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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stripping Down to the Bare… Truth



This week I saw a one-woman show Naked in Alaska, written and performed by Valerie Hager, and came away a changed man.

How? Like any good piece of the theatre, I uncovered a life lesson by watching Ms. Hager’s performance.

Being naked is an important part of life.

Naked in the metaphorical sense (sorry to disappoint all of your voyeuristic junkies).

To bare one’s soul, to open up about one’s sordid past, to disclose one’s private personal foibles—this is much braver than making a living dancing nude.

Ms. Hager performs her autobiographical piece with an earnestness and makes her work look effortless—two factors that belie the risk involved in this theatrical undertaking.

Putting your life story on stage for all to witness is no easy task—trust me, I know; I have my own Gospel to tell. What if audiences don’t like it, what if they say that your work, your theatricalization of your life is no good? That would be the worst thing in the world—like, worse than being told you’re not funny or you have an ugly baby.

Ms. Hager takes a huge gamble in creating and performing her life story—and it pays off. She lived in her truth and told her story and the audience connected with her honesty and candor. I imagine if she continues to play her deck wisely and doubles down with Naked in Alaska her future payoff can be huge.

Back to being naked (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Baring one’s soul on a stage—not everyone has that gift. But that doesn’t mean the lesson doesn’t apply all of us.

Whether you’re asking for a promotion, creating some sort of art, or mustering up the courage to ask your crush out for a night at the Cracker Barrel; we have the opportunity to take a (somewhat calculated) risk and share our souls with the person sitting across from us. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Temporary embarrassment? Egg on your face? A dinner alone at the Cracker Barrel? What’s the best thing that can happen? Oh, I don’t know, you get what you wanted!

Speak from the heart. Speak openly and generously, and for the benefit of the other person. Be brave. Show a little metaphorical ankle… or some metaphorical cleavage—oh, la, la. Be vulnerable in your dealings. Ms. Hager does it in her show and it’s taking her on a wild and fulfilling journey.

Get Naked. Play your deck and take that gamble on yourself.
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Speaking of naked… this is a big week. I've pre-released my new memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. It's a completely revealing exposé. Fifteen percent of the pre-release goes to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Canada.


About the book:
By the time Josh Rivedal turned twenty-five, he thought he’d have the perfect life—a few years singing on Broadway, followed by a starring role in his own television show. After which, his getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and his face would grace the cover of the National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Instead, his resume is filled with an assortment of minor league theatre and an appearance on The Maury Povich Show—a career sidetracked by his father’s suicide, a lawsuit from his mother over his inheritance, and a break-up with his long-term girlfriend.
Tortured by his thoughts, he finds himself on the ledge of a fourth floor window, contemplating jumping out to inherit his familial legacy. In turn he must reach out to the only person who can help him before it’s too late.
Based in part on his acclaimed one-man show, The Gospel According to Josh is a comedic and poignant true-to-life tale of love, loss, struggle, and survival—a gospel account of one young man’s passage into manhood—his twenty-eight-year Gentile bar mitzvah.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Freedom Through Improved Communication



Freedom. Seven little letters in the English language that hold a great deal of power. In the United States, we say that we’re free because of rights we’ve been granted via the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the U.S. Constitution enacted by Congress. But having freedom and exercising it are two different things.

One’s true freedom begins in their mind. However, I’m not writing that post today. After the mind, the next manifestation of freedom is in action. Part of that action involves communication. Speech, as well as the written word.

Disagreements, wars, divorces, enslavement, job-loss and many other misfortunes have been caused by poor communication skills, and have been remedied with eloquence.
It would behoove us all to learn to become better communicators—at the very least for the purposes of an improvement in our economic status. This includes personal investments (not only stocks and bonds but education as well), a promotion, freelancers (actors, writers, and artists in general) a greater frequency in employment.

Take a public speaking class, learn how to write poetry, learn to write a deposition, intern with a renowned public speaker, read voraciously,  take an improv class, learn how to write marketing pitches, or learn another language.

We must become better communicators. Your personal freedom and the fate of our species depends upon it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Irene Conlan (35)


This is the thirty-fifth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Irene Conlan with Let’s put “Self” Back in Self Improvement
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You’ve done everything you know to do. You’ve lost that extra 30 pounds that kept you from your “perfect size.”  You spent your last bit of savings getting a makeover – new hairdo/haircut,  new wardrobe,  ripped abs, teeth whitened. You look good and you know you look good.  You’ve studied successful people and do your best to emulate their walk, the way they speak, how they react to others. You should feel good about yourself but, surprisingly, you don’t.

