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A Little Appreciation…

January 10, 2015

thI’m feeling so incredibly happy today. Nothing has changed really but I am working in the arms of my first love: the theater. Not acting or directing but helping some great friends to run their rehearsal and performance venue in New York City. http://www.atlnyc.com The Alchemical Theater Lab.

It all happened by accident. I had been feeling very discouraged in my efforts to find work and just happened to stop in to say “hello” and it organically happened. They were ready to bring on help after working 16-hour days and I raised my hand.

Now I’m going to write something that may sound like a brag, I bring a lot to the table. I just do. I have a ton of experience in a lot of areas. I’d like to say I’m pulling down six figures but I’m not and so what! There is a price to be paid many times beyond a great salary.

I was working in an office in New York making decent money but my coworkers were embittered and bored. It was one of the worst company cultures I have ever been witness to. As soon as the principal and her henchman walked out of the door the daggers came out. Backs were stabbed and as a new employee I was a silent observer. I don’t know how the company ended up that way but after five months I couldn’t have cared less. I was out the door without notice. She made it, she can have it!

During my brief tenure there, I was given the reigns on one job for a large building on Sutton Place in New York City.  The client had returned the project boards and proposal saying the firm needed to “put some life into it” It was a beige mess. My first couple of days were spent working on some fresh and colorful ideas: Black over golds, classy and elegant with some French influence. After a second pitch, the job was ours. A $1.6 million dollar contract resulted. I was doing alright… I’d be happy if I had someone landing jobs of that scale a few times a year…

I believe that work is, can be and should be a joyful experience. Pick anything. I work hard to make my work fun. Even the less enjoyable aspects. That’s where I am today. The people I work with laugh and are playful. There is an amazing cast of creatives we are privileged to have as clients. The facilities are loved by all who visit. It is a hub for the New York theater, film and photography scene. It’s a place where I felt at home from the moment I walked in the door. Thank you Gia and Carlo!

Today it is all about appreciation. I was appreciated today and made a generous offer and I turned it down. I was being appreciated for the array of skills that I have spent many years accumulating. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t happen very often in life. Here’s why I turned the offer down: I have a philosophy. Here it is: The more successful I can help you become, the more successful I become.

It speaks to generosity in thought and deed. I know so many people who piss and moan about money but they give the bare minimum fearing that they will otherwise be taken advantage of. It does happen. However, generosity cost you nothing and will give you everything when it is directed in a healthy way. I want the company I’m working for to succeed in every possible way. So if my design skills, administrative skills, technical skills or janitorial skills will help in achieving that goal, I’m all in!

I have been up and down but mostly up. Those are the reasons why. I’ve done time working for some real turkeys but I have also worked with some complete angels. It does exist. Don’t ever settle into a position that makes you unhappy. It’s your life. Make it wonderful.

 

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The Finish Line! …Wait! Where did it go??!!

December 23, 2014

th-1It’s the end of my challenge to write 500 words a day for 31 days… I know I’m a couple of days late but I wanted to craft a thoughtful post about what it might all mean.

I’m learning a lot. It’s always scary to open yourself up and be vulnerable. To head into discomfort sharing bits and pieces of the best and the worst not knowing how or if any of it will be received. To lay your idea on the table and let it be. It’s  not a problem to have. This has really been about getting into the water and swimming not to a destination but just to make the crossing. The journey.

“You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
Irish Saying

I love the Irish! Do some research and you’ll find, beyond all the stereotypes, that some of the most fascinating thinkers have come from that tiny nation… The saying above points out one thing in my mind: There is no finish line in this life. You have to live every day as it comes. Way leads unto way. The road goes ever on. When the last breath comes, it’s on to the next place.

There is always possibility. I’ve become less of a fan of the word hope. We all have to get up and work to move in the direction we want to go in. There is nothing that says life needs to be an absolute slog either. It’s simply making the choice. Sometimes we get lost. That’s part of the journey, any journey.

I’m at a place in my journey and I’m looking for the next turn. I’m in a roundabout circling, looking for the right exit. Sending up flares, asking for help and the GPS, whom we call Janet, is droning on in the background… but is she telling me how to get to where I want to be? After all we still have to choose. Turn and go.

Kevin and I went to a class last night and learned the beginnings of baking bread. We made 4 different kinds, hand mixed dough, let it proof and rest. Baked it, made a pizza… It was a good time. Baking is a process. Chemistry. Who came up with the idea of taking grain and milling it down to flour, mixing it with water, salt, yeast and baking it into bread? It’s so abstract but brilliant. It’s ancient. It’s been developed over millennia. There’s nothing like a good loaf.

A favorite saying in my family has been “just get on with your life!” It was never offered as a solution it was dismissive. Dismissive of being accountable for learned and observed behaviors that were passed down form elders who lacked the courage and emotional intelligence to break free of the cycle of abuse and dysfunction.

