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- If You Don’t Start Doing This More . . . You’re In Big Trouble.
Tag Archives: success
Remember just how much you’ve already accomplished in your life.
We forget that. Especially when we face constant rejection and hear endless “no’s” and begin personalizing and believing the negation means there’s something wrong with us or we’re untalented or flawed in some way. We start believing the illusion that this business is harder than any other. That it’s stacked against the actor. That it’s impossible to break through.
But the physics of this business is no different than any other business. There’s going to be nepotism and class-systems and arbitrary rejections and an old boys club favoritism in any career in which you wish to succeed.
Over 50 years ago, Vincent van Gogh said, “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”
You see? It’s never easy for anyone. Period.
If you look at your life, the tremendous amounts of effort you had to exert to overcome obstacles and get to where you are today – speaks of the possibility of your spirit. But it also shows that nothing is a closed system. Nothing. To think otherwise is to limit something that is limitless.
That is – you.
The spirit of who you are is inexhaustible; as powerful as the cosmos. We’re made of the same stuff as the atoms that created the stars that banged this universe into existence some 4.5 billion years ago. We are made up of this infinity. We have infinite potential.
You can’t let people preach limitation on you to the point that you give up hope. You also can’t allow the people “out there” be the arbiters of what’s hot or popular or fashionable or talented. You might say, “Well they are anyway Tony.” Well, actually, they’re not – until something or someone breaks through and then “the experts” ride the bandwagon saying, “This is the next big thing!” Everyone in our culture seems to be waiting for someone to tell them, “These jeans are so hot!” or “This song is a hit” or “That person’s going to be a star.”
Decide for yourself. You’ve been doing it all along without your even knowing it. Just do it now a little more consciously.
So when you feel this business is stacked against you and there’s no point going on, just remember where you are now and what you overcame to get here. My dear friend, Nick, just got dropped by his management company and was really feeling like he was back at square one. I asked him to recall how much he’d accomplished just to get here.
His dad died when he was 14. He moved from Serbia – a war torn country in the 90’s – to a small town in Minnesota as part of a foreign exchange program, even though he spoke little English. He graduated from an American high school there with honors, got accepted into Harvard and graduated near the top of his class. He started his own successful tech company (and many other ventures) and decided a couple years ago to finally pursue acting, which he’d always wanted to do.
Now don’t tell me you’re going to be defeated by an agent telling you, “We’re just not that into you!”
Remember just how far you’ve climbed and how much you have to be proud of the next time a door slams in your face. Don’t let someone’s “not getting you” define your years on this planet.
You are bigger than the rejection. You’re bigger than a door slamming shut. And in the world of infinitude, there are simply more doors to knock on that will magically open for you. You just have to walk up to them. But that can’t happen if you give up. So don’t.
Why are we doing this?
It’s important to ask ourselves this question.
For whom? Do you ever stop and ask yourself why you want to act? Or Create? Or live your life as an artist?
Sometimes we lose connection to – or allow the business to contaminate – the original reasons why we wanted to create. And for that reason alone, it’s important to revisit the deeper reasons we call ourselves artists.
If it’s for the applause – that will fade away.
If it’s for the adulation, that will be replaced by someone else being the flavor of the month; younger, hotter, smarter, more “in.”
If it’s for approval, or acceptance, or worthiness, or love – you won’t find it anywhere outside of self – ever.
You can’t get it from a teacher or lover or friend or parent or casting director or agent.
You have to start doing it for you. For the reasons why you wanted to do it to begin with.
To create. To express. To have fun. To be human. To actually discover yourself.
Those are the real reasons we’re doing it and we’re not even aware of it. We’re not even aware of the deeper forces at play within ourselves that compel us to make art. To tell stories. To feel. To emote. To risk. To share. To live life courageously and vulnerably as an artist.
We’re brainwashed into thinking our challenges will be solved – we’ll have your “come to Jesus” moment – when we book the TV series or are starring opposite Russell Crowe or have the perfect boyfriend or the great house or nice car or perfect C-sized boobs – and what we realize is that the outer can never replace the inner.
Those things may be gratifying. Intoxicating. Exciting and fun. And those things are deserved. They’re wonderful. They can be career-building and part of our journey.
But real fulfillment is in our discovering not only who we are – but overcoming all the limitations we’ve placed on our humanity – simple restrictions of ourselves for being human – in the pursuit of this thing called acting.
We must start doing it for ourselves. Celebrate who we are. In the audition room. In the performance. In getting or not getting a job. In the victories and the struggles. In our deepest primal and spiritual connection to the reason we wanted to act in the first place:
To reflect back to humanity what it really means to be human.
Throughout your life and your career, you’re going to have to give yourself the green light.
Again and again.
No one else is ever going to give it to you.
