The New Year

A version of this article first appeared in DARLING MAGAZINE

LET IT GO… What the Frozen Soundtrack Taught Me About Success

“Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door!”

I watched Frozen with my 2 year-old niece almost a year ago and those lyrics have been ear-worming my brain ever since.

Let it go, let it go.

The message wasn’t just for two princesses on an epic journey. It was also for me.

When I moved to California last year, I had a laundry list of “to-dos” and the expectation that I could and would check them off, one by one. I was passionate, positive, and motivated. I even had a vision board with words and pictures to fuel my efforts. My goals were very simple, really…

I was going to write a hit screenplay, get an agent, walk the red carpet, win an Academy Award, and buy a big house (with a pool) in the Hollywood Hills.

That’s what “success” looked like to me. I put a bottle of champagne in the fridge and told my husband when something exciting happened in my writing career, we would drink it.

I worked hard to achieve my goals: I approached writing like a job. I wrote from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, I took classes, I applied to fellowships, I wrote query letters to agents, I read books, I went to networking events – and as an introverted extrovert, I really dislike networking events.

And now — almost two years after moving to L.A. — I have not had the success I anticipated.

I have not sold a screenplay, landed an agent, or walked a red carpet (unless you count the runner at the entrance of Buca di Beppo). And it might go without saying, but there’s been no Academy Award, and no house in the Hollywood Hills. I placed in a few screenwriting competitions and was a Finalist for a TV writing fellowship, but the bottle of champagne is still in the fridge. Why? I’ve been so focused on what I haven’t achieved in my career, that I haven’t been able to appreciate the small successes, and I’ve not appreciated the successes in other areas of my life.

… I’ve been so focused on what I haven’t achieved in my career, that I haven’t been able to appreciate small successes…

In his new book I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend, Martin Short talks about his “Nine Categories” — a personal inventory of sorts. Short rates and compares his performance in the following areas: Self, Immediate Family, Original Family, Friends, Money, Career, Creativity, Discipline, and Lifestyle. 

For example, “Self” deals with having yearly physicals and maintaining your overall health. As Short says, “Without a highly functioning self, nothing else works.”

“Immediate Family” is the family that lives with you (husband, wife, kids), “Original Family” is your mom, dad and siblings, “Friends” are people you like spending time with. Each category gauges whether the relationships are in a healthy place, and what can be done to strengthen them. “Money,” “Career,” “Creativity,” “Discipline” and “Lifestyle” are about setting and implementing goals.

Short said that when he wasn’t finding success in one area or was out of work, he would turn his attention to another category. This helped keep him positive, focused and motivated. Because, really, it’s not just about one thing: having the ideal career or the ideal partner or the ideal body. It’s about finding a balance, so that if you feel like you’re falling short in one area, you can focus on the positives in the other areas of your life.

As we approach the New Year, many of us reflect on and evaluate our lives. Some people make resolutions or set specific goals to get in better health or to take positive action in their lives.

Sometimes, after a few weeks (or days) the goals you set for yourself might seem daunting and unachievable.

Remember: You are a changing, dynamic being. What is important to you now might not be important to you next year, or even next week. It’s not about giving up on your goals, or dreams. It’s about acceptance and creating a realistic picture for where you are, and the current season of your life. Let it go, let it go. The fear of failure, the pressure to “succeed.” The outcome may not be the one you imagined, but the alternative might also be pretty great.

The outcome may not be the one you imagined, but the alternative might also be pretty great.

Don’t get me wrong — I would still like my talents as a writer to be recognized (and yes, I do happen to have room on my fireplace mantle for an award), but “success” looks different to me now. The pictures and words on my vision board are now centered around “Family” and “Joy.”

I think I’m going to pop that bottle of champagne.

Happy New Year!

The other earworm from Frozen: “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
It never did — I’m from Northern Canada.

 

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