Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Return of AuGuest.

I mentioned earlier this month that I wanted to bring back my AuGuest month of guest posts, and today I can confirm it will be taking place. Each Monday in August, I will publish a guest post from someone I have met or worked with in my adventures online.

This year it will be a bit different, though, in that each Thursday I will then right a response or commentary to that week's guest post, as opposed to just finding as many guest posts as I can, and leaving comments on same. So this year AuGuest will be more of a conjunction of ideas between myself and my guests. I hope some interesting discussion as well as some new readers will result from this year's event.

So, do check back in on Monday, when AuGuest kicks off with a post by confirmed extrovert,  Zoyah Thawer. Don't miss it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

On Swooning

Years ago, one of my sisters was part of those Home Interior parties. (They sell home decor and such.)

There is a bit of a pyramid nature to it, it seems, because for months the local host, or procurator or whatever it is kept trying to convince my sister to become one. She, and others.

As I was told by my mother, who attended one such meeting, the hostess offered to my sister, (or anyone else in the group who wanted to take on the position) a brand new spherical key chain, covered in "50% real mink fur."

Neither my mother nor my sister were impressed by this. Believe it or not, though, they were the only two who felt that way. To paraphrase my mother who told the story later:

"Grown women were falling over themselves going apeshit over this piece of trash like it was the Holy Grail."

My sister parted with Home Interior not long afterward.

Both my sister and I, as well as my other siblings get it honest. Mom has never been easily impressed by such things. Dad wasn't either. Whether it be people, clothing, or in this case, a spherical  key chain covered in 50% real mink fur, we don't often swoon. We just don't feel that many things are a big to-do. We are not moved to applause by every little thing.

There are probably many reasons for this. Genetics being one, like I said. Having lived at times a difficult life wherein priorities present themselves. An overall simpler view on life than many folks. Even our natural introversion. However I think for the most part it is that we save big reactions for big things.

Many will claim that different people get excited about different things, and that I shouldn't judge. True, to a point. But let's be as honest as possible with this; don't you think that there are levels of excitement to life? Is there not something a bit disconcerting about swooning as much over a key chain as a marriage proposal? I have to believe I am better off with a high swoon threshold than to feel my heart flutter after signing up earlier for the webinar.

Swoon is the operative word here. I didn't say appreciation, or anticipation. I am not talking about having fun or feeling excited. I am talking about, hand covering your mouth, jumping up and down, somebody get me a pillow because I am about to pass out swooning.

I am often amazed, and at times disgusted by how easily people can get to this level over something, whether an object, an experience, or another person. This lifelong bafflement of mine has only been enhanced with the advent of social media, where every third post, Tweet, or Facebook update has something to do with just how "mind-blowingly stoked" somebody is to be among the first 1,000 people to get a copy of Seth Godin's new e-book...a full week before everybody else can. Do they talk this way on dates??

Don't misunderstand, because I can hear the objections as I type. Like I wrote earlier, I do think life should be enjoyed, and everyday enthusiasm does deepen our existence. But that is just the point. It should be everyday enthusiasm. Not wetting yourself excitement at something every single day.

Yes, there are times when I think that people who swoon over e-books and key chains get ahead a tad faster in life. When their twitterpation is conflated with enthusiasm or appreciation. That can get some people to the front of the line and passed the velvet ropes to be sure. Yet if your excitement system doesn't have some sort of tiered structure, what are you going to have left to enjoy later? If you are drooling about the e-book release by your favorite author which you just bought before all of your friends,  are you going to be able to muster anything intelligent to say or do should you one day get to meet your favorite author? Breath and prioritize. If you can do it with your anger, you can do it with your swooning.

I get excited. I have jumped in the air over things, slapped high fives, and been unable to sleep in anticipation of the important moments. On occasion I have screamed with incoherent but justifiable exuberance into the night. One day I may even swoon, and suffer temporary respiratory failure. (Though it would require extreme and rare circumstances, like Ellen Page smiling at me at a party or something.) Yet I am proud, not ashamed to admit that in most cases as good things happen, I remain level headed enough to absorb the whole experience without tweaking. And I humbly submit that you can too.

