Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: "Life is Like a Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like a Star" by Tim Federle

I have been in love with the theater since my highly regarded performance as Sir Joseph in Marlboro Elementary School's production of HMS Pinafore. My rendition of "I Am the Monarch of the Sea" brought the house down, as much as I can remember, seeing I was in 4th grade at the time.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was fortunate enough to get to see Broadway shows fairly often, and I was persuasive enough that my parents or grandmother bought me the original cast album, which I quickly devoured and memorized every single word of. And even though I never pursued acting as a career, I have had my Tony Award acceptance speech written since I was about 14.

With all of that in mind, even though I don't read self-help books, I couldn't resist reading Life is Like a Musical, described as "a self-help guide—with jazz hands!" The advice that Tim Federle shares in this book doesn't require experience in the theater, knowledge of the theater, or even enjoyment of the theater. Instead, he applies lessons he learned in his years as a performer, dance captain, director's assistant, and playwright to "real life," and the results are entertaining.

"First off, the key to approximately 90 percent of adulthood is appearing more interested in something than you actually are. Seriously. So, hack number one: When you are attempting to appear at worst neutral or at best enthusiastic—especially when you don't feel particularly jazzed about something—simply uncross your arms. That's it." (From Chapter 9, "Don't Cross Your Arms When the Director is Talking.")

Federle's advice isn't necessarily earth-shattering. You don't have to know the lyrics to any musical or even have set foot in the theater in order to identify with at least some of what Federle is saying.

The book focuses a lot on living your best life, prizing courage over confidence, treating everyone—even those who don't seem important—as if they were, and recognizing that "no" doesn't always mean "never" (except in social situations). But even though I'm fairly cynical and jaded, I still found some helpful perspectives here, things I'll try to remember in the heat of the moment, no matter what that moment is.

"We either mistrust people's enthusiasm for us or, worse, we vastly undervalue what it means to be appreciated, constantly looking over our shoulders for an even deeper high. We think there must be something wrong with people if they think there's something so right about us." (From Chapter 23, "Go Where the Love Is.")

The book is tremendously easy to read, and is written in a friendly, humorous, breezy style. Federle punctuates his "lessons" with his own experience, good and bad, from moments of triumph to moments of defeat. And sometimes he shares interesting anecdotes while sharing advice, like:

"When Bob Fosse had a bald spot, he put on a stylish hat. Where's your bald spot? Or blind spot? Or thing that you can barely accept about yourself? Go put a hat on it, and make it something beautiful." (From Chapter 6, "Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths.")

I found this book enjoyable and, dare I say, even helpful. It's perfect for someone wondering how to get to the next step in their career or relationship, someone struggling with confidence issues, or someone considering or stepping into a leadership role for the first time. Plus, there are jazz hands, too!

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