We have to get our hands dirty. It’s uncomfortable and at times counter-intuitive. Sometimes events unfold slowly or ignite like a fire storm. Just be ready. I have come to know that the subconscious always delivers. We plug in training, knowledge, the simple repetitive exercise and presto: the subconscious always delivers options, solutions to a problem we’ve been thinking about. That is the process behind trusting your intuition. The calm, cool, collected voice inside your mind delivering up great suggestions and ideas… We all have it.

This writing is about honing in on that voice. I’m going to keep at it even though the “finish line” is behind me. They’re only words after all…

 

 

 

 

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A long time ago, in a city far, far away…

December 20, 2014

Family PhotoI’ve written some horrible things about the family I was raised in. Whatever, it is what it is. Today I’m rounding out the picture.

I was incredibly fortunate to be born when I was and where I was. I was born in 1965 into a nation at war both in the world outside and within itself. Vietnam was in full swing and the civil rights movement was raging. I am from San Diego, CA and at that time it was a small city of less than 300,000 and there were farms a mile from the house I grew up in. This was the time when California was truly great.

I had an unprecedented level of freedom as a child. My father abandoned the family when I was 3 months old and my mother went to work to feed, clothe and house us all. Even though my father was nearby, he was unconcerned and uninvolved with our lives except for our weekend trips to Coronado. There was always turmoil at home… All of that developed an independent streak within me.

I got out as often as I could and was an explorer. I had my childhood buddies of course and we had our bikes, camping gear, skateboards… It sounds a little strange but it was a different time, even though no less violent. Our parents were not hovering around us. We had space and time to roam. In my local area there was a network of canyons linked together by enormous storm drains. it was our playground. We had made trails and forts and could hike miles through these ravines. Also nearby was San Diego State University. The campus seemed so big to me and clean and important. There was also the world famous San Diego Zoo… Free for kids under 16… Come on! It’s true. No longer though. A great playground. Let’s not forget the beach…

All in all it was a recipe for fun and adventure. If we got hungry, most houses had fruit trees growing in their yards so we would climb up and have our fill of oranges, apricots, apples, plums, avocados… Ok, so we were not eating avocados off the tree but we took ’em home. It was in this world that I learned to be creative. We were outside and had to make our own entertainment so we made things, dug forts, raiding our collective woodpiles and garages for supplies and materials. We attempted to make many go carts. Most of which never made it through the first down hill run. Who knew you couldn’t nail wheels onto a go cart? We learned a lot from those failures. We also had tons of help. Great neighbors all around who supported, encouraged and taught us so much.

All of this taught me to have fun and not over think whether or not you had money or permission to do things. It might fill some with a sense of dread and we got into some small trouble but I was a good kid. I took risks and made mistakes but I was well loved in the neighborhood.

I never really felt that at home except with my mom. She saved me in so many ways. One of my favorite outings with her was to the nurseries around town. She loved plants and there was dirt and cool carts and the sun… She would take us to work in the summer to La Jolla so we could be all day at the beach. So beautiful next to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s aquarium.

My mother was a ceramic artist and worked often at the San Diego Potters Guild where she served as president. Great bunch of people in Balboa Park near all the museums. I had great exposure to so many things to inspire and excite a child’s imagination. I think she gave me the sense that I could do anything. I’m certainly interested in everything. That has been a blessing and a curse.

I’ll be forever grateful for that time and place. I imagine we all have our trials. At least I hope so… It’s just as important to remember the great times, people and places who helped to make us who we are. Good and bad and the ugly.

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What’s Doing?

December 19, 2014

MF13_Stickers_WeAreAllMakersEver notice how much easier it is to do for other people? How about how difficult it is to do what you do for someone else, whether it’s a personal favor, or in a business, for yourself?

Where are my people?!?! For me this is true. For my own work I tend to work in a vacuum, meaning I do my personal projects on my own. It’s not ideal. Not much happens in a vacuum. I need other people around. I get a lot from the interaction and creative banter. Yet here I am…

I’m working with some friends at their company in Manhattan. It’s fantastic. They have a strong brand that they have created in the service of the New York theatrical community. By strong brand I mean this: The have created a compelling environment for creative work that gives an “Ah Ha” moment to every customer that walks through the door thanks to an elegant simplicity at an unbeatable rate and value.

In short, they have created a winning experience. That’s what a brand is. An experience. A consistent, verifiable and repeatable experience. You can disagree but every other adjective one trows out to describe a brand still boils down to the experience of that product or service. A name brand gives one the experience of wearing, feeling, having, looking a certain way, being in a location or environment. Quality speaks to experience. Location speaks to experience. Image. Think about it and know this is true.