How easily do you swoon?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Introvert Risks

At a later date, I plan to respond to this notion that the very act of stepping out of your comfort zone is useful in its own right. This pervasive notion among the success gurus out there that you are not living your life, and have no hopes of success unless you are opting to somehow scare the shit out of yourself every day. (Hint: I think this approach is bogus.)

I don't however think it is bogus to say that sometimes we need to take some kind of risk. And that at times those risks will put us out of our comfort zone. Not for its own sake, but because the mission of any given point in our life requires it. I take no pleasure or excitement in being out of my comfort zone. That is why they call it a comfort zone after all. But if an important mission takes me there, so be it.

Yet you may not know I am there unless I tell you, though. That is because the praise and glory for taking risks often goes to the more outspoken risk takers. Those that instead of stepping outside their comfort zone, opt to take a flying leap out of it, over a cliff, and into a choppy ocean of uncertainty and danger, screaming, and blogging about the scariness of the entire affair during the entire fall. Extroverted risk takers.

Introverts have their own comfort zones, however. They take risks too. Perhaps less sexy risks. Perhaps their comfort zones are misunderstood so as to make it appear they never left them in the first place. Or when an introvert does something to expand their perspective it may be so similar to what their more gregarious counterparts do each day that no credit is even given for the risk taken.

But it is there, and it is time such things were acknowledged as well.

We introverts are often more sensitive to stimuli, both internal and external. We dislike chaos and noise. It tends to fry our circuitry. So if we do find ourselves shouting above a room full of excitable, screaming colleagues, you can bet it is because our belief in the idea is so strong we are willing to step into the disorienting fray of extroverted "brainstorming." That is outside of our comfort zone. And because most introverts don't process information in that manner, and certainly don't share it that way, we are taking a risk by attempting to do so, as it is not our game.

Introverts, contrary to popular misconceptions, are not de facto shy. Some of us are, and some of us are not, just like the extrovert population. (Yes, that surprising fact is also true.) Yet introducing ourselves to strangers in any medium is about as welcome to most introverts as would be climbing several flights of stairs with a bag of dry cement strapped to our backs.

But sometimes there is an idea. A solution. Something which we in our introverted alone time have conceived that must be shared with specific people we think will be able to help. But since we are idea based, people may find we jump right into the groundbreaking idea or observation. We take a risk every time we do so in a world that expects us to nuzzle up to strangers and begin the "Small Talk Tango". Introverts can ironically be seen as quite pushy once we decide something needs to be shared because we get right to the point, and that potential pushiness is a risk we take when we believe in something.

Our energy, our mental energy in particular, is a precious commodity to us. Not only that, it is a "combustible" mixture. It takes little for it to be exhausted, depending on the circumstances. We can be drained of it in short order when in public or around certain people for an extended period of time. If extroverts would stop and think then about how much of ourself introverts allow to be drained at time, they would see that sometimes the simple act of placing ourselves in a situation is risk taking and being outside of the all important "comfort zone."

Assessing what it would cost us to do something, and how we would go about doing it. Comparing what we would lose if we failed to what we would gain if we succeeded. And deciding that the potential loss is worth the potential gain. Taking action because being uncomfortable or even in pain is not as vital as what is at stake. This is risk taking. This is stepping outside of one's comfort zone.

Risk taking is not, as society has started to believe, running headlong into Interstate traffic, screaming how much you love the uncertainty of life the entire time.

Like much of what we introverts do, our risk taking is often so quiet and private, the world remains unaware of it. Which is why I point this out in my post today. So people will in fact realize a simple truth; introverts take risks every day.

If you are an introvert, what risks do you take, without trying to be other than what you are?

