January 2016

Print this page ›

January 2016

News From David Grindle, USITT Executive Director

Wishing You Eustress

David Grindle Executive Director

So begins a new year. Much as anything begins, it is full of anticipation and excitement for some, dread and fear for others.

One of the things I love about a career in the entertainment industry is that most of us get many new beginnings each year. For me, starting something new is an exciting time. It is filled with possibility of what is to come. Ideas will be realized and new things might spring from there. However, I recognize that those same things that make me excited bring dread to others.

I am a strong believer in the psychological principle of the self-fulfilling prophecy. If we go into something thinking that it will be horrible, it will be. If we approach the same event focused on overcoming the obstacle, not letting the obstacle overcome us, it becomes a challenge, not just something horrible. Each time we go in to tech, we have this opportunity. I used to ban the phrase “This is going to be a horrible tech,” when I was a stage manager. It could be challenging. It could be a week requiring great amounts of focus or a week that would test my abilities, but it could never be horrible. To me, that focused on the negative of the trials and not the victory of the end result.

The endocrinologist, Hans Selye, calls these types of stress, eustress and distress. What a stressor is doesn’t categorize it as one of the two; rather how individuals perceive the stressor is what defines the category. Stressors that are seen as a challenge, excitement, building resilience, or a sense of achievement are considered eustress. The person, like a runner at the end of a race, sees the outcome as beneficial. Whereas a distress is viewed as causing anxiety, fear, doubt, or despair. Tech week can easily be seen as fitting both of those categories.

How we frame things is at the center point of our society today. Look at media and politics for perfect examples. In the 1990s we came to accept the spin doctors of politics who worked the media to frame the story in ways that made a candidate sound good or bad. Frankly, to many these spin doctors grew to have a negative connotation. They aren’t new to this. Most of us can think of commercials that say “Four out of five doctors prefer…” Would you buy the product if they told you 20 percent of doctors wouldn’t touch the stuff?

But here we are today being our own spin doctors. Do we approach our next project with dread or anticipation? How are you framing your work? If we are to grow as individuals and artists, we must push ourselves to take on challenges. I’m not arguing that a Pollyanna approach should be our way of dealing with life. Instead I think that we should see the opportunity that challenge brings. It may not be pleasant to get through, but the end result may well be worth it, and that is what we focus on.

Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “If you are going through hell, keep going…” Now Churchill was credited with saying many things, and much of that credit is apocryphal. However, the sentiment is correct. How we approach new challenges and stress affects us, our health, and all of those around us. Take the opportunity this New Year to frame learning and challenges in ways that focus on the growth each brings. It could take some of the stress off your shoulders and make an easier world.

We remain the luckiest people in the world to work in this industry. We create new worlds, adapt new spaces, and appear to defy physics while adhering strictly to it. All of these things are challenging and stressful, but the honor of doing them makes for an incredible outcome. I wish you all the best in the New Year and hope it is full of eustress for everyone.