How A New Discovery Can Change Your Life


In June, as NPR reported, something extremely rare was discovered. A previously un-contacted Indian tribe in Brazil made contact with civilization.

In this day and age of technology and instant-information-gratification occurring at lightening speed, it’s thrilling to realize that even though we can get data from around the world in two seconds flat, there are still so many things we don’t know.

Thank God.

There are mysteries to be explored. There are new stories yet to unfold. There are possibilities available to us that we often shut out because of our conditioning and seeing things from our set paradigms. There’s magic. And things we don’t even yet know about ourselves.

The political pundits and talking heads on TV who constantly bombard us with information and sound bites and “facts” can often contribute to our hardened-thinking arteries. Over time, we become cynical and jaded. We become “know-it-all’s” but not the kind of knowing we want.

We stop being open and instead recite information from repetition; not discovery. We close off to wonder and instead take things for granted. We drink from the waters of our habituated, conditioned minds, rather than seeking out new streams.

One of our challenges is to try to stop coming at life from this place of thinking that we always know.

Sure, there’s factual stuff we know. The earth is round. New York is 3 hours ahead of Los Angeles time.

Then there’s factual stuff we know that we don’t know. I know that I can’t really solve Pythagoras’s theorem. I also know that I don’t know Japanese.

But possibility lies in another realm. There is a whole other segment to life in which we don’t know that we don’t know.

An unheard-of tribe revealing itself is an example of this. We weren’t even aware that these people even existed. They weren’t a part of our consciousness.

There are wide open spaces out there that exist. In our minds and in our hearts that are waiting to be experienced. But you have to stay open in order to experience them. This is hard. You have to stay open in the face of rejection and denial and people telling you “no”. You have to stay open when people break your heart and abandon you and betray your trust. You have to stay open when you continue to believe the things the industry or the media or the business or the “experts” pontificate.

If you automatically start assuming from this place of “knowing” (which at one level is how the entire world works!) you shut out being open.

But it’s only by being open that possibilities find their way in.

This discovered tribe humbles us into realizing we don’t know as much as we think we know.

And that’s a good thing to know.

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The #1 Word You’re Using That’s Keeping You From What You Want.

Neuroscientist, Andrew Newberg has done research through brain scans showing that there is a word that releases more stress neural chemicals in our bodies than any other word.

It seems obvious.

The word is “no”.

His research shows that even when we simply perceive that word – not just say it – “no” has a negative effect on us.

At one level we’re preconditioned to pay more attention to anything negative because it’s part of our DNA and has helped us to survive. When our cavemen ancestors used permutations of “no” it was part of the flight-or-fight response to keep them from being eaten by a predator and to avoid danger.

But through evolution, our left-brain’s have co-opted that word beyond its survival needs and we’ve become conditioned to saying it habitually – and I would suggest, non-mindfully. This is why we often react to things unconsciously from a fixed narrative that the word “no” supports.

The entire universe is really functioning as one gigantic “yes” and everyone and everything we say “no” to takes us a step away from our center. Which is really possibility.

The poet ee cummings said, “Yes is a world and in this world of yes live (skillfully curled) all worlds.”

So “yes” gives us access to new worlds; new possibilities. It’s inclusive. And “yes” isn’t just a word. It’s feeling. It has an energetic equivalent that shows up in many ways. When we feel joy, that’s a “yes”. When we are compassionate. When we express and forgive; have fun and allow ourselves to be empathetic. These are all acts of “yes”. They are life affirming, expansive gestures and create openings in our life.

“No” doesn’t do that. It’s a closed system.

Our work as artists is to become aware of how often we not only say “no” to things literally – an opportunity, a date, a job possibility, an adventure – but also the more subtle ways we say “no” to ourselves and to life’s calling.

When we tell ourselves we already know the outcome of something before we have actually experienced it – that’s a big fat “no”. So, you have a meeting with an agent and then tell your friends, “I know they won’t take me. They’ve already got someone like me.”

How do you know that? That’s pre-determinism. You already assume a forgone conclusion before you actually have all the information. That’s “no”.

We negate ourselves constantly. “I can’t do that.” “I suck.” “I’m a loser.” “Who would want me?” Or when we complain or whine things off in life.

That’s “no”.

Part of our process in becoming more aware; more present and mindful is to realize that we say “no” to things more often than we imagined.

And when we start saying “no” to things more often than we say “yes” we’re in deep doo-doo.

So, how do you fix that, you might ask?

Simply try saying “yes” this week more often than you say “no”. Catch how often you negate yourself (and others) in ways that are unconscious and habituated. Instead of responding automatically, correct yourself and try “yes” instead.

