• Jun 26, 2020 | Most Popular

    Ep. 3 - Adapting When Things Go Wrong

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    Episode Description

    On this episode, a Broadway Stage Manager and a Venture Capitalist talk about adapting when things go wrong. You’ll hear Holly Coombs, Production Stage Manager for Mean Girls, speak with Venture Capital Partner, David Hornik from August Capital. When something goes wrong during a live show, a stage manager has to think and act quickly. When things go wrong in business, entrepreneurs have to do the same, and investors like David can offer perspective. Listen to Holly and David discuss how they think on their feet and roll with the punches.


    • Holly Coombs, Production Stage Manager, Mean Girls, Broadway
    • David Hornik, General Partner, August Capital

    Episode Transcript

    Katarina Jones: I’m Katarina Jones, and this is OtherWise Insights, lessons in leadership and entrepreneurship from the intersections of life.

    The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Today’s episode is about adapting when things go wrong. In business, just like in life, no matter how much you plan, sometimes things go sideways. The question is, when you’re live in the moment, what do you do?

    Holly Coombs:  Hi, I’m Holly Coombs. I’m the production stage manager of Mean Girls on Broadway.

    Katarina Jones:  A production stage manager is the one who calls the shots during the show. Night after night, Holly and her team follow a detailed plan, making sure all the elements of the show come together so that the audience has a great experience. But things happen all the time. Actors get sick, costumes break, technical glitches happen, and as a professional stage manager, Holly is the one who has to figure out in real time what to do. We’ll be comparing and contrasting her perspective without a Venture Capitalist. He’s invested in companies like Splunk, GitLab and Bill.com.

    David Hornik:  Hi, I’m David Hornik with August Capital, which is a venture capital fund. I’m a partner and an investor.

    Katarina Jones: Having supported all kinds of companies through various stages of development, David has seen his fair share of things going wrong in business. He also teaches about entrepreneurship and runs tech conferences.

    David Hornik:  I’ve been a sort of part time professor for 15 years now. I teach at Harvard and at Stanford in the business schools and the law schools. So I’ve had the fun of bouncing from coast to coast and teaching lots of interesting stuff, including intellectual property, which is important to the Broadway world, and now entrepreneurship. And then I run a couple of conferences called the Lobby Conferences.

    Katarina Jones:  So the two of them constantly have to think on their feet and roll with the punches. Let’s see what they had to say.

    So I’d love just to get started. If you can each give a few examples of what might go wrong in the types of work that you do.

    David Hornik:  Sure I’ll start. I mean, everything. Everything can go wrong in the startup world. I mean, when you think about it, right? Startups are just a few people with a really good idea. I’m going to create this new thing. So first of all, it’s always new. It’s always something that hasn’t been done before. So that’s a start.

    And then, secondly, it involves a lot of humans. And you know, as Holly can attest, humans cause a lot of chaos. The more humans, the more chaos. And so the startup world is really something. I mean, my firm, August Capital, we’re the first investor in a company called Atheros. My partner, Andy Rappaport, invested in this company when it was some, a couple of professors and an idea.

    And the idea was that he thought that you could move data through the air. Like wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t need a wire anymore? You could move data through the air, and these professors were like we’ve done the work and we think that you could do this, and here are all the reasons. So we funded this company to demonstrate that one could move data through the air.

    Now what could go wrong there? Um, everything. Principally, that data couldn’t move through the air. And it turned out this company actually figured it out. And the reason that we have wifi and everything is because these professors created it. Right? They invented wifi and they came to us when it was two people at this, you know, idea that RF technology could make data move through the air.

    We have had the other version of that. Hi, we think we can do X, Y, and Z where we say, that would be amazing. Can you do it? They say, Oh yeah, we can absolutely do it. And we give them millions of dollars and they go off to do it. And then they don’t for all sorts of reasons. And so my job is really the job of saying. What could go wrong? How can we predict it? How can I help you avoid it? How can I give you the resources you need? that when a predictable thing goes wrong, you can do something else to fix it, et cetera. So I think in many ways mine and Holly’s world are very similar in that we’re sort of everyday waiting for that moment when something has broken to then figure out if it’s fixable or not.

