I don’t know about you all, but lately I’ve felt like I’m in the movie Groundhog Day. I wake up, I make coffee, I write, I wake up my kid, I feed my kid, I clean up after my kid, I go back to work, etc. There is little to no variation in my daily life. It’s the same day over and over again.
Interestingly, it reminds me of another time when I had very little variance in my daily routine— when I was in New York dancing on Broadway.
Think about it, if you go to see Phantom of the Opera in New York (or anywhere else, for that matter) the show doesn’t change from day to day or year to year. Phantom of the Opera has been the same dang show for the past 31 years. Eight shows per week for 31 years. Same songs, same dialogue, same costumes, same theatre.
I never performed in Phantom, but I do have a friend that did that show in New York for 17 years! That’s over 5,000 shows of the same show. Trust me when I say that it can get a little repetitious. The longest show I did on Broadway was The Little Mermaid and I only did the show for two years, but that’s still around 800 shows. Of the same show.
Now, don’t get me wrong — dancing and singing in New York on Broadway is a dream job. But . . . it can get a little boring. But only if you let it get boring. Here’s the thing — anything you do gets boring only if you let it get boring. And my castmates in most of my Broadway shows definitely did not let our shows get dull.
We did some absolutely ridiculous things backstage (and onstage) in New York to make every day a little different and a little more fun. Here are a few things we did backstage on Broadway that can spice up the daily grind of any profession.
Make Someone Laugh
I will never forget performing Mary Poppins on my birthday. I was onstage singing and dancing and then looked over to stage right to see that one of my castmates had written “Happy Birthday” on his bare bootie which was surrounded by 6 other people smiling and sporting jazz hands around his “moon”. I didn’t stop laughing for days.
Now, I recognize that not everyone wants to expose themselvess to anyone else in New York to make them smile. However, there are so many ways to make another person laugh. My husband leaves our son’s minions in ridiculous places and situations for me to find throughout our house. A sensible gif will raise the spirits of most recipients of any email response. And laughter, interestingly enough, is one of our basic human emotions that can be recognized by any culture.
Think about it — laughter can dispel tension in a room, it can release pent up energy, and scientists suggest that laughter may have even evolved as a way to keep societies more connected. Additionally, laughter not only raises the mood of the recipient of the joke, but it also improves the spirits of the person telling the joke. So, a shared joke increases the bond between two people and makes both people a little happier.
Buy a whoopee cushion, dress up your dog and walk him around New York, or use a goofy app on your phone to send a video to a friend of you as a dinosaur. Whatever you do, find a little levity in what you do. Making someone in New York laugh will improve their day, but it will also improve yours.
Yes, my days lately all look very similar (and maybe yours do as well), but if you take a moment to do something silly for another human, it will introduce a burst of endorphins that will carry you throughout your daily tasks.
Build Encouragement Checkpoints
Let’s face it, we do a lot of things that not many people notice. I put all of my son’s trucks back in the toy box every morning, but I’m definitely not going to get a medal for it. You can only tell yourself “good job” for so long before you need to hear it from someone else’s mouth.
I remember when I was in New York learning my ensemble track in Beauty and the Beast, the woman that I was replacing taught me a lot more than what I was supposed to do on stage. “Okay, you finish this number, run offstage, get a high five from Joe (the stage right props guy), fist bump Rod (a fellow ensemble member), and then run to your dressing room to change”. I was perplexed as to why I had to do all of these seemingly silly extraneous things.
Then, after one week of performing the role, I realized why. The dance piece before the high five and fist bump was grueling. The song, Be Our Guest, was a never-ending extravaganza of kicking, singing, leaping, and spinning and I was exhausted by the end.
I realized — I needed that high five and fist bump. As the years went by and I performed that dance hundreds of times, I looked forward to the encouragement at the end. Rod and Joe were sometimes what got me through the epic dance number when I was sick or tired or injured.
The same concept can be applied anywhere in New York. We all NEED encouragement. And, believe it or not, most people are more than happy to give it. I have a Friday night Zoom cocktail hour with my girlfriends during which we all congratulate each other for completing another week of work . . . and it’s awesome.
According to a study on the effects of encouragement on the brain, “encouraging expressions, as those used in sport practice, as well as in many other contexts and situations, do seem to be efficient in exerting emotional reactions and measurable effects on cognition”. In short, encouragement works! But, other people don’t know you need encouragement unless you tell them.
You don’t have to run a marathon to deserve congratulations. These days, we all should be congratulated for simply surviving. So, find a buddy in New York that is willing to give you a virtual (or real) high five for completing tasks that you normally wouldn’t get credit for and it will inevitably improve your day-to-day experience.
Recognize The Recipient
It’s easy to do our work in a bubble. Particularly if we are working from home. We don’t always necessarily see the effects of our efforts on other humans in New York. Or, if we do see them, it’s through a computer screen. No matter whether you’re editing a Youtube show or writing a blog, you should take the time to acknowledge the joy or value that your task brings to others.
One of my favorite things to do while dancing on Broadway was to find a person in the audience (yes, we can see you!) that I wanted to watch throughout the show. It was usually an awestruck kid. I would mentally dedicate my show to that kid and enjoy watching him or her marveling at the show. This practice got me through many tough times and (I think) made me an overall more joyous performer.
Whatever you’re doing, there is almost always a recipient of your efforts. And, generally, you’re making their lives better by doing what you’re doing. If you’re a farmer in upstate New York, you’re providing nutrition to growing kids, if you’re a writer, you’re providing camaraderie or information for your readers, if you’re a lifeguard, you’re keeping other humans ALIVE.
Yes, we can all recognize conceptually that there are recipients for our daily tasks, but it is so important to actually SEE them. Choose your person in the audience. Read a positive review of your work, focus on one person whose life you have changed for the better, look for and recognize how your small (or large) contribution to the world is changing an individual. And then congratulate yourself on a job well done.
We all have to do things in New York that we don’t necessarily enjoy doing. That’s life. But, if you find the humor in things, congratulate each other, and recognize that your efforts have a positive outcome on society . . . perhaps your boring tasks will become a little less boring.