Tag Archives: Adversity

The Play’s the Thing

William Shakespeare wrote “the plays the thing” in his famous play “Hamlet.” Actually, Hamlet says “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” Shakespeare had Hamlet planning to catch the king red-faced when confronted with his evil deeds presented in the play. In other words, he hoped to expose the king’s guilty conscience.

It’s my first week back from a little R&R, so I thought I’d try to convey a more optimistic tone.

SPOILER ALERT: This week’s blog has nothing to do with radio, television etc. but everything to do with life in troubled times.

The Plague

Alright, maybe this doesn’t sound like I’ve struck the right cord, but please bear with me.

From late 1592 until early 1594, people living in London were dealing with the bubonic plague, a scourge that had been around for thousands of years . The plague during these two years would kill more than 10,000 Londoners.

London was home to William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. So, when the plague was ravishing London, much like COVID-19 is ravishing the United States, everything closed down.

All of the theaters of London actually closed down for a full year to prevent the spread of the black death. This occurred in the midst of Shakespeare’s career and life.

Good Times Don’t Last, but Neither Do the Bad Times

When the plague subsided, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre re-opened, people starved for entertainment lined up for his productions. Gate receipts were huge and inspired the Bard of Avon to write “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In fact, Shakespeare used his plague experience as source material in “Romeo and Juliet.” You might remember the scene where Friar John is sent to deliver a message to Romeo about Juliet’s fake death, but due to being suspected of living in a plague infected house, Friar John is quarantined and never completes his delivery.

When the plague’s second wave during Shakespeare’s lifetime came in 1603, he continued to write his plays, completing “King Lear” and “Macbeth” as 30,000 more Londoners would perish. They would become some of his best loved productions.

Living with a Pandemic

William Shakespeare lived his whole life in the shadow of the bubonic plague and along with another influential Elizabethan playwright, Thomas Nashe, shared the view that there might never be a medical solution to the plague. Steven Greenblatt, professor of Humanities at Harvard writes that both men would focus their words on what they felt was an even greater plague, that of “being governed by a mendacious, morally bankrupt, incompetent, blood-soaked and ultimately self-destructive leader.” Writing in The New Yorker Greenblatt states:

“But the strange thing about these lines from “Macbeth” is that they are not intended as a description of a country in the grip of a vicious plague. Instead, they describe a country in the grip of a vicious ruler. The character who speaks them, Ross, has been asked how Scotland fares under Macbeth, who is nominally the country’s legitimate king. But everyone suspects what is the case, that he has come by his exalted position through underhand means: “I fear / Thou play’dst most foully for’t.”

The results have borne out the worst suspicions. In office, Macbeth has ruthlessly pursued his enemies and betrayed his friends. Egged on by his “fiend-like” wife, he will do anything to make himself feel perfectly secure—“Whole as the marble, founded as the rock.” But, though he always finds people willing to carry out his criminal orders, he only ever feels more anxious: “cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in / To saucy doubts and fears.” And, under increasing pressure, calculation gives way to raw impulse, the reckless confidence that his instincts are always right: “From this moment / The very firstlings of my heart shall be / The firstlings of my hand.”

So, it would seem, we are living in times not so different than those of Shakespeare and we should strive to produce our own best work in these most troubled of times.

Build Character

Overcoming adversity is character  building. It shapes us into who we are and who we will become. It creates the confidence to overcome and the learning mechanisms to deal with the things that don’t go our way.

Create Resilience

Learning to deal with and address adversity is what creates resilience.

-Jim Haudan, Co-Founder and CEO, ROOT

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Finding Success

114When I was growing up, kids when asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” would respond with things like: Actor, Postman, Astronaut, Scientist, TV Star, Pilot, Explorer, Teacher, Disc Jockey etc. The answers would be as varied as the career choices out there.

Today when kids are asked the same question, the answer for boys and girls is the same, RICH.

As if money were the only definition of “success.”