All kinds of things can happen. You might meet your future boyfriend. You could get a free latte at Starbucks. You might win $5 in SuperLotto. You’d be surprised to see what’s waiting for you. Whole new worlds, perhaps.

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What Sustains You?



What sustains you?

What keeps you going when you want to stop?

What re-inspires you when you start to question whether or not it’s worth it, or you’d be better off moving back to Montana or you feel as if you’re spinning your wheels?

I had a student who had been called in for a prominent network TV show 13 times.

On his 14th attempt he booked.

What sustains us then, to keep going, in the face of rejections?

I think it all comes back to remembering not only why we do this thing that we feel we must do – but also how to keep ourselves sane and fulfilled amidst the gaps when there is no work.

Sustainability actually takes work.

We live in a world now that talks about how we have to think in terms of sustainability. And we do. But to sustain anything requires a shift in consciousness. From a global perspective, it means to become more mindful of how much we waste, or to limit our consumption of non-renewable resources, or to think about what we need versus what we want.

At an individual level, as artists, to sustain ourselves is to create with people we love, to stay connected by doing work that matters, to push ourselves creatively to do things we didn’t think we could do before.

All of this requires work and also awareness to change.

A hero of mine, Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird discusses the writer’s process and what it means to really write something – create something – meaningful. I think the same rules apply whether you’re an actor or singer or dancer or musician. You have to lean toward vulnerability and commitment and truth – no matter how daunting.

That, then, becomes the sustaining act. That’s really the reason we want to be creators – because of that sensation – those Eureka! moments that occur when we’re striving, striving, striving to make something that means something.

Substitute the word “write” that she uses with the word “act” or “dance” or “sing” and you’ll see that it’s all the same for all artists everywhere.

“Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done. If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward the vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being un-liked. Tell the truth as you understand it. It you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.”


And also sustainable.

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You’re The Star Of Your Own Movie But Keep Casting Yourself As A ‘Bit’ Player



Elaine Stritch said this sometime before she died, “The terrifying thing in my life is that I am just an actress. And I have to keep pushing it and getting approval, approval, approval or I don’t think I’m worth two cents. And I am starting to get over it, thank God. And I’m just sad because I don’t have many years left and I wish I had a longer space of time to think that Elaine Stritch is okay.”


We have to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t need anyone’s approval to validate our existence. You deserve to be here not by what you achieve or do or accomplish; or who you are as an actor or how well you audition or how popular you are. You’re okay just by being who you are.

Just by being here.

We need to learn how to spend less time and energy trying to win people over and getting people to like us who don’t matter. I remember in my 20’s how I would try to get people who I would defer my power to – to respond to me in some way. I was so desperate for their approval that coincidentally, my own desperateness was never going to get them to approve of me.

But now that I look back I see that those people I was willing to jump through hoops for didn’t contribute to the value of my life at all. The people who mean something to us and make a difference – who can assist us or advise us or inspire us – are probably the people who are still in your life. That’s the irony. We’re trying to hustle people whose opinions really don’t matter. We think they do because we don’t have a strong enough opinion of our selves. So we seek outside of ourselves to get someone to say, “We like you.” Or, “You’re talented.” Or, “You’re a superstar!”

That’s a faulty premise, because everything is subjective. For each person you’re trying to get to “like you” – they may or may not – based on the most arbitrary of reasons.

I get it. We’re in a business where we want people to get our work and to see our talent and to hire us. But that still must start from a place of confidence and trust that regardless of what other people say, we have something going on that’s of value and interesting and cast-able. And sometimes that takes time to not only develop, but also time for people who will get you to . . . well . . . get you.

The distinction here is to realize that you are the star of your own movie but you keep casting yourself as a bit player.


We do this in innumerable ways. By not asking for what we need, by not speaking our truth, by not asking for help, by not standing in our power and owning how amazing we already are.

And when I say be a “star” in your life, I’m not referring to being famous or making tons of money. A student of mine half-jokingly asked, “Well what are you referring to then?”

Being a star means showing up in life, getting present, acting with integrity, being honest, getting vulnerable, making connections, taking the leap, being kinder, making a difference and leaning toward compassion.


When you do this, not only will you be a star, you’ll stop searching for people’s approval – because the person’s recognition you’re most seeking you’ll already have won: your own.

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How To Get Everything You Want In Life?


All it takes is 1.

One person to get you. To see your talent. To take a risk on you. To believe in you.

That’s one of the most wonderful things about this business. It can all change in a heartbeat.

