You are the Star. . .

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 Life has a way of being all about peaks and valleys, doesn’t it? There are days when you really don’t feel like getting out of bed. . .and other days when you awaken and seem to see the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, even though it’s raining. How do I know this? Well, I’m much more like you than you might think. This diva is certainly not always on top of the world. Indeed, there are moments when writing one of my incomparable Success Diva updates actually seems like an overwhelming task. And I use the word ‘task’ to illustrate a point: when I am having what I would call a day of joy, sharing my thoughts and ideas with all of you is something I look forward to. However, on days when I am tired or in pain or simply feeling disheartened, it’s not always easy for me to inspire or uplift those around me, even though I care about each and every one of you so very much. But you know what? I think we have to look at life the way a theatre actress or actor looks upon going onstage every night. Am I making sense? Well, let me elaborate. I was once a stage actress, and I remember well those nights when having to face a live audience was almost more than I could bear. It wasn’t that I didn’t love to act or that I didn’t feel I was adequately prepared. It was usually that I hadn’t slept well. . .or that there were other things going on in my life that were making me miserable. .  .or, well, you get the idea by now, don’t you? The situation is, generally speaking, the thing that was making me feel apprehensive about going onstage usually didn’t have anything to do with the play itself or my performance in it. I remember once when I nearly forgot my lines during a performance of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play, The Physicists. Was it because I don’t have a good memory? No, I have an excellent memory. Was it because I hadn’t rehearsed often enough? Indeed not. It was because I had insomnia the night before and had gotten two or three hours of sleep. Well, guess what? That just happened to be the very night that an important theatre director came to see the show. Things have a way of being like that in life, don’t they? It’s rather like meeting a beautiful woman or a handsome man at the grocery store when you know you aren’t looking your best. You’d really like to run and hide in the bathroom or around the corner, but you know that if you do you’ll miss the chance of meeting someone whom you might be interested in. So, what do you do? Do you take a chance? Of course, you do. Why? Because even though a lot of things in your life haven’t turned out the way you wanted them to, you know that only in not trying will you ever truly fail. Success in any area of your life isn’t something that will ever happen overnight. Rather, it is a result of the choices you make on a daily basis. The success expert and author, Dennis Waitley, said something that I have posted by my computer: “Real success comes in small portions day by day.” And you know what? He’s right. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to admit that Dennis Waitley knows a lot more about success than I do. He’s been studying success for a few decades, whereas. . .well, I’m a bit of a novice, really. However, I do continually study success, along with other subjects that I wish to master. Since you’re smart, I know that you already realize that the only way to ever get good at anything is to study it. Did you manage to ride a bicycle smoothly the first time you tried? I doubt it. To this day, I am not very adept at riding a bicycle. Know why? Well, it’s mostly because my father became very impatient with me growing up, and, rather than understanding that learning to ride a bicycle would take time, he thought I should be able to ride one beautifully within a matter of minutes. Well, that isn’t how life works. Is that fair? Actually, I think it is. I believe that the patience a person must acquire in order to master something—even something as simple as riding a bicycle—enables him/her to weather the storms that life sends his/her way. If everything we ever wanted was handed to us on a platter made out of platinum and encrusted with diamonds without us having to do anything to get it, what would that teach us? Do you think we would really be happy? Admittedly, there are times when you are tempted to say “Well, sure, I’d be happy.” I’ve felt that way, too. So, you’re not alone. At the same time, there is a feeling of sincere and deep accomplishment when we achieve something that we’ve really had to work for. When that which we want is something we have had to earn, it makes us value it a lot more. This is why we must have confidence in ourselves that we can accomplish our goals and that we can make our dreams into a reality.

Look, I am here to offer you my insight and my support, but you know what? You’re the star in your own show. If William Shakespeare is right (and why shouldn’t he have been?) and life is a stage and all the people in it are actors, who is going to be playing the lead in your show?? If you don’t think it’s you, then you need to stop and evaluate the way you’re seeing your life. In order to make your dreams come true, you have to be the one starring in your production. You may have a magnificent spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, loving and encouraging friends, and a family who truly does want to see you succeed, but none of those people should be the star in your show. Nope, you are the star. You and nobody but you. As I said in my very first post at this blog, it’s all about YOU. Now, what did I mean by “it?” It means life. . .specifically, your life. So, I could easily have mentioned the concept of your being the star of your show at that point. However, I only thought of it now. You see what I mean when I confess that this diva doesn’t plan her posts far in advance?? I am completely spontaneous, which is something that has gotten me into my share of difficulties before, I assure you! *wink* But I think it’s far better to be spontaneous than to plan things too much. There’s nothing wrong with having one year, five year, and even lifetime goals. . .but, on a daily basis, you have to allow yourself room to do something impulsive, whether it’s deciding to go out to lunch with a friend or shop in some vintage clothing stores like my good friend, Diana. This doesn’t mean that you engage in such activities at the expense of the things that you absolutely must do. However, it is important to be at least reasonably flexible.

