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The Your Ladders Blog

There are a lot of things to think about when you're navigating a performing arts path. These blog topics will help.

Have fun. Do nothing. Recharge.


You know, we often want to accomplish our dreams tomorrow when we're living a creative life. Our mind is always going, we've got a million ideas, a million projects, a million things we want to do and we have the lack of patience in order to get there. You know, how can we get there faster, what can we do, what shortcuts can I take? And so today as part of the August recharging, reflection, relaxing conversation that I'm having I want to offer this thought to you. That the journey of a thousand steps begins with one, right?

We hear that all the time but let's sit back and reflect on what that means. We all have artistic dreams or creative dreams or things that we want to accomplish and I think that's really important. As a matter of fact, I spent July talking about goal setting and had such great conversations about it that I'm offering a free webinar on August 21st about goal setting. About how you can do it more and what that looks like for artists. How it's different for...

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Morning Routines


I am going to talk about three important Rs for the month of August, and they are: to recharge yourself, to relax, and to reflect. This time of year is a perfect time of the year for that because, for many of you, and I include myself in this, I feel like September is the beginning of the new year. If you work in the performing arts, it's the new season starting. If you have anyone in school or you teach, it's the school year starting.

So August is the time right before we start again for a new season, for a new treadmill, or for a new adventure. And for creative folks, it's a time that I'm going to encourage you to take a moment to build up some routines and some systems that are going to help you recharge throughout the year. I understand that most people, a lot of people, in the arts are working all the time. We really don't have seasons. People are gearing up or preparing or auditioning and doing everything else. But in these 90-degree days and in this season of sun and long...

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Creating the steps to reach your goal

Goals can seem daunting, but know these two things.

First, goals are the big picture. You can break down goals. When you add the SMART goal frame, you’re creating objectives around the goals. Strategies provide the “how” and tactics provide the “what” to different steps. 

Another way to look at this is to take the goals and break them down into smaller steps that you can check off the to do list. Add due dates next to each of these steps to make them actionable.

The second thing to remember? That small steps, taken consistently, will get you to your goal. This make not seem to be true all the time, but it is. Forward momentum gathers steam.

Let’s talk a bit more about breaking down goals into actionable steps.

  • Don’t skip steps.
  • If you aren’t sure of how much time a step will take, do your research. Ask folks. Give yourself more time then you need. 
  • Some steps can be taken concurrently with other steps. Others need to be...
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Make them SMART goals

We talked about the dreams you have for your creative life, and about creating goals for those dreams. This week we’re going to start thinking about how to turn them into actionable steps, i.e. SMART goals.

Have you heard of SMART goals? For your artistic life, let’s define SMART goals are goals that are: 

  • S: Specific
  • M: Measureable
  • A: Attainable
  • R: Relevant
  • T: Timely

One goal  for me would be write a book. A goal, but not a SMART goal.

A SMART GOAL would be write the first draft of a thriller by the end of August.

Now, if my ultimate dream/goal is to get that thriller published, that’s going to be many more steps. We’ll talk about that next week, and how to break the timelines for goals down.

Goal setting for the artistic side of your life isn’t done in a vacuum. The rest of your life has to be factored in. You likely have goals in other areas of your life. Don’t pretend that goals in one area don’t affect another. Spend this...

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Setting goals for your artistic life

Last week we talked about dreams. This week let’s talk about making some of those dreams into goals.

I say “some” because some dreams may stay dreams, at least for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean you should discard them. Dreams make life interesting. Stay open to your dreams morphing as you continue working on your goals. Your imagination may help you make your dreams more attainable as you build your artistic practice.

When you attach goals to your dreams, consider these things:

Your dream may be several steps. Make each of these steps a goal.

Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. In fact, know that you can’t. One goal may have to be finished before you tackle the next one.

Don’t rush it. The beauty of an artistic path is that you get better and better at your craft as you travel on it. Be patient with yourself, and learn what you need to learn before you go on to the next goal.