    Holly Coombs: Yeah, that is interesting. That’s almost what investing in a Broadway show is, right? You are hoping that these creators and producers really can give the show that an audience wants to pay to see. Like you’re really hoping that they can do it. And sometimes they can, and sometimes things don’t go that way. And I help facilitate making sure that those creative people can kind of have the easiest way of going about creating so that they’re not worried about when a prop has to come in or an actor’s schedule. They just want the actor to be there. Right?

    A fitting to not be in the way, a makeup call not being the way. We just want to make it as simple as possible so that the creatives in the room have kind of the canvas they need to make sure that everything is happening. But at the same time, I also have to help the costume designer who needs, like in Aladdin where there are over 700 costumes. They need to try all those costumes on people. And there’s limited time, you know, shops are only open at certain times.

    And so you have to kind of constantly figure out how to make that all work seamlessly. Sometimes you get creatives who are organized and how they like to approach rehearsals, and so they can tell you, I need these people. This is what I’m working on. And some want the ability to be able to do and switch and go to the next thing whenever they want to, which is fair.

    It’s a new musical. It’s a new show, right? They don’t know what, maybe today it’s a new scene and they have to work it out and they’re adding someone to that scene. So I try to predict as much as I can on those things. Okay. I don’t think they’re going to use these five people, we can send them really quickly. And sometimes I guess really well, and sometimes I don’t.

    And then, you know, there’s like, why isn’t this person here? And it’s kind of constantly juggling that. And we’ve had lots of other things go wrong with live audiences. Mostly for the Broadway world we are okay with having to stop a show and and fix the thing that’s the problem or the issue and move on. Cirque shows aren’t the same. They like to continue on and try to swap out acts. And I’ve done a Cirque show before and that is a whole different set of skills and quick problem-solving because the show can’t stop.

    Katarina Jones:  And the people are… that’s their lives, literally at risk.

    Holly Coombs:  Yeah, one of those shows, actually the Michael Jackson show, one of the largest problems, not problems, kind of opportunities for us, was that at that time, Michael Jackson had already passed away.

    So the voice, his voice was on time code. Right? So the band was live, the band would start playing, and the lead band member would push a button and it was all recorded so that his voice would seamlessly fit in with the music. So you get to hear Michael, but with a live band and an arena, so you can’t stop time code, you can’t stop his voice, right? You can’t push pause on his voice when something goes wrong.

    You have to keep the show going. You have to figure out in the moment, okay. This piece of scenery isn’t working. Who else do we send out? What else can we do?

    David Hornik: Wow.

    Holly Coombs: So day to day, I mean, it kind of is what is fun about the job, right? You’re just constantly having to problem solve and you try to make plans for when X piece of scenery doesn’t work, but sometimes you don’t plan for that.

    Katarina Jones:  At what point do you feel like, okay, I’ve done enough planning now, you know, due diligence on a company where you feel like, I think I get what they’re about, and at what point do you just trust your instincts or trust your gut?

    David Hornik:  Yeah. I mean, I’m, I live in the world of imperfect information.

    There’s never a time where you say, Oh, well now I’ve got it all. There’s all the information. I’m good. And so you really do have to, at some point, believe that you’ve gathered the data that’s rational and make a good choice. I kind of joke about it. I was once talking to a big bank and I was asked a question, Oh, David, does it concern you that you can never gather all of this information?

    And so you’re working with imperfect information? And I said, at the time, I’m actually dyslexic and I don’t even have all of the information in a sentence, so let’s see. So I’m pretty well suited for that. And it was just sort of an offhanded moment, but it actually started a lot of conversations for me since that time about dyslexia and about the fact that, you know, one of the skill sets of dyslexics is this capacity to be able to adapt, to change, and to deal with the fact that you have imperfect information that pretty much always, and all of those things.

    So I’ve never had a problem with that. But it is scary. It’s not, you know, my job is to take money from great institutions, from universities and foundations who hope that I turn it into more money so they can do great things, you know, fund kids’ educations and fun research and all these things. And so there’s a lot of pressure to say, Hey, look, turn this money into more money.

