The Police: Revealed on Stage

When we go to a concert, we often imagine ourselves on stage and contemplate what it must feel like to perform in front of a cheering audience. During The Police’s reunion tour a few years back, drummer Stewart Copeland let the world know exactly what it’s like.

In candid prose he detailed his experience on the first night of the tour, a real disaster:

I stride manfully to my drums. Andy has started the opening guitar riff to MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and the crowd is going nuts. Problem is, I missed hearing him start. Is he on the first time around or the second? I look over at Sting and he’s not much help, his cue is me – and I’m lost. Never mind. “Crack!” on the snare and I’m in, so Sting starts singing. Problem is, he heard my crack as two in the bar, but it was actually four – so we are half a bar out of sync with each other.

Sounds rough! Yet Copeland confidently continues with his criticism of that night’s performance, saying “there is just something wrong. We just can’t get on the good foot. We shamble through the song.” Ultimately he ends with what happened backstage after the main set:

We fall into each other’s arms laughing hysterically. Above our heads, the crowd is making so much noise that we can’t talk. We just shake our heads ruefully and head back up the stairs to the stage. Funny thing is, we are enjoying ourselves anyway. Screw it, it’s only music. What are you gonna do?

His laissez-faire attitude seems refreshing, yet it belies a big truth: he cares so much about his craft, he knows that opening up about the group’s foibles will attract attention, and paying customers. In fact, the Police Reunion Tour of 2007-2008 is currently listed at #6 among the highest-grossing tours ever, having raked in a total of $358 million.

So Stewart Copeland is right. Bring your whole self to work — faults and all — then watch your productivity, and your income, rise.

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Craig Ferguson is Happy to Fail. Are You? [video]

It’s easy to feel anxious on the job: the pace moves too fast, it moves too slow; people get in your way, people avoid you; you fear success, you fear failure. Sometimes that’s just before 10:00am.

While the nature of anxiety is complex, we know that a fear of failure tops many “What Makes Me Anxious at Work” lists. Although not Craig Ferguson’s. His would probably be alcohol.

The host of The Late Late Show was recently the subject of Eric Spitznagel’s “Playboy Interview” where he opened up about his approach to work, and how his alcoholism influences it:

There are nights I go out there [on stage] with nothing. Sometimes I can sell the sh’t out of it, and sometimes I can’t. The difference for me, how I’m comfortable doing it without the alcohol, is I’m quite happy to fail. Failure is always an option. That’s why I fell in love with MythBusters. When those guys took two big rigs and spray-painted failure is always an option! across the sides and then crashed them into each other, I thought, These are my people.

You hear that? Ferguson’s happy to fail. And he’s wildly successful! He’s won a Peabody Award and his talk show will likely be renewed through 2014.

How is this possible?

When you’re comfortable with the potential for failure in your work, you know you’ll be OK with the outcome. In fact, your “failed” outcome will likely be instructive: perhaps you’ll learn something, or feel a certain way that helps you grow, or in Ferguson’s case, maybe hilarity will ensue.

To be open to the possibilities of post-failure is to be confident in your creativity and your skills of analysis, which together can move you forward from a setback. You analyze the situation, then creatively determine your path forward.

As a bonus, the relief you experience from being unafraid helps you relax in general, and ground you in the present moment.

Failure has always been an option for all of us; Craig Ferguson is wise to work with this fact rather than repress it. If you embrace the potential for failure, note how your approach to work changes. Then enjoy the success that follows.

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Mayim Bialik Brings Whole Self to Work

Mayim Bialik is quite popular these days. How do we know? “Mayim Bialik” is one of the top search queries leading readers to WWW.

Evidently fantasizing about her is also popular.

Bialik’s fame makes sense; she stars in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” she blogs at both TODAYMoms and at, and she’s written a book about attachment parenting called Beyond the Sling.

Which is how the actor with a doctorate in neuroscience brings her whole self to work. How specifically does she do it? She wrote about the tribulations of working outside and inside the home in her first post at Kveller:

As a mom, my first focus is truly on my kids, even when I am filming or teaching.

Her priorities are obvious:  mother first, professional second. She speaks this unapologetically and publicly, so she’s clearly confident in her decision to live this way.

She continues:

The house is not as clean as it ought to be, but if it were, I wouldn’t have time to brush my teeth or prep for teaching. You get the picture: I can’t do it all; if I could I would have it all. So instead I do what I can. And I lower my expectations for what “has” to get done every day and I try to be gentle with myself.

It reads like an afternoon breeze. How do you balance work and family? You don’t. Bialik details the nature of the imbalance, and it feels reassuring that she, too, lets go of some obligations. So in accepting her limitations, she helps others do the same. The former “Blossom” star shares one more set of wise words:

Here is one thing I must remember to drop everything to do, and that is to be as perfectly imperfect as I can be.

Right. On. Ultimately she raises 3 important questions for parents with careers to consider:

  1. Are you OK with prioritizing parenting work over professional work?
  2. How do you feel about letting some responsibilities at home slip? Are there ways you can go easier on yourself?
  3. What does “perfectly imperfect” look like for you?

OK, that was 4; nobody’s perfect. While she doesn’t go into finding ways to ease up at work, perhaps that’s something we’ll explore in a future post.

By discussing the intersection of her acting, science teaching, writing, and parenting, Bialik effectively brings her whole self to work, and promotes herself. Quite a winning combination.

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Let Out Your Inner Drummer [video]

We loved The Carpenters back in the day, and “Superstar” remains up there among our all-time favorite songs. The duet comprised Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard Carpenter, based in Southern California. What you may not know is that Karen identified first as a drummer, and as a singer second.