Another friend of mine, Sarah, is constantly finding that she gets so caught up in the things that have to be done that she doesn’t have enough time just for her. What comes into play here—and it’s very helpful, by the way—is making a list (at least a mental list, although writing it down is even better, in this particular instance) of the things that are urgent and the things that are important. Often that which seems urgent isn’t really urgent at all. For example, it might seem to be urgent that you make your husband’s favorite dish for dinner, but is it important? I sometimes find myself writing e-mails or making phone calls that I could have put off or doing other things that I have allowed the urgency of the moment to lead me into succumbing to. The most important things are usually those things that involve spending time with someone instead of doing something for them. In other words, if you have a friend who has a birthday tomorrow and you haven’t yet gotten him/her a present, and you already have so much on your to-do list that day that you don’t know how you’re going to fit in anything more, decide whether or not it might not be better to buy a card (or use one you already have around the house), and tell your friend that you’ll be giving them a present, but you haven’t yet been able to decide on just the right thing. “But I couldn’t do that!,” you exclaim. “It would seem as if his/her birthday wasn’t important to me.” Whoa. Hold on. If you’re putting your friend’s needs before yours, who is the one who is in charge of your life? Is it your friend or you? “But I have to be thoughtful,” you say, “and besides, he/she gave me such a beautiful sweater for my birthday. I have to give more than a card!!” Of course, you have to give more than a card. And you know what? You will. But who is the star of your life? Is it your friend or is it you? And if this friend is worthy of a lovely present, than he/she would surely care about  you enough that he/she wouldn’t want you to stress yourself out over his/her birthday. Am I not right? Father’s Day came around this year, and I hadn’t yet purchased a present for my father. Now he and I aren’t very close, to be honest. Indeed, we have had periods of estrangement between us that have lasted for. . .well, a few years. However, we are on good terms again, and I was certainly committed to remembering him on Father’s Day. I was simply very late about ordering his present, and I realized the week before Father’s Day that there was no way I could count on the fact that the book I wanted to get him from Amazon would reach him on time. So, I sent him a $4 Father’s Day card and told him that a special present would be on its way. As you see, there is a way to solve these issues when they come up. Similarly, I have arrived home from grocery shopping at ten o’clock in the evening before and have wanted to prepare a somewhat elaborate dinner. To me, it seemed urgent that I prepare my special roasted potatoes before the potatoes started to spoil. But what was more important? Preparing the dinner of my desires or making sure I got to bed before I was so tired that I could barely stand up? I’m sure you know the answer to that. Phone calls and e-mails are two areas of your life that you need to use the urgent vs. important tactic with. Make sure that the people whom you are calling and/or writing must be written or called on that specific day. If a call or e-mail can be postponed, do it. And don’t spend time sending short e-mails or making short phone calls saying that you’ll “write more later”. I used to do this sort of thing all the time, and, while it is sometimes essential, more often than not, you’ll notice that you end up writing or talking almost as much as you would have if you had fully committed yourself to the task. Remember: you must be the star of your own show. Everyone else in your life is a supporting player. The person who is closest to you—whether it be a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or parent/close relative—should be looked upon as a co-star. But you are the person who receives top billing. When you think of a film with a big-name star such as Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise, don’t you often find yourself associating their name with the film’s title? For example, haven’t you ever found yourself saying that you’re going to the theatre to see “the new Johnny Depp movie” or “the latest Michelle Pfeiffer flick.” I know I have. . .although I rarely go to movie theaters these days. However, when I order a film from the library, for example (and they have the latest releases, by the way, which is something you should know now that video rentals are so expensive), I find myself looking up films I might want to see via a specific star’s name. If I want to see a film starring Angelina Jolie, I don’t put the name of one of her co-stars in the library search engine. Am I making a point?? And I don’t think most of us even remember the other ladies who made up the singing group, “The Supremes”. Who do we remember? Why Diana Ross, of course. Why? Because she was the star. It was her show and she knew it.