The business is all about perception. Nobody knows who you are or what you’re about or how extraordinary your talent might be . . . and then one day it changes. Or it changes once you show them. And then all of a sudden, everyone’s interested.

But to get to that “one” you have to create opportunities to be seen. And it takes time. So the “overnight success” has quietly been toiling away for years before it all comes together.

I’ve lectured in the past about how every “no” gets you closer to a “yes” because it’s all about the sheer number of things. Statistics = possibility. In order to increase your chances of creating possibility – in the short term – you’ll be denied what it is you’re looking for. But over time and with persistence, the numbers start to fall in your favor, because you’ve vetted out so many of the “no’s” that eventually you hear a “yes.”

At one level, that’s just numbers. At another, having someone get you and be the “one” is like that.

Why? Well, first, it’s all subjective. Sometimes people will like you and sometimes they won’t. It’s arbitrary and weird and fickle and that’s just the way this business – and life and ultimately, humanity – is. You can’t go trying to please everyone. In your pursuit of that illusion, you’ll be left with not knowing who you are and what you have to contribute. So you have to start very early in understanding that you have to do it for yourself and because you love it.

What other people think about you is none of your business. Your job is to continue doing your work and the people who will eventually get it will find you.

In order to get the one, you’re going to pass by a lot of others who aren’t the one.

It’s like dating. You have to kiss a lot of frogs.

If you’re the CEO of your own company – which you are – you’ll come up with something that’s passionate and unique about you. This is what you have to offer the world. This is what wants to be shared. But as the CEO, if you don’t know what that is, how could anyone else know? You have to show them. And when I say show them – it’s not like you have to do anything. It just means to get going in sharing it and don’t look back and wonder if it’s right or correct or if people will like it. If it’s coming from truth – eventually, someone will resonate with it.

And that’s the one. Or rather, you’re the one, and finding someone who gets you is two.

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The #1 Way To Be Remembered In An Audition (and you don’t have to do anything)



What if there was something you could do more often that would radically – and perceptibly – change how you’re perceived and alter the impression you leave on others?

What if, as an actor, it was something that you didn’t even have to worry about “doing” because it sort of does itself once we become available to the moment and it significantly changes how people might perceive your work?

It’s called consciousness.

And it’s already a part of our basic hardwiring as people.

Our job to make it work more for us is to become a little bit more aware when we simply aren’t aware.

As we move from mindlessness to mindfulness, our creative work and state of being changes.

Harvard Psychologist, Ellen Langer says that as we become more mindful, we leave a “consciousness footprint.”

The implications for actors is staggering. As we become more available in the work – through presence and engaging emotionally in the moment – then we leave an imprint without us even realizing it. This shows up in our auditions, on set, in class, on a film set.

The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to do anything. Meaning, there’s something about you that’s unique and different from someone else. That means you don’t have to try and put something on, or show us how clever you think you are, or try to impress us, or try and make something happen.

Science proves that if we can show up and become fully present we naturally leave our mark. But this is also hard to do because of the innumerable ways we distract ourselves out of the moment and go into our heads. So the work – like life itself – becomes about doing things more mindfully. More fully. Being here now. When we do, we are leaving a trace of our presence with the people with whom we interact.

But why don’t we trust that? Because we go out for 100 auditions and we don’t get feedback or we don’t get a callback and we begin to feel like something isn’t working. Or we’re not any good. Or we’re missing something. Or we’re flawed in some way. But what if it weren’t any of those things? What if it were simply numbers and with those intangibles, (even when our essence is fully engaged and we’re fully there) it just might not be what they’re looking for. That doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong. It just means we were not right for the role.

You can’t keep changing yourself to fit the idea of what you think people want. In life or in our acting.

Like anything in life, we’re attracted to people who naturally are themselves.

An audition room is just the micro for that same life truth. People are going to be attracted to you by you being you. And when you bring all of yourself to the work in a mindful way, you will be remembered.

Even if that means you don’t get the job each time.

But getting the job each time isn’t why we act. Acting comes down to understanding that you’re not auditioning for a role you’re auditioning for your career. And that takes time.

And it boils down to trusting that if we’ve done our work and made strong choices and don’t doubt our instincts and go in the audition room and let the work come from those places of who we are – there’s something firing inside each of us that’s interesting and beautiful and human and real.

That then becomes an incredible footprint we can each leave behind.

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What the Tour de France and Wimbledon can Teach You About Acting.



I went to Wimbledon.

And I was also lucky to have watched the bikers in the Tour De France cycle past me at an incredibly fast clip.

