and use what you learned in high school to make the world a better place. That requires more than just being pretty, smart or popular. While it’s important to earn good grades, get it into a good college and surround yourself with people who honestly care about you, it is more important to be able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know that you worked your hardest and that what you did helped to make someone else’s life easier.
You do not have to lie, cheat or steal to be successful.
I think one of the best audition tips I’ve ever heard, is that your body can’t lie. Your dancing will always show the amount of hard work, time and effort you put into it.
You can talk yourself up, go to the best schools or try really hard during an audition, but at the end of the day, your body won’t lie for you. It’s a good mantra to remember, not just as you try to calm down before an audition, but also as you prepare for one.

It often seems like you’re surrounded by people who are cheating the system, or are lying to get ahead, or who just aren’t working but are still successful. But the truth is, their lack of integrity and work ethic will eventually catch up with them because you can’t live a lie long term.

Try to bring a sense of integrity to everything you do, and have faith that it will pay off in the long run. Because there is value in knowing that you did the best that you could, and although it may not have been enough, it was the best that you personally could do.
Be proud of yourself, recognize that you are a work in progress, recognize your weaknesses, and while you work to correct them, don’t waste time trying to cover them up by lying or cheating or stealing; because whether you like it or not, those weaknesses are yours, and you will not be able to hide from them forever.
There’s always a bigger picture that is still being painted.
Sometimes you work hard, you play by the rules and you let the littlest thing, one failed relationship, one rejection, one bad audition, one failed class derail you. I am sure that as you look back, you can make a list of millions of things that seemed like the end of the world at the time but now just seem inconsequential. Sometimes the hardest thing to remember is that the story isn’t over, the picture isn’t finished, the journey has just begun. And what seems like the end of the world, is just a speed bump on the road to something bigger.
Don’t give up, remember that something bigger and better is waiting for you and that there is virtually nothing in life that can’t be undone and can’t be fixed. Although some mistakes take more work to repair than others, you do get second and third and fourth and fifth chances. So don’t let your failures, mistakes or bad days be the end.
Sometimes, the biggest leap of faith is simply facing up to whatever is in your way, and believing that hard work will be enough to overcome it, no matter how monumental it is.  Because something is only the end if you let it be. And you can choose to be defined by what didn’t work out, or by what you did afterwards. Work hard and work with integrity; have faith that you were made for a purpose, and that how you live your life is instrumental in making the world a better place; and take time to laugh with genuine friends and just to enjoy every moment you are given. That way, even if you are not successful, you will at least be happy.

Please share your comments...what's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten, or the hardest thing you've had to learn?

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