It’s always been and it is to this day the most important thing in any job, any endeavor, any venture I sink my time, energy and resource into. To me, nothing makes something more fun and rewarding than feeling like every day is different, and that every day you’re learning something new. There is also a perverse feeling of excitement and being constantly on one’s toes, when you’re venturing in something you’ve never done before. But – as in any circumstance – when we face something completely new, and we intend to succeed, there is always a learning curve.
There’s another side of the coin though – as outsiders, when we dive feet first in a completely new field, we can bring a fresh perspective, and a fresh, newer way to look at problems and maybe, just maybe, find new, effective and cheaper solutions than anyone who’s been working at it for years. But this shouldn’t give anyone the false notion that experience is irrelevant, or even less important than enthusiasm, passion, and dedication. As Galileo astutely observed, it’s only by “standing on the shoulders of giants” that we can make the longest strides.
In theater, experience and learning is at the core of the craft – be it for an actor, a singer, a musician, or a producer. I remind myself constantly that starting out fresh in a new world, like stage production is for me, is a challenge and an opportunity. First, observe and absorb. Then, critique and suggest – exploit the power of your unique and naí¯ve perspective. Finally, find a mentor, a partner, someone to shadow and learn from, but also someone to challenge and question, as that will ultimately make both of you grow.
And that – as the case has it – is exactly where I find myself today. As I prepare to produce my first Broadway show from the ground up, I take every chance I get to learn, observe and absorb. I didn’t talk much about mentoring in this column – so much as I have about the need for a mentor. Of course, that’s also a hugely important side of the equation. It’s hugely rewarding, and an important part of giving back to one’s community, and industry, creating a new generation of inspired thinkers that will come after us. And in the LGBT community, even more than in other groups, when the need for a shared experience and background is so needed, the power of mentorship becomes even greater. It is indeed one of the reasons why I co-founded StartOut, a non-profit organization dedicated to foster and facilitate success for LGBT entrepreneurs, and why mentorships is critical and central to its mission and programs.