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Introducing my spiritual masters.

Broadway playwright and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Broadway playwright and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda.

A few months ago, I was listening to the “Happier” podcast hosted by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft. In each episode, they offer a tip you can try at home that might make your daily life a little happier.

In one episode, their tip was to “Imitate a spiritual master”, basically someone you can look to for guidance, or perhaps someone that can inspire you when you need a little push. I’d never really though about having a spiritual leader, but Elizabeth said hers was Barbra Walters.

Uh, yes! I’d always thought it would have to be someone like Ghandi or the Dalai Lama (both would be fantastic spiritual leaders).

Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about who my spiritual masters are, especially in these times – I have a feeling I’m going to be looking to them a lot. So, I made a list:

Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Hamilton” creator and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda was the FIRST person I put on my list of spiritual masters. Frankly, he’s so freakin’ awesome, I think I could have a list of JUST him.

Yesterday, the Oscar nominations were announced, and Miranda is nominated for Best Original Song. Not only is it just another thing that makes him cooler, but it puts him closer to something only few can dream of: an EGOT – a rare title one gets after winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Damn.

As mentioned in a New York Times article, “Mr. Miranda has two Grammys, one for the cast recording to his 2008 Broadway musical “In the Heights” and another for his smash hit “Hamilton.” He has personally won three Tony awards (and his musicals have collected many more). He won an Emmy for his work on the music and lyrics at the 2013 Tony award show.”

So why is Miranda one of my spiritual masters? Aside from being a wildly talented writer and performer that I can look up to, what I look up to most about him is his attitude. He’s willing to speak openly about his political views, but remain positive on a daily basis.

Seriously, when you’re in need of guidance, just go to his Twitter feed @Lin_Manuel and get a dose of sunshine.

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Issa Rae

I first heard of Ms. Issa Rae on the HBO series “Insecure”, which premiered in the fall of last year. I pretty much loved the pilot episode and couldn’t get enough of it after that. Little did I know that Issa was more than just an actress on the show.

After graduating from Stanford and attending the New York Film Academy, Issa had started to build her reputation as a screenwriter and a video producer. She created a series on YouTube, “Awkward Black Girl”, that has more than 200,000 subscribers.

The fantastic and gorgeous, Issa Rae.

The fantastic and gorgeous, Issa Rae.

She later turned her web series into a book (which I am currently on a waiting list for at the library), and it quickly became a New York Times bestseller. And then HBO came a-knockin’ and she actually was given a budget to turn her YouTube series into a hit on network television.

She da-bomb! Yeah, I just said that. She’s beautiful, hilarious, and sharp as hell – I cannot help but look up to this woman.

“It’s a bit cliche, but you can’t go wrong by writing what you know. Even if you’re a horrible writer, your own knowledge and experience is unrivaled. Nobody knows what you know like you know what you know. The way you see things is pretty unique.” – Issa Rae

Trevor Noah

I know I can’t be the only one that’s basically looking to comedian and host of “The Daily Show”, Trevor Noah to guide us through the next four years. I’ve limited my new coverage to 10 minutes of “TODAY” each morning, and then leave it up to Trevor to pick up the pieces each night before bed.

Born in South Africa, Noah comes from a very interesting background which he talks about in his book, “Born a Crime“, and serves as a lense for his unique sense of humor.

One of my biggest concerns in the coming years is how the press is going to handle it all (aside from that whole nuclear thing). We need journalists who are going to be blunt, and check the President on everything. And Noah just so happens to do it with a laugh.

“We get angry about the small things sometimes, I feel, so that we feel like we’re doing something, so that we don’t have to tackle the big things. And it’s fine; let people do that. But I’m not gonna now change because of that. You know? Like, the worst thing that happens to me is you don’t like me. And then what?” -Trevor Noah

Anna Kendrick

I didn’t really get the craze surrounding Anna Kendrick until I read her memoir, “Scrappy Little Nobody” last week… and I loved it. Of course, she was awesome in”Pitch Perfect”, but I had no clue she’s been working her little butt off since she was 12!

The lovely Anna Kendrick.

The lovely Anna Kendrick.

Not only does she have drive, but she’s hilarious, humble, and has a “take it or leave it” attitude when it comes to men and dating, which is just the kind of advice I need from a spiritual master.

“Maybe I am stepping up in the world. Pretty soon I’m going to be 30 and making dope carrot soup and will have my sh-t together.” – Anna Kendrick

JohnJay Van Es

I can’t have a list of spiritual masters without including JohnJay Van Es, co-host of the best radio show ever, “JohnJay and Rich”.

