If I could give every aspiring young stage manager one career tip, it would be: do what you say you’re going to do.
And honestly, I’d give anyone aspiring to do anything that tip.
I really wish I could remember the first person who told me that, because it definitely lodged itself in my mind early on and has hugely colored how I live a lot of my life.
The vast majority of compliments I’ve gotten over the course of my career boil down to this.
Just as equally, the vast majority of “oh sh*t” moments have come from a misstep in that department.
Not too long ago I thought, I should make a list of all the major incidents that could occur during the show I’m working on and how we’d try to deal with them. Back in the circus days, we called these Plan Bs. I told our Technical Director I was going to make a list to go over with her.
Then life happened. We got slammed putting new people into the show. We went to several rough venues where everything took longer than usual and we didn’t have any spare time for a meeting.
Then (and this will be twice as amusing to you if you remember the show I work on), the giant two-person-puppet dog fell over onstage.
And no one knew the plan because the Plan B list didn’t exist and it was definitely an “oh sh*t” moment.
Of course everyone is fine and most of the audience thought the dog suddenly wanted to take a nap (thank goodness our audience is primarily 3-6 year olds), but I definitely thought, if I’d just done what I said I was going to do, this would’ve been a rockstar moment of everyone knowing how to respond instead of a panic moment for the performers and a really quick thinking moment for the crew.
Needless to say, that meeting has now happened and we are prepared for everything right down to California earthquakes.
But doing what you say you’re going to do doesn’t always have to be as big as creating a spreadsheet of all the weird and crazy things that can happen during a live performance, sometimes it’s just sending an email or making a phone call.
Sometimes it’s something as silly as picking up a bar of chocolate you promised someone or as fun as actually following through on making social plans.
We’ve gotten really flakey as a society and our standard of excellence in near non-existent. If you start to hold yourself to the standard of doing what you say you will, you’ll quickly start to stand out among your peers.
One quick and final warning though, when you start doing what you say you will, make sure you watch what you say! This isn’t a post about making wild promises, it’s a post about just following through on your day to day duties faithfully. As you refine this skill, you’ll learn that another important skill is to learn when to say no, so that you have the time and focus to do what really needs to be done before taking on further tasks.