Monday, July 18, 2011

It Isn't Raining Men

I have a necklace with the Yin-Yang symbol on it. I am not strictly a Taoist or disciple of any given religion per se, but the concept of balance is one that is deeply rooted in my consciousness. I do believe in moral absolutes, so that is not strictly a Yin-Yang principle, but I for the most part believe in avoiding total immersion in one single concept.

My own introversion for example is tempered at times by extroversion. I am a political progressive with a few view points that are not on that platform. You get the idea.

Then there are the genders. I am of course totally a man. No ambiguity there. But I do believe the most well rounded men and women are those that are exposed, often and at an early age, to the psychology and perceptions of the opposite gender.

To be clear, I believe in gender equality, but not gender congruence, as it were. Men and women are different. Exceptions abound everywhere, but each gender does have a certain hard wiring in the brain, and hence a certain psychological make up that springs forth from same. So seeds of both genders are needed in a well balanced person's psyche, just as elements from both genders are required physically to bring about a baby.

Female influence I did not and do not lack in my life. My father died when I was seven, and I grew up with my widow mother and kid sister. For years we lived with my oldest sister, who can sometimes be quite demanding. She eventually had twin girls, and indeed with one exception all of my siblings had all girls. I have one nephew and ten nieces. So the problem is not with the opposite gender, but with my own gender. As in I wonder sometimes if part of the reason I am Too XYZ is the lack of appropriate male guidance when I was young, and sufficient male company now that I am an adult.

I do have a brother, with whom I do not speak any more. He made it clear from very early on that he found little value in me outside of being a sometimes amusing distraction. But he never did make any investment in my well being, and almost never took the time to engage me on my terms. Once during a family emergency he didn't even bother feeding me when I had to sleep at his house. He and his then wife had all the food because they were the "adults". Obviously not a male role model there.

Several uncles remained distant once my father died, as well. When they did come around they only ever spoke to the other adults about people that had died 15 years before I was even born. When I was spoken to, it was briefly and for entertainment value. I don't speak to one of those uncles because of his poor behavior. With another, I simply feel awkward. I don't know what to say to him as an adult.

As a kid in school I had male friends of course, but I rarely got invited to anything outside of class. One of them even asked at one point, "What kind of person doesn't have a father?"

I only ever spent any time with one classmate outside of school, and he had a very domineering mother. Both he and his father were quite well whipped by the time I met any of them. Don't know where he is today. Don't care.

For a time I was in the "Big Brothers" program. My big brother was a decent man, to be sure. But while my mother was hoping to instill in me some of that male influence, "Joseph" was actually about as timid at 24 as I was at 11.

It wasn't until high school that I had male friends with whom I would actually do social things outside of school. Wasn't until college that I started to make the slightest headway into any kind of emotional intimacy are familiarity with men. (For most of my life, a list of my top 10 closest friends has consisted of at least 8 women.)

None of this is to say that I don't consider myself a man. I do, although for a long time I honestly did not. I felt that being surrounded by women at home, at school, and other areas of my life, with little to know male contact meant that I was basically at heart, a woman. A girl who was never permitted to really be a man because he didn't know any of them. I have moved beyond that fallacy, for the most part. Even though I still don't have a lot of knowledge about how to do "manly" things such as fix cars and throw a punch.

Yet I still wonder if my overwhelming exposure to female perspectives, thought processes, approaches, brain wiring, speech, and home life has not in some way, when combined with my natural introversion, brought about an adult that is quieter, passive, and more introspective than average. I wonder sometimes if I would not have at least a bit more assertion and presence if I had been exposed to, and mentored by men at some point in my life.

Look, I was never going to be a hunter, mechanic, or brawler. No amount of males in my life would have made me Chuck Norris. But looking back on the memory of my dashing out the front door at age nine, trying without success to flag down the departing car full of the family men as they made their way to the shooting range to which I wasn't even invited, I can't help but wonder how things might have been different at key points in my life if the male/female environmental balance had been closer to 50/50.

