- What Are You Scared Of . . . Success Or Failure? What If It’s Neither?
- The #1 Thing To Do When You Think You Might Be Going Thru A Mid-Life (Or Quarter-Life) Crisis!
- The #1 Thing To Do When You Wake Up And Realize Your Feelings About Acting Have Changed.
- The #1 Reason Why The Foreplay Is Better Than The Orgasm.
- Vancouver: A Great Place For Actors
Tag Archives: Creativity
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Every moment is the Event.
You’re good enough.
Just as you are right now at this moment.
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.”
What if you were given the role of a Lifetime?
A character that’s beautiful and dangerous and mysterious and exciting and complicated and messed up and Divinity expressed in tangible form and spectacular and empathetic and scary and . . . well . . . human?
I asked an actress this and she said, “I’d be thrilled beyond belief . . . and also a little scared.”
Do you know what that role is?
It’s your life.
The role of a lifetime is you. Why are we looking for it in another person or character or relationship – when it’s really about bringing all of your stuff to a role? Your stuff becomes the experience.
There will never be another “you” from now until the end of time in perpetuity. It’s mind-boggling to realize that since the earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, there has never been another “you” ever created. There’s never even been someone remotely like you walking this planet. Ever. That makes your lifetime a wonderful gift in itself.
You’re all you’ve got. And all you’ll ever be is already contained within yourself. Seek it there.
And realize that all parts of yourself are what make you uniquely you.
Stop apologizing for your mistakes. Make them. Fail gloriously. Attempt things boldly. Live on the edge spectacularly. Slide into errors magnificently.
Nothing bad comes from failing. Ever. Our challenges in life really come when we have a desire for something and are too scared to attempt it in fear of failing.
Fail. You’re going to anyway. So just do it with robust passion for that journey which is uniquely yours. And as you do it more often you will be less scared of “how you look” or “what people think” or “if you’re doing it correctly.”
How do you prepare for the role of a lifetime?
There is no prep for it. You’re living it. Right now.
And just like in your acting, stop spending so much energy “prepping” (i.e., controlling it). Instead get in the game that is your life. Attempt. Try. Do. And in the playing of it, you’ll start to really celebrate that the best role is really the role you’re playing right now.
Last week I discussed changing our narratives – simply the negative stories we most often tell about ourselves that no longer serve us.
When we make an investment in something, we are hoping to receive a benefit at some point in the future. What if we made an investment in telling a new story? Because it will pay off in the long run.
The stories we want to invest in are often the stories we tell about others – “He’s so talented,” “She’s so beautiful,” “They have something I don’t have.”
But we never use these stories to describe ourselves.
It’s true. When was the last time you woke up in the morning and said to yourself, “I’m wonderful”?
The more we tell our habituated stories, the more we disconnect from the energetic potential of who we are.
We don’t really tap into the resources of energy that are available to us – because that potential is distorted by the way we view ourselves. It’s like looking into a clear body of water but what is reflected back to us is murky and clouded because of the left brain narratives we tell.
Paramahansa Yogananda, a guru and spiritual teacher who came to America from India in the 1920’s said, “Incredible amounts of energy are hidden in your brain; enough in a gram of flesh to run the city of Chicago for 2 days. And you say you are tired?”
Whoa. That’s a lot of energy.
Now mind you he was discussing Chicago some 80 years ago, but even if we adjusted for the energy demands and outputs of what a city of that size is generating today – if my numbers are correct – we’d still have enough energy to light up the Windy City for 7.3 hours!
Holy Toledo. (Yes, and probably Toledo too!)
We’ve all felt that energetic connection to self. When we fall in love, or get accepted into our first-choice college, or book a job, or solve a really hard problem, or nail an audition. We may never equate it in the form of how much energetic life force we possess, but in these glimpses into our true nature we feel alive and energized and hopeful that anything is possible.
It is electric.
So basically, those narratives we tell ourselves are incompatible with the science of who we are.
I guess it’s a question of what do you choose to believe. Are you the narrative you’ve been telling yourself for years? Or are you this inexhaustible, energetic, powerful being that is capable of creating anything?
I’d choose the latter each time. Not only because it’s true, but it’s also a new narrative.
I’ve been known to say from time-to-time that “Things always work out.”
A good friend asked me the other day, “Do you mean that as in life – like life in general will work out? Or do you mean ‘Things always work out’ in the entertainment business?”
I thought for a second. And then realized, well, yes, first in life, it all works out. Always. In the end. And if it hasn’t worked out yet, you’re just not at the end.
But “working out” doesn’t mean without challenges. Or getting everything you always wanted. Or that life won’t hand you a number of obstacles you have to overcome.