    And the way I do that is by backing great entrepreneurs. And so. I do think it’s a real and big responsibility. And it’s scary because there are a lot of instances where you make a choice, you think is a great choice, and then it is very quickly obvious that you have not. The expression in the venture world is that lemons ripen early. You know quickly the ones that are not going to work and yet you have lots of time on your hands to try and fix that.

    Katarina Jones:  Wow. How interesting. Lemons ripen early. I’ve not heard that before. Is that similar for you, Holly, that you tend to know quickly if something it was the right decision or not?

    Holly Coombs:  Sometimes, yes, and sometimes no. Usually I get to put together my own team of my assistants. And I, um trust, right, we set up… we kind of go through things that are kind of obvious that could go wrong, right?

    Like in Mean Girls we have these doors that have to open to allow some scenery through. That is an obvious thing that if something goes wrong there, which happens, right? It’s run by a computer. Computers have problems. It just is what it is. There’s obvious ones that we can definitely go through right. You figure out kind of your standard operating procedure of when things go wrong.

    Kind of what the communication is between different departments. The phone tree, if you would say, of of how information gets dispelled, especially like during a live show. And then you trust that your team, who you’ve picked and that you’ve worked with knows what to do when those things happen. So we plan to a certain extent, but things always happen that you’re like, wow, we didn’t see that one. That’s interesting.

    There’s definitely things that I’ve decided, like during tech rehearsals, sometimes, you know, you know how quickly a piece of scenery can move and cannot move, and you can say that over and over again to a creative team and you can say, I don’t think this is going to work.

    But you also sort of just have to let them try it, right? You have to let them see it for themselves. And because creative juices start flowing when they say, Oh, I saw that couldn’t work, but I also saw that these things happen and now we can use that to make it work. So sometimes you have to kind of let the lemons ripen.

    And then let those creative people solve it and help them solve it, which sometimes is hard, right? Cause when you’re solution oriented, like we all are, you really want to be like, “I can help you,” but you kind of have to step back and, and let them figure it out sometimes and go with the flow.

    David Hornik:  I mean, it’s funny, in the venture business there are a number of people used to be entrepreneurs, right?

    Had been the person building things and solving those problems. I was never that. I was an attorney before I became a venture capitalist, so I never had any illusion that I could run their companies. But I’ve had partners who’ve run things before, and so they come in and they say, “Oh yeah, instead of what you’ve just described, I’m going to let you make your mistakes, and it’s going to be fine.

    Then they come in and say, “Oh, you should do this and you should do this,” whatever. It turns out it’s a terrible idea because they need to have the skills to fix these problems. They need to have the skills to make these choices and then learn from the mistakes and whatever, and it’s not our job. It’s not my job to be there saying, “here are the things to do.”

    So in about four weeks I will have been at my firm for 20 years. So I’ve been a venture capitalist for 20 years, which is a lot of years. And principally what I’ve accumulated is a lot of stories. Instead of telling anyone what to do, I just sit down with entrepreneurs and say, Oh, well this is a great idea you’re thinking, but let me tell you a story. Here’s the story about a thing where someone tried that thing and then it blew up in their face. It’s just a story. Yours might be different and I don’t know. It’s, you know, something to think about. Those tend to be helpful, but again, I’m not the person, we are not the people who are saying like, Oh yeah, you do understand that there’s no way to make that wall flip this way. without new mechanisms or whatever. Oh no. It turns out that, but you’re not going to be able to move power through the air without burning your cat or whatever.

    So we deal with the same things.

    Katarina Jones:  David, you were saying earlier around your dyslexia, how that has helped shape you in the sense of trying to learn how to adapt when things go wrong. Do you think it’s something that you’re innately good at? You know, is it something you’re born with or is it something people can learn?

    David Hornik:  Huh. I mean, you can learn bits and pieces of everything, right?

