Archive for November, 2014

Rob Recommends: Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Posted in A Note to Directors, Creativity, Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Quotes, Rob Recommends, Thoughts on Leadership on November 19, 2014 by RobALott

Pixar has had an unprecedented string of hit movies emerge from their studios. This book is their not-so-secret play book.


So much on the ground, in the field, nuts and bolts experience is shared in these pages.

President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, Ed Catmull, explains how Pixar took a note from Japanese production by instituting a principle that “No one needs to ask permission to take responsibility.” Thus, anyone at any level could halt production if they saw a problem.

The classic improvisational rule of “Yes, and…” is taken to a new level with the introduction of a much more accessible idea of “Yes, if…”

Catmull further explains how to fight off confirmation bias and truly get the best and most accurate information.

The principle of “hurry up and fail” reveals itself as truly the best way to take action within creativity.

Change, uncertainty, and instability will always accompany creativity. These things are not only inevitable, but are completely necessary to the process. Catmull explains how Pixar not only doesn’t eliminate them, but rather leans into them as a value to their creative process.

I believe this book became an instant classic on the subject of creativity and leadership. I’ll continue to refer back to it for years to come.

Another Look at Critiques and Reviews

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin', Nuts & Bolts Stuff on November 17, 2014 by RobALott

You are never as bad as they say you are, but you’re also never as good as they say you are.

I once had a director who warned us not to read our reviews. Not because he was afraid we’d be discouraged by a bad review, but because he knew we’d never be able to live up to the good ones.

A review means someone was paying attention. And if the review was perfectly glowing, then it could also mean that you haven’t done anything challenging or groundbreaking.

A review is more of a reflection of the reviewer than it is a reflection of you and your art. It’s how the reviewer felt. That’s all they could possibly be expected to be responsible for. But how they felt, is not necessarily the truth. Even a collection of reviews, while it may reflect popular opinion, it is not a certainty of truth.

You Can Easily Judge

Posted in Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on November 14, 2014 by RobALott

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” -Goethe

Rob Recommends: Now, Discover Your Strengths

Posted in Rob Recommends on November 12, 2014 by RobALott

In 2001 a Marcus Buckingham & Dr. Donald Clifton launched a book that intended to start a revolution, “The Strengths Revolution”.  I was introduced to this book and its ideas in 2007 and it truly changed my life.  Now, I’m passing it on to you.


We are excellent at talking about our weaknesses.  Every year we have our year-end-review where we spend five minutes talking about the things we did well this year, and then we finish by spending fifty-five minutes talking about our “areas of opportunity”.  What if that was reversed?  What if we spent the majority of our time working in, and developing our strengths?  And what if we could find a way to hand off our weaknesses to those that could own them as strengths?

This book gave me the tools to do just that!

Now, Discover Your Strengths

Introducing “Rob Recommends”

Posted in Rob Recommends on November 12, 2014 by RobALott

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones is famous for saying, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Well, I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve read a lot of books, and I’ve learned this to be absolutely true.

Not much of what I say is original to me. All that I say and do is a reflection of the people I have met and the books I have read. And I’d like to begin sharing those resources with you as generously as they have been shared with me.

Please trust that I get no kick-backs from any of these links, but that this is rather and quite simply an ongoing collection of a few of my favorite things.

Back to the Basics

Posted in A Note to Directors, Disentangling Thoughts on Theatre, Got Me Thinkin', Nuts & Bolts Stuff, Quotes, Uncategorized on November 10, 2014 by RobALott

There’s a famous story of Coach Vince Lombardi addressing his team after an inexcusable loss, holding up a familiar object he said, “Gentlemen, today we go back to the basics. This, is a football.” He then proceeded to run a practice focused on drilling the fundamentals.

What would you say are the fundamentals of working in the theatre? What are the absolute essentials, the irreducible minimums someone needs to know before stepping into a theater and onto a stage?

I asked this question to a number of artists, actors, and directors. Here are some of their answers:


“Show up on time, be prepared, and be polite to everyone.”

“Make yourself heard.”

“Keep the darn ego out on the street.”

“Be present in the moment. Listen. Really listen to what is happening .”

“Listening. Listening to the director, choreographer, music director, stage manager, and crew. Listen to your fellow actors on stage. Listen to the audience. And then shut up, so you can listen.”

“Be willing and eager to collaborate. Nothing is achieved by an individual—only the collective work of everyone assembled to create the art.”

“Learn to be comfortably uncomfortable in the vulnerability it takes to be truly and simply present.”

“Always know why you are telling the story.”

“Don’t worry about being interesting. The material is interesting enough. Your responsibility is to be interested.”

“Be prepared.”

“React honestly within the character to what your fellow actors are giving you. Listen, be bold, and trust.”

“Listen. Breathe. Speak clearly.”

“Know the story you are telling and your part in it.”

“Make sure your fly is up before your entrance.”

“Commitment. Take the stage because you have to, because nothing else will do.”

“Know your call time. Get off book as quickly as possible. Don’t be a jerk.”

“Play for the sake of playing, but not to win.”

“You should probably learn the whole upstage/downstage, stage right/stage left thing at some point.”

“The audience wants you to succeed.”

“Preparation and work ethic. Read and research, stretch and warm up, stay hydrated. Preparing the mind and body to focus its energy is vital. Be prepared to work hard because it’s not easy. It takes dedication and guts…and lots of coffee.”

Did any of these ring true to you?

What do you think? What are the fundamentals of the theatre?

Until You Take Responsibility…

Posted in A Note to Directors, Quotes, Thoughts on Leadership on November 7, 2014 by RobALott

“Until you take responsibility, you are a victim, and being a victim is the exact opposite of being a leader.” -Michael Hyatt

Sometimes we are victims. It does happen. But for those of us who call ourselves leaders, unfortunately, but also thankfully, most of the time we are ridiculously in charge, and thus, always responsible.