Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reality TV Wisdom

I have an unusual relationship with Reality TV that I am not particularly proud of. On the one hand, I am horrified by it and what it says about our world and our humanity. And, on the other hand, I am sometimes mysteriously drawn to it as a moth is drawn to a flame. There is a somewhat intoxicating and compelling quality about this type of entertainment that I don’t understand.

 The other day, I was having what I refer to as a “Bruno Mars Day” (Today, I don’t feel like doing anything.) and found myself drawn to watch the Reality TV show Project Runway. Not just one innocent hour long episode, but six back to back episodes. For those of you who have the good sense to avoid reality TV, I’ll provide a brief synopsis of the show. Each season, Project Runway showcases twelve aspiring fashion designers. The show is set in New York and the contestants are faced each week with seemingly impossible design challenges. They must conceptualize the design, shop for materials and execute the design in an unrealistically brief time frame. Each contestant is judged by his/her ability to translate the design challenge into a garment that is creative and viable. The competition is intense and the various contestants’ personalities tend to unravel at some point in the episode. Each week one of the designers is eliminated from the competition until the final winners are revealed at the end of the season. The stakes and rewards are high. Can you feel the pressure?

So, here I am in my “Bruno Mars Day,” spending an entire afternoon watching back to back episodes of Project Runway, simultaneously mesmerized and wondering “Why am I wasting my time?” As the hours pass, the answer to my why question is gradually revealed. I begin to notice patterns in the mini-dramas that unfold in each episode as the contestants struggle with the assignment, the clock, their talent, each other and their unique personal strengths and challenges. Some of the contestants are ruthless and engage in psychological warfare, while others are able to focus on the task at hand and support the other competitors. Some ignore the assignment in service of a personal agenda, while others brilliantly integrate their unique style into the assignment parameters. 

I am fully intrigued with each episode’s outcome. Who would have thought that talent, hard work, competence, focus, compassion, humility and a sense of humor could co-exist with anxiety, drama, stress, emotional overload and physical exhaustion? It turns out that the weekly and ultimate winners are the designers who are able to consistently embody their talent, values, dreams, passion and inner strength when faced with a seemingly impossible challenge. Most importantly, they are able to do so with integrity, grace and a unique creative vision. They maintain a positive approach, take in feedback and integrate it into their next design, while being almost completely non-defensive. They exhibit a powerful sense of belief in themselves, their vision and the value they bring to the world. They are able to “play the game,” without merging with the game or identifying with the game.

 Hmmm, perhaps my day wasn’t wasted after all.


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