    But I think the question is, is it your nature to be good at these things, to embrace these particular things or not? I have a daughter who has obsessive compulsive disorder and OCD makes you a very precise person. Uncertainty is not her friend. Right? So. Would I say yes to her “here’s a job where there’s a great deal of uncertainty. You’ll enjoy that?” No . Could she learn to cope with it? Yeah, fine. You know? Yes. In the same way where if I were given a job that was about precision, you know, that kind of job, I would hate it. I have this wonderful partner, Eric, and Eric and I are really good compliment because Eric is a former CFO.

    He’s a numbers guy and he’s a detail guy. And he keeps the world in order and he has data and he’s very focused. And my world is like, Oh my God, this person is amazing and why don’t we get them together? And they could concoct a really amazing team and whatever. So, I think that there are people who are well suited to some of this stuff and they should surround themselves with people who are doing those complimentary things.

    In the end, it’s know what you like. It’s not know what you’re good at because frankly, yeah, who knows what anyone is good at? But know what you like. There’s this great book by Adam Grant, which I’m shamelessly gonna talk about, called Give and Take, and it’s shameless because I may, may or may not be referenced in the book, so I apologize.

    But it’s a great book. And Adam talks about how people who are givers, people who are naturally helping others are more successful in business than people who are takers and are trying to just always accumulate stuff for themselves. And one of the reasons he says that is true, he says, because givers are happier, right?

    You’re just happier to be a helpful human and try and make others successful. And one of the byproducts of being happier is that you work hard. You do more, right? We’re in our jobs because they’re engaging and compelling. The fact that those jobs take irrational amounts of time, is not a bad thing because you’re surrounded by amazing people and you’re creating something that’s beautiful and you’re excited to go do those things.

     Right? And so it turns out that. Maybe you can learn it, maybe you can’t, but if it’s not the thing that makes you happy, that makes you excited, then don’t do it. Right? Because those of us who are energized by the uncertainty are energized and excited by the possibility of what might come out of that chaos are going to be better at it by virtue of being happier about it.

     Let’s talk about some examples. Do you plan differently in a situation where something goes wrong in the moment versus you can kind of see it coming? Maybe you can give some different examples of what that might be or how you would approach it.

     How have the doors gone, Holly? Did they, do they always open?

    Holly Coombs:  We had our first show, I don’t know, maybe a couple of months before covid 19 shut us down that the doors did not open. Not only did the door’s not open, we also were down some cast members.

    David Hornik:  Wow.

    Holly Coombs:  So that added a level of complication. One or the other we kind of had planned for, but together we kind of had to then mold two plans together. It took us a little bit to quickly get through what that was for a minute. We thought that we couldn’t even manually open them, which would have been really hard.

    Thankfully, the crew figured that out, and so it just took a little extra planning. There were things that couldn’t come on stage because the doors had to open manually. It meant two crew guys who normally would be pushing something else backstage, had to stand back there and open the doors. But you know, we went through kind of our list, kind of what we’re talking about.

    Thankfully, I have a team that compliments me because, you know, you can’t be everything. I am not such a detailed person. I’ve kind of like to broad stroke it and then let my team help me quickly figure it out. So between the four of us, we kind of made sure we filled the gaps and then talked to departments.

    That was kind of a mix of, we had pre-plans for both of those situations, just not for them to happen together. That was interesting, but it’s really fun. That sounds horrible, but it’s kind of really fun when things you don’t expect happen and you kind of have to use all your resources of the show and what you know, and put it all together and say, well, let’s try it!

    Katarina Jones: What about things that are, maybe like right now, something that is completely beyond your control, like the Covid crisis. What do you do for things that are just completely beyond your control?

    David Hornik: This is that moment, right? I had two pieces of this world that Covid threw into chaos.

    First, I had a conference that was supposed to be happening mid-March. I had 250 amazing people getting ready to fly to Hawaii to engage in a bunch of conversations as it was becoming clear that this thing was happening. The question was do you cancel the conference or not? So initially it was like, okay, we’re not going to cancel a conference.

    The good news is my conference is mostly outdoors, so we’ll move everything outdoors. And historically, what you try and do at a conference event is keep things tight so that people are close to each other. It creates energy. So I said, forget that. Spread everything out, like no energy! Then we had this, of course, this interesting moment where I was like, Oh, it was clear that hand sanitizer was a thing, and so my team was, like oh we’re just going to ship a lot of hand sanitizers. Every order of hand sanitizer they made ultimately got canceled. I was like, Oh my God, this is unbelievable. And then one of the producers, the conference with me had this realization that the people who make the shwag, the like oh hats and whatever, they have hand sanitizer that they brand with your stuff. So she calls them up, Oh, do you have any of that hand sanitizer?