While I know cohosts of the show, Rich and Kyle, would get a big kick out of my trusting of JohnJay with my spiritual guidance, but I’ll explain. I started listening to the show years ago, during a time when my job was pretty rough.

JohnJay Van Es.

JohnJay Van Es.

I found daily solace in listening to their jokes, phone pranks, and the simple chatter of small problems. Little did I know, I was about to lose my job, and when I did, I kept listening to the show. It was sometimes the only thing I looked forward to each day.

Years later, I am still listening every day, and I love laughing along with JohnJay as he tells the stories from his insane life. He’s also the creator of a kindness movement, LoveUp, which promotes random acts of kindness of all sizes, each and every day. It’s changed how I look at the world, and I can’t thank him enough.

There you have it! I’d love to know who your spiritual masters are these days – who knows, maybe I’ll add them to my list!

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‘Hamilton’ & the magic of inspiration.

Siiingin' in the raaain.

Siiingin’ in the raaain.

No, I did not see “Hamilton”, and no, I do not have tickets. But what I DO have is loads of inspiration after watching “Hamilton’s America” on PBS (which you can stream thru 11/18) last weekend.

I’ll preface the rest of this by saying that I was not immediately sold on “Hamilton”. I thought it was hype, and I didn’t get it. Buuut, then I started seeing lots of people I knew who saw it and they said how great it was, and then he hosted SNL:

…And I was all… ok Lin-Manuel, I SEE you! So when I heard PBS was showing a documentary about the most-successful Broadway musical, I was in. I recorded it, and watched it immediately, as I shoveled takeout noodles into my dropped jaw.

Why? Because what I’d heard previously was true: Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up Ron Chernow’s book, “Alexander Hamilton” in an airport on his way to the beach for vacation, and was inspired to write a hit musical.

Uhmazing.

 The documentary explores the creation of “Hamilton” before most of it was even written – and it took several years to write, given there are 55 songs squeezed into a show that’s less than three hours.

What did I find so cool about this story about a man who wrote a musical on one of our founding fathers? Well, lots of things.

For starters, the fact that Miranda was so inspired by history in this small instant – his vacation – and also that he put a huge twist on it (hip-hop). And then there’s the fact that most people don’t make money on  Broadway. Creating a musical based on history was completely a passion project that turned out to be H-U-G-E.

I’m also dazed by the amount of work and research that went into the musical, as Miranda really wanted it to be historically accurate. No wonder it took nearly seven years to make.

I stumbled across an article in Fortune magazine which featured an interview with Miranda and he talks about what he learned from creating “Hamilton”:

You can have good ideas when you take a break from what you’re normally doing and don’t just go 100 miles an hour. Two: Really trusting my gut. I won a Tony with In the Heights. I got offered movie adaptations of musicals. I got offered a lot of Latin-theme stuff. But I had faith that the idea I was chasing with Hamilton would be worthwhile.

It takes years to make a musical. So I’ve got to choose projects knowing that even if they open and close in a day, I will not regret the time I spent on them. And so you can’t choose on what you think is going to be a financial success. You’ve got to pick the idea that excites you and inspires you to write.

I don’t want to give too much away, because you really should just watch the PBS documentary. Here’s the teaser:

So, now I’ve got Ron Chernow’s book on reserve at the library (I think I’m #10 in line), because I want to read the same thing Miranda read and see what’s on the pages. Will I see what he saw? Highly doubtful, because I know basically nothing about Broadway, and not much about musicals other than I wish I lived inside one.

In general, I live for these bits of inspiration. There are things that are likely to inspire us all – stories of rags to riches, those who’ve made something out of nothing. But perhaps there are things that oddly inspire you, which may not inspire the person beside you. Why?

Of course, we are all driven by different things. As a writer, great writing inspires me whether it’s in the form of a great song, an awesome TV show, a good movie, or the perfect book. Sometimes, just the thought of the light at the end of the tunnel inspires me: picturing a lazy Sunday morning when I’m knee-deep in work on a Tuesday helps me realize that the end is coming and I’m working toward those quiet moments.

Sometimes, I’m simply inspired by nature: the changing leaves of fall, every single sunset, a rare sunrise when I’ve dragged myself from the covers in time, flowers, mountains, or even green fields.

I’d love to know what inspires you – and what you do to keep that inspirational juice flowing in order to get things done. I know I’m always looking for more inspiration, and I’d love to know where we can all find it. And with that, I’m just going to leave you with this…