In a theatrical production, the week before the show opens is one of intensive, all-out work. The steady pace of work — the regular rehearsals, design, production, and promotion, culminate in what is commonly called “Hell Week,” more politely known as Tech Week. lt is a week of late nights, long hours, and all hands on deck! A tech rehearsal can run four to six hours, or longer, as costume malfunctions are thwarted, lights are adjusted, the light and sound people rehearse and execute their cues — and the process is grueling. People in the theater come to thrive on the adrenaline rush before and during performances. Will everything get done on time? Will everything be perfect?
Business people also talk about performance. They mean getting results, producing the contracted deliverables on time and under budget. What I have just described as “Hell Week” may provoke a response from some of my entrepreneurial friends: “Well, then, every week is hell week for me!” Indeed, the pace of deadlines, developing new business, and responding to client’s needs often puts these brilliant people “on a tightrope,” so to speak. The thrill of keeping the balance between walking that line and falling off is exhilarating to them — until the stresses build up, and the people burn out.
What are the indicators that you may be on the edge of burn-out? First of all, you may notice more aches and pains. Tight muscles, shallow breathing, a feeling of being “out of shape” sometimes is actually your system on overdrive, letting you know that it is time to put on the brakes. The next problem is that ongoing stress suppresses the immune system. Frequent colds, a bout of the flu, or feelings of being run-down and exhausted are all signs that rest, good nutrition, and a “recharge” are in order. Business peple have a strong ethic that “the show must go on.”
Continuing to run your personal empire from your sickbed does not qualify as rest. Your brain and nervous system need to completely disengage from “work” for a period of time. Take a walk, spend time in nature, go to a movie — or check in to your yoga or Feldenkrais class. Each of these, done regularly, will provide your system with the regeneration it needs.
My young friends in business could take a lesson from the theater. The production schedule has a regular rhythm. The acceleration to what can be the frenzied pace of tech week takes place during an extended process. After the peak of exertion, it is time to deliver the performances. This requires a different kind of energy — the kind that creates the feeling of “flow,” of ease and well-being, despite the demands of the piece. The actual show is always much shorter than a tech rehearsal: it is the streamlined, “express” version, where each number is performed only once in a night instead of three our four times. You get to enjoy your own results, and take pride in what has been created, both individually and corporately. You go home and rest between performances. And then, the show closes. The set is dismantled, the costumes are cleaned and returned to storage, you have a big party — and then, the theater is “Dark.” Like a farmer’s field, it lies fallow for a time, until the process starts again.
As we mature, we learn not to be afraid of “the dark.” The key to excellence in performance is to recognize the rhythm, and don’t skimp on opportunities to regenerate. Your health, creativity, and bottom line will all thank you in the long run.
Find a Feldenkrais teacher near you at www.feldenkrais.com . In Houston, that’s me!