It doesn’t matter what level of success you achieve. How many people know you or your work. How many previous projects you’ve done or if you’re about to embark on your first endeavor. The call into acting – into any art form – is always about giving yourself the permission to do what you want to do. Over and over again.
You will be faced with a flurry of “No’s.” You’ll meet lots of resistance and rejection. You’ll be denied and thwarted. You’ll be typecast and put into limiting boxes.
And again, you must come back to the reason you wanted to create in the first place.
Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” “For whom?”
If it’s truly for yourself then you won’t have a hard time giving yourself the go-ahead. If it’s really for the joy of self-expression and wanting to share your creative self with others, you’ll stop waiting for people to “allow” you to create. No one has that kind of power over you. The will to create and then acting on that desire is really what it takes.
Giving yourself the green light simply means you have to start having a healthy sense of selfishness in order to create.
Selfish in this regard means to honor the Self. It’s not of ego. It’s the higher, intuitive Self that wants to show up and express and be expressed. Create. Have fun. Play. Go for things. It’s not concerned with what other people think. Whether or not they like you or your art.
Selfishness means not having to apologize for who you are – even if you make mistakes or have no credits or are new to this profession. Even if you aren’t perfect and fall apart and fail.
It’s the part of you that wants to show up on a level-playing field and say, “Here I am.”
It takes balls to do that.
And of course a green light. Self-given. Because if you don’t give it to yourself, you’ll never get one.
Back in April, I lectured about psychologist, Shawn Achor, and all his trailblazing work in the area of brain research connected to happiness. He developed a term called “The Happiness Advantage” that basically shows that when we choose to be happy in the present, all the learning centers of the brain are turned on and we perform better than when the brain is neutral, negative, or stressed. (Here’s the full video.)
He also discusses how our brains seem to be wired to chase happiness that’s been established by this societal myth (from parents and teachers and institutions) that says “success brings happiness.”
But we believe that if we work harder we’ll be more successful and if we’re more successful then we’ll be happy. Eureka!
But what his research has shown is that what the brain does – after achieving success – is just change the goal post of what success looks like.
So we get good grades, but then we have to get better grades.
We get into a good school, but then have to get into a better school.
We sign with a great agent, but then we want a better agent.
What Mr. Achor’s work shows is that “happiness is being placed on the other side of success” so we keep pushing success over the “cognitive horizon.”
And the sad realization is that we never get there.
Of course, we’re here to experience success in our lives. We want to be productive and fulfilled and monetarily rewarded for the work we create. We want to enjoy material security and feel like we’re making a difference.
But what we need to do is realize that our brains actually work optimally (and then so do we) when we choose to find joy in the present, regardless of a future event’s outcome.
Train the brain. Reverse the formula. Change the paradigm. Get happy now. Become a little more present. Find ways to be.
We’ve discussed so many different ways throughout this past year – meditate, spend time in nature, exercise, practice gratitude, write in a journal, do things for others.
And I’m adding another one.
I’m not sure how scientific it is, but it works.
You’ll be surprised by not only the happiness advantage it creates, but a lot of other side benefits and perks too.
There was a recent New York Times piece entitled, “Where does inspiration come from?”
In it, the writer discovered that the genesis of inspiration and creativity isn’t as enigmatic as we once thought. It involves three stages:
Step 1: Work. Step 2: Be frustrated. Step 3: Repeat.
Artists and creators of many different mediums and art forms were interviewed (from Alicia Keys to Patti Lupone) and the only common ingredient among all of them is this: Try again repeatedly.
So, you see, it’s not so mysterious after all.
The reason we often don’t experience greater moments of inspiration and creativity in our own work is that we quit at the “frustration” phase, not knowing that this stage is an important part of our creative development.
Learning and growth look like this:
We have plateaus of learning and then a “pop” or creative explosion or “spike” or light bulb moment or breakthrough occurs and then you get to a new level. But then you plateau for a while at this new level before you get another spike. You can stay at a plateau for long periods. Weeks, months, years. But don’t be dismayed when you feel stuck at this stage. It’s simply the gestation period.
And it’s all ascension. Always up. Even if it feels like you’re stagnant. As long as you’re staying on the path, it’s always up.
George Leonard, in his book Mastery, discusses this same learning curve for all growth and learning in life. Plateaus followed by creative pops followed by plateaus. And then he describes 3 types of personalities that get in the way of “mastery.”
The Dabbler – Reaches a plateau, gets bored because he hasn’t yet gotten a spike and then moves onto another thing. Only to repeat that pattern over and over again in various different fields.
The Obsessive – Lives only for the spike and pushes hard for those moments. Because he’s working so hard to try to get those openings – he burns out. He does everything he can to get those growth spurts but once he sees that growth has a plateau stage, he stalls.
