Deborah Hurwitz is the Founder and CEO of COBALT Coaching, the productivity coaching company for perfectionists. She helps ambitious perfectionists get unstuck on the projects and goals that matter most to them. Aside from coaching, Hurwitz is also a composer and Music Director at Maestra Music, Inc., where she composes, produces & performs original music for productions in film, television, corporate keynotes, and live theatre.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I was born in England to American parents, so from the beginning, I straddled two worlds and had trouble feeling like I belonged, especially at school. I fantasized that when we returned to the US, I would magically feel at home – but those first ten years in England had made me a proper British girl! When my family left the UK I found myself there again, a fish out of the water, this time in New Jersey. The first time I really felt like I had found home was when I landed at Princeton University, and again when I fell in love with New York City, where I lived for over 20 years and which I call my hometown to this day.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
That there is no way to derive true satisfaction, fulfillment, or peace of mind by “doing enough,” “earning” your right to exist, or suppressing your authentic voice in your career, passion projects, and relationships.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I spent many years as an entrepreneurial artist, having no idea how to actually build a BUSINESS. I was a freelancer, running gig to gig, with no financial security, little recurring income (except when fully employed on a show), and zero traction on the big picture of my life. And I bought into the story that this was just “how it is” in show business. In music. In theatre. I bought into the starving artist mentality, while simultaneously feeling smug and superior because I had a nice apartment and money in the bank most of the time (at great cost to my peace of mind…and see also above). Now, more than ever, we have extraordinary opportunities to be true entrepreneurs, true CEOs, and truly successful artists on OUR terms. With the right blueprint and game plan, there is nothing that talented, committed artists cannot create for themselves.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How did you come out of it and what did you learn from it?
When I came off the road after 60 cities in 60 days with Cyndi Lauper and Cher, I was supposed to be heading into a new and exciting stage of my career: Fresh off a stadium tour, ready to take the next step with a great boyfriend, a triumphant return to New York. What actually happened was: the tour left me exhausted and disoriented, my entire career had dried up in my absence, and the boyfriend dumped me. I was depressed and terribly afraid.
It took some time, support from a few friends I could trust with my true feelings, and permission to fall apart completely so that I could put myself together again. I went one step at a time, imperfectly (which killed me as a not-yet-recovering perfectionist), and slowly reopening myself to opportunities that felt too overwhelming when I first came home. But within a year, I was back on a Broadway show tour, this time MUCH better positioned, and things got better from there.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
When I make a commitment, I keep it. I don’t let myself off the hook.
What is your morning routine?
I’m naturally a night owl and LOVE to stay up late, which means I either lose hours of sleep or lose the morning as a result. When I’m in California, I need to be out of bed by 7-7:30 am on a coaching or production day, in order to work out, do a little business triage and get to my office with everything I need for the day. But on weekends and days off (which are plentiful in my current schedule), I indulge in all sorts of weird hours.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Showing up to serve, no matter how I’m feeling or what I’m worried about, and focusing my attention on what’s in it for THEM, whether that’s my audience, my clients, my friends, or my foes. Conversely and equally importantly, I make sure that I am grounded, aligned, and in rock-solid integrity with my own values and needs along the way. How have I come to these ways of being? In a nutshell: Investing in great coaching and doing the work!
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Ha – this is the foundation of my entire business! Best to check those out at www.cobaltcoaching.com, which is where you should be headed next anyway.;)
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
In chronological order: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, when I was a child because they transported me into other worlds and taught me the power of storytelling. In my young adulthood, I discovered Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love, which opened up a new awareness of spirituality beyond my traditional Jewish-agnostic upbringing and felt like a deep awakening in my soul.
In my professional and artistic life, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Principles of Orchestration was a dog-eared staple at my workstation for a decade, and I often return to The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, for timeless wisdom and inspiration.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
It sounds terribly corny, but “Follow Your dreams wherever they may lead” was on a keychain of mine for years. I still live by that simple tenet, which encompasses both a value system and an action plan (I do love a good sweet spot). A more elegant favorite, perhaps, is 12th-century Persian poet Rumi’s wry admonition, “How will you be polished if you are irritated by every rub?” Rumi’s poetry has a hundred gems, as does the more contemporary Marge Piercy’s (For Strong Women) and Molly Peacock’s (Anger Sweetened), but that’s one of my favorites.