You look in the mirror and the image that looks back at you is a facade – a fake. A phony. At least that’s what you think. The false smile covers up the emptiness you feel inside and it masks the pain that seems always to be there.  No matter how great you look you still don’t feel “good enough.”
“Why can’t I be like everyone else?” the voice inside your head asks.

The answer might surprise you. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe you have become just like everyone around you when, in fact, you are a unique, remarkable one-or-a-kind human being.

We are bombarded by the media to look a certain way,  talk a certain way, believe a certain way. But, think of this (and I know you know this already), there are over 7 billion people on the planet and no two are alike. We aren’t supposed to be alike. So why don’t you stop trying to be like someone else and discover you own uniqueness? It comes down to the questions:

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you want?

Real, lasting self improvement involves answering these questions and getting to know who you really are. It involves self awareness, self acceptance, and self love. Answering these questions will bring you worlds of information about yourself and it will open up more questions. It is an exciting adventure and you are the only one who can do it. No one can do it for you. 

The perfect starting place for this “inner work” is to learn to sit quietly. Simply be with yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts and the way your body feels. Relax by taking a few deep breaths and consciously releasing any muscle tension you notice. Then, relaxed and quiet, ask yourself the questions. Don’t be surprised at the answers to “Who am I” that come into your mind. Write them down. Each time you ask, let your mind explore further. Pay attention to the information you receive either at the time or as you proceed through your day.

Pay attention. Become a student of you. Why do you react to things the way you do? For example, how do you react when someone tells you “no?” Why do you react that way? How do you react when you’re cut off in traffic? Why? How do you react to something beautiful? What touches your soul and brings tears to your eyes with its beauty?  What do you like? What do you dislike? Why? What things do you react to in ways that you saw your parents react when you were a child? For example, you see someone dressed a certain way and you immediately decide you don’t like them. What are your broad generalizations about people? I heard a little boy make the declaration, “All girls are slow!” He was seven years old. How did he come to believe that?  Will he learn better? What “old programs” do you still have running?

Monitor your thinking. Are your thoughts about yourself predominantly positive or negative? When you make a mistake do you say “I can and will do it better next time” or do you berate yourself with phrases like “You don’t do anything right. How can you be so stupid?” Begin to change your thinking to more and more positive. Yes, even Pollyanna-ish. Your thoughts are the powerful creators of everything in your life. If you pay attention you might be surprised about where your thoughts take you and what they are creating for you that you aren’t aware of.

What do you believe? Have you examined your own beliefs about the important things in life? What do you believe that you weren’t told you HAD to believe about God, politics and government, sex, marriage, family, work, play, human potential? Have you thought them  through?

This is by no means an end of the self discovery process but it will give you a good starting place.

Self improvement is most definitely an inside job and going within is as simple as getting quiet and relaxed and allowing yourself to as honestly as you can, answer the questions. As you know more about who you are and what your truly want, you will begin to notice small but significant changes taking place within you and the person in the mirror will begin to smile back in approval.

***
Irene Conlan has a master’s degree in nursing. She taught nursing at Arizona State University, served as Director of Nursing Administration at a Phoenix hospital and served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. She is also a certified hypnotherapist. Irene lives in Scottsdale AZ and has two sons and three grandsons. She is an avid blogger on her favorites – The Self Improvement Blog. and The Self Esteem Blog She is also the host of The Self Improvement Show on VoiceAmerica's Empowerment Channel.

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Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?" 
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.

On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 


Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Mine and Cultivate Trust: The Most Precious Metal on Earth




Today I was thinking about all of folks at various schools and theaters, and all of the audience members who have put their trust in me with with GATJ. They put a huge amount of trust in me. Pretty wild and definitely not something that happens everyday. It’s big. It’s huge. I have to write about trust.
I’m sure we’ve all heard some variation of the saying, “Trust takes years to earn, and seconds to break.”
To earn someone’s trust is such a profound and sacred phenomena, it deserves to be rewarded and celebrated.
When someone puts their trust in someone they are saying:
  • I believe in you
  • I think you’re competent
  • I won’t let my baggage get in your way
  • YOU are not just a truth, but THE truth (in one way or another)
The party giving you their trust is giving you a valuable and rare gift.
There’s two sides to the coin I’m presenting.