“There is only one success…

to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

-Christopher Morely

Defining Success

I really like the words of Christopher Morely. For time and money are inversely proportional. You can save time by spending more money or save money by spending more time. The choice is yours.

Success as most people talk about it sounds like a goal. Goals are dreams with a deadline.

Where does being happy come in? Shouldn’t happiness be included on your personal road to success?

You can have all the monetary success in the world, but if you aren’t happy, are you truly successful where it counts?

Success can be measured.

Happiness is limitless.

People will often tell you to work smarter, not harder. But the reality I’ve found is there is no short-cut to monetary success. The success secret is finding work that you love, work that makes you happy.

Adversity

Let’s face it, no matter how good your plan, life will get in the way.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

-Mike Tyson

Michael J. Fox certainly has had his share of success, happiness and adversity. Fox has been living with Parkinson’s for 26-years. Fox is working, laughing and defying the odds. Recently he shared his “6 Rules for Surviving Adversity.” When I read them, I thought they are perfect for anyone of us in the world of mediated communications. Since the passage of the Telcom Act of 1996, those of us in radio and television have seen massive consolidation resulting in RIF’s (Reduction In Force).

Here are the things Fox says we should keep in mind:

  • Exercise: “We’ve learned it will prolong your ability to operate positively in the world,” says Fox. I’ve learned that logic won’t change an emotion but action will. If you find yourself in a pickle, start doing things. Helping others will especially help you too.
  • Pacing: “It helps me think – the physical motion creates intellectual motion,” says Fox. And Fox isn’t the first person to discover the benefits of improved thinking by being in motion. Steve Jobs, I’ve read, liked to conduct meetings while walking. He said it helped both him and the person(s) he was talking with to think more clearly. Plus, meetings don’t drag on when people are standing or walking.
  • Acceptance: “It isn’t resignation, and it freed me to actively deal with and endeavor to change my situation (in dealing with Parkinson’s)” and Fox adds “My happiness goes in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” For many of us who were RIF’d or took on the work assignments of all those people who no longer work by your side, acceptance is critical. I remember losing my promotions department, my national sales manager and local sales managers and as each position was eliminated, it became the new additional job of the market manager. Until the day they eliminated my position. I know what it means to embrace acceptance.
  • Honesty: Don’t remain silent or ashamed about the position life has handed you. Fox says that once he went public about his condition with Parkinson’s “it was empowering to have people understand what I was going through – I immediately felt better.” Be honest about your situation and seize the opportunity to re-invent yourself and your life. Change is life’s only constant.
  • Optimism: “I hate when people say, ‘You’re giving them false hope.’ To me hope is informed optimism,” says Fox. I love that way of looking at life. You always have a choice to how you react to the things that happen to you. You can be angry, you can be sad, you can sink into a depression – OR – you can look at things with “informed optimism” and explore new opportunities.
  • Humor: “I laugh at [my involuntary movements and the scenes they create],” says Fox. “There are times I love these things.” Laughter IS the best medicine for anything that ails you.

Death is not the greatest loss in life.

The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.

-Norman Cousins

Norman Cousins used laughter to get well when everything else his doctors had been trying failed. He chronicled his miraculous recovery in a book “Anatomy of an Illness (as perceived by the patient).” It was the first book by a patient that told how taking charge of our own health is critical. Cousins used laughter, courage and tenacity to mobilize his body’s own natural resources. He showed how effective and powerful a healing tool the mind can be.

Do What You Love

Take a moment to reflect on all the things you were passionate about when you were growing up as a kid. Can you combine any of them, or age them, or make them fit into a 21st Century world? When you look to your past, you might just discover your future.

None of us were put here to do just one thing.

I’m sure you had many things you wanted to do with your life when you were young.

And finally, remember the words of a great broadcaster, David Frost who said:

“Don’t aim for success if you want it;

just do what you love and believe in,

and it will come naturally.”

 

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