    They’re like, yeah, we do. We ordered 600 little branded hand sanitizers. Great. I mean, it was just one of those things where we went through all these machinations to figure out how to make sure that food was served and hands were washed and people were spread out and all these things. And so we had a really good plan for a socially distanced conference, and I was watching Hawaii and Hawaii had one instance of Covid and then only three, and so it was a great place to fly.

    Anyway, long story short, it became perfectly clear that nothing I did made sense and we had to cancel the conference. And that’s a big and expensive decision. And now we’re busy. We’ve moved to the conference, we’re negotiating to have the conference in October, but really, I don’t know, like is it really going to happen in October?

    That’s just my conference. I have a million stories about my companies and all the challenges, but I’ll let Holly talk about the heartbreak of Broadway. Right now, I think all of us who care deeply about live theater are just suffering. And of course it’s your profession, it’s your world, it’s all your friends. How are you thinking about it? What is, what’s happening?

    Holly Coombs:  It’s interesting. And it’s a day by day thing where you either like spin out into it or you’re like, Nope, you just have to float along. When things started, you know, all of a sudden we were hoarding pu- you know, we always have purell backstage, right? Everyone touches everything, we touch each other, dressers are pulling clothes off of sweaty actors, you know? I mean, there’s just no way to not interact.

    And early on our general managers would come and talk to us about what the government was saying, what was possible, what the Broadway league was saying, and all that me and my team had to do was try to make people feel comfortable, make sure that they had as many hand wiping, washing stations as we could possibly give them. Talk to wardrobe, who is being proactive about cleaning things more. I mean, they always clean things, but you know, going the extra mile, and all we could really do was, was kind of sit back and, and let the producers and the Broadway League and really ultimately the Governor of New York tell us what to do.

    But it is definitely heartbreaking and there isn’t a lot of control.

    David Hornik: It’s a big unknown for sure. And I think all we can do is just continue to support each other as a community.

     For the last month or so. Every conversation I’ve had with the companies that I’ve invested in and that I support has been about and what I described as scenario planning.

    Yeah. What happens if these things occur now versus a year from now, right? What happens to Mean Girls? Yeah. We have to wait another year for a vaccine. What’s the theater owner doing? She’s not getting paid, but what’s the alternative? Right? Do you kick them out? Like, or do you sit around? Which actors are still available a year from now and who’s, what’s remounting?

    There’s some heartbreaking moments right now where there were people whose dream was to launch a show and those shows were going to get launched into this moment, and those shows aren’t going to happen. Right? But theater will come back and start ups will continue to exist, right?

    Ultimately, there are companies like Zoom that are benefiting immensely from the fact that we’re all sitting at home. I was talking with a friend of mine who’s an executive at Coca-Cola. I’m on the board of GLAD, and she’s the the chairperson of GLAD. And I said, you know, if my drinking habits are any indication, I imagine Coca-Cola is doing very well during this time.

    And she said, yeah, you know, look it, there aren’t a lot of people getting fountain drinks at the moment, but they’re sure a lot of people drinking cans, of diet Coke, right? Every business is being impacted at the moment. And so in this question of uncertainty, everybody has to then think what are the ways in which we come back to normal and what is normal?

    The new normal? And what does that look like and how long does it take and can we survive? Right? Can we make it that long? Some shows will not. And other shows, I imagine will. On the other hand, you know, Holly may be busy producing other things when it comes back, because that’s the world that we live in, right?

    Gotta do what you have to do to make sure that we’re all surviving and thriving. In my time in the venture business I’ve lived through three down moments. You know, when I joined the venture businesses in 2000 and the internet had just emerged and it was very exciting and everybody was throwing huge amounts of money at the internet.

