A lesson of freedom from “The Shawshank Redemption”

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is an awesome movie that can teach us how to keep hope alive.

It’s one of those flicks that whenever I see it come on, I’ve got to watch it.

A story of a man, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins), who is sent to prison for life for the murder of his wife and her lover, even though he claims he is innocent.

We follow Andy as he navigates prison institutional life while building strong friendships along the way.

A theme of the film is to keep hope alive.

I had some insights recently about Andy Dufresne and how he can teach us a lesson if we are stuck in our own Shawshank prisons.

Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption

You might be in a personal prison right now. It may be a job you’ve been stuck in or a never-ending cycle of school. Maybe it’s a series of bad relationships. Continue reading “A lesson of freedom from “The Shawshank Redemption””

Inspiration to Get Through The Holiday Blues

January used to be a very difficult time for me.

For years I would go through the holiday season starting with Halloween through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. It’s always a very busy time of the year in my industry.

inspiration to get through the holiday blues
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

It is a time that can be filled with joy, gratefulness and reflection. But for several years I would get through the season and be very depressed.

Part of it was realizing that I hadn’t accomplished the things that I wanted to do in the previous year. Part of it was feeling overwhelmed and being in the middle of winter and not having the inspiration to move forward. It was quite daunting. Continue reading “Inspiration to Get Through The Holiday Blues”

The Dangers of Isolation

When our family went to Kilmainham Gaol (“gaol” means”jail” in Gaelic) in Dublin, Ireland this spring we learned about the Easter Monday Rebellion in 1919 which eventually lead to Ireland’s independence.

We also learned about techniques that were implemented in the jail to “help” prisoners.

Complete isolation in the form of solitary confinement was common practice.

View of a Kilmainham Jail Cell Spring 2017 (Photo by Kate McLaughlin-Gregg)

Jailers believed that if prisoners were left alone with their thoughts in isolation, it would lead to rehabilitation.

Over time, they learned quite the opposite.

They discovered that isolation leads to the complete mental and physical health breakdown in prisoners.

To correct this, the administrators created windows in the jail to allow prisoners to see daylight and interact with other prisoners.

It might not lead to a turn around with prisoner’s behavior, but it did improve their health.

Here’s a takeaway, I want to share with you that I learned from Kilmainham Jail. We have to learn not to isolate. even when we’re in pain. There is a tendency to retreat and to lick our wounds.

We have to fellowship with God and others because isolation doesn’t heal

The healing comes when we admit and share our hurt.

One of the ways that we can let God in is by turning to our friends. We can share our pain, and our friends can help us as we go through some rough patches.

It’s how it’s supposed to work. We were not created to be alone. We were created to be in relationship with one another.

I find this so helpful when I’m going through the rough patches. Reaching out and talking, sharing, trying to get through it… It’s what it’s supposed to be.

If you’re hurting today, reach out to someone who knows you dearly. They will help you through this, and God will help you as well.

 

 

Enough is Enough

Maybe you are at that point where you are done.

You’ve been stuck in a cycle, a pattern. You can’t seem to get a break.

It probably feels like everywhere you go, or whatever situation you find yourself in next, you get punched in the gut.

I remember having those moments in my life where I thought “Enough is enough, I don’t like the answers I’m getting.”

enough is enough
Face close up by https://brinablum.de/

I didn’t like that a school system kept saying, “We can’t offer more services” for my son Duncan to help with his autism.

I didn’t like kids calling me fat when I was 12 going through an incredibly stressful year emotionally and psychologically. A year where I kept eating to stop the pain.

I didn’t like people telling me that I had to get a job that I hated and dreaded in order to stay alive.

Maybe you’re going through one of those life changes now.

That moment where “Enough is enough!”
That moment where you’d rather take the leap and the chance, instead of being stuck in the same cycle of frustration and pain.

There’s pruning that has to happen in life in order to make room for new growth.

It’s going to hurt, but it is so, so worth it.

“…and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” John 5:12

“Essentialism”: Are You Making “D” Life Decisions?

Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” should be mandatory reading for creative workers. 

It’s a book that challenges you to say “no” to those things in your life that do not utilize your best skills and talents.

I’ve written before about the power of saying “no.”  “Essentialism”, which I first heard about from Michael Hyatt’s blog, truly goes deeper into the idea of say “yes” to the right things in life.

Here are three major concepts from the book I’d like to share…

Make sure that you commit your time to something that is worth it.

What are you investing your time in? 

McKewon shares a personal story that changed his way of thinking. He and his wife were expecting the birth of his son. They knew the child would be born through the Cesarian procedure, so a date for the delivery had been set.   Continue reading ““Essentialism”: Are You Making “D” Life Decisions?”

Just Keep Dancing, Just Keep Dancing

“We would like you to be a part of Fantasy Fair.”

These were words I was not expecting to hear. I had been hired to go into a new musical comedy show that was starting at Disneyland.

I had gone through the audition process and had done all right, but there was a concern.

I can sing, but dancing is not in my wheelhouse.

The director took a chance and offered me the job.

I accepted and I was scared.  Sure I could perform comedy with some ease, I’d been doing that for nearly two decades.

But dancing? Oh boy…

dancing
Kevin as Mr. Jones (picture credit: Jerry Buteyn)

It took a lot of work.

Here’s what helped me get through the process:

  • Persistence and perseverance

I’d record the choreographers dancing on my phone. Then I’d transfer the video to my laptop and watch the video playback in slow motion.

I would literally force my body to imitate the moves I saw the choreographers and other performers do.

My family would catch me rehearsing the steps in the middle of our living room on my days off from work.

I would show up each morning 45 minutes early for rehearsal and practice the dance steps in the parking lot.

Even during our breaks I would slowly review and go over the steps again and again and again.

  • Partnering

My friend, Mark McConville was my partner in arms during the process.  It was a challenge for him too but we bonded during rehearsal as we tried to master the steps.  Continue reading “Just Keep Dancing, Just Keep Dancing”

There Are No Shortcuts

I’ve been here time and time again.

Like, the time that well over half of my headshot submissions to agents got sent back to me because they wouldn’t accept them through the mail.

Like the time I had a lemonade stand as a kid and only one neighbor showed up because we didn’t get foot traffic on our street.

Like the time I bought $10 worth of magical raffle tickets at our church fair absolutely convinced that I was going to win the much coveted Atari game system… I didn’t.

And just about every time I didn’t get instant results for my semi-efforts, I’d get huffy. I’d want to throw in the towel.

no shortcuts
Copyright: olegdudko / 123RF Stock Photo

 

There are no shortcuts.

I know this with eating and exercise. I know this with my spiritual and mental health.

I have to show up every day.

When it comes to life’s calling, life’s purpose, and career I have a tendency to sabotage myself.

I do know what it is. Steven Pressfield calls it The Resistance. I call him by another name.

This force wants me to fall off the horse and never get back up. Because to get back up means that I am serving the Higher Purpose. I am serving the purpose that He gave me.

So… I’ll go back to the basics. I’ll review what it takes so that I show up every day to work on this. I’ll read and learn and follow the guidance of those who have come before me and who are trying to point me on the path.

I know that if I log the time, do the work, I’ll find myself on the path He has laid before me so that I’m not just doing my work. I’ll do the work He means for me to do.

 

Ways To Free Up Your Creativity

Sometimes I get stuck. I might be in a bad mood or can’t seem to get a break. Anything that can get in my way of my schedule, does.

creativity
Graphic Artist image courtesy of rawpixel.com

The last thing I feel like being is creative.

 

Creativity, however, can’t be left alone. It has to be worked at and nurtured.

How do you do that when you just feel…. blah?

I want to share a couple of techniques that have helped me when I need a creative boost.

  1. Sit down and do small little chunks of work.

    Small little bites at a time. I found tremendous help in using a 6-minute timer to get things done. It’s such a useful tool for me to sit down focus and make headway on creative projects. Before I know it, I can look back and see that I’m making progress. Then I start to feel hopeful.

  2. Do something creative that uses a different skillset

    If you are stuck on a project and can’t seem to get inspiration, walk away for a little bit and pick up another creative tool. This could mean you pick up a musical instrument or a paintbrush. We can use the creative part of our brain sometimes by giving it a break with other fun, creative things to do. I do this with drawing or playing music.  A friend of ours gave us a piano and I’ve been filling some of my spare time plunking out tunes and rediscovering my love of music. It’s a breath of fresh air for the spirit.

  3. Change your view, get out of the house (or even travel!)

    Being in the same space day after day can sometimes wear you down. We all need a little reset. Sometimes it’s as simple as climbing in the car driving to the other side of town and hanging out in a park. It could involve traveling.  In her article “8 Reasons Why Traveling is Good for Your Health”, Karen Reed observes that creative people will travel to a new place so they can be exposed to new ideas or cultures. It can serve as a trigger for creativity. My trip to Joshua Tree triggered the idea for an article. My recent family trip to Ireland and Scotland inspired me for several future goals.

There are immediate things you can do to get unstuck if you’re in a creative dry spell. The most important thing you can do is take action.

You’ll get there…

If you want more inspiration about how travel can not only benefit your creativity but your health as well, read Karen Reed’s full article here…

8 Reasons Why Traveling Is Good for Your Health

And if you like to read what I learned from my recent trip to Ireland and Scotland, click here.

Dealing With Disappointment

Got some disappointing news about something I had focused my time and energy on recently.
It stung.

Image courtesy of StockSnap.io
Image courtesy of StockSnap.io

There were a few moments where I felt really down.

But, I’m in a better place than I was a few years ago.
A few years ago, this news could have kept me in a cycle of depression for weeks, if not months.
Now, I was able to pull out of it quicker. There is a Bigger Plan at work here.
I know that God has given me abilities, skills and talents that are to be used for His Glory,  not my own.
When I learn to keep Him as the center of all of it, my successes and my failures, it helps.
Believe me, I still feel pain.
But I also have hope that helps me get up and keep going.
Here are a few things that helped me during the recent rejection:
  • I shared with my wife and my friends. In the past, I used to keep all of it bottled up an would isolate. It didn’t help and people didn’t want to hang around that.
  • I read scripture that would lift me up. It’s surprising how much there is in the Bible about dealing with disappointment. Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
  • I reviewed what I have accomplished in the past, and reassessed what that means for the future. Perhaps this recent rejection means that I’m supposed to be using my abilities in a different way. A way in which I would thrive and would be more in line with my talents.
Whatever the near future holds, I’m grateful for the love and support that I have along the way, from God, from my wife, my family and my friends. All of this is about serving others.
I hope today if you are feeling the sting of disappointment that you can find some peace and insight to see the Bigger Plan.

The 11 Months I Was Unemployed (Part 2 of 3)

(This is the second part of a story that tells the story of how I made a poor decision that left me unemployed for 11 months. For the first part read here)

After I had left my regular work at Disney in the fall of 2005, I thought things were going to go my way. We had some money saved up. I was sure that television commercial work would start pouring in.

I was so confident that I even turned down a seasonal opportunity from another theme park because I was going to leave that behind me.

My problem… I didn’t have a plan in place. I wasn’t in a regular acting class at the time or a regular group where I could exchange ideas about how to get consistent work.

I was just winging it.

Not having a plan in place was very detrimental. I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. Without a clear direction, I became easily distracted or overwhelmed by what needed to happen in order to book work.

Kevin Gregg doing extra work on the set of "24" (FOX) circa 2006
Kevin Gregg doing extra work on the set of “24” (FOX) circa 2006

I wasn’t handling it very well.

I felt guilty that I couldn’t seem to get things done so I started filling my days with anything and everything.  I started volunteering at the kids’ school, volunteering at church and just being involved in a myriad of different non-paying activities.

Volunteering is a good thing, but when you are not taking care of  basic income for the home it can cause its own problems. And it did. Before I knew it I found myself emotionally committed to things that had nothing to do with forward motion for my career. I was stretching myself too thin and getting exhausted. But at least I could claim that I was “busy.”

I also started numbing myself with food and booze. Not helpful. When you go to an audition for a television commercial, you don’t look too attractive when you’ve got a puffy face from booze and a poor diet.
I was fortunate enough to book odd jobs here and there. I did extra work for a few television shows but found the experience depressing and not very lucrative for a man trying to support a family of five.

Continue reading “The 11 Months I Was Unemployed (Part 2 of 3)”