None of this is to suggest that I inherit my weaknesses because women are weak and I have spent too much time around them. But we go back to balance; Yin and Yang, and to the natural hard wiring. What works in balance for a woman may not for a man.  I am not "effeminate" in the classical and stereotypical sense, but I am skewed towards Yin for certain.

Or maybe I would have been the way I am today if I had been raised entirely by the Brute Squad. I don't know.

What do you think? Does someone need the influence of both genders growing up to become their optimum self? Or is whatever we end up becoming the result of the seeds planted in us at birth?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

AuGuest 2

Last year those who follow this blog may recall that in August I hosted several guest posters. I called it the AuGuest Extravaganza. I'd like to be able to do so again this year, and I want to hear from you!

This year I would like five contributors, one for each Monday in August. As I tend to blog on Monday's and Thursdays, the Thursday posts will feature my personal take and additional comments on the guest posts that will appear each Monday of that week. As with last year I am doing this to mix things up a bit, and to give myself a chance to blend my own views with those of others. Some may be very close to my own worldview, and some may not match it at all. I hope to get both ends of the spectrum.

I am not particular about length of these posts, but I do want them to each pertain to some aspect of your life, career, thought process wherein you find, (or found, in the past) that you didn't fit into your environment for reason that cannot be quantified. As in being Too XYZ for any given thing.

It could be an event, a relationship, a job, a religion, a community, a school, a zeitgeist. Whatever speaks to you most so long as you explain that outsiderish feel you got while partaking in same, and how you responded to that. Did you ever fix it? Did it bother you? Have you moved on from it, or do you still find yourself Too XYZ for it? What have you learned? What do you want to learn and how do you hope to change. "Too XYZ" is the operative phrase for your guest post. Surprise me with your ingenuity as pertains to this prompt.

As August is approaching, I will need to know who is interested pretty soon. And when I know I will assign a due date for each party.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment, or drop me an email at Or catch me on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

Let's hear your ideas.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coffee Shop Blues

The "coffee shop" has become proverbial. Archetypal even. So much creativity, synergy, business, and overall fairy magic seems to radiate out from the bean stocked, foam covered holes-in-the-wall that encircle the Western World. Lives of this generation change in coffee shops.

The advertising campaign that finally puts the start-up in the black is devised by a group of three sleepless people from marketing as they split a biscotti at the corner table. The award winning article is pitched via the free wi-fi on the lap top that is sitting way too close to the vente-black..whatever. How many courtships began when someone struck up a conversation about the new blend that just arrived?


In my life, I have entered a coffee shop solo of my own volition twice. Twice. That is to say not going there because someone I was with wanted to go, or because I was meeting someone there. Not going there while working on a piece. But to go in to try to capture this transcendent quality all on my own. To enjoy drink in solitude and to soak up the atmosphere in hopes of either inspiration, connection, or both. I have done it twice. So much has been said about such moments, I had to at least try it out. Nothing. Both occasions were complete wastes of time. Awkward, goofy, silent, lonely wastes of time during which no work got done.

Coffee shops, and their mystique just don't work for me. And I have been to some nice looking, independent coffee shops in my time. One of the most popular such places in my entire county is a literal 90 second walk from my apartment. I own a lap top, and am an introvert writer. Many people very nearly lose control of their bowels when I tell them I rarely go in there, and have never done so while writing.

And why not? For starters I don't drink coffee ever. No matter how much whipped cream and Hershey Kisses you dump on top of it. But I could always order tea, which most coffee places also have. So that isn't the main reason.

And of course I am an introvert. Me chatting it up with the barista is about as likely as me attending an outdoor alternative music festival. That is to say it could under very tight conditions happen, but not likely. The idea of me approaching another customer and asking them what they think of the coffee in order to start a conversation is about as likely as me going to that same concert and jumping into the mosh pit.