My friends have done this. They have effectively created an experience for each customer and solved their need for reasonable creative space in Manhattan without trying to be all things to all people. It’s fantastic to be there and feel apart of that delivery system. The clients are thrilled and happy and, I’d venture, more creative  and productive as a result. Win/Win/Win They have developed a tribe or community.

I’m inspired by them. I’m working on some projects for myself outside of my time there. One of the objects behind this writing exercise is to begin to create a tribe around my business by finding my voice as a writer. It may seem counter intuitive but there it is. To accomplish anything noteworthy we must surround ourselves with like minded souls. You can not be a happy “Yes, And” person surrounded by “No, But” people. “No, But” people will grind you down kicking and screaming into their hell of cynicism and negativity.

One thing that I pride myself in is the ability to forge ahead with an idea. Develop it and make a reality of it. Could be writing or designing a room, a painting or a line of tote bags. I worked for a time at a well known contemporary art museum in La Jolla, CA. During installations I was privileged to meet and talk with many high level artists. During the course of my conversations, I would always ask if their friends and family thought they were “crazy”. Without exception they said “of course”. “No, But.” They went ahead regardless and created something amazing.

The same can be said of entrepreneurs, makers, business titans and many others. If you feel strongly and have the inner impulse to do or make something, by all means, do it! Unless it means that you’ll be hurting yourself or someone else… Then reconsider.

That nagging impulse to create is there for a reason. It’s is a guide. Take the first step and move. Little by little you will make progress maybe even by leaps and bounds. It’s worth it.

 

 

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My Eulogy

December 18, 2014

calla-lily-funeral-wreath-115-pDon’t worry, just an exercise. In fact this might be a great way to visualize (reverse engineer?) what you want your life to look like… So here goes:

If there’s one thing about Paul I have come to know it can be summed up in a single word: surprise. He was full of surprises. Like most people, the more closely I got to know him the more interesting he became to me. He had layers and was a renaissance man if ever there was one. If there was an interest, he pursued a thing with zeal. Artist, designer, actor, writer, entrepreneur… Military man, Manager, Tech Geek. He seemed to know something about almost everything, drawing connections between unlikely subjects and the human experience. If he didn’t know he would learn on his own accord and bring you the answers to your questions. He claimed a small number of friends but it is likely that he had impact beyond his reach.

He was deeply flawed. He struggled with and eventually overcame addiction. I never saw him take a drink or use drugs so I couldn’t parse that side of him but he never seemed uncomfortable in any social setting. He suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I would suspect due to a rocky family background and yet he got up and did stand-up comedy on Broadway at Caroline’s in New York City. Cojones. I remember going to one of his shows and afterwards I told him what a surprise it was to see him. He really owned that stage…

He had the air of an Alpha but could drop into the background and suddenly one would be aware that he had accomplished all of these tasks unasked. He had made himself indispensable by the virtue of the breadth of his skill and knowledge.

He was generous. Seemed to have his financial life together. I know he worked in the dot com world so one had to speculate on some kind of success there. Then there was the accident that coincided with 9/11. He described the injuries but he looked fine considering. That nearly ended him and so after he reengaged with life in his late 30’s by moving to New York to pursue his desire to act, finish a college degree that had long since been abandoned; to truly live, abating any possibility of regret should his light go out.

Maybe that’s the lesson of Paul O’Rourke: Live. Whatever may be burning inside of you, do it. “Suppression leads to pathology…” he used to say. He may have been right. Whenever anyone ever said they wanted to do something, he immediately was right there figuring out the steps to take to DO IT regardless of inexperience or expense.

“If you think too much you’ll never get started. Just make a plan and begin! Don’t take my work for it. Read there are tons of incredibly successful people who say the very same thing.” Trust.

In the end, he was quiet and well loved. He loved gold but was never ruled by it. “I think we tend to value people by their material wealth too much.”He trusted people and he was trustworthy in return.

I think he was a lucky man. Opportunities seemed to find him and if those pursuits or people lost his interest he was off to what’s next. He flouted conventions and fell into success time and time again. Lucky man. Lucky Me.

 

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work, Work, WOrk, WORk, WORK!

December 16, 2014

hand-holding-penI know work can be a touchy subject. There is an entire industry built around creating meaningful and enjoyable work-life balance. It’s easy to fantasize about work that we perceive as fun, the artist, the actor, writer, “reality TV star” (please)… Maybe that’s it. We lose sight of the fact that those pursuits require more effort than any other work you could possibly imagine. Not to mention that you have to be truly exceptional in some regard and most earn only a small pittance to live on.

What else seems most satisfying? To strike out on your own, create a business for yourself, and call your own shots. Again, more work than anyone ever realizes but satisfying. Entrepreneurship is all about solving problems for people. See something you could do better, faster, smarter? That could be a business.