The Hacker – Reaches a plateau but is content to just stay on that straight line. He doesn’t want to do any self-reflective work so his line extends on and on without any sort of growth spurt.
We possess a little bit of each one of these types within us, but truly what makes us fall short of our own mastery is simply stopping.
So take it from the experts.
You’re not doing anything wrong. You don’t lack the essential ingredients to make an amazingly creative and inspiring cake.
All you need to do is keep trying.
There is a Sanskrit word that’s very popular today called Dharma.
No! Not that 1990’s ABC sitcom, Dharma & Greg!
Dhamma-vinaya. Which is one’s path. One’s journey. One’s work.
There is a beautiful saying that if you’re searching for your path – you’re already on it!
If you’re questioning and searching, then things will reveal themselves to you as you engage in an open dialogue with yourself along your journey.
But that’s not what we do.
We live in a culture that is all about coveting other people’s journey, because it seems like their lives are more glamorous and exciting and thrilling and problem-free!
“I’ll have what she’s having!”
But you can’t. You have to work through your path.
And re-commit to it.
Sometimes, you look at your path and it’s hard and full of stones and potholes and it seems entirely uphill. You think you’re on the wrong road; that you should be on the Yellow Brick Road. Nope. All those obstacles on your path are part of what make your path yours. You just have to recommit to overcoming them.
I think because of the popularity of spirituality in our culture we can sometimes use it as an excuse to not get on with the work that we have to do on ourselves to get to our next level.
We use spirituality as an escape clause to get off our path. Sound familiar? Thinly veiled “spiritual” aphorisms that allow us to not be accountable or responsible.
“It’s not part of the plan.”
“If it were easier, it would’ve happened.”
“There’s something better in store for me.”
“It’s just not the path I’m supposed to be on.”
If those sayings give you solace and peace of heart in times of trouble. That’s OK, because at a deeper level, they are true. All things will work out. And different things reveal themselves to us when certain things don’t pan out as we intended.
But I’m talking about when we use those sayings as excuses to not go after our dreams, to not stay committed, to give up, to lose hope, to become passive.
When you hear yourself saying something that may pass as quasi-spirituality, listen for the second thing you hear which may be an excuse. Or rationalization. Or avoidance. If that’s the case there’s only one thing you can do.
Re-commit to this glorious path that is your life. With the things it wants to teach you and show you and have you embrace. Especially the stuff you’re most scared of.
Re-commit to the inherent qualities within you of courage and perseverance and fortitude and the science of possibility that dwells everywhere in the moment.
Re-commit to the things that we’ve used fear or rationalization or excuses or postponement to avoid because we were actually scared but didn’t want to admit that to ourselves.
Your path will show you how to do these things. You just need to re-commit to it.
Fear of failure?
Get over it.
You’re not scared to fail. You do it all the time, often without realizing it. If you’re reading this now, you’ve probably had hundreds of failures in life leading up to this moment. And you’re fine. You survived them. You’re still breathing. They actually probably proved to not really be that big a deal and were necessary for your growth and awareness and your progression toward what you want. Every success you’ve had is intimately linked with your failures.
So, what you’re really afraid of is your success.
If you succeed, you’re going to be found out that you’re a fraud. Not talented. Unworthy. A loser. Incapable. Stupid. A fake.
Actually, those are the labels you’ve co-opted because they’re in line with the things you’ve been telling yourself for a long time. As long as we continue to believe these lies about ourselves we don’t have to step into our power that “success” beckons us to awaken.
We become so identified with the untruths, the stories, the lies we tell ourselves that to actually step into a new possibility for us in life – a new success, a new opportunity, a new challenge – is scary because we finally have to confront our left brain drain train thoughts.
So there’s a conflict between that which we’ve been telling ourselves we are and that which we wish to be.
As Marianne Williamson would say, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
So that’s what meeting your challenges face-to-face on the playing field of your life is really about. Deciding that you’ve outgrown these things you continue to destructively tell yourself.
Deciding that the pay-off for thinking them and identifying with them does not serve you any longer.
Deciding that real success is simply stepping into the light and discovering you are not these things and will be perfectly safe in letting them go.
Will Smith actually said it. The secret to his success, was simply “deciding” that he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stop him from having a career.
It sounds so simple. And in many ways it is.
We often find living our creative lives (and the accomplishing of our goals) to be a haphazard experience. This is partly due to our mind’s thousands of thoughts telling us we can’t have what we truly desire.
Our creating becomes compromised because instead of aligning ourselves with our powerful intentions, we instead get sidetracked by our thoughts that run counter to them.
Just because I have 70,000 thoughts a day, doesn’t mean most of them are real, beneficial or supportive. In fact, most aren’t. And as we listen to the damaging noise in our left brains, we create unseen roadblocks on the paths we really want to be walking.
We neutralize our creative intentions by listening to the junk thoughts we tell ourselves.