And that’s a metaphor for the business as well. Your career is never going to look like you thought it would. Ever. Your way into acting and the path it takes you on and all you can learn from it is going to be much more expansive – if you let it be – than you could’ve ever imagined when starting out.
I think the tricky thing about things working out in “the business” is that it requires you to say a hearty “yes” to a life in the arts while at the same time giving up all expectations moment-to-moment of what you feel it “should” be.
But in order for things to work out you have to take the leap into the unknown to begin with. If you’re brave enough to go where your heart leads you and embrace the truth that your trajectory is going to be littered with failures and rejections, victories and “almost’s” – that it’s often going to make you question whether it’s all worth it, you will also find a quiet satisfaction in knowing that you are truly doing what you need to be doing with your life – At. This. Time.
And by going all in in and taking the risk, “the universe will open doors where there were only walls,” as Joseph Campbell says. In being open on your journey, you may discover you have so many other passions and talents involved in creating that are tiny tributaries all connected to your original desire to act.
There would be zero access to these worlds if you didn’t say yes to your original desire.
So having faith that things will work out when you follow your bliss isn’t Pollyanna-ish-talk. It’s truth. But it also requires sensitivity to how other possibilities and insights can come out of our initial desire (to act) when we begin our creative journeys.
So being open – and making a commitment – to a career as an actor can show you so much about your life.
It’s not a call into acting. It’s a call into life. And a call to be more human.
It’s not a profession. It’s a way of being.
It’s not about a job. It’s about expressing oneself.
It’s not about character. It’s about you.
It’s not about having it all together and being perfect and not failing. It’s about sharing your fallibility and vulnerability and courage and fears.
When you do, you give other people the permission to do the same.
That’s why acting is important.
Art. Beauty. Revelation. Spirit. Creativity. Enlightenment. Redemption. Forgiveness. Inspiration. Compassion. Love.
It’s all in there. Acting gives you that. And that alone assures you that it will all work out.
What are we all so scared of?
Being seen? Failing? Not measuring up? Being rejected? Vulnerability? Thinking the rest of the world will see how badly we often think of ourselves?
All of these qualities are part of being human and being brave enough to step out into the world with something to say.
They’re also a part of what it means to be a truly authentic actor.
But so often much of our life energy is spent reacting to things from a fearful place (dating! auditioning! booking a job!) without having awareness that we’re even doing so.
Part of our evolutionary growth is to understand when we react to something based in fact (rarely) and instead, do so out of habit.
There’s always going to be a part of us that’s fearful – sadly – as a response to our knowledge that our mortal body is going to expire. And also our being hardwired – it’s in our DNA – physiologically to respond from the flight-or-fight response. (That reptilian brain in us is alive and kicking.)
But the kind of fear I’m talking about that stops us from achieving our dreams is fear based in ego.
The Ego = Small. Separate. Stuck. Our Saboteur. The only way we can overcome that which our ego tells us is not possible for us is by being open and being aware of that dialogue itself.
A lot of what we don’t realize is we let a fearful reaction to things be the overriding principle in our life. Fear masks itself in subtle ways so we don’t even know it. When we respond in a cynical or sarcastic way, when we procrastinate, or have excuses, or complain or say “no” to things; when we ignore or avoid – these responses can often be passive forms of fear.
The goal is to become aware of when we respond habitually. For example, realizing when we don’t say “yes” to something. Maybe it’s because we’re scared to risk or be exposed, so we say “no” instead. Procrastination – we keep putting off that thing we know we can do, because to do so might mean we could get rejected or fail or discover we’re not so great at it after all. So we let fear keep us from even attempting.
If there was one thing I could help actors understand is that there’s nothing to be scared of. Our work is a work of joy and hope and light and possibility and we’re all in it together. When people set out to make projects they set out to make the best possible creation they can achieve. That means they want you to also be your best.
So when you book a job, it means someone likes you. That’s why you booked it. There’s nothing to be scared of.
But we let our old conditioning kick in and listen to the junk thoughts it creates in the mind.
So understanding that fear – False Evidence Appearing Real — can really stop us from moving forward when we believe the things we tell ourselves in our head – is already a step of awareness.
The next time you’re feeling triggered and scared, ask yourself these two questions.
1). Why is it not okay to let go of the fear? (You may discover some surprising explanations of how the fear is protecting you.)
2). What does this fear want to show me? (If you’re brave enough – and willing to listen – there is great insight into where you may get stuck in life and how to overcome it.)
Creating a new paradigm around fear will truly set you free from it.
So “feel the fear and do it anyway” as the saying goes – as we’ll never be completely devoid of it. But create a deeper understanding of it as well and you might discover the fear part gets less and less.
Breakthroughs in life occur at the feeling level.
That’s the beginning and end of it. If we want to evolve, grow, face our fears, reach new heights, become the kind of artist we know we can become, we have to feel our way there. We have to feel things we aren’t accustomed to allowing ourselves to feel. Feel things we try to control and suppress. Feel things that we have judgments about. And then be brave enough to communicate those feelings to another. When we feel vulnerable. Exposed. Scared. Intimidated. That’s not just the call into acting. That’s the call into life itself.
Just feel. Period.
Your feelings don’t have to be pretty or together or understood by others. They don’t have to make sense. Feelings often don’t make sense – that’s why they’re feelings! How do you intellectualize love, compassion, hope, fear, sadness, empathy, desire? You can’t. Or you can try but the intellectual component only takes you so far. But the more we allow ourselves to actually be, the more our life begins to transform in positive ways.
But when we don’t give ourselves permission to feel, we move through life anesthetizing ourselves, putting us in a zombie-fied state of existence. A numbness that we accept as status quo. A standardized way of just getting through the day. We wake up one day (if we’re lucky) and realize we’ve merely been surviving, not truly living. Or maybe we’ve been living but not thriving.
To thrive is to be emotionally engaged. Curious, Excited. Passionate. Vulnerable. Out there.
The breakthroughs that have occurred in your life have all come at the emotional level. You experience grief, tragedy, loss and the experience profoundly shifts you or changes your outlook. You express pain, frustration, turmoil and an insight occurs from the release. You live in joy, ecstasy, passion and realize you’ve never allowed yourself to feel that wild or free.
You could argue that breakthroughs occur first at an intellectual level. Perhaps you solve a math theorem or make a new scientific discovery or uncover a new model for physics – and those achievements, of course, require a great deal of brain energy. But what comes with the intellectual insight is the commensurate feeling in your body physiologically and in your heart. You feel overjoyed or relieved. You feel gratified and elated. You feel a “Eureka!” sensation inside. That’s not intellectual. That’s emotional.
So feel. It sounds so easy. But when you begin to look at how often you cripple yourself from feeling, you realize that like anything else, it’s a journey. It takes time. But the pay-off is really truly living life, and really the essence of life itself.
You have to love yourself. End. Of. Story.
What else is there really on this individual journey we’re all taking? If you don’t love yourself, how can you possibly love another and radiate that love to your work, creativity, the birthing of new ideas and bringing something tangible and worthwhile into the world?
When we get triggered in life, when we get rejected, when we want to give up all hope and chuck it all in, we must come back to self-love.
Our culture, though, has a misunderstanding of what self-love is.
We think it’s namby-pamby, new-age-y, kumbaya phooey.
But self-love is brass tacks being. Think about acting. The art of acting is in many ways one of the highest expressions of creative love. We share ourselves bravely with other human beings through this vehicle of intimacy and vulnerability and power and courage.
When I was in my 20’s, I didn’t think I had time for self-love. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I just thought I could barrel through everything, continue to take action and keep going. But eventually, life is going to catch up with you. What you resist persists.
We have to love ourselves, but not by the standards society sets because those are measured by the external. We equate the expression of love through things. If you’re not aware, your self-love becomes based on things that society says signifies love. Those measurements are not only unattainable but also ephemeral and can be destructive because they’re based on illusions. Ashton Kutcher says, “There’s a propaganda machine around fame and celebrity.” We think if we get that, we’ve got life by the balls. But self-love doesn’t come from how beautiful or physically fit we are, or if we have a perfect figure with 5% body fat or how successful or popular or famous or stylish we are.
It comes from self-acceptance.
You have nothing to prove. To anyone. Whether you are working or not. Famous or not. Established or not. You’re already okay as you are.
Self-acceptance requires us to love those parts of ourselves we don’t already love. Those parts of ourselves we keep hidden, that we’re scared of, that we think something’s wrong with us for having them. These are the parts that we actually need to live in our wholeness.
The parts equal the whole. Not some parts. All parts.
I had a student recently who told a story of how he bullied a number of kids when he was in elementary school (he himself being a victim of bullying). Now as an adult – and a famous actor to boot – he does a lot of charitable work on behalf of organizations that help bring awareness to anti-bullying campaigns. But he feels because of his celebrity that he’s a hypocrite for doing so. How could someone who bullied so many kids now be stumping for charities about anti-bullying?
His own guilt and shame around that part of himself shows that bullying never ends.
We bully ourselves.
But the deeper learning comes from the insight that it’s not in spite of his having been a bully that he’s now charitable, it’s because of it. All parts of ourselves make us whole. Even the parts we’re ashamed of and continue beating ourselves up for.
Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Realize all experiences in life lead us to wholeness.
Without them you wouldn’t be where you are today.