Remember to celebrate every time you...

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What are your artistic dreams?

We all need to have artistic dreams. Big dreams. Dreams that feel out of reach. Dreams live in our imagination

Goals are destinations toward which efforts are consistently being made.

Dreams can inspire goals. They should, especially for artists. Dreams alone aren’t enough to create reality, though. Goals do that.

Often dreams feel like amorphous thoughts not tethered to reality. I would argue that creating goals inspired by your dreams helps them come true. I’ve talked about this before--the journey is the point for artists. The destination is part of the journey, but can’t be the reason for doing your work. We all know that once you reach your destination (opening night, publication day, the beginning of a tour, etc.) you’re going to get back on the ride. 

Throughout this month I’m going to talk about goals. I’ll add weekly assignments to these blog posts, and talk about them on Instagram and during the Facebook live I’m doing on...

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What are your core values?

If I asked you what your core values are, what would you say? 

If you’re running a company the answer should trip off your tongue. Mission, vision statements, and core values are integral to non-profit organizations. But I would argue that any arts organization should do the work of figuring this out, and letting folks know. 

Your mission statement is what you do, and what makes you unique in the way you do it.

Your vision statement is a future look at what the world will look like if you succeed in doing your work.

Your core values are two or three words (or short statements, but I prefer words) that mean so much to you you’d rather go out of business than go against them. What does that mean? If your core value, as an organization, is new work then doing Macbeth is problematic. If your core value is respect and your artistic director is a bully, that’s a problem. 

As an artist, and a human being, establishing your core values provides you with a...

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It Isn't You

Did you see this article? It's about a study that was done on creative people in the workplace, and how having passion for your work comes at a price. The price is that you aren’t paid enough.

"Artists know passion exploitation well: because they take pleasure in performing, taking photos or writing, onlookers see the opportunity to do this work as a privilege in its own right—and use that reasoning to justify a lack of compensation or benefits." Quite the quote, isn't it? I highly recommend reading the article, and the links. CLICK HERE FOR THE ARTICLE.

One of the challenging things about being an artist is the gaslighting that goes on. For those of you who don’t know the term, it comes from a 1944 movie with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. He’s trying to convince her that she’s crazy, and his methods include telling her that she’s imagining things when the gaslights get brighter and dimmer. The term is now used to mean convincing people that...

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If I Could Turn Back Time

Last week I was walking on Commonwealth Avenue, near Kenmore Square, in Boston. I saw dozens of graduating seniors walking around in their red graduation gowns, likely coming and going from pre-commencement events. I’ve got to admit, the sight made me tear up. I graduated from Boston University thirty-five years ago this month, and wore a similar gown. Not for the first time, I wish I could go back and time and talk to that Julie.

That Julie was beyond thrilled to be getting her degree in communications, and vowed she’d never go back to school again. She was wrong. I’ve got two more degrees, and have taken dozens of classes over the years.

That Julie loved theater, but she was convinced she could never make a life in the arts. She was wrong. I’ve been working in the arts for over thirty years now, though my communications degree has been very helpful.

That Julie also believed the creative writing teacher who told her that her writing didn’t have enough...

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And On The Seventh Day They Rehearsed...


Or they wrote. Or they performed. Are they caught up with the rest of their lives because on the other six days they pursue their artistic journey.

When you have an artistic calling, you give up the idea of a forty hour workweek, or five days a week. Particularly since most artists have to work two or three or more jobs to make it all work financially, time off is a luxury. Blocks of time may be more realistic, but even then those blocks are often backfilled with the other parts of your life you’ve neglected. Having nothing to do, and I mean nothing, when was the last time anyone on artistic journey had that time? Even though we all know intellectually that taking time to refuel is critical, that’s a luxury few of us can afford.

We also live in a culture that believes artwork isn’t real work. That somehow, because there’s joy in your work, it isn’t as valuable. That isn’t true, of course. But how often are artists asked to work for free? Or the...

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