    Oh. If it says “.com” you know, like, Oh great! I’ll buy, you know, soda.com and footware.com. Anything that was .com was amazing. And in 2000 people woke up one morning and went “what?! That’s ridiculous!” and they all sold everything they had as quickly as they could and it crashed and it looked like startups were never coming back.

    You know? It was like, Oh, that’s terrible. And then they kind of grew back, and then in 2008 the housing crisis hit and people lost their homes and the banks were collapsing. And it was like, Oh, well that’s the end of that. Right? I’m in a financial services business, financial services are dead, it’s all over.

    And then slowly it marched back and we’ve had the longest bull market ever at the moment, and it’s been amazing. And then covid hits. Who could plan for it? And the market turmoil hits and people’s behaviors change or whatever else. So the market will come back, humanity will come back, theater will come back.

    The only question is when will it come back and in what form? And will we three be doing what we’re doing today when it comes back? And I don’t know what the answer is to that, but I’m such an incredible optimist that I think, you know, just talking with the two of you, I can tell you are in that same universe. You know that you’ll emerge doing something great. It’s just a question of what that thing is.

    Holly Coombs:  It’s almost like we were talking about before, when you let these things kind of happen, if you can take a breath and watch the thing crash like it is generally for everyone right now, something comes out of the flames, right?

    Something new comes out, we will see what it is.

    Katarina Jones:  I would love it, you know, you have different perspectives in the sense that one person is calling the shots in the moment, Holly, that’s you, right? When a show is live, and then David, often you’re the person that they have to answer to or be accountable to when something does go wrong.

    So I’d be curious to hear what is the ideal relationship look like? So, you know, for David, you that’s a CEO has to make a call in the moment, and then it speaks with you as the VC. And Holly, you know, for you, you’re making the call in the moment and you have your creative team and you have to kind of speak to them. So I’m curious like what’s the ideal relationship between those two sides?

    Holly Coombs: For me, it’s just trust. You know I am kind of a middle manager, right? I’m managed from above and then I have a team that I also am in charge of. I get the best work out of my teams when I trust them and communicate as much as I possibly can the vision that I see, or how I want to maintain the show. And then trust that I’ve chosen these people who compliment me, who are incredible people and trust to let them do that. And usually I find that when you let them do it the way that they want to do it, I give them autonomy, they make the right choices.

    And then if sometimes they don’t or something goes awry, then you still have a great open communication to go through what the steps should be next time. I hope for that too, with my bosses, and I really, for the most part, have had that. Certainly, you know, I work with Casey Nicholaw a lot, who is the director who really has given me my opportunity here in New York.

    And he is so wonderful because he really does trust that I will make the decisions to maintain his show the way he hopes for it to be maintained. And when I don’t, he comes and talks to me about it. You know, it’s nice and open and same thing with the producers in general managers, you know. I ultimately know, of course there can be monetary fallout if a show stops too long, right?

    I don’t want to keep a show stop so long that crew goes into overtime, house staff goes into overtime, right? That’s a problem. So I do everything I possibly can to make sure that their interests are being held up and I just hope that they know that and respect that and know that I be coming from that point of view.

    David Hornik: And that’s my assumption with the CEO’s with whom I work. Right? I mean, ultimately I fund them because I think they’re amazing and because I think they’re gonna build something great and that their interest and mine are aligned. And so in the end, my hope is that they call me when they have questions about challenging things and when good things happen. I want to get the tough calls and I want to get the good calls.

    Right? And we’ve been having this interesting moment. I’ve been, so I take the dog on the nighttime dog walk. It’s usually like nine at night. I walk out with the dog and for the last week I’ve been on the phone with one particular CEO every night and I get back to the house and the dog goes in and I’m sitting on the front porch or whatever, and I get like, this look from my wife, what are you doing?

    I’m on the phone. It’s like, who are you on the phone with at quarter of 10 or whenever, but, this particular CEO had to make an important decision about who to let go from his company and how to do it and how to message it. And I’ve been through that a lot of times, and he has never, and so the fact that I get a text that says, you available, you know, dog walk?

