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Atlanta Magician – Mentalist – Speaker Joe M. Turner | News and Comments from the Chief Impossibility Officer

Posts Tagged ‘risk’

Change Aversion, Iocane Powder, and Your GPS

Posted by Joe M. Turner | on June 20, 2012

I admit it. I’m rebellious, change-driven, and a radical non-conformist… in small doses.

Some people are bomb-dropping, mountain-moving, headline-making change agents. Whether in leadership roles or executing tasks, they are ready to rock, all the way, all the time. Fundamental transformation, baby – do it now! And when we’re done, let’s change it back so we can do it again. These people may be driven by a compelling personal vision for the future. Of course, they may also be easily influenced, distracted by shiny objects, or have chronic wanderlust. Either way, they have a very high tolerance for change.

Other people have a lower tolerance for change. Where others see stubborn ruts, they see clear, proven processes. Where others feel a prickly monotony, they feel a comforting security. Fools rush in, as the old song says, and the only thing these take-it-slow folks won’t hesitate to do is to remind you of it. Everything else can wait.

The fact is that all of us demonstrate elements of both of these broad stereotypes. But equally true is the fact that we all live and work in environments where the pace of change is constantly accelerating. Being adaptive and open to change is a personal and professional life skill.

In the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, the famous “battle of wits” scene between Vizzini and the Man in Black concludes with a bit of wisdom that change averse people – meaning “all human beings” – can learn from. Here, watch the scene so you have it fresh in your mind:

The Man in Black survives the battle because he “spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.” That’s interesting. He was prepared for a challenging situation because he had spent sometime building up his tolerance. When confronted with the danger, he could depend on being able to survive it.

Instead of dosing up on iocane powder, I’d challenge you to add something to your daily routine to help you build up your tolerance for change. It doesn’t have to be headline-making change. Just do something on a regular basis to take a different path and keep yourself accustomed to the unaccustomed.

Alternate Route Advised

Build up a tolerance for change by doing some little things differently every day.

My favorite low-stress change is the alternate route. When I’m driving somewhere for a meeting or show, or driving home, I will often take a turn just for the novelty of taking a different route. I like the opportunity to see what’s going on in the places or along the streets where I travel less often. If my GPS happens to be on, I kind of like to see it recalculating routes based on the turns I make and the one’s I don’t. I guess I enjoy that little power rush of asserting a little human dominance over technology!

Another option you might consider: order something different on the menu at the restaurants where you eat often. Sure, you already know what you like. You can always order that again sometime. Next visit, though, try something you’ve never had.

Sign with a different colored pen, park at the other end of the parking lot, sit on the other side of the room at church – whatever you do, throw a little change of pace into your life. Build up that tolerance one random turn at a time!


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Impulse, Excellence, and Leaps of Faith

Posted by Joe M. Turner | on April 23, 2011

Thursday afternoon, on a combination of instinct and impulse, I decided to take a giant leap… backward.  Sort of.

I was in the midst of doing a partial rewrite of an upcoming review column in Genii Magazine when an interesting status update flashed across the Facebook page:  “In need of an accompanist (piano) tonight, Monday and Tuesday.”

Heidi Bevill, Production/Stage Manager for the Shuler Hensley Awards

Heidi Bevill, Production/Stage Manager for the Shuler Hensley Awards

The author of that status was a person I have known since 1991.  Heidi Bevill was playing Hope Harcourt in a high school production of Anything Goes in Starkville, Mississippi that spring when the pianist quit.  I was a student at Mississippi State at the time and was taking piano and voice courses for my own enrichment.  I was asked to come to the next rehearsal, which I did, and I played the remaining rehearsals and the show.  Heidi was later in my physics class when I student taught at SHS, and later played Amanda to my Elyot in a college production of Private Lives.  She also performed in a musical I wrote in college, BankNote$.

So – on a lark, I checked with Heidi to see what was going on.  Turns out that the Shuler Hensley Awards are coming up on Tuesday and they were in immediate need of an experienced musical theater accompanist who could jump in at the last minute to play scenes for the nominated productions: Hairspray, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Les Miserables, Oklahoma, and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  The big event is Tuesday night at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.  (These awards, named for a Tony and Olivier Award winning Marietta native, recognize excellence in high school musical theater in Georgia.)

I checked the calendar.  It could work.  I’ve got a show Saturday, but they aren’t rehearsing that day.  I’m preparing to fly to New York next Wednesday for a convention, but this event would be over Tuesday night and… what the heck!  I decided to suddenly jump back in time about 20 years and sit in a pit for a musical theater production. (What’s more, I decided to do it under fire, at the last minute, in front of a theater full of people!)

So, I went to rehearsal last night.  I got the music at 4pm for a 5pm rehearsal which I managed to stumble through, essentially sight-reading the scores.  I’m familiar with all the shows and have worked on productions of some of them, but generally as an actor, not a pianist.   Today I’ve been working like crazy (particularly on the Sondheim!) and I’ll rehearse with the orchestra on Monday.  Cue-to-cue Monday night, dress on Tuesday.  Show Tuesday night.  Oh, by the way, turns out the awards are recorded for television and will be broadcast later this summer.  No pressure, eh?

Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Last year's awards at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. This year is also sold out.

I decided to take this challenge for lots of reasons.  Reconnecting with old friends and colleagues.  Meeting exceptionally talented new people.  Working in a great venue.  But most of all, I think it’s important – even critical – to exercise your full range of talents.  As I wrote in  my last post, your unique combination of talents and experiences holds your key to new ideas and new ways to overcome challenges.

As a speaker and entertainer, I don’t always have the opportunity or need to sit at a piano and rip out “A Weekend in the Country.”  My mentalism performances never feature the dance break from “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City.”  My keynotes don’t feature any would-be French revolutionary anthems.  But the experience of collaborating to create live performances at a high level of quality always affects the way you think about your own individual performance.  The same is true for high achievers in any field or industry; they want to learn from others who achieve greatness.  High achievers revel in the experience of excellence, and generally prefer to take an active role rather than being a passive observer.

What “back burner” skill have you been sitting on?  Why not exercise it?  It doesn’t have to be in quite the high-pressure situation that I’ve gotten myself into this week, but the excitement and energy that come from taking on an unusual challenge always bleed over into your more usual work.

Think of something you haven’t done in a long time, and go find a way to do it again.  Think about the experience.  Look for ways to apply what you learn.  Take a leap backward, and you may just find yourself taking a giant leap forward as a result.

(Note:  Photos copyright Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and Edward Zeltser.)

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