This almost eliminates the social appeal of such places for me. Unless someone that was gregarious and outgoing to a fault were to engage me, and be so damn charming I would welcome their intrusion into my tea drinking. (This scenario is probably as likely as me being naked in previously mentioned mosh pit.) And even then they would have to find me equally interesting to continue talking to me. Which is also not likely.

Which brings me to my next point. A quiet guy with a hot drink and a lap top in the corner table of a coffee shop. How many times have you read this book? Seen this movie? Four trillion or so? I know that many see coffee shops as the great equalizer. An uber-eclectic place where people of all stripes can consume the almost universally beloved beverage. Which might be true for those who come in and go out with their order. But as far as the people who stay in there, I find it safe to say that it tends to be the same demographic. Slightly more patient versions of me, or people who love the idea of me, so long as the guy with the laptop is more attractive. With so many of the same type of people, I am not going to stand out. The days of, "I see you're a writer, what do you write," are over. Nobody cares. Thanks in large part to the ubiquity of coffee shops and those that frequent them.

Yet still that vision of the coffee shop persists, and for many people it is true. "The people! The networking! The coffee! The artistic, independent vibe! The potential next Kurt Vonnegut clicking away at his laptop at the table next door!"  To all that I say, "The pressure!"

Yes. The pressure. There are so many enthusiastic blog posts about independent artist, chick-flick, waiting to be discovered but not yet ready for prime time, creative juices, coffee bean inspiration, love at first sight, epiphany inducing, Gen-Y brainstorming, ragged plaid shirt and fedora wearing, cream and no sugar magnificence surrounding "The Coffee Shop" that I feel like a dullard and a failure just sitting in one if I don't get a visit from the Archangel Gabriel with all nine muses in tow behind him.

They all probably drink coffee too.

Put another way, there is both so much physical noise and metaphorical "noise" or hype attached to the coffee shop scene that I have yet to feel inspired to action while in one. I can't write a blog post with all of that racket, let alone work on revisions for my novel, or fall in love with the girl that runs the froth machine. (I don't even know if there is such a thing. I'm making a point here.)

None of this is to say I don't like such places. Sometimes I do. But with all of the creative, social, and professional success so many of my peers have experienced just from the simple act of sitting down by themselves in one as compared to my only ever feeling out of place and awkward when I do so, I think I am best served by going in only when someone else wants to. And even then, only if the place also serves tea.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

If Introverts Spoke Like Extroverts

As most people know for extroverts the act of thinking and the act of speaking are very much intertwined. The moment their brain conceives it is usually the moment the say it. And if both they (and you) are lucky, all of that talk leads to the bull's eye of the conversation or question. Eventually.

Introverts of course tend to not speak at all until their mind has processed the situation, stimuli, or point. They want that quiet moment or two before speaking, and when they do speak, their speech is often slower and more deliberate than the enthusiastic, exploratory chatter of the extrovert.

Introverts are very familiar with the exhausting experience of being engaged by an extrovert.

Perhaps it is best that introverts do not speak before they think, given the nature of what and how they think. But what if your average introvert worked like your average extrovert? What if just for a brief time introverts vocalized what they were thinking the moment they were thinking it? Here are some things I believe you would hear them say:   

-"Please stop talking so loudly. I'm the only one here and I am right in front of you."

- "You know, I just hate maintaining eye contact. I can hear you just fine if I don't so I'm just not going to do it."

- "Okay, I will keep looking at you while you speak, but it is very difficult for me to do that, so how about you stay in one place for a few minutes to make it easier on me? I would appreciate that."

- "Could I please answer your last five questions, before you either ask me another question, or begin to tell a story?"

-"I don't care."

- "That has zero relevance to what I just said. I totally respect the fact that you have the right to say whatever is on your mind. That's terrific. But your response has given absolutely no indication that you have heard anything that I just told you, and this irritates me."

- "You saw me sitting here in the corner with my eyes closed. That was a polite giveaway that I didn't want to converse with you, and yet you did so anyway. Please go away for a few minutes until I indicate I actually want to speak."

