The #1 Way to Become More Confident

VIDEO LESSON HERE

Confidence. What is it? How do we get it?

Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 Hours Rule and that it takes around that amount of time until you become an expert at what you do. Just by putting in the hours, you will naturally become more confident because you’ve been doing it.

Another social researcher, Amy Cudahy, talks about the science behind “faking it until you make it.” Her research shows that if we allow ourselves to fake our way into things we’re not entirely sure about (and who ever is?) then just by that act alone, we can generate amazing accomplishments in our lives.

I’ve lectured on and practice both principles. They both work.

But what if there’s a sort of in between way of generating results that perhaps allows us to take the quantum leap? It builds on putting in the hours, but at the same time also asks us to fake when we need to.

Confidence. Even when we don’t feel it.

Confidence isn’t being pumped in artificially from the outside. To me it’s almost the contemporary equivalent of the late Latin word enthusiasmus, which comes from the Greek word enthusiasm, which is to be full of, or inspired by, the Divine. Source. Energy. Intelligence.

So we gain confidence by being filled and we get filled by doing. Because the more we do, the more we start to believe that we can do this thing called acting—or writing or singing or dancing. You get there by doing that thing, even if at times it feels like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing at all.

So confidence is born out of our lack of confidence when we first embark on something new. And different experiences and jobs also require different skills. So sometimes things you feel confident in won’t be required in other areas. So if you’re great at comedy, let’s say, and feel confident, you may need to borrow some of that belief to punt your way through drama or classical work or asking someone out on a date or calling that agent you met three months ago.

Confidence is also about making choices that serve us. We often walk around thinking thoughts that make us feel badly. And yet, to shift those thoughts into something that supports us isn’t hard to do. The energy requirement is the same, plus it feels better, but we often don’t do it. We’re lazy thinkers. We get accustomed to believe the things we’ve been taught to believe, even if those thoughts don’t serve us. And weirdly enough, also undermine our confidence!

The thoughts we think aren’t even our original thoughts. They’re thoughts someone else told us that we’ve taken on to become our truth, even when they’re lies. Walking around saying things to yourself like, “Life’s unfair,” or “I suck,” or “I’m stupid,” doesn’t help you. You’ve just been saying it because that’s what you’ve been taught.

So what if for a week, you just tried to mantra “I’m confident,” or “I am capable,” instead of your general go-to. Watch how it will make you feel, well…more confident!

Jessica Chastain in an interview with CBS News says, “I’m still navigating my way through this life. . . I’m not, like, super confident and feel like, ‘Oh, I own my place.’ I do feel a little bit like, well, who knows how long this is gonna last? But I wonder if that will always be the case with me.”

It’s not just her! It just goes to show you: Everyone is a work in progress figuring out confidence as they go along.

*Originally published via Backstage.

Posted in Everything Else | Leave a comment

Why Hurricanes Don’t Care What You Think Of Them.


 

I was on vacation in Mexico last week and I swam in the ocean that was recovering from a west coast hurricane-like condition. The waves were massive. Formidable.

The recent eruptions of Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano have been described as awe-inspiring and incredible.

When we look at nature and respond to its power and force, we generally describe it in terms that befit its epic-ness. And at the same time, we’re almost neutral about it. In other words, we don’t judge it. Nature is just doing its thing. It is what it is.

How often, though, do we describe ourselves (and others) with descriptions that are loaded with self-criticism and negativity and we shut ourselves down because of it?

Partly we do this because we are habituated to do so. Our mindlessness – meaning our running commentary of ourselves and others (and events) – generally is caught in conditioning based on our past and therefore not mindful.

It’s not being generated from the present moment.

The Harvard psychologist, Dr. Ellen Langer, says that when we’re not mindful, we are “Frequently in error, never in doubt.”

We go to an audition and do a great job in the moment. But later, we process it in error and instead see only the mistakes we made. The fumbled lines or the nervousness or the awkward moments we experienced. We then retell the same story differently. Meaning, we no longer believe we did a great job – we instead have no doubt about how bad we were. And that becomes the defining story of ourselves we tell.