    It’s like, yeah, that’s a win for me because it means we can talk. But in the end, it’s entirely his decision to make. I’d say, Oh, you can think about this or think about that. Oh, what about that? I’m not the person in charge of this company. You are. All I can do is give you advice and information and some stories and some encouragement. And you know, and so on Wednesday, this particular CEO had to let go a number of people because the thing that his company does at the moment doesn’t exist. It just has stopped. It’s just like theater and you know, by mid day I texted him and said, “how are you doing?”

    Not “how did it go?” Just “how are you doing?” Because these are people businesses. These are people jobs and if you have a real relationship with the people, then you get to have input.

    You get the data you need to try and be helpful and you’ll most likely get the best outcome. You’ll get the best results when things are not going exactly as you had hoped or planned.

    Katarina Jones: Just kind of wrapping up, this is a hard time for a lot of people, as you both have spoken to already. We already talked a little bit about can you learn this skill? And there are those who maybe it’s not where they want to live their life. But right now that’s where all of us are. So what advice would you give to somebody who wants to get better at it? Adapting when things are hard or when things go wrong?

    Holly Coombs: Honestly, deep breathing. Truly, right? I would say sometimes earlier in my career, I would emotionally react to things. I find that if you take a breath and think about it, or even say, I don’t know right now. Can I talk about it in 10 minutes that always helps people in general, like to think about solutions. Even if you aren’t a flexible person, right? That doesn’t come easy to you, like checklists. You like to know things are going through things.

    We solve problems every day as humans, right? Like every day we solve our own issues, paying bills, being late, trying to get things, navigating the city, whatever. So, it’s all within your realm of possibility. It’s just using that muscle in your head and giving yourself time to use it. You don’t have to necessarily, like think on a dot for every situation. Obviously calling a show or, there are things where you do, but not every situation is like that. So take those opportunities to take a breath and think through them and write down what your possibilities are or what multiple solutions are.

    David Hornik:  I’m not an advice person.

    Katarina Jones:  Tell us a story, David.

    David Hornik:  I mean, I always sort of think like, what do I know? You know? And the other problem with it is it’s always different, right? It’s always different. So you say like, Oh, here’s my advice. I’ve, I’ve seen this thing, and then it’s totally different. You’re like, Oh yeah, I don’t know anything about that thing.

     I think there’s a set of us who are just wired to try and solve problems. And one of the challenges is that there are just some problems you can’t solve. I think that one of the big lessons over lots of years is to know that sometimes there just are problems you can’t solve and offering solutions is not helpful.

    Right? It’s like David, of course, I know all those things. I’m just trying to figure out how to do it without crying. Oh, you want the how to do it without crying thing. I don’t have a great answer. I think, again, you know, working with and around people who you respect and who respect you, we’ll make you your best self.

    Will allow you to offer up the best of you, and will allow them to take it. With a sense of generosity and those things will then make it more likely to be helpful and successful. And I don’t think you can train for that. I think you just have to find people that you care for and care for you.

    And that will do a lot more than any advice I can give.

    Katarina Jones:  So there you have it from the experts. A few key takeaways for me were:

    Anyone can think on their feet. We all do it every day. It’s just reminding yourself to flex that muscle when you’re in the moment and sometimes giving yourself a minute to breathe.

    Surround yourself with people whose skills compliment yours. If you don’t naturally like uncertainty, partner with someone who does.

    When things go wrong that are in your control, it can help to make a plan and tackle things one at a time.

    When things are outside of your control, it can help to talk to people who have been there, do scenario planning, stay optimistic, and remember the things will change again, it’s just a matter of when.

    Even people who are extremely practiced sometimes are still scared about making the wrong choices.

    And finally, remember that sometimes there are problems that you just can’t solve.

    A huge thank you to Holly and David for sharing their wise insights with others.

    Before we wrap up, I want to mention an organization called the Actor’s Fund. Due to coronavirus all of Broadway has been shut down for several months. That means a lot of people are out of work. The Actor’s Fund supports members of the theater community during times of need. If you’re interested and able, please consider a donation.

    You can learn more at actorsfund.org.

    If you liked this episode, please subscribe for more.

    I’m Katarina Jones, and this has been OtherWise Insights.


    Adventures by A Himitsu