Defining Success for Yourself: Oscar Season Edition

Defining Success for Yourself: Oscar Season Edition

When I was little it was a treat to stay up late to watch The Oscars.

The glamour, the fashion, the cinematic stories celebrated – I loved every minute.

But the ceremony can also put pressure on me, making me question what have I done that’s of any merit.

Below you’ll find the replay our webinar, Defining Success for Yourself: Oscar Season Edition.

No sales pitch – just checking in on our dreams and progress, and sharing our insights with you! I’m joined by professional actress Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell in discussion on:

🌟 Why the dazzling awards season is inspiring, and how we can best channel its excitement in our own passion projects
🌟 How to identify what you really want to achieve, and what that red carpet and gold statue have to do with it
🌟 How to celebrate your progress and successes

P.S. If this webinar resonated with you, you might enjoy my free Broadway Bootcamp training, which breaks this stuff down into more actionable chunks. Enjoy!

10 Lessons in Minimalism and Simplicity I Learned from Living in an Airbnb

10 Lessons in Minimalism and Simplicity I Learned from Living in an AirbnbI intended to embrace January for what it would be: a challenge in simplicity.

In December we packed up our little flat, storing most of our possessions with kind friends, and taking the essentials with us to an Airbnb, where we now wait for our new flat to be ready for us. 

We were relieved to find that the Airbnb was as pictured (if anything, better), that there were no weird smells, that it was all-in-all quite pleasant for a couple of weeks’ stay. After the owners left I said “Oh no we forgot to ask for the wifi.” As the words left my mouth I realised that if it hadn’t been mentioned on our very thorough tour, it probably wasn’t there. Sure enough, we checked the listing and this was totally on us for not checking. No wifi. 

And so the challenge became even more challenging. But as a reward for embracing it, I was gifted with clarity, a refresher course in the lessons I’d learned years ago.

How to Maintain a Minimalist Mindset:

10 Lessons in Minimalism and Simplicity I Learned from Living in an Airbnb

Lesson: I don’t need a lot of clothes.

I have about 30 pieces of clothing, and only half of that with me right now. Overnight, the weather and the laundry discuss the question of what I will wear, and they let me know in the morning. And this system works pretty well. It’s like saving time in the morning by setting out my clothes the night before, except I don’t even have to do that. 

Lesson: I do need more than one pen.

We had to place an emergency Muji order because I brought only one erasable pen. This was silly. Pens are miniscule. I am a writer; pens are kind of essential. I should have brought more pens.

Lesson: Cooking is less overwhelming with less in the fridge.

Without our store of spices, sauces, and too many bags of cocoa powder (ahhh so much cocoa powder! We had completely lost stock of what was actually in our cupboards at the old flat!), without our food processor and blender, we have be challenged to perfect our simplest recipes: pasta and tomato sauce, risotto, stir fry, and sausages and mash.

What’s left in the fridge dictates what meal we cook next. The aim is to prepare us for those days when we don’t have time to cook from a complex-but-utterly-delicious recipe, to keep us from constantly buying frozen pizza, or ordering less frozen pizza.

Lesson: Everything I own needs a home.

I already knew this, but it’s reiterated when I’m in a space that is not my actual home. Actually, it’s especially important while traveling. When I got to my Halmoni’s house at Christmas, with allll our stuff (normal travel stuff, Christmas present stuff, extra storage stuff), I spent my first morning in America repacking it to make it accessible and lovely. I’m actually really proud of this.

Lesson: My laptop needs a home too.

Even though a laptop is portable, and that’s the whole point, it needs a bed. A place to rest and recharge (ha.) before it spends another day out on the town, assisting me in coffeeshops as I type articles like this one, traveling to the kitchen to play music while we cook. In the Airbnb I found a spot to nestle my laptop, where it plugs into the wall, and is tucked away at the end of the day. Mmm I love it!

Lesson: Wifi is distracting and stressful.

Not having wifi encourages slower living, spreading out, and writing. I am more thoughtful without it. I am less jittery without it. I watch movies more mindfully without Netflix, and I allow myself to go to the cinema more. When we pause the movie I downloaded on my 11” laptop during the day and I have 2 minutes to spare, waiting for Steve to refill the snacks, I no longer compulsively check my iPod because there is nothing to check. Instead I do this revolutionary thing called sitting still. Breathing. Waiting. Doing absolutely nothing.

For a moment I thought, what if we don’t reconnect our wifi, and spend the budget on more cinema trips? And then I thought about all the projects I’ve put on hold because I need internet at home, at the frustration of relying on the chance of coffeeshop wifi.

Lesson: Without wifi at home, I cling to public wifi like I’m gasping for air.