If mindlessness makes us be frequently in error, never in doubt, then we become skewed toward seeing things incorrectly, and we don’t doubt seeing things incorrectly.

What that does is create a closed system. We begin to see the world – the business, people, relationships, our possibilities as actors – in a pre-set, determined, and often, limited way.

That’s not only mindlessness, that’s also just not true.

We want to try and see things more neutrally specific. Mindfulness helps us do that naturally. We see things as they are, not as we project meaning onto them.
We stop seeing things from a singular perspective and instead see things in totality, which are how things really exist.

So the challenge is looking at the restrictions we create for ourselves about the business, success, relationships, possibility and ultimately, ourselves.
For to begin seeing ourselves the way we would see a thunderstorm or hurricane
would mean seeing ourselves from a new perspective. Less judgmental and more affirming. Less negative and more neutral. Less limited and more open to interpretation.

In other words, error-free.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Stay Open As Actors When Your EX Makes You Want To Shut Down

We’re all not just trying to become better actors, we’re trying to become better people. (And when I say “better” I am not implying there’s anything flawed or messed up or wrong with you as you are now. The potential of who each of us is – the tiny seed of love and compassion and possibility that dwells within us all – already is perfection.)

But life has this interesting transformational principle, that evokes our hard edges – our places of discomfort and resistance; impatience and places we get stuck – to try to work through these areas to make us better.

There’s really nothing more substantive than acting to assist us in this process, because acting is life.

I have always felt that actors have this innate connection to the deeper mysteries of life. There is a willingness to explore and go to places that, a banker, perhaps, may not be inclined. As seekers, risk-takers, and storytellers reflecting back to humanity what it means to be human, actors sort of have to.

And part of that is also about being more conscious. Thankfully, we’re beginning to quash this age-old myth that says we have to be “messed up” or damaged or bat-shit crazy to do our best work.

No we don’t.

Actually, science has disproved that myth. Our best work as creators comes when we’re whole and healed and empathetic and mindful.

Dysfunction doesn’t create dynamic performance. Or rather, it can, but what’s the point if you end up destroying yourself in the process?

So I often get asked, “Since we’re becoming more mindful in our lives, how does that affect our acting?”

The more we become awake to what we’re actually feeling, the more we can actually use that feeling in real ways in our work.

The point of the work is that we will get triggered, because situations we find ourselves in as different characters are going to evoke our stuff. And lots of it. When we get triggered, we want to allow ourselves to have visceral, unedited, instinctual reactions. Reactions that sometimes we’re trying to be more mindful of not having in life.

This may seem at first defeating of purpose; counterintuitive. But it isn’t. So you’re at the bank and you’re about to go bananas because the bank tellers are moving at a glacial pace and you’re already late for an appointment. But instead you breathe and become aware of your tension and impulse to yell at the woman behind the counter.

The only way we can start to work with feeling in our work is to know what it is and how we try to get around it in life.

This is mindfulness. Not just in our life, but also what we begin to emotionally wield, then, with more dexterity as actors.

When I was in my early 20’s, I didn’t even know what feelings were or what to do with them, so the journey of unraveling it all is what helps us in technique to use feelings to tell story. That’s what technique is about.

So get triggered in your work. Don’t put a stopper on it. Explore, get messy, get weird and wild. Have fun and play. And in life, try to observe when what you may mindlessly say could hurt another person deeply.

There are no take-backs in life. But there is consciousness. Awareness. And learning how to choose a different path when the paths previously taken bring you (and others) nothing but heartache and pain.

As I’m always telling my students, “Save the drama for the stage!”

Amen.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.”

Indeed.

And also sustainable.

http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/what-sustains-you-artist/

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.”

Amen.

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.

Ouch.

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.

Bam.

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.

http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/start-casting-yourself-star-and-not-bit-player/

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Everything Else | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment