You Have Superpowers

April 22, 2013

Hello! Here in Minnesota we've regressed a bit into winter. You know, the six-inches-of-snow-when-you're-expecting-tulips kind of regression. The kind that makes most conversations revolve around the weather: what the weather was like this time last year, what it might be like next week, etc...
Personally I've been thinking about all of this like abstinence: the wait is going to make it so worth it, people! But actually: damn it Spring, just happen already. Meanwhile I bought more flowers.

Last week I found myself in the sterile meeting room of a corporate business office (someone should look into decorating those places for increased productivity). I was there to talk to an investment company about a "creative" project they're working on. It's not quite dance improvisation-- more like they're trying to make a document that presents a property they need investors for. This type of thing is certainly outside of my comfort zone, but I gave feedback on the way the material was presented and formatted. You know, asking is the message effectively presented? Anyway, this gentleman validated the hell out of my creative skills, because I had the insight that he (amazing at crunching numbers as he is) was lacking. This meeting reminded me: creative people are really valuable to the world. And usually better decorators. Remember that.

About two years ago I came to the conclusion that I needed a new skill set. After eight years as a freelance arts educator, teaching theater and dance throughout the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs, I was really burned out. Even though I was teaching at some really reputable institutions, it wasn't leading to greater security or even a certainty that this was my calling. Mostly I doubted everything. My Saturn was returning. Don't believe in Saturn Returns? Read up. (Or read about how to survive it over here). Essentially it's the idea that it takes Saturn about 30 years to orbit around the sun, and when Saturn comes back to the same place it resided when you were born, you go through a huge transition. I've heard it put this way: everything in your life becomes a totally chaotic mess, and you get to reevaluate what's important to you. It usually happens between ages twenty eight and thirty (and again between 56 and 60, and once more at 84-90). Saturn returns brings transformation! And maturity! And turbulence! All of this was cause for going through a huge scary point in my life: WHO WAS I GOING TO BE IF I WASN'T A TEACHER/ARTIST PERSON!?!?!?

I found this Instagram from the summer of 2011. It was from a day where I wandered into a bookstore hoping to find the answer. Do you ever do that? I was hoping that the right self-help guide or inspirational memoir would help me figure out my dilema. I saw this book and had a good laugh:

I didn't figure out what I wanted to do with my life on that day (or buy the book). But the answers to the questions that I persistently asked gradually came into focus over that summer and fall, slowly moving from fuzzy-edged to clear. Over time I had a few realizations:
  • That I love people. And that I wanted to help creative people who were feeling as stuck as I was find and use their superpowers, and get their work done.
  • That I didn't need a new skill set-- I just needed to think about new ways of packaging and sharing the skills I already had already honed: a knack for identifying other people's creative strengths, killer long-term planning and organization, a decade of experience teaching and putting together creative content, clear writing, astute feedback. 
  • That I thrive when working for myself, putting a variety of clients and projects in my schedule.
  • That if I wanted to build a career around doing something different, I better get going. Only practice (and failing) would make it work. 
All of this led to writing more. And envisioning a method for working with creating people. And collaborating with Ben. It also led to changes that I didn't predict: returning to choreography and teaching with a fresh perspective and direction, hobbies, a search for more life balance, and new friendships. I realized the other day-- almost two years from that summer-- that I'm the happiest I've ever been! Isn't that a nice realization to have? I'm truly excited for projects that are taking shape, and I'm ok that there are still plenty of unanswered questions about my creative endeavors and making it all work. The point is: I'm enjoying the process! As a horribly impatient person, I've worked a long time to enjoy process.

I was sitting next to an actor buddy at a performance a few weeks ago at a show and telling him about the work I've been doing to help artists and small businesses make plans for themselves. His first question was pretty understandable: Do you have a business degree? Ha. No. I certainly don't. I can't tell you about your stock portfolio or extreme marketing strategies. But what I have is smart perspective (that I wish someone had given me). As my friend said: think of it as life coaching for artists, but without the hippie dippy you equate with 'life coaching'. Fine. I'll take it.

Finding direction hasn't come down to reading a bunch of business books (though I've taken to doing that) or even taking classes (though I've done a bit of that, too). It's come down to identifying what I've excelled at in the past, and what I'm crazy passionate about, and building on these things. It's been about identifying my superpower, hokey as that sounds. You could call this 'expertise' too, but 'superpower' is more fun. I promise that you have several. It's all about answering these two questions:

What makes you come alive? 
What can you offer that people need?

Find the overlap between the two and you have a vocation. The rest can be figured out-- just remember it takes time. Save the money on the What To Do With My Life book and buy a journal. Ask people you admire out to coffee. Pick brains. Observe things. DO SCARY THINGS. Don't get overwhelmed by your ideas. Keep going. But mostly: have faith in your superpower, and be willing to make lots of mistakes. This is what I keep trying to remind myself.


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