Know Your Heart. Know Your Limits. Power Through.
This month we spoke to Elaine Horn-Ranney. When we asked her for advice to other women who hope to start companies, she recommended three things. I have distilled them in to my Mantra this month: Know Your Heart. Know Your Limits. Power Through.
Knowing Your Heart:
I have spent most of my adult life working as a theatre professional and (always, sigh) something else. The theatre was for the heart and the something else was always for the cash. I was very, very aware that working in the theatre would not make me rich. But I loved and still love the communities that artists build. I loved the rehearsal room, where I could try on a million different realities and choose the one that worked best. As a director, I love making a new reality and a new experience for actors and audiences. I carry that love over into my work as a coach, where I create a safe space for women to practice being more assertive, more powerful, more themselves.
Knowing Your Limits:
My limits have changed so much since I was an undergraduate planning to live on the art. I have two little kids, a fantastic husband, a mortgage, and a house that seems to be failing system by system. Which means that I need to make money and that whatever the “something else” is, it has to make a major contribution to supporting our family. Which means that I have little time to follow my heart. This reality hurts, but it is reality: a limit that shapes how I approach my life.
There’s another limit that snuck up on me. I am keenly aware that my children will grow up, and now is my only chance to enjoy them. For the first time ever, I understand just how important it is to live real life in the moment. It’s just as important as acting from moment to moment onstage.
So, I have limits. I have to make money and I want to be with my children as much as I can.
So I know my limits. And as I struggle against them: Wishing I didn’t have to sleep, flailing against the necessities of my job, trying to figure out if I can outsource the laundry, I try to remember my design professor’s favorite saying: “Limitations are your friends.”
So I have about five hours a week to make art. Which means that I have to choose my projects carefully and say no to the stuff that doesn’t speak to me, that I don’t REALLY, REALLY want to do.
This one comes easy for me. I have always been the type to power through all-nighters to get the show up, and all-nighters with the baby. I work best at crisis time. And at times, I have courted crisis because I like the exhilaration it brings. And that is the opposite of the powering through that I admire in Elaine. She speaks of building her business as working a jigsaw puzzle -finding a piece of the puzzle that might work, checking to see if it fits, and then dealing with the results. It is this sort of diligent powering through, mature powering through, that I am learning to do now. I’m working on having the patience to see how things turn out, making decisions and sticking with them for long periods of time, and taking on projects that last longer than a six-week rehearsal period.
Obviously, this helps put child-rearing into perspective. It’s going to be a long time before I can know the results of the moment-to-moment relationships that I am building with my children (and for that matter my husband).
It’s helping with the art too. Rather than moving from one unrelated project to the next, I am exploring ideas across several projects. And I am in the process of understanding myself better as an artist and, surprisingly, not getting bored. So as I embrace powering through in a more mature way, my heart is growing — along with my limits.
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