And that’s what you must know, too. You are the star. Don’t decide that you have to find the ‘ideal’ supporting cast in order to make your production a hit. You don’t even have to have a co-star. When you’re a true star, you can carry the show all by yourself with very little assistance. But are you ready to take on the role of superstar? Are you ready to step onto the stage and take the world by storm?? If not, why not? If you’re afraid, then use that fear as energy to make your show a true success. You can do it, you know. You know you can. And I know that deep within yourself, no matter what you think, you are fully capable of being the star in your production.

For now, remember that to be content to merely fly when you can soar is not enough. So, make the most of every day. . .and cherish every minute.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

 

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This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

You are. . .well, You

For as long as I can remember, I have been an incessantly driven person. When I was a little girl, I was constantly wanting to be the best at everything I did. Whether it was playing the violin or singing, I would always strive not only use all of my potential. . .but I would also try to outdo everyone else. Part of it was an inner sense that I somehow wasn’t worthy on my own—that my accomplishments were what made me valuable and unique as a person. Without saying that I had a miserable childhood, what I will say is that I shut myself off from experiencing any genuine joy because of my relentless worth ethic. In a way, I am grateful for the fact that I was taught the importance of hard work at a very young age. It shaped who I have become.  . .and has certainly forced me to be tenacious and resilient during those times in my life when I could easily have allowed obstacles to block my path. What I now ascertain, which is something I didn’t understand for a very long time, is that we can really only compete against ourselves. Do you know why this is? It’s because each of us is different in nearly every aspect of ourselves. Thus, to compare ourselves to someone else automatically removes the essential element from the scenario—and this is our own uniqueness. A few years ago I read a book by Oprah’s long-time boyfriend, Stedman Graham, called Build Your Own Life Brand. Although the book left a less vivid impression on me than many books of the same type that I’ve perused, I will say that the concept of creating your own “Brand” is something I like. What would the world be like, for example, if there weren’t such instantly recognizable brand names as Gucci, Guess, and Chanel?? I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to pick up a fashion magazine at a doctor’s office without coming across an ad featuring one of these brands. “But what does this have to do with me?” you ask. Well, think about it—aren’t you the designer of your own life?? Just as Guess designed jeans and Gucci designed handbags. . .aren’t you designing your life? And, if you’re not, who is?? You may not yet have the fashion know-how to pull off a life plan that would be on a par with a master designer, but with a little practice, why can’t you do it? Now don’t pull out your little book of excuses and hunt for something there. Your Success Diva won’t let you get away with that! *wink* I want to hear a real—a viable—reason for why you can’t design your own life? Are you letting things other people have said to you throughout the years prevent you from pursuing your dreams and goals? Are you thriving off negative emotions like anger, hate, or fear? That last one, fear, can be flipped over and used effectively as I said in one of my previous posts. Come to think of it, anger can be used effectively, too. I suspect hate is truly a thoroughly destructive emotion; yet the root of all hate is self-hate, which means that the solution to overcoming hate is to begin loving and accepting yourself.  I know that sounds kind of. . . .well, like something from a 1980s ‘self-help’ book, but see if this doesn’t make sense if you really stop and think about it. How can you give an emotion to someone else that you don’t feel within yourself? It would be like trying to purchase a yacht when you’re broke. There has been a massive focus on issues of self-esteem and self-image during the past couple of decades, and I would like to think that this, even if it has been overly excessive in some ways, may have enabled people to more readily accept themselves. But. . .what I notice is that there is a tendency to forget what you’ve read in a book a week, two weeks, or three weeks after you’ve read it. Now an unforgettable novel, such as Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. . .perhaps certain details of the plots of these books remain with you for a very long time, if not forever.