Finding work that sustains you on multiple levels is crucial to living a balanced life. I don’t care what the job is so long as it gives you that satisfaction at the end of the day. There is someone for every kind of work…

I recently returned to New York City and immediately went to work at a small design firm. I was incredibly excited about the prospect of switching form residential design to commercial design. During the interview process I was offered a position 45 minutes in as a Lead Designer. I said “Great!” There were a couple of things that should have given me pause but, in the moment, I allowed my excitement to gloss over the situation. Here’s what I discovered:

The offer was made in front of her most senior employee who considered himself the lead designer. Secondly, they needed to fire someone to make a vacancy for me to fill. Thirdly, there was also another designer in the office that had been there for nearly 4 years who would not be thrilled that I had been hired into a more senior position. The kicker was that in a small office with plenty of work there was never a plan in place to on-board new employees. Critical! As you can imagine, none of the other staff would speak or interact with me. No one in the office ever sat down with me to show me how they process work/jobs through the office despite my weekly requests to do so.

I gave a top effort and after 5 months resigned the position. I like collecting a paycheck but I felt ultimately that there was no way for me to contribute effectively. The owner kept saying to me that “there was no way I could hit the target if I didn’t know what the target was…” Hearing that one or twice is fine but after the tenth, everyone’s time is being wasted. All was not a loss, I did manage to secure for the firm a $1.6M job which was the only project I was given and allowed to run with. That’s what I bring to the table: score! Poeple don’t leave bad jobs they leave bad bosses. So true.

In America, why are there so many companies who dreadfully undervalue their human capital? I love the series Undercover Boss for this reason. Most CEO’s appear to be clueless ass to what their workers actually do to make their business run well. While the show is a bit over-the-top on occasion, it really illustrates the fact that every person in an organization makes a contribution to the whole. We all have value.

There is never any reason to stay in an unappreciative situation with regards to work. And don’t use financial obligations as an excuse! I mean this: we can always take steps to make a change without putting our selves and our families at risk. Invest in training, education, search for a new job while suffering through a bad one but Take Action! We deserve to work with dignity. We spend too much of our lives working to not have some stake in personal fulfillment.

There are more and more businesses out there who are understanding that. Find and work for them!

 

 

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Oh Mistake! You are not who I thought you were…

December 15, 2014

OopsMistake? What mistake?!?!

We live in a performance driven world. Are we smart? I’m not too sure. First, what is a mistake? Getting behind the wheel drunk? Sending out a resume with typos? Shoplifting a package of chewing gum? Cheating on taxes? Working for 40 or 50 years thinking you’d have a safety net only to learn that your company has looted or eliminated your retirement accounts? Trusting in your government and institutions? Trading the milk cow for magic beans? Creating a hazardous product?

It’s all relative, of course. Some missteps are catastrophic while others are a bump in the road. What do you really mean by mistake? Is it really an event that reveals our humanness or lack thereof?

What I consider a mistake has evolved over the years. I’ve spent too much time believing in a one-strike lie my father instilled in me. Love and acceptance is conditional and any misstep carried the weight of being forever branded a failure (or insert your own adjective…). This all started at the tender age of… How old are you in Kindergarten? Of course I’m being generous. It must have begun earlier. No matter, for me, familial love and acceptance from my father and his family was never an option because they are missing that part of their humanity. That’s a fact. I consider it untreated mental illness. I can’t imagine what must happened to them.

I’ve written about how we recognize the truth when it appears. My intuition always spoke up when I was offered the lies of my father as a child. There was always a soft voice that said “You’re a liar!” in response to the horrible things he would say. Regardless, I spent years striving to undo the damage those abuses wrought within me. No matter what I did, whether great accomplishment or embarrassment, the result were the same: Abject humiliation and rejection. As an attorney he was expert at these things.

I begin to think as I write down these horrible parts of my life “Who wants to hear about all this?” It’s uncomfortable. I’m illustrating this: the only mistake we make is believing those who seek to limit us us in any way. It has nothing to do with you (or me). Sounds so simple but difficult to wrap your head around depending on who the perpetrator is. We respond or are attracted to the men and women who are modeled for us. Ever wonder why people have said for generations “you married your mother or father…” We are drawn to what has been modeled for us.

I chose horrible and abusive partners for the longest time. I eventually was able to see and understand what I was doing to myself and break the cycle of abuse. For the last 18 years I have been in a solid and loving relationship. A real partnership of love and support. It’s made all the sweeter because I know first hand what a bad relationship looks and feels like.

The point lies here: there are no mistakes. We each have our road to travel and we can overcome any obstacle so long as we are willing to be honest with ourselves and do the work needed to redirect. It’s hard work. Requires action and kindness towards one another and most importantly toward ourselves. And, Forgiveness. That has been incredibly hard for me. I forgave for myself and my future. It didn’t require continuing in a toxic relationship just the decision and the work required to let it go. Again, not easy but necessary.