Survival Techniques: Advice for Day 1

Today, the first day of the academic year, is a good moment to share with everyone some of the things I seemed to say a lot to individuals last year.  We rarely share these thoughts as a group, so I thought to make the most of the meeting with all the students and all the staff.  What follows is a list of ideas/techniques that might help you survive better, make the most of and thrive in an intensive, collaborative and creative environment.  People often have false starts and can take a while to hit their stride, so I wanted to foreground advice which might help people get going more quickly and easefully.

Read on for the list.  Please send me anything I’ve missed as this is by no means complete.  Leave a comment!

Survival Techniques

Take any or all of the following to heart:

  • Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously.  Hold onto your intent, but let go of everything else.
  • Allow yourself to change.  You are here now, make the most of it.  The horse is at the water, drink.
  • It is OK to be lost, accept it and learn to enjoy it.  You can new learn things when are lost.
  • It is OK to ask questions.  And don’t expect to understand the answer every time.
  • Fail spectacularly.  No half measures.
  • Have a great time, make great friends and enjoy the conversations.  Remember why you are here.   Moderate your partying.  Take it seriously.
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Prove it by doing it.  Don’t moan, set an example in action.
  • Don’t worry about how you got in, or who got what kind of letter, or who got a scholarship, or whether you are good enough, you are here now, you are good enough, get on with it.
  • If someone is good, learn from them, don’t resent them for being good.
  • Try not to get hung up on marking and assessment.  Create standards for yourself.
  • If someone has a good idea, build on it, nurture it and make it happen.  Don’t be secretly resentful because their idea is better than yours.
  • It’s fine to let go of a good idea or way of doing something because there are plenty more ways, means and reasons out there.  Easy come easy go.
  • Wait to see what happens.
  • Don’t wait to see what happens, make the change now, you can always change it back.
  • Be the best person you can be and see how that affects the people around you.
  • You are not who you were, you are not who you will be, you are who you are.  Who you are is what the people around you see.
  • Don’t let criticism get you down.  Learn to take it on the chin and not to make excuses.
  • Stop making excuses.
  • Feed yourself well: seek out the best theatre, art, experiences and food.  Refine your pallet.
  • Stop apologising for who you are.
  • Eat a lot if you are running around a lot.
  • Like it says on the plane, fix your own oxygen mask before helping others.  Do what you need to sustain yourself before sustaining others.
  • You will have up days and down days.  It’s good to acknowledge what kind of day it is, then remember the other kind.  Things change.
  • You can’t attend to your craft in isolation, you must be simultaneously growing as a thinker, feeler and collaborator.
  • Work to strengthen your company/ensemble (the people around you), they are your teachers.
  • Make the most of each situation and project, it is bigger and more complex than you realise.
  • If you find yourself getting the same feedback over and over, it is time to change.
  • Working with yourself, on yourself, surrounded by amazing people can be confronting, be brave and suck it up.
  • At times it is natural to question whether this is the right thing for you.  You can always speak to your teachers about your concerns, this will not affect your mark or get you thrown out!  (Some people think it will).
  • You have a lot of friends, what you need is teachers.  We have a lot of friends, what we need is students.  Let’s be friendly, but we don’t have to be best buddies.  Don’t get hung up over whether you think we like you.  We are professionals doing our job.  If you get a bad mark it is not a reflection of your soul.
  • Help the people around you be the best they can be.  Don’t limit each other.  Let yourself transform.
  • Make the work you wish to see in the world.
  • Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.

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