Which can be hard to believe given how silky her voice was. Take a look below at the absolute joy she exudes while banging those drums! Her drumsticks seem to be a natural extension of her hands.

While Karen desired both to drum and sing for the Carpenters, Richard wanted her not to hide behind the hulking drum sets, and to be seen more fully at the front of the stage only singing. It was a more commercially appealing proposition, and so Karen came center stage, away from her beloved drums.

Legend has it that her new placement on stage ultimately contributed to her demise. It seems without the creative and rhythmic outlet of drumming, along with difficult family dynamics and–oh, yes–international stardom, Karen Carpenter developed anorexia nervosa. She succumbed to the eating disorder early in 1983.

What do we learn here? If you have a strong desire, or something essential in you — a talent and drive for drumming, or a proclivity to create order out of reams of data —  exercise it! Let it all hang out, and not only will you feel freer at work, you’ll likely meet great success.

It would have been exciting to see what would become of the Carpenters’ success had Karen stuck to the drums.  We’re bummed that we’ll never know.

What do you have inside of you that needs to be let out?

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Come Out at Work: As an Immigrant [video]

Call us American-ist. Every time we’ve seen a picture of Arianna Huffington, we expected she spoke with an American accent. Her skin undertone seems pink, her hair is blondish, the Huffington name sounds WASP, really American dominant culture, wouldn’t you say?

Then at last we heard Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington speak in a video produced by Dreams Across America, below, in which she describes her experience as an immigrant.

Upon closer inspection, we see some slight olive undertones in her skin, Huffington is her married name, plus hair color is easy to change. And lo and behold, she has a glorious Greek accent.

The new chief executive of the Huffington Media Group talks in the video about being born in Greece and going to Cambridge on a scholarship. She recounts moving to America and trying to get rid of her accent–which we interpret as trying to adopt an American accent–because as an immigrant, an accent sets you apart. She says:

I actually tried for a while to get rid of my accent–I haven’t done a very good job as you can hear–and then I kind of embraced it. I realized it was really complicated, changing your accent, and in a sense it’s now part of my identity.

Even the brightest among us sometimes work to change ourselves and fit in, to varying degrees of success, and much of the time–certainly in Huffington’s case–it’s energy wasted. Today she’s known as a charismatic leader, and her accent is part of her charm. She uses her immigrant status to engaging effect, referring to herself as a “Greek peasant girl,” for example.

An accent typically represents so much of who we are. It hints at multi-lingual capabilities, for example.  Those who speak more than one language use a part of their brain that monolingual folks often do not. An accent may also indicate a bi-cultural worldview. A broad perspective like this can be extremely helpful in solving complex problems.

So coming out at work as an immigrant can establish your worldliness, bring out your inner charms, and then land you a $315M merger deal. A pretty sweet realization of the American dream.

Were you born in a country outside of where you live? Are you out at work as an immigrant? How does this influence your work experience?

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Celebrity Career Makeover: The Inauguration

Sometimes it’s annoying to focus on public figures, and yet it can also be fun. On our TV show “Career Talk Live: And What Do You Do?”, we’ve had a segment called “Celebrity Career Makeover” in which we fashion a new career for a popular performer. And now we’re bringing it to!

In this feature, we take a look at a relatively famous person, consider their transferable knowledge, skills and abilities, and thus propose a more accessible occupation for them. Since fame is often fleeting, it’s useful to be prepared for any circumstance.

For this inaugural post, we have a story about actors with actual dual career tracks. They don’t need a makeover, because their backup work plan is already established — in the field of science, no less! For your consideration, from the New York Times “Science” section dated February 28, 2011:

Mayim Bialik, currently in “The Big Bang Theory”:

Dr. Bialik has a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. in … neurobiology. “I tell people, I am a neuroscientist, and I play one on TV,” said Dr. Bialik.

Natalie Portman, recently anointed an Oscar for her work in “Black Swan”:

She went on to Harvard University to study neuroscience and the evolution of the mind.

Hedy Lamarr, best known for “Samson and Delilah” (1949):

[Lamarr] was a rocket scientist on the side, inventing and patenting a torpedo guidance technique she called “frequency hopping,” which thwarted efforts to jam the signals that kept the missiles on track.

And our favorite, Danica McKellar, who played Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years”:

[McKellar] graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she helped devise a mathematical proof for certain properties of magnetic fields — a theorem that bears her name along with those of her collaborators. She also writes popular books about math with clever PG-13 titles like “Math Doesn’t Suck” and “Kiss My Math.”

When you work to access the full spectrum of your intelligence, you can be a star, and study the celestial stars.

Which celebrities’ careers would you like to see made over?

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Craig Ferguson Fully Revealed! [video]

We wanted to call this “Coming Out at Work: as an Alcoholic,” but which headline are you more likely to click among the Internet hoards?  Exactly.

Back in February 2007 the host of The Late Late Show came out as an alcoholic. In a heartfelt monologue, he described the plan he had to end his life by jumping off the Tower Bridge after a night of binge-drinking in London. A few months later, he entered rehab and at this point has been sober for nearly 19 years.

We love that Ferguson accesses a part of him self that could seem irrelevant to late night television, and uses it to comedic and humanitarian effect. He no longer wants to make fun of celebrities and others having a tough time in life.

For example, early in 2007 Britney Spears made big news by shaving her head, and he vows not to poke fun at her circumstances because he’s been there himself. He candidly explores the way his alcoholism informs how he relates to people, a significant component of his work as a talk show host.

His revelation brings him out as strong, grounded and more handsome.

Do you identify as an alcoholic? How does this part of you influence your work?