Side 1: Consider someone who is thinking about putting their trust in you to hire you for a new job, to buy a product off of you, to begin a partnership with you, or take it out of the business arena and into a simple personal relationship. Ask yourself, “what can I do or what can I give that will surpass the gift this person is giving me that will allow them to put their complete trust in me.”
Side 2: Consider someone who has already put their trust in you. Yes, you need deliver on what you’ve promised. But you must also think about how you can go above and beyond your original promise. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but something that acknowledges your appreciation for their trust—a referral, a plate of cookies, an extra widget, an extra hour of time…

The beauty lies not only in the giving and receiving of trust, but when someone returns to dip their pail of trust in your well because your special water provides them with sustenance.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The i'Mpossible Project …According to Dani DiPirro (36)

This is the thirty-sixth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.)  Here we have Dani DiPirro with "Leave the Paycheck to Launch the Dream: How I Left My Job to Do What I Love."
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I used to wake up most mornings cursing the day. I spent my weekends and weeknights writing about how to live and love life in the present moment, but when it came to my day-to-day life, I struggled constantly with embracing my 9-to-5 job. Though the job itself wasn’t bad at all—and the people I worked with were great—getting up every day and going to work often felt wrong. It’s hard to explain exactly what was wrong about it, but at the core I had the belief that I was living a life that I wasn’t meant to be living. It wasn’t easy to leave what was comfortable and go after what I really wanted to be doing—pursuing my website, PositivelyPresent.com as a full-time career, but here are the essential elements that helped me get from here to there:

Recognize the need to leave.

For a while, I convinced myself that my unhappiness at work was normal; this was how everyone else felt too. But as time went on, I started to realize that might not be true. While most of my friends weren’t jumping up and down with excitement to go to work every day, they weren’t miserable. They didn’t feel like they were losing a part of themselves every time they put on a suit or sat in a meeting. As my friends settled into their careers, I found myself itching to get out of mine and make my own path.

Face the fear—and keep going.

Even when I knew that I needed to be living a different life, I was scared to make a change. No one else I knew was doing anything other than what was expected of them—getting up each morning, going to work, and climbing the corporate ladders of their various industries. While my friends were supportive, many of them raised an eyebrow at the notion of leaving the privileges of a comfortable corporate job. I was scared—but I knew I had to face that fear and keep going. If I let the fear take over, I would always stay where I was.

Find a source of inspiration.  

To overcome my fear, I needed inspiration, guidance—and I needed it fast. Lucky for me, an inspiring duo wasn’t too far from reach. My parents had started their own company when I was just a kid. My father told me stories of what it was like to start a business with two small children depending on him. He had so little money. He had to start from nothing. I remember those early days and how nothing seemed different other than the fact that my dad no longer went to the office every day but instead had a section of the basement dedicated just to him and his work. Miraculously, though he and my mother were stressed and strapped for cash, I never knew about their struggles. It was difficult, he told me, but he never regretted it.

Seek out encouragement.

My parents encouraged me to go for it—to go after what I really wanted for my life. Perhaps that’s what all parents do with their children, encourage their dreams, but it seemed like an extra bonus that my dream of working for myself paralleled the dream they’d shared years ago. I was fortunate to have them, to have their support and their wisdom. Without that, I don’t know if I could have taken the leap and said goodbye to the job I’d grown so comfortable in.

The actual act of leaving was simple—a desk cleaned out, goodbyes said—but all that led up to it was what made it possible. The need, the courage, the inspiration, and the encouragement: each of these things pushed me in the direction of leaving what I’d known and going after what I wanted.

***

Dani DiPirro is the author of Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present and Live Happily Ever After Now: A Guide + Workbook for Living in the Present Moment. She is also the founder of PositivelyPresent.com a site dedicated to helping people live positively in the present moment. To check out Dani’s latest book, and watch the Stay Positive video, visit StayPositive365.com.
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Why is this "The i’Mpossible Project?" 
Inspired by Josh Rivedal's book and one-man show The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah. Gospel (non-religious) means "Good News" and Josh's good news is that he's alive, and thriving, able to tell his story and help other people.

On his international tour with his one-man show, he found incredible people who felt voiceless or worthless yet who were outstanding people with important personal stories waiting to be told. These personal stories changed his life and the life of the storyteller for the better. 


Josh's one-man show continues through 2015 and beyond and he is looking for people in all walks of life, online and offline, to help give them a voice and share their stories with the world.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sneak Peek #7 From (the book version of) The Gospel According to Josh: A 28 Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah




Hey there friends, 

So this is going to be the last sneak peek into the book before it release—pre-order August 27th and a full release on September 24th (Check back here for those deets). This book as been almost a two year journey and I'm so thankful you've spent some of it with me. This next little tidbit is something I've probably shared with only five people and not something I'm too comfortable talking about, but it's time. Thanks in advance for not passing judgement ;) 