So yeah, there is another side of that coin. When I was little we didn’t have tv at home, so when my sister and I would go to Halmoni’s house we would be glued to the televeision, watching entire That’s So Raven marathons. It was not good. I find myself constantly checking my iPod for wifi networks, stopping in front of cafés to log on, scrolling through nothing at dinner just because Pizza Express has free wifi! I would never do this. I don’t need to do this. But now I do, and I’m trying to stop.

Lesson: We should get a fluffy rug.

There is a fluffy rug in the Airbnb. It makes the room feel very cosy.

Lesson: A room can dictate your lifestyle.

With no screens and not too much stuff in the room, there is little else to do besides read. And so we read, more than we usually do, and as much as we would like to do. In our old flat, the sofa faced the computer screen that we used to watch movies and Gilmore girls and play Braid, so we would spend a lot of time on that computer. There were books piled halfway up the wall, so we spent time reading their spines rather than their pages.

Lesson: I work best with more of a routine.

I used to go to coffeeshops a lot, because I work better outside the home, and I didn’t have a permanent desk space in our flat. But now that I rely on coffeeshops not just sometimes but daily, I am more mindful of how I spend that time. Taking up a table, and only having so much laptop battery has forced some routine into my daily coffeeshop visits. I do 4 pomodoros in the morning, break for lunch, and do 4 more in the afternoon. Clockwork.

Off to learn another lesson,

P.S. You can read more about my adventures in minimalism in my book, Own Your Story.

“You Will Never Ever Put Your Soul Together”: Harry Potter x Taylor Swift

"You Will Never Ever Put Your Soul Together": Harry Potter x Taylor Swift

My third Deathly Hallows song is here!

In order to share my latest Harry Potter song with you, I had to learn how to accompany myself on the guitar. I could have just learned the chords, but the true Swiftie in me believes that the integrity of this song is compromised when played without its signature riff.

As you’ll notice in the video, I don’t get it down perfectly, but it is there. You should have seen me on day one, fumbling with the fingerpicking for just five minutes before my fingertips got too numb to continue. Amazingly, by committing to running through it every day, a little bit at a time, the muscle memory sunk in to a playable degree.

Practicing music is a cornerstone of my childhood.

I took piano lessons from age 5, and added voice and guitar along the way. As a kid I often resisted practicing in the way that many kids say “but when am I ever going to need to know how to do this math problem in the real world?”

First of all, playing music is fun. It feels really really good. Second of all, the skills and lessons acquired go far beyond memorizing the opening to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (or insert Chopin, Mozart, etc.). Learning music teaches me how to learn other things, and if you can learn you can do anything.

I could go on and on about this, and I do in my arts-inspired confidence course Leading Lady, which returns this spring (in the meantime, try the Broadway Bootcamp for free!). For now, here is the final song in my Deathly Hallows series.

for singing along:

I remember when I vanquished you the first time
I was a baby and you took my parents too but like
Severus asked you not to and he’s actually on my side – whaat
Now you’re killing Cedric and you say, “Harry,
I know you’ve had a couple lucky saves – from me”
Remember how that time I got away? Our wands
met in the middle I’m telling you Riddle

oo-oo-oo-oo-oo you challenged me again tonight and
oo-oo-oo-oo-oo Hey Tom, I’m telling you I’m telling you
You will never ever ever put your soul together
You-oo will never ever ever possess the wand of Elder
You go killing Albus, killing Gellert, killing Snape
but you-oo will never ever ever posses the wand of Elder
because Malfoy

I’m really gonna miss reading your mind when you
give me scar-aches when I’m camping with Hermione and Ron
you go to Malfoy Manor where you hide
with some Death Eater friends much eviller than mine

oo-oo-oo-oo-oo you challenged me again tonight and
oo-oo-oo-oo-oo Hey Tom, I’m telling you I’m telling you
You will never ever ever put your soul together
cuz you-oo will never never ever beat this phoenix feather
Your wand’s linked to my wand’s linked to your soul’s linked to me
And you will never ever ever put that soul together

oooooo

The prophecy says we’ll fight for ever ever
but wait where’s your snake?
Neville slayed Nagini

So he’s hunting me down again and he’s like I’m gonna kill youuu and I’m like Expelliarmus
No 

You will never ever ever put your soul together
You will never ever ever think that I’m that clever
You just killed a horcrux I’m a horcrux so I kill you
So you-oo will never ever ever put your soul together

ooooo

You go killing your friends killing my friends killing me – oops!
But you will never ever ever…put your soul together

xandra-signature

P.S. Watch the other two Deathly Hallows songs: “Sweet as Snape” and “You’re a Horcrux”