Two amazing sporting events where I took away the same insight from both experiences.

It’s really just about trying our best. And it’s all about being fully invested in each moment.

When we give up the ideas (and myths) of doing things perfectly, or having everything solved, or feeling as if we must have everything figured out first, or come across as if we know more than we do – we actually begin living in a state of freedom.

The amount of energy it requires to maintain the control of being perfect is so much more than the effortlessness and ease (and consequently real empowerment) that become available to us when we just let go and participate.

Fully. In the moment. Whether it’s a tennis match or bike race. Or audition. Or scene. Or life.

I don’t think we remember the winners. I mean, of course people win. But it doesn’t make the “losers” any less of a winner because they didn’t win the trophy or the title or the award.

And I actually don’t think that’s really why an athlete (or anyone for that matter) is doing it anyway. They’re doing it for the love of participating. The joy of competing. The experience of achieving their best. I guess if they win, that’s icing on the cake.

Three-time Olympic Track & Field Gold Medalist, Gail Devers says, “Accolades and trophies are given to inspire others.”

So what we really remember are the efforts to attempt. To try our best. Sometimes it turns out successfully, sometimes it doesn’t.

Salvador Dalí said, “A true artist is not one who is inspired but one who inspires others.”

So we inspire people not by being #1.

We inspire people simply by being.

And that happens just by staying in the game of life.

So keep pedaling. Eventually you’ll cross your finish line.

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The #1 Thing That Can Change Your Acting And Your Life.



Everything in life unfolds as a result of our engagement with – and participation in – the world as we know it.

This is derived out of listening. (Or not.)

We listen as someone yells at us. We hear our flight’s been cancelled. We get the news that our aunt has passed away. We take in the doctor as he gives us our test results. We react to the information. We respond to the event. We reply to the news.

Our worlds open and close, collide and expand, transform and fall apart all through listening.

When Kenny Leon won the Tony Award this year as best director of a play he said, “Why we have the greatest cast is because they listen to each other. They listen to each other.”

So it raises the question – why is something that should be a given treated more the exception rather than the norm? So much so that when you see it, it stands out?

A few years ago I read a piece in the New York Times where the reviewer talked about how the cast of a play was listening to each other in such a way that it felt as if the actors were making up the lines as they went along. It felt unrehearsed. Not acted. In the moment.

Stop the presses!

Consequently, the work stood out as something spectacularly real, visceral and alive; i.e., the exception.

But listening is often almost given a back seat in the effort to lay out acting ideas and concepts in a theoretical way.

Listening is not a concept. It’s a regenerative and restorative act. It’s life affirming. It’s simple, but it’s not simplistic. And simple does not mean easy.

Academy Award nominee, Robert Duvall was interviewed on NPR saying, “Talking and listening…to do that is the beginning and end of acting for me and it’s not as easy as it looks…Everyone says, ‘Oh, you’re just yourself up there.’ And I say, try it. Try it! It’s not that easy.”

It’s actually very complicated because listening is the way in and we don’t want to go in, because going in makes us feel things we don’t want to feel. It alters us and takes us down paths not easily navigated. But when we bring that messy exploration to storytelling it’s very, very powerful.

Listening is receiving and giving, it’s reacting, it’s reciprocity, it’s connection, it’s allowing, it’s surrender, it’s discovery and it’s empowering.

But it’s also more than just the ear. It’s our entire body engaged in the moment and having a response. It’s instinct and impulse and intuition and spontaneity. It’s physical-ness and behavior and how we choose to live. And the way you choose to listen is what makes you different than anyone else.

So it calls forth your being. And that’s transcendental. Which is what acting wants to be anyway.

The Chicago Sun Times review of student, Shailene Woodley’s performance in The Fault In Our Stars says, “Every line of dialogue she says in this film sounds as if we’re eavesdropping on a real life. There’s no evidence of capital letters ACTING.”

That’s listening. And that’s what it does for you. And that’s something we can all learn to do more of each moment.


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The #1 Way To Achieve Greater Connection In Life.


Vulnerability leads to greater connection.

Everyone probably knows that because we’ve all had vulnerable moments in life with friends or family or lovers that open us to new levels of honesty or communication or intimacy.

But what if we took the idea of vulnerability out into the world in a bigger way to include the opportunity to connect with strangers and people we couldn’t imagine we have more in common with than not.

It’s happening all the time anyway.

And it occurs through uncertainty.

Our lives are pitched into this existence that is ultimately, uncertain – which can be scary to most of us, and is partly why we like to control.

