How to Get to The Golden Globes: 6 Ways to Create More Powerfully!

If you’re going to reach your full potential as an actor, it’s important nothing gets in your way.

1. Don’t make what’s in the way…the way. If you want to get to the Golden Globes or any other awards show, you don’t get there by talking about how you’re not there! That’s what’s challenging about being human. We spend an inordinate amount of energy complaining about what’s not working. Stop doing that. Instead, talk about what’s exciting in your life and the breakthroughs you’re creating and what you’re doing to get there. Keep speaking the vision of what is possible for you rather than the lack.

2. Recover gracefully. You have nothing to ever be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Just do your best and let it all go. Whether that’s auditioning or creating or asking someone out on a date and getting rejected or being dumped by your agent. Just keep moving forward.

3. Smile. New brain research is proving that even if you don’t feel like it, the act of smiling repetitively helps to change our mood and strengthens the brains neural ability to maintain a positive outlook on life. Smiling stimulates brain circuits that enhance social interaction, empathy, and mood. In other words, more people will respond favorably to you if you stop being such a curmudgeon. (And more people will want to work with you too!)

4. Be bored. NPR recently did a story on how the brain has a default set point that it needs to reach so that it’s not always being stimulated and processing information. This means be bored. That’s hard because when we’re not doing something we reach for things (phones!) to distract us. But this isn’t the kind of passive activity the brain needs. (That’s because it’s not passive; it’s active.) Having moments of doing nothing taps us into our subconscious, which is where imagination and access to creativity dwell. Go there.

5. Faith. You have to exercise it. Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, has shown in his brain studies that the No. 1 way to make real neurological changes toward living a more positive life is to have faith. It doesn’t matter what it’s in, just start exercising a practice toward something: yourself, God, nature, humanity, life itself, acting, the power of film, storytelling, love, science. Exercise it everyday and watch how your life will open.

6. I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. Try one of those mantras—or any of them simultaneously—when you’re challenged in life. When things go wrong, when you don’t book that lead in that TV show, when your lover leaves you, when you want to move back to Ohio, or when you wonder, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” Any one of these phrases silently spoken to yourself covers every situation you will ever encounter in life. Try it and see how you’ll move from anxiety to acceptance.

*First published on Backstage*

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3 Questions to Prepare You for Pilot Season

Gearing up for pilot season, actors always have hundreds of questions. Here are a few with some simple, straightforward answers—answers that always bring us back to self and what it is that we have to contribute as artists, storytellers, and people.

The most important thing to remember is that it all comes down to trust. You have to trust that there is something unique about you (or sexy or weird or dangerous), and the casting director will see that. Whatever these intrinsic qualities are (which we all possess), you have to trust that people see it without you feeling you have to “show” them.

It’s called your essence.

It’s also about perception. Let people project onto you what they want. That’s part of the mystery of what it is to not only be an actor, but to simply be alive. We make up stories in our heads about who we think we know people to be, only to discover that humanity in general—and individuals in our own lives specifically—continues to surprise us.

1. How can I make choices and still allow myself to be spontaneous? Spontaneity is the fullest expression of the strongest choice. And that comes only by being available fully to the moment. You also don’t trust that your choices—based in the moment of how you choose to react—are interesting, so then you either second-guess your choices (which leaves you neutralizing yourself) or you overwork them because you don’t believe that your way of interpreting material is enough.

2. What happens when a casting director asks me to recreate something? Then recreate it. It doesn’t mean that your inner life won’t be slightly altered. It will. You’re still having a different moment-to-moment experience even if it’s ever so subtle. You distrust that fully listening to what you’re hearing won’t slightly change you each time. It does. That’s like saying hello the same way to everyone you meet everyday. Well, at one level you may say hello a lot, but with each circumstance and each interaction it’s slightly altered. So trust that you can hit your marks the way you are directed to hit them, but in the experience of the moment, you will be affected differently.

3. Why don’t I feel free when I audition? I do my “homework” but then can’t let it go. Because you’re too consumed with “Is it right?” “Is it correct?” “Is it too much?” “Is this what they’re looking for?” “What will they say?”

Who cares?

Do it your way and something will come out of it. Great casting directors see when there is a spark of genuine life force within a person. If you don’t allow yourself to do it your way, they can’t see anything. They want you to be genius, but you have to give yourself permission. Not them (or anyone else for that matter). When you start to do that, unapologetically, you’ll not only start having a lot more fun in auditioning, but you’ll also start booking a whole lot more.

*First published on Backstage*

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10 Ways to Live More Dangerously

I think being an artist is inherently risky. It’s dangerous. To create is to face what scares us—step into the unknown and be brave enough to tell stories that no one may be interested in hearing.

Since the new year is upon us, what better way to take inventory of what we can generate more of in 2015, but also what we can let go of that isn’t serving us and holds us back from true freedom of self-expression.

What if this year became an offering—a benediction—to live more dangerously?

When I’m talking about living dangerously I’m not asking us to live foolishly. It’s about leaning into those scary places just outside our comfort zone. And they’re not huge, dramatic acts. You don’t have to move cross-country or get a divorce or fire your agents to live dangerously.

It’s about doing small things mindfully, going for things totally, being willing to embarrass yourself publicly, laying things on the line fully in your work, in your life, in asking someone out on a date, in no longer avoiding that thing you’re trying to avoid—in getting honest.

Those simple acts become radical when engaged in on a daily basis.

To help you stay on task, here’s 10 ways to live more dangerously in your life that you can accomplish every day.

10. Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone is on their own journey. And to compare yourself to someone else is not only futile, it creates the opposite result of what you want to have happen in your life. So no more compare-and-despair in 2015.

9. Stop gossiping. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” Bam! 

8. You’re not running out of anything. So start giving more of it away. Your time. Your Light. Your love. Your presence. Your energy. You’re a renewable resource so you can always refuel.

7. Speak the truth. Even when it scares you. It’s easier sometimes in the short term to be “truthy-ish,” but in the long run it keeps you from moving past the things that ultimately scare you and are holding you back.

6. Find a practice. I don’t care what it is, find something just for yourself and cultivate it. It could be prayer. It could be meditation. It could be a walk every day. It could be going to the gym. Commit to something for yourself and start doing it daily.

5. Feel your feelings. All of them. And stop shaming yourself for feeling things that you think “better” people don’t feel or express.

4. Make a commitment to find ways to stop listening to the endless, mindless chatter that goes on between your ears. Make a choice that you are not your mind. You are not the thoughts you tell yourself. You’re part of consciousness that transcends mind. You are greater than what your mind chooses to fixate on every day.

3. Put that cell phone down. Start going on errands without it. Turn it off at bedtime. Have an hour where you put it out of sight. Stop reaching for it every moment of the day.

2. List three things that you are mindlessly engaging in and giving way too much time and energy to that are really affecting the quality of your life. Dump them. You have to be honest here. It could be spending time online doing nothing. It could be time spent worrying. Basically, if you substituted these three things with three other things that are actually life-affirming, you might discover that you’ll be a lot more creative, happy, and fulfilled.

1. Love. Let your whole life—your creating, auditioning, working, storytelling, performing, and living—come from and be a philosophy of love.

*First published on Backstage*

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Living in the Light, Not in the Shadow

I was recently teaching at David Lynch’s Master’s of Filmmaking Program in Fairfield, Iowa when someone asked me if I had ever heard of Shadow Work. I hadn’t, but apparently, that’s what I was doing with the graduating class of directing students in getting them to understand how to work with actors.

The groundbreaking therapist, Carl Jung, coined the phrase when he described it as energy patterns (or parts of ourselves), that as children we often disown as we develop. Becoming unconscious of certain parts of ourselves serve as coping mechanisms to move through life.

As adults, these are the parts of ourselves we try to deny and hide. And it’s an interesting conundrum because these are the essential parts we need as actors (and people) to transform. But they’re also so scary to us, so we often don’t expose them.

But if we understood the pure physics of what makes a shadow, maybe it wouldn’t seem so frightening. Simply, when a light source is obstructed by an object placed in front of it, the object throws off a shadow.

But this doesn’t mean there isn’t light. Light is all around the object. As soon as you move the object, the area is once again bathed in light and the shadow disappears.

This is analogous to our own shadows of self. At one level, we need them. They’re what make us different and unique and human. They’re the parts of ourselves we fear, but when we reveal them and share them through our work, not only are they cast into the light (where they no longer can exist), but they make us infinitely more interesting people and actors.

But we often have so many judgments around these parts of ourselves it’s hard for us to recognize our own light. We simply believe the shadows only.

But shadows aren’t real. Or, you could say, they’re relatively real.

We are light. We radiate it. Emanate it. Are it. But if I believe the shadow parts of myself, I’m temporarily obstructing myself from my own light. I live in my own shadow.

It doesn’t help that we live in a society that is constantly reminding us that we’re unlovable as we are. Lose that weight, get this haircut, wear these jeans, go to that gym, and then we’ll be perfect. Then people will like us. Then we’ll be worthy of a job.

But perfection isn’t in the outer. It’s in the essence of who we are that channels the light. But if we’re born with the assumption that we are insignificant or imperfect or flawed, we’re constantly missing the mark.

So basically our shadows reveal to us not only who we can be in totality, but who we actually are once we transcend them.

It’s the holiday season and Hanukkah is often referred to as the Festival of Lights. Maybe this season (regardless of how you celebrate), it’s important to remember that we too are extensions of it.

The light.

So maybe start sharing it. Your light. Not just at this time of year, but all year-round. Now that would be a real Festival of Lights.

*First published on Backstage

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How Dating A Sociopath Can Help Your Acting

“Acting is a lot like dating,” I’ve been known to say.

I mean, it’s true.

When it’s good, it’s really, really good. And when it’s bad…well, if we’re willing to get the lesson, it can also be good. But even if in the short term, it feels really bad.

New studies (from San Diego State University) show that young people today are significantly more narcissistic than in the 1980s and 1990s. Ouch. The increase can be attributed to a number of factors including the Internet, our celebrity-obsessed culture, and changes in parenting styles.

So chances are you’ve dated someone (Eeeek!)—or will sometime soon—who doesn’t really care about you as much as you think they do.

This can open us to a whole new level of feeling, because along the dating journey with these kinds of people, we’re often made to believe that we’ve done something wrong, that we’re “crazy”, and that we’re imagining things or being too sensitive. This is what dating someone who says one thing but really means another can do to us.

People who have been rejected in unceremonious ways often tell me they don’t want to open their hearts again.

I get it. But as actors, we must. To choose to move through life zombify-ing ourselves, becoming risk-averse, and anesthetizing and numbing ourselves so we don’t have to feel again, doesn’t serve us—as artists or people.

The fact that we numb something doesn’t mean that we still don’t feel it. It’s there. That’s why we’re trying to numb it! And as a storyteller you can only tell story through the feelings you share. So if you want to heal, you have to feel.

The good thing about dating a narcissist (besides being brave enough to leave) is that, chances are, you’re going to move through a shit-storm of feeling. Anger, resentment, sadness, pain, rejection, rage, vulnerability. If you get the lesson quickly, and move on, you can access and use all of that stuff in your work. Not through sense memory or substitution. Simply you survived challenges in life that have transformed you and you’ll always carry within you the emotional imprint that all experiences have left you with.

So it’s a win-win because you have everything you will ever need inside you. And sometimes, the lesson can’t come without first being burned by it all. So all experiences are helpful in the long run, no matter how good or bad they seem at the time.

The key is to not repeat the lesson over and over. Like anything in our lives or career or art, it’s important to remember our worth—what we truly deserve; that letting go of something that doesn’t serve us is essential if we want to make room for something else to move into its place that does.

So thank those tricky people you’ve dated for the lessons they’ve afforded. They’ve made you a much better feeling actor than you could ever have imagined. But for gosh-sakes! Remember, there’s no need to go through it all again.

I was talking to an actor the other day who’s been having challenges with her representation for a while. I encouraged her to talk to them about the problem. You can’t fix anything if you pretend it’s not broken. Communication is the key. Everyone’s doing the best they can in this business at any given time, so it’s not about blame, but it is about getting more honest about what is—and isn’t—working in our lives.

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ARE YOU INFINITE?

Bill Nye the Science Guy recently said, “We are made of the stuff of exploding stars. We are made of stardust, so then we are at least one of the ways the Universe knows itself.”

It’s indeed a way for creation to know itself but it’s also a way for us to know creation—who we are, what’s possible for us.If we’re connected to the same stuff that birthed stars, we’re part of infinite possibility.

What birthed the star and turned prokaryotic sludge into something (like us) is possibility.

But it’s hard to identify with that truth when we beat ourselves up for being who we aren’t.

Recently in class, a student described herself as “bat shit crazy.”She’s not.

You can’t be both. You can’t be infinite which is pure, positive, expansive potential, while at the same time be the limiting, destructive labels or descriptions or ego identifications we call ourselves. Those are finite.

So which do you choose to be? Finite, limited, small…or infinite?

The things we negatively tell ourselves are just habits of thought. They create neural grooves in our brain and then we reboot them repetitively, mistakenly believing they’re true. Their apparent reality masks us from who we really are. Stop identifying with the thought grooves. If you continue to say that which is untrue, it will eventually become your truth.

Sometimes, the most challenging thing in life is to step into the potential of how magnificent we really are. Knowing that my life force is infinite is a lot scarier than continuously telling myself I’m a loser. If I believe I’m a loser, my expectations of life meet me at that level and I really never step into the unknown.

It seems counterintuitive because who in their right minds would actually want to stay stuck in conditions that make us feel bad? But surprise! Human beings have a strange knack for self-sabotage and staying stuck.

It’s almost as if the pain of staying in stasis is more comfortable than the fear and danger one must face in breaking free from old patterns.

It’s at times like these you want to remember the stars and the properties we share.

Just like them, you are ancient. You’re beauty. You’re light.

So just burn brightly while you can. Dazzle, shine, and let go of the things that are keeping you from being that which you truly are.

A star.

*First published on Backstage

 

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How to Rise Like the Phoenix

 

The image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes is powerful.

It’s about transcendence, transformation, overcoming obstacles, victory.

But you can’t rise above your circumstances without being in your circumstances first, and you can’t be in your circumstances if you don’t allow yourself to feel through them.

And not pick-and-choose feeling. I want to feel happiness, but I refuse to acknowledge pain. I want to be stimulated, because I don’t want to feel something else—boredom or stillness or simply being.

Life is tricky in that respect. You can definitely (and people do) move through life without a great amount of feeling attached to their daily experiences.

I understand that at one level. We’re all doing the best we can. For some people, to truly feel means to get in touch with things that are so unfamiliar and unknown that to actually feel them would be almost excruciatingly scary. So they choose instead a sort of somnambulistic (sleepwalking) state through life.

They desensitize themselves to the real vicissitudes of life—the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the bursts of madness and anxiety and desire and love and hope and excitement. To live in those places is too much for many, so to choose to live in a non-feeling coma is preferred.

Again, I get it. Some of us have been rejected or abandoned or hurt or punished when we’ve expressed or shared feeling. Even worst, some of us have been traumatized and scarred by life.

But if we stop at the trauma, if we stop at the rejection, if we call it a day at the defeat, the whole transcendental aspect of life—the resurrection, the becoming, the transformation—can’t occur.

You can’t have it any other way. Redemption lies in overcoming that which seems insurmountable. If you don’t rise above it, the circumstance wins. The story can’t change.

When you live in that feeling portion and move through it, that’s truly not only when the Phoenix within each of us begins to rise, but it also heals, restores, rejuvenates, reaffirms, and re-inspires.

But you can’t have it both ways. Or rather you can. You can choose a life of safety and complacency and dulling out the edges and comfort, or you can be OK with opening your heart even when it wants to remain closed. Being giving of spirit even when it would be easier to shut down. Taking risks when you’d much rather do nothing.

So get burnt by it all. Put yourself out there gloriously, loudly, dramatically. Risk, be seen, fail, fall, embarrass yourself, reach for awkwardness, discomfort, and the unknown. Trust that your story—your autobiography—through your life and your work is worth telling. Because it is.

As an artist, it is your moral obligation. That’s where art comes from. That’s what acting is. It’s inexplicable at the core level. That can’t be taught. It has to be lived.

And when you do, you wake up to the Phoenix that dwells within each of us.

*First published on Backstage

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How to Break into the ‘Business’ of Show Business

It’s show business.

It’s not just show.

I think actors sometimes feel that if they focus only on the creative side, things will fall into place. But sadly, we’re not living in a meritocracy where the most talented or creative person gets the job. There are so many factors at play that influence why one person works and another doesn’t.

We can’t try to control the uncontrollable. That is, there are intangibles (height, age, hair-color, ethnicity, “type,” etc.) that also determine job bookings. We can’t worry about those things. We are who we are.

But what we can focus on to improve are the two things that we do have control over: our work and the business side of things.

Careers are really all about relationships. And relationships take a long time to cultivate. But if you don’t remember who you meet, who’s a fan of yours, who brings you in or recommends you for jobs…how can you cultivate something sustainable?

The business is hard enough. If you don’t know who’s on your side you’ll never be able to get there on your own.

Sometimes we slack on the business side because we get scared of our own ability to get out there in the world and generate success.

You see yourself not the way other people might see you: talented and sexy and gorgeous and amazing. But instead you see yourself through your own misperceptions of self—through your own negative self-dialogues. “Who am I to win an award?” “Who am I to be the lead of a show?” “I really am not any good.” “Why would anyone want to cast me?”

So we marginalize ourselves based on our own misperceived images of self-worth.

So fake it until you make it. In other words, if you think about huge jobs (and the business work it might take to get there) you might also simultaneously get scared because that goal seems so far away. Start with smaller, attainable goals. So if you don’t have an agent, let’s say, focus on that. Or maybe you have a number of co-star credits and now you want to be doing guest-star roles. You work incrementally based on where you are.

Big dreams often seem so far away (How, how, how will we get there?), so we start to doubt it. And when we doubt it, we keep it from us.

So to keep from being overwhelmed, take smaller steps. But you have to actually take the steps. You have to pick up the phone. You have to market yourself. You have to invite casting directors to see you. You have to call the agent. You need to take a class. You need to audition for a play. You need to get headshots. You need to remember who you met and who called you back and who wants you to come back and take a meeting six months from now. You need to take action.

Walk through the doors. Be brave. Many will be locked. Some will be slammed in your face. Some may appear closed, but by attempting to open them, you’ll get to the other side. And what’s magical about the other side is, well, everything. It may not look like you think it’s going to look—indeed, it never does—but if you just keep going, you’ll get there.

But are you knocking? That’s the real business of show.

*First published on Backstage

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What’s the #1 Answer to All of Your Questions?

Sometimes, half the battle in life—and in our acting—is to become aware of when we get scared and how fear actually stops us from really going after what we want.

I’m not talking about the kind of fear that one experiences while watching “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” I mean more subtle forms of fear that show up in self-sabotaging ways that, if we’re not vigilant of, become habits of thought that really keep us from being self-actualized in our lives, in love, in our careers, and in our creative work.

It’s not always easy at first to identify the subtle forms of fear, because our egos do an amazing job in coming up with valid rationalizations of why our excuses seem true.

But they’re not; they’re just thinly veiled forms of fear.

When I procrastinate or negate, when I get cynical or annoyed, when I’m impatient or reactive, when I gossip or resist, when I complain or get triggered—that’s all fear.

“Of what?” You might ask.

Getting out there, getting seen, being heard, being rejected, putting yourself on the line, opening your heart, being vulnerable, taking the leap, trusting in process and that it will work out, not measuring up, letting events define us, thinking we’re going to fail, not really believing that we can do it.

So if we can start to catch ourselves in habituated forms of fear that are keeping us from taking that acting class, or getting seen by a casting director, or producing our own Web series, or writing our own book, or asking someone out on a date, we can get out of our own way and actually attempt to do these things.

When the subtle forms of fear start showing up in the dialogues in our head, what’s the alternative to combating them?

Love.

Ask yourself, “What is the loving choice here?”

How would your higher self react? Not with anger or condemnation, not scolding you, not shaming you and making you feel inadequate, not believing that you can’t do something, not making you stuck.

Love is the answer.

And it’s closer than you think—through a breath, a smile, a moment, seeing something from another person’s perspective, giving people the benefit of the doubt, realizing when people do things it has nothing to do with us, by not taking everything so personally, by acknowledging when you do get scared as opposed to pretending you’re not.

Simple, but not easy.

But in simplicity, it’s everything we can understand and also implement to make positive changes in our lives.

So try it. Watch when you react to something. Sit and breathe and see if you can ask yourself, “What am I really scared of here?” You’ll be surprised that you’ll know. And that just by recognizing it, you won’t be scared of it anymore. Or maybe you will, but you’ll forge forward anyway.

And isn’t that what an active life is all about? Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

*First published on Backstage

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2 Mistakes That Are Holding You Back

I don’t know where I saw a quote recently—in a magazine somewhere or online—but it was such a beautiful and simple life philosophy that can be applied to all areas of your life—in dating, creating, career, acting.

But I’ve actually found that every life philosophy also holds true to acting because what is acting, really, but just a cross section of life itself?

This author mentioned two mistakes that hold us back. They’re themes I’ve discussed lots of times, but I thought the simplicity of it was wonderful because it deals with Starting Point A and Ending Point Z. We worry so much about all the stuff in between A and Z when it’s really just these two things that keep us from making things happen.

A: You’re not starting.

Z: You’re not going far enough.

We don’t start things—that great novel we have an idea for, taking an acting class that’s challenging and scary, getting new headshots, moving to a city where acting and creating opportunities are greater, asking someone out on a date, calling an agent, taking a dance class, asking someone for help.

We let our intentions lie fallow.

Then if we do start, we don’t commit. We think we’re going far. But then we stop. We give up. Or we don’t try at all, i.e. you’re not starting! We come up with excuses or rationalizations about why something isn’t working. Or we half-ass stuff. So we take steps, but don’t really do the full dance. We write the script, but don’t finish it. We put the deposit down for acting class, but don’t show up for the first session.

I think those two statements really sum up the human creative quandary.

Start. Don’t worry about how; the how’s take care of themselves once you get going.

Go far. We don’t know how far we can go—or what’s on the other side—until we jump all in.

So what is it that’s keeping you from starting and then going far enough once you’re in?

Get rid of the defaults, the excuses you give yourself, so that if you take them all away you would have nothing left but to commit.

See how that completely, radically, and simply can change your life.

*First published on Backstage

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