"AND THE WINNER ISN'T: AWARD SHOWS AND THE CREATIVE SPIRIT"


After a long awards season we’re approaching the pinnacle of award shows, “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” – over a billion worldwide are poised to tune in to the Oscars. I know – the world loves its award shows. And if you’re a musician or actor, you’ve probably been dreaming about making your “I’d like to thank” acceptance speech as far back as you can remember. Really, I get that. As a life coach to artists in the entertainment industry, nearly every artist I’ve coached has put “win a Grammy” or “win an Oscar” in his list of top ten life goals. So what’s my problem? Why not get a bowl of popcorn and join the fun or just shut off the TV and shut up?

It’s because I love artists and the creative spirit and I know that when a creative person engages in his creativity it’s like oxygen to the world. Absolutely no matter if it’s experienced by no one or an audience of thousands. None. No matter if the final product results in a plaque or a statue.

A small, quiet voice inside us tells us there’s no such thing as” best”- best song, best actor and all the rest. It’s like comparing a kale salad, a chili dog at Pink’s, and a café latte. They’re all great depending on what you like. There’s absolutely no objective criterion to judge. Millions of dollars are spent on campaigning and the voting is often outrageously inauthentic. But that quiet voice is drowned out by the deafening sound of popular culture.

Award shows have mushroomed from the big 4 (Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tonys) to over 150 televised awards shows a year – all treated with gravitas and awe. The zealous media coverage of nominations, speculation about who should win, the red carpet drooling and then the post-red carpet “who wore it better” mean-spirited analysis, the actual award show, and post-award show coverage – is unavoidable. It blankets all of popular culture: it’s not just all over TV news and talk shows, it’s featured in virtually every newspaper, magazine and on-line new sources, the countless entertainment-focused media – then add in all social media coverage and comments on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

The message that’s communicated over and over, rather, pounded into your soul is this: being publically acknowledged by peers or the public actually matters. Your value as an artist (and for many, as a human being, too) is measured by awards and fame. What’s worse: the message is also that to count you must be better than your peers. It’s the most antithetical idea to the reality of the creative spirit and artistry. What every artist ought to know – and I’m telling you now if there’s any confusion – the only award of any merit would be for courage. It takes courage to attempt to create something out of nothing. There’s no “best” courage – it’s all the same, whether you’re a commercial success or a closet beginner.

Nevertheless, ask yourself or an artist you know: would you feel more validated, more proud of yourself, more successful if you won an award – especially one on TV? Do you dream of having your moment in the limelight and joining the group of “winners”?

The answer is most often “yes” – and here’s where the creative soul gets snatched to the dark side: Artists deeply want to touch people, make a difference. They want to matter. Year after year, award show after award show, the pageantry, the public obsession grows louder. In this climate, how does an artist reject the nonsensical thinking that these are the podiums of those who truly matter?

Here’s how. It begins with an idea that flies in the face of everything we’re conditioned to believe about success and happiness. Ready? It’s all about the inside-out. Not the outside –in. True happiness and the feeling of success only come from being engaged with what makes you feel alive, on the inside. Discover what your passions, what your thing is and as Nike says, just do it. It’s what connects you to your soul and a feeling of living with purpose.

When we chase the outside- in especially awards and fame for validation, acceptance, even love, we create a hole inside that grows bigger and bigger, a hole that simply cannot be filled. We end up wasting our lives waiting for the “one day” – the “when I get ‘there’ I’ll be happy”. I’ve coached dozens of artists who have gotten “there” only to find themselves feeling empty and confused because in pursuit of outside validation, they lost their inner voice, their inner compass. They believed that “there” would finally deliver a sense of peace, and instead they found inner chaos.

I know the award shows are here to stay. It’s true that they’re a tremendous source of revenue to organizations and networks. And the “winners” often get a huge financial boost at the box office, in ratings, or record sales. Still, I’d love to see celebration replace competition, a show where the courage to create is celebrated, a show where imagination, originality, possibility and the creative spirit are the real winners.

Sherri Ziff is a champion of the creative spirit and the life coach of Rock Your Life Coaching. She’s been featured in the Sunday New York Times, on E!, Access Hollywood and widely-quoted. sherri@rockyourlifecoaching.com

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