Kids, Careers, & Romance

"Whenever a young person between the ages of 16 and 25 gives up pursuing a dream, any dream, there's always a boyfriend or girlfriend involved. Always. Without exception. And later, either the relationship breaks up or the career never happens. Always. Without exception. And no young person who's ever in a serious romantic relationship will believe this applies to him or her. Ever. Without exception."

 

 

I wrote those words more than two decades ago. The sole difference now is that I can explain myself a bit better. 

For one thing, I've discovered an interesting irony.

When a young person is in a serious and positive romantic relationship, they have a powerful support system. 

They have someone who...

  • cares for them  
  • keeps them from feeling alone 
  • provides them with comfort, satisfaction, even joy. 

The irony? These dynamics are at the very root of the problem. And NOT because the relationship is a "distraction", or "takes up too much time", or that one partner may consciously or unconsciously hold the other back, or something like that.

It's human nature. 

In our teens and early twenties, we human beings have only recently entered what noted psychologist Jean Piaget calls "formal operational thought". In a nutshell, one of the central characteristics of this level of thinking is the ability to objectively assess the consequences of one's actions. 

I would express it as follows:

Although teens and young adults now have the same cognitive equipment as adults, they're new at using it.

In other words, it's not about grasping the concept of actions and consequences; it's about having the experience to know what it feels like

Further, many if not most psychologists believe that in adolescence, there is a resurgence of what another famous psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg, (my advisor at Harvard), describes as "Level 1" or "pre-conventional" morality, indicative of childhood. 

Simply put, this would go a long way toward explaining why so many teens, and even young adults, seem to base much of their behavior solely on what feels good at the moment.

So here's a question:

When a teenager or young adult finds something that meets most of their emotional and physical needs, is it realistic to expect that they would devote lots of time and energy pursuing something else instead?

Before you answer, imagine if this "something else" were to entail...

  • constant difficulty
  • disappointment
  • sacrifice
  • rejection

As you may guess, I'm describing the path to success in most fields, and especially the arts.

How long would a young person continue this necessarily huge expenditure of time and energy, given a readily-available, easy, comfortable, and gratifying alternative such as a romantic relationship?   

Perhaps at this point you're thinking that a serious romantic partner would be a vital, supportive element for a young person in such a pursuit. Perhaps you believe that such a partner would help guide them along the way, provide encouragement- even inspiration- and help prevent them from giving up on their dreams.   

Maybe. But that simply hasn't been my experience. 

Do I believe this applies to all romantic relationships? Of course not. 

I've seen many careers and relationships work extremely well together...  when both partners have first become fully and separately mature as individuals

Until next time, take good care of yourself. 

Thanks.

Peter Sklar

Tracy Jai Edwards: Her Remarkable Journey to the Great White Way

In her featured roles in Broadway's Hairspray and Legally Blonde, and soon to be appearing alongside Stefanie Powers and Andre De Shields in the much-touted Gotta Dance, Tracy Jai Edwards is the embodiment of qualities necessary for success in any field.

But that wasn't always so.

Tracy is my former student.  I was fortunate to discover this brilliantly talented young lady years ago while lecturing in Houston. In this candid interview, she describes her struggle and victory over fear, self-doubt, and the discouragement of others, and outlines the steps she took in her personal and professional life which led to her smashing success as one of the most remarkable triple-threats in the world of Broadway.

Life Lessons from Showbiz

According to Actors Equity Association, 90% of the best Broadway performers in America are chronically unemployed. 

I suspect the figures for television and film actors are even worse. This, despite that there are enough job opportunities out there to consistently employ far more. Obviously it means the same actors are getting most of the gigs.

What explains this?

Talent?
Training?
Looks?
Luck?
Perseverance?
Passion?
Connections? 

Do the performers who work regularly have better resumes, headshots, social media skills, and all the other things people commonly associate with the "biz"?

The truth is that every one of these things is fundamentally minor or irrelevant... in any field.  They are equally common among those who fail as among those who succeed.

So what is it? 

I created this blog for students, parents, and educators- in and out of the arts. 

It's to share what I've distilled from a half century of experience with young people. For the most part, this includes kids who, from all outward appearances, were more accomplished and successful than most of their peers. 

Other than a few hundred young Broadway and TV stars, who were they?

These were kids who excelled in the following:

  • Academics
  • Athletics
  • Gymnastics
  • Dance
  • Forensics
  • Technology
  • Science

... and lots of other things. 

Here's what I observed without exception:

Those who came to feel good about themselves and learned to take good care of themselves, embraced the kinds of choices and habits that led to success. 

In other words, in every case, it was not what these children and teens accomplished that impacted most on their futures- it was who they were

That's what I call the "Sklar Principle".

I believe that as educators, our effectiveness- indeed our primary mission-  lies in understanding and communicating this to our students. 

Perhaps you'll join me here in that effort each month. It should be an exciting, illuminating, life-changing journey.

Until next time, take good care of yourself.

Thanks.

Peter Sklar

WHAT'S YOUR REAL?

There's a false but widely held belief in the entertainment field, on Wall Street, in corporate board rooms, even in our schools:

Everyone's #1 priority is to find something "new", i.e. "the next big thing."

After a career that's spanned a half century, I've found that virtually every product developer, investment banker, internet tycoon, and CEO, along with every casting director and agent I've ever known from New York to Hollywood, is always searching for something far more important.

While few are able to describe just what that is, they will all assure you they'll recognize it the moment they see it. And I believe them.

I'm referring to something real.

As I write this, millions of smart, talented, hard-working, well-connected, and outwardly accomplished people in all walks of life, both children and adults, are struggling for success, unaware that their dreams and goals are tied far more intimately to who they are, rather than what they can do.

This blog is to encourage administrators, teachers, students, and aspiring performers to ask: who are you, really? 

Are you happy?
Are you taking good care of yourself?
Are you honest and fair?
Are you disciplined and mature?

That's your real.

And you can't fake it, or turn it on and off, or put it together quickly before a big day or for an important interview. It's who and what you really are- the basis for success at home, in school, on the job, and in life.

What's your real?