However, when it comes to books that would be classified as “motivational” material, it’s easy to forget half of what you’ve read a few days after reading it. Of course, you can continue to re-read these books. . .and re-read them. . .and re-read them. It won’t do you any harm, that’s for sure. But is that really how you want to spend your time? As smart as I know you are, your answer would have to be no. Yet what alternative is there, if you want to change the way you think about yourself, about other people, and about the world around you?? Well, there are a few specific changes that you can make that need to be as permanent as possible. One of these changes is the tendency to compare  yourself to anyone else. You are you are you are YOU. If someone tells you that you write like Ernest Hemingway. . .or Philip Roth. . .or that when they see you acting onstage you remind them of  Nicole Kidman, by all means thank them. . .and fully accept and appreciate the compliment. But don’t start seeing yourself as someone else, even if it’s someone you happen to look up to a great deal. Part of creating and living the life of your dreams is acknowledging and embracing your own individuality. You must create your own ‘life brand’, or you will spend your life trying to be like other people. And who wants to do that?? Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves to be like other people.” I think this was a valid observation on his part. From what I have seen, people so often try to dress, speak, look, and act like someone that isn’t them. I’m not simply talking about withholding a part of yourself when you meet a stranger—or trying to repress certain aspects of yourself while disguising others. I’m actually talking about living with the constant need to ‘fit in’ with your surroundings. . .and with the people who populate your surroundings. What’s wrong with just being you? When I was much younger, I was always trying to imitate a certain celebrity’s style of dress. Usually, I would attempt to adopt Audrey Hepburn’s impeccable fashion style. To me, she was and still is an icon of beauty, grace, elegance, and style. However, it is disheartening to see so many women trying to copy Audrey, rather than simply being themselves. Although I cannot imagine there being a  much more perfect role model for a woman to emulate—at least, not in terms of both style and humanitarian accomplishments–it’s still preferable for each woman to be completely herself. No, there will never be another Audrey Hepburn. But then, there will never be another you, either.

I must admit, I used to think that trying to outdo and/or outperform others provided me with just the zeal I needed to develop what I would call competitive edge. The problem with this mentality is that in trying to be the very best, there is a tendency to focus more on what others are doing than exclusively on what  you are doing and can do. The movie from the 1980s, “The Competition” provides me with a perfect example of why focusing on merely winning isn’t the answer. If you’ve seen this film, you probably haven’t forgotten the tension that existed between the two main characters, played by Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss. Both of these characters were concert-level classical pianists. . .and both of them were competing in the same competition. However, whereas Dreyfuss’ character arrived at the competition viewing it as something he must win, the pianist that Irving depicted always seemed to look at the competition as a challenge. . .an opportunity. . .something she would like to win but not something that she was dependent upon winning. Well, if you’ve seen the film, you already know which pianist won. If you haven’t seen it. . .well, what can I say? Watch it as soon as you can. If you really stop to analyze the difference in the two final piano performances that Irving and Dreyfuss give, you will see that Irving’s is indeed superior. ..but perhaps not for the reason you will initially conclude. The reason that Irving’s performance of the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto is better than Dreyfuss’ performance of Beethoven’s Fifth (“The Emperor”) Piano Concerto is because Dreyfuss is concentrated solely on taking home a gold medal; yet Irving plays from her heart and soul. She isn’t thinking about whether she’ll win or lose the competition because she understands that if she gives her all out there in that final performance, she’ll have achieved victory whether she takes home a medal or not.

Is the point I’m trying to make becoming clearer now? Is it starting to make sense to you? Are you beginning to see where your focus needs to be? Who cares whether one of your co-workers got the promotion you deserved? And what does it matter if one of your best friends managed to purchase an expensive new car? If you let yourself constantly think about the little and big successes in the lives of other people, you’ll be so caught up in focusing on them that you won’t be able to start making your dreams come true. If you imagine I don’t know how difficult it is not to compete with other people, you’re mistaken. There was a point in my life when I found my own competitiveness to be unhealthy. It tended to breed negative emotions such as jealousy, selfishness, and greed. I couldn’t help but look at those who succeeded where I had failed and think that I wished I could be in their shoes. But would I have really wanted to live someone else’s life?? Would I have suddenly wanted to stop being me and become another person simply because that other person was more of a success than me? The truth is that whether or not you win all the prizes in life isn’t nearly as important as whether you contribute to the world something that only you can give. If you want to be a singer but you bemoan the fact that you don’t have a voice like such legends as Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, relax. Embrace your talent—appreciate your voice. Let the world hear what you have to offer. Similarly, if you’re a struggling writer who is frustrated that he/she can’t write like Fyodor Dostoevsky or William Faulkner or Marcel Proust, stop trying to be like any author who came before you. Write like you, not like somebody else. This applies to any career and any area of your life. Don’t decide that you have to get married and have two or three kids just because that’s what your sister, your best friend, and your mother and father did. What is it that you want? Do you want to conform at the expense of never experiencing true love? Do you want to always be compared to a bunch of other writers, rather than being hailed as a new and innovative author? It’s up to you. . .but I know what I’m going to choose. Although there are plenty of things that I want to change about myself—many of which I will be successful at changing, and a few of which I probably won’t—I still wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world. Would you? If you answered ‘yes,’ you need to re-read Success Diva’s post.

Live each moment with passion. . and remember, there is only one of you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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