“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.” – Robert A. Heinlein

A recent outing with some Juilliard schoolmates reminded me of this important quote…

With a long list of prestigious alumni such as Laura Linney, Mandi Patinkin, Kevin Spacey and Robin Williams, it’s no secret that The Juilliard School Drama Division is dedicated to artists and preparing them for a successful career with a finely tuned craft that often sets the standard from Broadway to Hollywood. Today, there is a new generation of successful alumni taking the spotlight and taking home Tonys, Emmys and Oscars, not to mention the dozens of alumni who are literally changing the world with their non profit organizations, charity projects and various outreach programs.

But success is a funny word… isn’t it? Who determines what is and who is successful… is it money, fame, family, notoriety or goal setting? Everyone’s definition of success is different, and so is everyone’s journey to achieve that success. Sometimes it’s hard to be happy for others “good fortune” when you aren’t happy with yourself or your current level of “success”…

Well, at least that is how I used to think.

The rigorous program and dedicated teachers at Julliard taught me so much about my classmates, my art form, and my personal journey. Each incoming first year class only consists of eighteen students. Eighteen students with different ages, experiences and backgrounds. While most colleges and conservatories intertwine classes and departments, that isn’t really the case at Juilliard. That means for the next four years you are quarantined to a windowless corner of the school (no joke) where you will literally eat, sleep, cry, fight, grow, laugh and learn with the same seventeen people for ten-twelve hours a day, six days a week.  While it makes for a dramatic and dysfunctional four years and lifetime of great dinner conversation, it’s also a unique dynamic that allows you to form strong connections, bonds and a support system. The beauty of this is that the support system only thickens as you graduate and enter the “real world.” You will undoubtedly lean on your classmates and other alumni for support and guidance. However, most importantly, this dynamic helps you grasp a very important concept before entering the “acting business” (or any “business” for that matter). Every person, actor and student is unique, and therefore, so is his or her journey. You should not compare yourself to someone else’s success or journey.

This perspective is established at Juilliard because of the unique ensemble setting. While teaching the importance of working well with others, (i.e. an ensemble), teachers also impress the importance of an individual journey for each student, and support for all. If that dark jealousy creeps into your soul for a second when the casting list goes up or scholarships are announced, there is so much positivity, individuality and inspiration in those walls that you can’t help but get your ego in check.

All of this is to say, while I learned technical acting techniques, standard voice and speech, clown, singing, movement, Shakespeare, Theater History, Music History, masks, improvisation and exploration, perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned while at Juilliard is that having a supportive, pure and joyful heart for others creates a supportive, pure and joyful heart within yourself.  Making you a “joy” to be around and opening you up to a fun and creative learning process, not to mention opening you up for the joys of life.  I regretfully have to report that I did not grasp this concept as quickly as some others. In fact, it took all four years (and then some) for me to understand… but I am proud to be a work in progress… and better late than never…

Whether you get a gig, lose a gig or make a career change, chances are there will be a schoolmate by your side every step of the way. I’m forever grateful to The Juilliad School and those teachers for helping me understand the true definition of ensemble: supportive group of entertainers (insert your version of “entertainers”…  maybe it’s sales team, board members, accountants, or family in your case). Joy comes from being happy over the good fortune of others, regardless the career.  I’m glad I’m not waisting time wishing for someone else’s life, journey, or good fortunes as this could physically close me off from living my best life filled with my own blessings and good fortunes…

While in LA. I have been clinging to my Juilliard family!  Thankful and grateful for them everyday of every week. A recent schoolmate’s good fortune and joyful moment reminded me of this important lesson. Congrats to my friend/schoolmate/family Corey Hawkins!  Here are some photos from our night of love, support and alumni shenanigans as we went to a viewing of his first big movie, (“Non-Stop”).

5 Comments on ““One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.” – Robert A. Heinlein

  1. Pingback: the chemistry of living

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