“Just deciding” is an empowering way to change the dialogue in your head. Partly because it gives you a good kick in the ass to remind you what’s possible for you and that it’s up to you to get out there and start taking action.
But it’s also a confidence booster, because you begin to realize that once you decide, there comes a sense of effortlessness; a sense of knowing – that if it isn’t this agent, or this manager or this girlfriend or this boyfriend – that the right person you are meant to line up with (the person who’s really going to get you) is just around the corner. So you stop sweating the small stuff. You stop acting desperate. You stop having attachments. You let go.
So the real work is to become more mindful. Stop drinking the poison just because it’s offered to you by your lazy mind. The contrary thoughts you have about yourself are incompatible with the decision you made for yourself to “just decide.” So, ultimately, there’s no room for the two thoughts to co-exist.
So which do you want to think about. Which gives you more joy? More empowerment? More confidence?
Our creative journeys aren’t just about what you are creating in three-dimensional space. They are really the journeys that take place within our heads.
So next time you hear yourself saying something stupid, tell yourself, “I just decided. And there’s really no room for you too. You gotta go.”
“In my mind, I’ve always been an A-list Hollywood superstar. You just didn’t know yet.” ~ Will Smith
Sometimes you’re going to want to quit.
It’s normal. People feel that way in all walks of life and in all pursuits; from artists to athletes; from mothers to media moguls. If you didn’t feel that way, I’d think you were maybe not normal.
But often, in an artistic career path, we choose to quit not because we aren’t having fun or aren’t being challenged, but because we allow society’s (warped and incorrect) definitions of “success” determine our self-worth and happiness.
But society has it all wrong.
You aren’t creating for millions of dollars. You aren’t creating to have your face on a gigantic billboard. You aren’t creating to have the most famous website or brand.
You’re creating for the pure joy of creating.
(Yes, those other things are fine – and they stroke your ego deliciously – but they are the end-products of creating and ultimately don’t bring happiness.)
But you let society’s standards of “success” poison your joy of your journey. Of honoring who you are and where you are.
If you’re 30 and “haven’t made it,” or “aren’t famous,” or still have “a day job,” you internalize the negative associations derived from a monetary and results-oriented model that says “you’re a failure,” or “untalented.”
And then you turn these untruths on yourself and start feeling resentful. Or angry. Or jealous. Or bitter. And feel like you deserve to be getting “something back.”
But you can’t take on this societal dysfunction. Stop making an artistic process (or any process for that matter) a means to an end.
There is no end to get to.
Start giving back to yourself. You’re never going to get it “back” from society anyway. Because society and its standards are fickle and based on the whims of fads and trends and demographics and sales and popularity polls.
You want more love in your life; give more love. You want more support; give more support. You want more of an adventure; be more adventuresome.
It all starts with you. You want more from this world – go out into the world with more of yourself engaged. Smile more, listen to other people more, look on the upside of things more, laugh more, stop taking everything so seriously, be more generous, be more kind, be more forgiving.
As you do you’ll begin to feel that anything is possible.
And that’s because – in creating – it is.
“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” - Erica Jong
James Cameron said that. And he should know. He made PIRANHA II. Absolute 1981 trash. But if he’d given up after such a dismal failure he would have never created AVATAR. Indeed, his future successes were born out of his early failures.
Fail. That may seem counter to what we’ve all been taught, but only in failing do we ever achieve any sort of growth, understanding, insight, expansion. Within each failure is the seed for future success.
If you look at your life, you will see that every success you’ve had has come from overcoming obstacles and disappointments, falling down and getting up again.
The willingness to fail is the spirit behind every major accomplishment. Because doing things that matter involves great risk. Once you decide that trying something – which includes failing – is better than not trying at all, you begin to see that failure, itself, does not define you. It is actually a construct of the ego, used to keep us from attempting new things. The ego will do whatever it can to keep you looking good. And there’s nothing more crushing to our ego-selves than attempting something and having the experience not measure up to our expectations. But the ego is just one tiny part of who we are.
The greater part of you – the seeker – the part that transcends the ego, desires adventure. It desires risk. It desires stepping into the unknown. It is not concerned at all with the outcome of things. Or how we look. Or keeping us safe. Or comfortable. Or defended. It just wants to create. Powerfully. Non-judgmentally. Fearlessly.
Can you imagine how radically different your life might look if you started to live from that sense of freedom?
Homework: This week – fail at something. Try something that’s hard. Do something in which you could get rejected. Attempt an experience that might humble you. Step beyond your comfort zone. You might notice that if you give up the attachment to the end results (and how you look) — that even if you don’t get what you desire — the act of attempting something is more fulfilling than the outcome anyway.
Why? Because you tried.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss, but that we aim too low and hit the mark.” — Michelangelo