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Chapter 16

A Walk through the (Japanese) Garden of Eden


I looked over at the alarm clock and it was 7 a.m. and time to get ready for my last day in the Vancouver area.  
After a quick shower and a light breakfast of little sausages and cheese, I headed out to the Nitobe Memorial Garden, a traditional Japanese Tea and Stroll garden located on the edge of the University of British Columbia’s campus. It described itself as “a place of reflection, where each step reveals a new harmony, the garden is designed to suggest a span of time—a day, a week, or a lifetime—with a beginning, choice of paths, and ending.” 
A revelation of new harmony was exactly what I needed. I went to the Pacific Northwest to live deliberately and to front only the essential facts of life. But so far my trip had been little more than self-indulgent. I had no more clarity about my life or its purpose and I was losing an increasing amount of sleep due to my father’s incessant enigmatic appearances, which I still couldn’t decipher. 
Subsequent to my arrival on campus, I inched along a few winding roads that led me to a secluded little back corner of the school’s grounds. It was here that walls of a garden were erect, separating the undisturbed serenity within its core from the chaos of the rest of the world. A small stone path led to a large and stoic wooden gate that warmly invited me to pass through its threshold and into what looked like the Japanese Garden of Eden. 
One large circular footpath, lined with neatly pruned cherry trees and red cedars, enclosed a number of smaller paths and bridges made of logs and planks that crossed over a pond at the center of the garden. At several junctions along the inner footpaths were old stone lanterns sprinkled throughout. A solitary wooden pavilion sat near the garden’s center. At any moment I expected to see a Japanese Adam and Eve emerge from the brush wearing nothing but maple leaves. 
I wandered aimlessly through the garden absorbing the peacefulness of everything through my fingers: the hairy moss on the ground, the small waterfalls making perfect little ripples into the water, large rocks resting along the lake, and the exterior of a dignified and ancient-looking teahouse. The tranquil energy flowing through me, given from the rocks and trees, brought something inside me to life—something almost supernatural. This force felt almost prescient and told me that inside this garden was the answer to the many lingering questions beleaguering my fragile mind.   
With urgency, I circled around the outer edge of the garden, in the heated pursuit of anything—a clue, a hint, an insight—but with no such luck. I circled around a second time and still nothing. The vigor of my inner spark began to ferment into heavy fatigue and I paused my search.
I approached a seven-story Pagoda, a solitary and tired piece of stone that looked as if he needed a friend to sit at its feet and keep him company for a bit. I sat cross-legged at his base facing the pond, resting my head against his chiseled torso. Within moments, my eyelids became heavy and fought to resist gravity’s pull but finally succumbed to the laws of physics. I fell into a deep sleep and there I was welcomed by the Adonis Viking, Ghost Dad. 


Chapter 17

A Clue


We stood on opposite sides of the same ravine in the same manner we had in previous encounters. He was crying yet again, but enraged like the man I knew from my childhood. 
His tears flowed down into the gorge and caused the river to rise above my ankles. 
“Why are you doing this to me?” I asked. I could finally speak to this infamous and unwelcome specter. He wouldn’t answer and the water rose to my knees. “You’re ruining my life. Leave me alone!” He didn’t respond, and the river rose to my waist. “What do you want? What do you want from me!?” And with outstretched arms and open palms side by side he conjured up more skywriting in black capital letters. Above his right hand was the word “TELL” and above his left hand were the words “MY STORY.”
“What are you talking about? I can’t. I wouldn’t know how.”
“Then write it down,” he said as the river rose to my chest.
“How am I supposed to do that? I don’t understand what you want,” I answered, now in tears myself.
“Figure it out. Tell the world.” And with that he floated away until he melted into the sun. The river had now risen past the level of my head and engulfed my entire body. I awoke sweating and lying face up on the ground. 


Chapter 18

A Hostage Crisis


Pulling myself up to a sitting position, I braced myself for support against my new friend, the seven-story stone Pagoda. 
Was this the clue I was looking for? Was this really my father or a figment of my imagination? Wiping the sweat from my brow, I wondered what he could possibly want me to say about him. Everything I knew about him involved yelling, religion, disappointment, and suicide—not exactly a compelling tale or strong legacy to leave behind. 
A trip to Vancouver didn’t rid me of Ghost Dad but showed me that he would continue to hold my dreams hostage until I did exactly what he wanted. There would be no negotiating with my nighttime terrorist.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Little Recommended Reading



In the eighteen months since I started writing my memoir, I vowed to read other writers works along the way—for inspiration, to support, and for entertainment. I’ve read at a pace of one book every two months, and this doesn’t include the five or so children’s books I’ve had to read as an audiobook actor. As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed these books more than I’ve enjoyed television and if you’re not a reader, get yourself a copy of the audiobook. These are books that have influenced my own writing and that bulbous, throbbing creative part of my brain and my recent life. I hope you enjoy at least one of them: