What Are You Scared Of . . . Success Or Failure? What If It’s Neither?

 

I had a student I was teaching in Australia recently who had a watershed moment in his acting.

And it did create a watershed. Being vulnerable might do that to you.

He realized that he’s been “acting” – meaning self-generating – rather than simply being – and allowing himself to be affected in the work.

He realized that it’s safer to put on a “character” – if even ever so subtly – than to face the truth that if you allow yourself to be in the work totally and committedly, it might mean that you – yourself – can be rejected for it.

In other words, there’s no hiding.

So he tried to protect himself by “pretending.” But all that does is create artificiality in his work.

Light bulb: You will be rejected. For sure. Lots of times. For being who you are. That’s the risk you take being fully invested in your own life.

In love. In acting. In dancing. In putting yourself out there. In painting. In singing. In all forms of creating.

You are constantly revealing who you are and giving a part of yourself away in everything you do – and that might mean that some people just won’t get you or like you or be interested in you or respond to you.

So what? You’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for yourself. And when you really start to live in that truth you won’t care anymore what other people think because there’s no greater gift than giving of yourself with the risk that in doing so you might be rejected.

That’s called life. And it’s why we’re here.

It also leads to another conversation I had with a New York actor. He said he was scared of failure.

No he’s not. We fail every day. Every way. Along the way. Our lives are littered with failures. So we’re not really scared to fail.

We’re afraid of being seen. Because being seen – just as this Aussie actor realized – carries with it the risk of rejection and not doing it “right” and being imperfect and showing people who we really are and consequently people not liking us.

What we’re really scared of is our success. How powerful we can be – and also how magnificent and beautiful and competent and talented we already are. It’s our birthright.

We’re scared of success because counter-intuitively, it means, once again, with success comes the possibility that we may get rejected or not liked on a grand scale. It means putting our private selves out there in a very public way. It means stepping into a new you – and a whole new paradigm – that our egos are invested in keeping from us.

Success = Overcoming the dialogues in our heads that tell us all the reasons we aren’t – and can’t be – a success.

That’s success right there. Facing our destructive dialogues to prove otherwise. And to step into the possibility that it is better to attempt, to risk, to be seen, to fail than to not be seen at all.

What would the world be like if you weren’t seen at all? Ask yourself that.

It would be a very sad place.

We need you.

Remember that the next time you think you’re scared to fail.

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The #1 Thing To Do When You Think You Might Be Going Thru A Mid-Life (Or Quarter-Life) Crisis!

Mid-life crisis.

Ever feel like you’re having one? Even if you’re only 25?

Don’t panic. It’s normal. Sometimes we feel like we have them every other year.

And it might actually be something called Phase of Life and sometimes we need a little help in negotiating through one phase to get to the next.

Where we get tripped up is trying to apply where we were 5 years ago to what we’re feeling now, without realizing that we’ve moved past that phase onto a new one.

When you turn a certain age – there are equivalent psycho-emotional (as well as physical and spiritual) changes that occur for you that no one really talks about.

You think you’re going crazy but it’s simply life.

Sometimes it’s hard. You want to feel the way you felt when you were 30 but you’re not 30 anymore. Partly you felt those things at that age because that’s what being 30 feels like! That’s why you had those experiences. And that’s what you were supposed to feel! That’s a phase of life. But you can’t go back. And we get stuck when we don’t want to release parts of who we used to be to make room for new parts that are wanting to be expressed as we move into a new phase.

You can recall an age only to examine how much growth has occurred and use those realizations as touchstones of how your awareness has shifted around things. But you can’t go back to recreate something. Not in acting – or life. Moments can’t be recreated. That’s like a snake – if snakes could talk – saying, “Let me go back and get into that old skin that I molted out of last year because I preferred it.” It’s outgrown, discarded, and no longer suitable for the growth that moves us – or a snake – into a new phase.

And that also means different phases may make you feel more vulnerable or exposed or naked or shut-off or something else unfamiliar. Unfamiliar doesn’t mean bad. It just means new. When this happens, it’s about allowing yourself to be where you are, even if it doesn’t always feel good.

It too shall pass.

Hugh Jackman says that acting is all about becoming awake. “Acting training or the life of being an actor is really about being awake. It’s an opportunity to wake up.”

But really that’s life itself. Every moment is an opportunity to be more fully awake.

But becoming awake doesn’t mean it’s always going to feel like it’s Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. Being awake means having the awareness of how you sometimes have contrary feelings about where you are. That’s still awareness. You’re aware of new feeling. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s discomfort or restlessness. You’re aware of newness. You’re aware of how you’ve changed.

Try to ride the phase of life that you’re in. Enjoy it. Become aware of what it wants to show you. And for goodness snakes (!) slough off that old outworn skin you don’t need anymore and celebrate that you’ve made it this far and continue to outgrow – meaning you’ve evolved – into something even better.

A new phase.

 

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The #1 Thing To Do When You Wake Up And Realize Your Feelings About Acting Have Changed.

 

Nobody talks about this because I think we often feel we’re supposed to have the same feelings for something that we had when we first stumbled upon it. When something’s brand new it’s intoxicating and captivating and joy-filled. It’s almost like innocence because the discovery of things within that thing seem never-ending.

A hobby.
Love.
A sport.
Dancing.
Acting.

But things change. And so will our feelings about them. And they should.

First off, acting is fun. It should be a celebration of joy and expression of the human spirit to create and play and be wildly abandoned and free in the moment. We need to remember this.

Shakespeare had it right when he said, “The play’s the thing.”

But sometimes, the business side of acting – it is show business after all – can really get you down. Womp. Womp.

That’s normal.

It’s okay to have contrary thoughts about the business. To not want to act anymore. To feel like there’s no point. To lose your passion. To want to pull your hair out.

Our relationship to acting is like any kind of relationship. It’s a living, breathing, evolving thing. Like our relationships with our friends or parents or lovers or siblings. They change; ebb and flow, contract and expand.

They’re alive. So is our relationship with acting because it’s really a relationship with Self. And that’s constantly transforming.

Your Self is the vehicle through which your acting is expressed – so it’s naturally going to go through moments where you wonder if this is all you signed up for. Or if it’s really fulfilling you like it did when you were 19. Or if it’s even worth the amount of time and effort you put in.

I can say unequivocally, yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also a load of other things too. It can be challenging and maddening and scary, and it takes time and tests one’s faith and patience, and can be inexplicably odd and unfair.

When you’re not feeling as enthusiastic about it as, say . . . Kristen Wiig’s Target Lady character is about all things Target (!) – try not to let it trigger your preconditioned left-brain stuff that already has very strong opinions about who you aren’t. That part of our brain is already conditioned to tell us that we’re not that successful or attractive or talented or capable. So when we go through phases where things get crunchy it’s important to change the dialogues in our head and remember that this phase is part of our process. And it too shall pass.

Just allow it. It’s hard – to allow. Because we’re control freaks and don’t like things to be untidy, unresolved or undefinable. But if you just breathe and allow yourself to be where you are (which is exactly where you need to be!) you’ll get unstuck and move through to the next phase.

And when that happens, your feelings about creating will transform as well. Perhaps to a deeper respect and love for who you are, what you’ve overcome and what you’re capable of doing.

And that, in a way, is a different kind of innocence waiting to be discovered.

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The #1 Reason Why The Foreplay Is Better Than The Orgasm.

We’re so obsessed with the climax in our culture that we forget that it’s all about the foreplay. So we live for the climax – only to discover two things.

1). Sometimes the climax just isn’t that good. Womp. Womp.

2). It’s never the answer.

Part of what being here and having this physical experience is about, is having wonderful desires that show up in the physical: a beautiful marriage, a Hollywood premiere, a house in the Hills, a lead on our own TV show.

But we get so consumed with going for these “Events” that we forget that most of our lives are made up of all the stuff in between the Events. So we end up wasting so much time waiting for what we think is our real life – when will our real life begin? – when it’s happening all the time. Actually more than all the time – it’s almost all of it.

We have to live the minutiae in between the Events as if they were the Events themselves!

Because they really are. If most of our lives are being spent there – how do we start to live our lives more in what we casually brain-drain dismiss as the mundane?

First, it’s not easy. When you’re standing in line at the grocery store in the 12-items-or-less-lane and the person in front of you has 50 items (!) and you’re reading the covers of those glossy magazines talking about other peoples’ exciting life “Events” and you think to yourself, “This can’t be my life Event here!” But it is.

It’s not easy when you get the call from your agent that you didn’t get the job. Again.

It’s not easy when you come home to find out your boyfriend has moved out.

But essentially all of these moments are Event moments they just aren’t being lived that way. But also, they lead us to other Event moments of our lives. Without them there is no future Event. If we can learn to appreciate them a little more – a few things happen.

We get happier. We stop living for the future. We become less stressed because we let go of control. We let things unfold naturally. We wake up. We stop taking things so seriously. We realize that getting “the stuff” is great but all the stuff we experience along the way is also joyful.

Then we begin to realize our entire life is the Event. Just as it is. Not necessarily as a lead-up to something else.

Student, Shailene Woodley taught me a lesson about this the other night at a Divergent screening the night before the film’s premiere. I said to her, “Oh my gosh Shai, I’m so excited for you!” And then thinking about the next night’s opening I screamed, “It’s all going to be so exciting for you!”

She looked me squarely in the eyes and laughed, “Tony, it already is exciting.”

Touché!

Every moment is the Event.

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Vancouver: A Great Place For Actors

Hollywood is synonymous for movies and show business. The big letters that adorn Mount Lee are a calling card to the thousands who have made the pilgrimage over the years, a pilgrimage that is no longer necessary because there are studios all over the world.

Then there is Vancouver. The nickname of Hollywood North was bestowed on Toronto and Vancouver in the 1970s but in recent times, more and more productions are leaving Tinseltown and heading to the Couve.

The tax incentives that British Columbia offers as well as it being on the West Coast make it more attractive than Toronto and Vancouver is now the third largest film and TV production centre in North America.

What this means for Vancouverites wanting to get into the industry is that they don’t have to head down South in order to do so.

Because of the hit/miss nature of the industry which can move slowly and thus requires a lot of patience, it isn’t easy when you make a massive risk and head to another city in pursuit of dreams.

Karen Lamare from Creative BC echoes this advice. “Be persistent, research opportunities, stay connected, network and commit to continuously advancing your skills and learning your craft.”

Also, Canadian screenwriter Dennis Heaton says, “… learn to “schmooze”. The job isn’t nearly as introverted as you can be led to believe. You have to be able to not only sell your material, but yourself.”

This is significantly easier to do when you have your family and friends around you, but more importantly you have less competition in Vancouver than you would in Hollywood or New York. By getting your face on screen and assembling a body of work, you might put yourself in a far better position to succeed for when you do decide to tackle Hollywood.

As Lamare says, the goals of the local industry are to, “support the development, production, marketing and distribution of high quality, commercially viable, film, television and digital media projects.”

If this happens, there are only going to be more and more opportunities availing themselves.

Casting Directors are going to be looking for actors to cast. Being an extra may not seem like much, but it’s far easier to have a conversation with someone on set than anywhere else.

John Cruise from Filmingvancouver.com believes only more things will be filmed in Vancouver. “Having Vancouver continue to be a popular destination for Hollywood will keep the economy strong, and will continue to draw and produce talented actors from Vancouver.”

To actors out there trying to break in to the industry he also has three pieces of advice: “First, be talented.  Find a great agent, and believe in yourself.

Those who felt that getting into movies was some far-flung dream that could never happen should reconsider. It’s bit like trying to win the lottery without first buying a ticket. Buying a ticket is enrolling at a Vancouver acting school and starting to assembly a body of work and getting yourself out and in front of people. From there, anything is possible. You may even win the lottery.

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You Want To Be “Discovered”? You Have To Discover Your Extraordinary Self First

 

You’re good enough.

Just as you are right now at this moment.

Here now.

You’re good enough as you are without having to change anything.

You’re good enough for love.
To have an amazing career.
To have happiness and full self-expression.
To experience the most amazing relationship.
You’re good enough in the body that you currently have.
The weight that you are.
The age that you have turned.
To be the lead on your own TV series.
Or to work with Meryl Streep.

Part of being good enough is to simply love and accept yourself for who you are – and where you are – flaws and all. Not because of the things you accomplish or how you look or how successful you are. But just by being alive. It’s extraordinary to simply be alive.

But you don’t wake up saying to yourself, “I’m extraordinary.”

Part of that has to do with our own self-worth. We don’t see ourselves in relation to who we already are. We generally see ourselves in relation to what we haven’t yet accomplished, what we haven’t succeeded at, what we struggle with and where we fail.

So we don’t see our own extraordinariness just by being. By showing up in our own lives and being brave enough to live our dreams and do the best we can is extraordinary.

We are worth so much more than we often give ourselves credit. To that end, find a symbol in your life of something that represents how much you are worth. It might be shocking to discover that you hold onto things because you don’t think you deserve better. You might think that’s all you’ll ever get, so you hold on. Or you wonder, “Why even bother?” Or you control because it’s scary to let go. It could be an old pair of shoes you don’t throw away. It could be an outdated belief. It might be a car you never clean because you already think it’s crappy. It could be your hairstyle or the pair of glasses you wear. It might be the resolution you never keep. It could be a boyfriend or girlfriend.

What if you realized that thing – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – might represent how you really see yourself? But the truth is you’re bigger than that. You’re worth so much more than that. Let it go and create the space for something that represents your real worth to come into your life.

When you do, you’ll realize “I am good enough.”

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How To Win An Oscar? Realize You’re Closer Than You Think.

 

At the best of times, the Academy Awards inspire something within us that reminds us career breakthroughs are possible. That something magical can happen to all of us and that the real reason we got into this business was to create something meaningful and powerful that could be shared with the world.

I think it’s less about winning an award and more about the effort it takes to achieve something of purpose and value.

At the worst of times though (Gulp!), events like these can also simultaneously put us in our heads because they trigger our human propensity to compare-and-despair.

I wasn’t invited to Elton John’s party!
The closest thing I’ve come to walking a red carpet is vacuuming one.
Everyone there seems to be part of some secret inner circle. And I can’t ever crack the code.
The only movie I’ve done in the last year was dubbed into Cantonese and my role ended up on the cutting room floor!

But these are just our neurological grooves of habituated thinking that make us feel that what we want is unreachable. But in reality, what we want is just a couple feet away.
It’s a movie away. It’s a job away. It’s an opportunity away. It’s an offer away.

And it can all change on a dime.

In our minds we lengthen that chasm between where we are and where we’d like to be and distort the reality to make it seem like it’s the Grand Canyon. But the world of possibility demonstrates that it’s all there for us.

Look at June Squibb or Barkhad Abdi. I’m not sure they thought they were in a position to be nominated for an award over a year ago.

The chasm is smaller than you think.

Academy Award winner, Lupita Nyong’o said something interesting in one of her acceptance speeches. She discussed The Seduction of Inadequacy – which I’ve often referred to as The Seduction of Suffering. It’s the same thing.

It is seductive to believe that we’re inadequate. Untalented. That we don’t measure up. Are incapable.

Tina Fey recently said, “Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance-hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a 10-year old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama and doll tits. This is why everyone is struggling.”

This speaks to the Seduction of Inadequacy mentality.

Stop subscribing to these external ideas of what beauty or talent or success or outer achievement or notoriety looks like. None of it’s real and only further exacerbates our false belief that we aren’t enough.

What’s actually more seductive – and produces inner happiness (and outer results!) – is to believe the truth. And that truth includes you knowing that you’re capable and brilliant and magnificent and complex and deserving. That within you is the blueprint for genius.

That’s not just seductive. It’s downright Hot!

Even if you don’t always believe it and it seems easier to be seduced by the false stories we tell ourselves – enforced by the imagery of what we consume everyday – fake it until you make it. And eventually you’ll start to believe it yourself.

And then your Academy Award won’t feel quite so far away.

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The #1 Thing To Do If Your Agent Isn’t Getting You Out For Pilot Season.

First, communicate with them.

It’s pilot season. Everyone’s stressed. You’re one of many clients on someone’s roster. Remember that they are working hard to get all of their clients jobs and it’s important to have faith that they know what they’re doing and they’re invested in helping you get work. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be working with you.

Perhaps it’s still early in pilot season and you haven’t gotten any auditions yet. You start doubting whether or not you’re with the right person or if they’re doing anything on your behalf or if they even like you.

Don’t hit the panic button. Often, the main roles for new shows are offers being made to famous actors so that’s why you’re not being seen. Once that part of the casting process winds down and the roles have been filled, the casting offices will start looking at other people for supporting roles and guest star and co-star roles.

You’ll get called in. Breathe.

Recently, though, I spoke to an actress who was not only not going out for pilot season, but when she was, her manager would undermine her confidence by giving her arbitrary bad feedback and tell her all the reasons why she wouldn’t get a role.

Everyone knows the business can be challenging. That it’s just numbers. That if you’re doing your best and getting callbacks things are working and it’s just a matter of time.

So when anyone doesn’t support the artist in that process, you have two options.

1). Say nothing and hope it gets better. (But we all know it won’t.)

2). Express your truth, create boundaries, communicate your needs, find a way of making things work if they’re salvageable. If not, cut your losses and get out.

I know that’s a scary thought. “Oh my God . . . I can’t be agent-less during pilot season.” But the irony is, if you’re working with someone who’s abusive and non-supportive – you kind of already are.

It’s like a bad relationship. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

It’s important to retain our dignity and respect as actors on our journeys. So many times, what is being asked of us and what is being said to us – can be demoralizing or hurtful. But you don’t have to stand for it just because you want a job.

No job is worth that. Nor is any agent or manager who makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you just because you haven’t booked a job for a few months.
You’re allowed to be human. Remember that.

The ones who care (and are excellent at their jobs) understand this. And they’re in it with you for the long haul.

So seek those people out if you’re feeling it’s scary to take the leap. They exist! Remember your self-worth. You deserve to be with someone who truly sees and celebrates your talent.

That’s not based on whether or not you sometimes tank an audition or don’t get a callback or get bad feedback.

That’s based on who you are.

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How To Survive Pilot Season When You Think You Might Be Having A Nervous Breakdown.

 

Pilot season.

How do you survive it?

What do you do when you test for multiple roles but don’t end up getting any of them? What do you do when you see your friends going out for weekly auditions and you haven’t heard from your reps in weeks? What do you do when you get bad feedback on an audition – and therefore no opportunity to test – when you thought you hit it out of the park?

Breathe.

Getting through pilot season requires the actor to not get caught up in the energy and frenetic pace in which agents and managers and casting directors are often forced to work.

Even though everyone else is stressed out and feeling the pressure and having to “deliver” doesn’t mean you have to.

What if you just practiced some mindfulness and remembered a few simple points:

1). Everyone is doing the best they can with the chaos of having to have everything done yesterday. From agents to managers to casting directors – everyone is trying to find the right talent for the right role. Sometimes that might be you and many, many times it won’t. It’s not personal. It’s numbers.

2). Remember that pilot season is a few short months. What does or doesn’t happen in those months doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be unemployed the rest of your life or you’re a terrible actor. It’s a tiny window of your life as an artist. You didn’t let only the first 3 years of your life define you as a person so why would you let a couple months do so now? Don’t let this moment now define everything you are and everything you’re capable of. (Everything is ultimately about the now but it’s not about your judgment of it and what you think it should be.)

3). Allow yourself to be human. You’re not a robot. That means sometimes you’re going to be awesome in the room and sometimes you might just tank.

4). Be patient. Sometimes the thing you think you want is really not the best thing for you. Let things evolve as they naturally will not as you force them. Besides forcing something never works.

5). Don’t catastrophe-ize. Don’t try to write your life story based on only one season of it. Don’t tell a doom-and-gloom scenario of what your life will be like if you don’t book a pilot. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be waiting tables the rest of your life or you have to move back to Ohio just because you didn’t book a network TV show. Jobs and opportunities come in all forms and from the most unexpected of places. Stay open to them. Not just the direct-line route that everyone tells you that you must book.

I talked to a casting director friend of mine the other day who said, “I wish I could hire my favorite actors for each role, but it just doesn’t happen that way.”

That comment helps actors understand it’s just not personal. Ever.

You may book a job you may not. You may test for a show you may not. The casting directors may bring you back for a role you think you’re perfect for or they might not. You might bomb your audition or you might kick ass but very few outcomes are really an arbiter of your talent. There are so many intangibles that you have no control over.

Your job as an actor is to not get caught up in things you can’t control. It’s instead about letting go of control.

All you can do is show up. Do your best. Breathe. Surrender. And trust.

And remember as John Lennon so aptly commented on life itself, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

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Connection: Stop Searching For What’s Already There.

 

Stop getting caught up in how you think things are supposed to look.

Feelings. Love. Careers. Connection. Possibility.

When you give up the form in which you think these things must appear, you’re instead open to the miracle of them showing up all around you all the time in ways that are a lot more joyful and unexpected than you could have ever planned.

Part of our problem is we feel we have to have things lined up in a definite way before we feel like we can take the leap.

So before you can ask the girl out on a date you have to have your shit together. Or before you start auditioning you need to re-do your headshots. Or before you move to a bigger city, you have to make sure you have even more money in the bank account.

These postponements keep us stuck in the idea of the fantasy of how it’s going to look once we get there.

The irony is that you’ll never get there if you stay stuck in the idea.

There’s nothing wrong with being unsettled or doubtful or not entirely together while we’re out in the world. There’s nothing wrong with falling down as we attempt to walk. That’s how we learn.

You’re never going to have it all together. Ever. So if you keep putting your life on hold for greater perfection before you can do other things, you’ll find out you’ve postponed half your life.

If you let life show you how to participate – it will. But it requires us to get out of our heads that create so many distractions and reasons why we can’t, that we miss it entirely.

We’re all seeking a shared experience. Everyone. Not just some of us. All of us.

But we sometimes aren’t aware of this universal connection because we think we’re the only ones who desire it. So we let these opportunities pass when they come to us in the most surprising ways.

Being open to connection just means being open.

It doesn’t mean you have to fast-forward to an end-result that may require you to go on a date or commit to someone or get married (!) or say yes to a job or move to LA tomorrow. It just means letting the meaning of an experience unfold for you instead of you constantly trying to figure it out first before you decide to jump in.

Just jump in. Once you do, you’ll see you’re not going to drown.

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