But the possibilities for love, insight, creativity and adventure really come only in the embracing of the unknown.

We can’t be controlling and powerful at the same time. Empowerment comes from loosening the hold we have on things and letting moments unfold not as we demand them but as they actually are. That’s where the “Ah-ha’s” occur.

Shirley MacLaine calls it “the spontaneity of not knowing.”

In acting, it’s the absolute surrender to the moment and allowing yourself to be available  in ways that go beyond your planning or exercising an agenda or playing an idea.

But it’s also a mindful way to open up to the possibilities of life itself. When life throws us into circumstances and experiences that are beyond our control (like every day!) it’s an opportunity to stay open to those moments and the gifts they want to give us. Embracing them presents experiences to us that are always better and more fulfilling than what we planned.

A lot of times in life we run away from – or hide behind our cell phones (!) – when events occur that make us feel vulnerable in a public way. This is simply life’s way of trying to get us out of our own heads and participate more fully in possibility itself. But generally we stay in our left-brain dialogue that keeps us from actively participating in the world.

You spill your coffee in front of a group of people, but keep your ear-buds in so you can ignore making a connection. You fall down on the sidewalk, but get up and pretend to text someone rather than having a moment with someone who saw you fall. You step into an elevator and immediately face front and look up, rather than noticing something about someone you share the space with, or smiling at a stranger.

These seemingly innocuous events can be amazing opportunities to connect beyond the way we normally allow. We often feel vulnerable or exposed or embarrassed with people and then shut down those feelings because we’ve been taught to ignore them.

But to be vulnerable and then share that vulnerability – which comes in many forms (awkwardness, shyness, joy, flirtation, upset, impatience) with another, leads to authentic empowerment.

You discover you’re not alone. Other people feel the same way. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re doing just fine. It’s okay to make mistakes. And no one is judging you.

In short, you cut yourself slack for being human.

So allow yourself to be just that this week. Human. And share that with others. What you’ll discover is a greater feeling of connection even if it’s just a fleeting moment with someone you may never meet again.

And isn’t that the part of the wonder and joy of simply being alive?

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How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life.


Once again, the science is in.

Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard who has been doing research since the late ‘70’s – has conclusively proven that becoming mindful can change your life.

There are measurable benefits to one’s creativity, competence, psychological well-being and physical health.

All the places where we can get stuck in life (and in our creative work) – worrying about making mistakes and doing things wrong, fear of failure, attaching labels to things, living out of the past, looking at things from a singular perspective – are reduced as we become more mindful.

In other words, getting present to the moment assists us in breaking free from the constraints and restrictions that have been imprisoning us since childhood.

Although her research focuses on mindfulness as a process to actively “notice things” – it produces the same results we are looking to create more of in our work as actors.

It puts you in the present, engages you, actively opens up your listening, makes you sensitive to context, takes the focus off yourself and puts it onto the other, creates dynamic energy and it becomes literally, according to Langer, enlightening.

Study after study with various control groups has shown that people respond to other people and their respective art, music and performance – when the person creating it is more mindful.

This is staggering.

And so simple it’s mind-blowing.

So people will actually respond to you – your acting, your singing, your orchestrations, your art – when you create mindfully. When you become available to the moment, you become available to other people.

In other words, mindfulness is visible to other people. You’re leaving an imprint.

You’re going to be much more interesting, attractive and charismatic and simply stand out by becoming present in your auditions, in your work, in the choices you make simply because you’re doing it mindfully.

So you already have an advantage when you actually become present.

It’s not hard to do. It’s the work I’ve been doing with actors for over 15 years. And it comes out of the basic hardwiring of what it means to be human.

Presence is the natural state of who we are beyond the distractions of our mindless chatter of our left-brains. Children naturally notice things. They are naturally released – and present – to the now. They play and are curious and are not bound by neurologically-induced, habituated “rules.”

As we get older, our natural seeker – the present, available, mindful creator – begins to start experiencing things on autopilot. (And one could argue when we’re on autopilot we’re not even really, truly experiencing things at all anymore!) This is because the rules and restrictions placed on us don’t allow us to deviate beyond the “known.” And it also comes from being conditioned into seeing things from a singular, limited-view perspective.

Our access to experience the world from a place of possibility and potential is diminished by seeing the world from a black-and-white absolute.

Becoming mindful re-boots our inner software that’s been put on pause for years.

We can begin to re-awaken to the moment, feel alive again, become empowered and more joyful and create optimally.

Isn’t this what every human being wants more of?

Become mindful and “notice” what will happen.

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