- "It's so rude that I'm usually no more than halfway through a point I am trying to make before you decide to change the subject to something you prefer. Or even worse, you decide you know what I was going to say, and say it for me. This is a conversation, not a monologue. Am I that boring, or are you just afraid of having to think for too long?"

- "I have not met any of the people in the story you are telling me. So I am not enjoying it."

- "When I am having fun, I am the first person to know it. Stop telling everyone else that I am not having any fun."

- "No, I don't have to get up to enjoy myself. I am enjoying myself sitting here, thank you."

- "Do we really need the television, the radio, and the internet on at the same time, while you are trying to talk to me?  How can I be the only one bothered by all this damn noise? Turn something off."

- "That was the clumsiest attempt at a segue into another topic I have ever witnessed. You just want an excuse to bring up something random, and we all know it."

- "I'd be happy to tell you what I think of that, if you agree to say nothing until I have completed my thoughts on same."

- "You do realize that nothing bad will happen if you just sit down for a minute and not do anything, don't you?"

- "I have no problem with you personally, but if you mention anything about coming out of my supposed shell again I am going to find a way to cram your fucking head into a shell."

- "Nothing personal, but I have no idea whatsoever how to respond to most of what you tell me. So I am just going to remain silent instead of talking out of my ass about something."

-"You would be wise not to confuse my quietness with detachment from my environment. I am probably more aware of what is happening in the room than you are."

-  "This conversation does not interest me at all. You are not saying anything that makes me think or laugh. To be perfectly frank I would like this conversation to end at this point. You and I can either start another one, or we can both go find something else to do. Either option is fine with me, but this is not working and I am tired of pretending it is."

- "Hello. I hate being here with all of these strangers, and I don't have the slightest desire nor the remotest intention to approach any of them. If anybody wants to meet me, I strongly prefer they come to me, and even then, I would be lying if I guaranteed that either one of us would enjoy the encounter."

And finally...

-"For the love of life, just shut the hell up!!!!!!!!!"

Not a pretty picture is it?

This is part satire, but largely fact based. I had some fun making this list, and I hope fellow introverts, as well as extroverts had fun reading it. But the truth of this matter is that as rude, aloof, strange and cold as introverts sometimes appear to extroverts, they may find us even less appealing if we spoke as often or as quickly as they do all of the time. If we can accept that yes, introversion can confuse and sadden extroverts, and that extroversion can just bug the piss out of introverts, everyone can better understand their individual friends of both types.

What did I miss? What else might an introvert say in an extroverted world if they didn't stop and think?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Your Independence Day

From the standpoints of money, power, expertise, history and half a dozen other things, the American Colonists were never supposed to be able to win independence from the British Crown. Everything was stacked against them in every conceivable way. And when you look at the Revolutionary War from a tactical perspective, many, if not statistically most battles for the majority of the war did not end favorably for the Continentals. Indeed, though we don't like to admit it, a decent portion of George Washington's early career as Commander of the Armies was rather lackluster.

Obviously, however, in the end, none of that mattered. Legend says that during the formal surrender of the British army at the end of the war, the band played, "The World Turned Upside Down." And so it was.

And how did this come to be? Eventual good strategy and improved army discipline and training certainly played a large part. I will not deny that. But what else?

In short, several things. Adherence to an ideal. Refusing to play by the rules. (Of warfare or politics.) Eventually willingness to accept help from sympathetic outsiders. Refusal to quit. (Though we came close several times.) Inspired leadership, both on and off the battle field. A weariness with the status quo. A coming together of a huge eclectic mix of people from all demographics that otherwise would not be able to stand one another.And, if I may say so, some damn fine writing at the exact times it could do the most good. (Thank you, Common Sense, and The Declaration of Independence, among other printed documents.)

So it wasn't supposed to work. But it did. It required fighting dirty sometimes. It required hot tempers. Appeals to selfish interests, and some very unfortunate kicking of important cans down the road. (Slavery.) It was a messy, long, exhausting, and for a while highly ridiculed affair that gave no indication for the longest time that it was going to end in anything but humiliation for the rebels.

