How a Summer Project Can Lead to Your Greatest Success

Today, for my “in real-time” readers, is Memorial Day in the U.S.

Memorial Day is first and foremost a day of remembrance. It is a day that we honor those who lost their lives trying to make this world a better place. 

On a less serious note, it also marks (rather unofficially) the beginning of the summer season. A day of ice cream, opening up the family vacation house on the cape, and the emergence of those white jeans that have been hidden away since early September. 

I’ve always felt that the two “sides” of Memorial Day Weekend were entirely at odds with one another, but lately, I’ve been seeing the intersection of the two. 


Hear me out. 


The people we are honoring had their lives tragically cut short. Many of them were barely out of childhood. They didn’t have the chance to decide exactly what kind of life they wanted to live. They didn’t have the chance to try different career paths, hobbies, learn new languages, climb every mountain, or travel to every ballpark in North America. 


But we do have that chance, and we can honor them in part by not taking that for granted. 


Photo by Tanner Ross


Summer is a time when, especially as creatives, we have more time and more freedom to explore different ideas and projects. It’s a perfect time to take your work in a new direction or try on a new identity for size. Away from the pressures of a “new year, new me January” where our resolutions are meant to be forever.  Or the madness of “Back to school” September, where the minimum commitment time is a full 9-month academic year. 

It’s a 2-3 month period. It has a clear beginning and a clear end. Short enough to keep your enthusiasm going, but long enough to see some results.  It isn’t as daunting to say “I’m going to work on my vibrato this summer” or “I’m going to learn 3 new French words a day this summer.” 


It sounds…fun. 


Maybe you, like me, still have a few weeks to go in the teaching year, and the next 4 weeks are going to be chock-full of recitals, the “end of year” this, and the “final” that, it seems there is something on every square of my June tall-on-the-wall calendar page that is going to get a giant checkmark.

Even so, this time of year feels exciting and anticipatory. We poured our heart and soul into this past season—the performances we did, the series and festivals we planned, the students we taught, the courses we ran, programs we launched. The juries we either prepared for, or adjudicated, the auditions we won, lost, or listened to, the shows we put on. The list goes on and on.

And now, we see that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Summer might also be full of students we’ll teach and rehearsals we’ll show up to. We might still be doing our craft all day every day, but somehow it all feels different in July and August.

Festivals bring a change of scenery and some new students, summer courses bring a different timeline, and the longer days, rehearsals that end with a jump in the lake, and the copious amounts of ice cream that will (and should!) be consumed make it seem like anything is possible. There’s more space to it all.


How do you plan to fill it?


Do you promise that you will spend lazy afternoons lying in the grass identifying cloud shapes? Or take a daily nap?

 Or maybe you’re more of a project-oriented person. Do you want to read the complete works of Shakespeare? Watch all of the James Bond films? Attempt to grow 100% of your vegetables? Make some art every morning? 


Home-grown vegetables


I always loved a summer project. Whether it was my library’s summer reading challenge when I was small, or a freshly marked-up part of a new concerto my teacher would entrust me to learn at whichever festival I was heading off to, I adored that feeling of having a set amount of time to accomplish something clear and tangible.


2 Months was short enough to light a fire under me, but long enough to allow me to dream big.


And now, as an adult, I find myself thinking about what my project will be this summer. Last summer was about reconnecting with friends and family throughout the States and England post-pandemic.

This summer feels a bit more personal. As I continue to shift away from some long-held identities and lean into exciting new ones, I find myself wanting to purge my things. Which I have always seen as a sign that you’re ready for a big breakthrough of some kind. 

The point is that every person is going to gravitate towards a different kind of project, and each year will pull you towards something new. Generally, they can be broken into the following categories: 


Photo by Jake Melara


A Work Project: 
  • Learning some new repertoire
  • Leaning into a new art medium
  • Working to explore or improve a specific area of your technique


A Personal Project: 
  • Trying a new fitness or nutrition plan
  • Training for an event
  • Starting a meditation or journaling practice


A Skills-based Project: 
  • Learn a new language
  • Figure out how to use a new bit of software
  • Take a deep dive into something that has intrigued you for a while. 


An Organizational Project: 
  • Clean out all the drawers, closets, and cabinets in your house. (and the garage!)
  • Do a digital audit of all of your devices. 
  • Automate your savings, investments, and bill paying. 


A Geographical Project: (some might be ongoing–completed over many summers)
  • Visit all of the National Parks in the US. 
  • Go to every playground in your city
  • Go to every Italian restaurant within 20 miles of you and decide on your favorite.  


What about you? What is calling out for you to explore, try, and add to your life? Because living a well-lived life means always evolving, and the fact that we have the ability to do it for at least one more day is a gift that we should never take for granted.


With Gratitude,


P.S. If you’d like some help in gaining clarity around your life and career goals, I have a workbook that can guide you toward those answers. You can grab it here for free today.

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