Yet I write this in Maryland, which is in the United States of America, and not the British Empire.

What lessons can we take from this? What, other than patriotism can be gained by considering this historic and world changing revolt? That we can declare our own personal independence from whatever status quo we find ourselves in. That the people around us will not think it can be done, because we have not enough resources. And because of that we will be scoffed at. Truth be told we will probably lose for a good long time at first. Long enough that we will decide it's acceptable, in pursuit of our goal to say the hell with conventional, and start to play dirty. We can dive into the trenches with all kinds of different people of different strengths in order to make a chance. We can appeal to interested outsiders and accept their help. We can tell the rest of the world to kiss our ass as we pursue what we decide should be our life instead of what society dictates. We can refuse to quit.

And if you are lucky enough to be good at it like I am, you can write about why you are doing it. Over and over and over again until not only are people reading what you write, but starting their own revolution within their own colonies.

From what will you declare you independence from today?

Friday, July 1, 2011

There ARE Small Parts. But Avoid Small Thinking.

If you ever check out my other blog, (and history suggests that you never do), you will know that I am currently in yet another play. This time, the play is Tom Stoppard's, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It is in a way Shakespeare's Hamlet from a vastly different angle. In fact, it's told from the perspective of the two title characters who, in Hamlet are in fact two minor characters. Only a step above the torch bearers, really. But in this play, they are the focus.

In an ironic absurdist way, that is. The play is not at all linear or plot driven, but rather an existential examination of the randomness of life, by way of linguistic gymnastics. However at various points throughout the action, these two gentleman find themselves in the midst of scenes from the actual Hamlet. Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonious, The Player, all come in and out in what is essentially mere background for this story. And when they do appear those characters speak their actual Shakespearean lines. I myself play Hamlet.

I have always wanted to play Hamlet, though I admit, not in this particular capacity. While I do intend to play Hamlet in the actual Hamlet some day, this experience has been an interesting spring training for the character if you will. For you see, he is still Hamlet, with all of the depth, dimensions and complications associated with the character. And for my brief time on stage, I must play him as such. (And I am doing a fairly good job at that, if I may say so.)

If my infrequently seen Hamlet were to be phoned in or otherwise be terrible, people would know. Would it deep six the whole production? It would not have to, but a palpable sense of the play being off somehow would, I surmise, permeate the production. Hamlet, though a small role in the play itself, is not a small presence at all within his own head. As far as he is concerned, he is the Prince of Denmark, with all of the importance and burdens that come with that. For me to do little work because he is not seen much would be not only unfair to the rest of the play, but lazy. And it would miss the point.

I apply this approach to my acting whenever I play a smaller role, or need to perform a scene in the background. I work hard to be totally present in whatever part of the story I am telling. My commitment to good theatre necessitates this.

Yet I have tried to apply this notion to other aspects of my life as well. And it is not easy. But if I am lower on the totem pole for something, or if I am contributing only small bits and pieces to a conversation, or appear only on the outskirts of a project, I make every effort to remember that whatever I am doing, (if I have bothered to do participate) deserves my full attention and effort at the time of my doing so. Perhaps it will not change my life, or improve my lot, but if I choose to do something, I do it right. Or opt not to do it in the first place.

Don't shrink your universe. Despite what the success gurus say, you don't have to always be out there leading some kind of Gen-Y, "go get 'em!" type of charge in order to be fully engaged in something. When you have a small job to do, it is still a job, and it is still yours. Everything behind what you do, and everything you bring to a table should be relevant. Not just for the sake of the job you are doing but for your own sake, so you don't allow yourself to feel insignificant between the big moments.

For me it's much more difficult to do this off stage than on stage. But I recognize the wisdom of it.

How do you feel when you are in the background, or the edges, as opposed to the forefront of something? Does your effort ever slack at those times?