I had to laugh when, after hours of agonizing over this week’s topic, I realized this weekend celebrates my twentieth anniversary of moving to Los Angeles.
My sister and I drove cross country over Valentine’s Day weekend, 1998. We made incredible time, but managed to stop for important stuff. The most important was visiting the Oklahoma bombing site that had happened just a few years prior. There was this tree.
Survivor Tree 1998.
This tree was the only thing left standing at ground zero. It defied logic, yet made so much sense. When I arrived in L.A., I only had theatre credits and two co-star roles – I had neither connections nor representation. I did, however, acclimate very quickly. The weather, the driving – I never owned a car before – and the possibilities! Unlike Chicago, I could meet dozens of casting directors face to face and no one had a preconceived idea of who I was or who I should be. That first year I booked three network TV shows and a national commercial with no agent. It defied logic.
As the years went on, I embraced my newfound freedom by joining a theatre company, teaching improvisation, directing for the stage, performing stand-up – and partying. While I had some successes, I focused more on my “failures”. I began to take on the insecurities of my fellow actors. I saw my early success as a fluke that would never happen again. I worried that my hometown friends and family expected more than I could produce. So between crappy day jobs and theatre rehearsals, I commiserated with others over beer. I had at least four theatrical agents over a dozen years with huge gaps in between, while my acting credits grew increasingly stale. I was also living in a tiny studio that had thin walls and no light.
At the top of It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence asks God, “Is he (George Bailey) in trouble?” God replies, “Worse – he’s discouraged.” That was me, and I felt deserving of nothing. My sister noticed this, and reminded me of my talent for defying logic. So without knowing how I’d pay for it, or what I’d study, I returned to school. Again, I walked through the process with easy, yet laser-like focus. I loved it, and discovered I didn’t have to pay a dime for my Graphic Design degree. My sense of accomplishment returned, my energy came back, and the universe hugged me. I started to book again. Upon graduation, I decided to create my own business, because I was done working crappy day jobs. When I hired a coach to help me, my business began to grow. This time, unfortunately, I took on the insecurities of my then partner and chose not to grow too much. I developed a serious skin condition, and I stopped booking. I spent the next three years putting his needs above mine.As soon as I made the decision to end this long term relationship, the universe welcomed me back with open arms. Where you been, girl? I was happy, hopeful, and younger. My energy was bright and attracted good things. I booked two national commercials and four network TV spots within that first year. I created a living space full of sunlight and peace. Soon I obtained amazing representation in both L.A. and Chicago. I was free from the fear that had been disguised as “good common sense”.
I have always loved living on the edge, not knowing how things will turn out. I love it, because deep in my soul I know everything will always turn out fine. And now I am determined to love my way of living more than others fear it.
“When someone fears losing your affection, he or she will strive to keep it. Perhaps you have strived to keep someone’s affection, too. Fear of loss is not love.” – Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
So you’ve got all of your tools in place. You’ve explored your Brand (I like to use the term, “Essence”), you’ve got your perfect headshots, your reel is up to date, you’re in class, your resume is growing. Congratulations! But there’s something no quite right. There’s this intangible part of the business that seems to open doors for everyone else, but you haven’t quite got it yet. What is that?
An actor friend of mine spoke about his early career mistakes, and it took him awhile to understand the biggest one. He had the looks, confidence and talent, but every time he left his seat in the waiting area to walk into the audition room, he said he left his soul in that seat. He didn’t know why, but he chose to leave the most authentic part of himself outside the door. Perhaps, he thought, no one wanted to see that? He thought professionalism was the ability to compartmentalize. In his mind, “Leave your sh&t outside the door” also meant “Leave your self outside the door”. He paid the price for hiding his best parts.
When I was in my twenties I knew that it was the time for making mistakes. I loved turning thirty, because I knew I was done making mistakes. Boy, was I in for a big surprise! As my mistakes continued, I mistook that for not being good enough. Thus began my downward spiral of contorting myself into a more “palatable” me. I played small and stayed safe. While my peers’ careers got sidetracked by starting families or dealing with serious life issues, my career got sidetracked by my lack of self worth.
Life immediately changes when we relax into who we are. When we relax into our own skins we no longer need to prove anything. The adolescent cry, “You don’t know me!” morphs into the quiet knowing that it’s perfectly OK if most people don’t get me. The most attractive people we know are those who know there is nothing to prove. And when we can enter the room with our whole self – free of the need to book the job and free of outside approval – doors will open.
BRING YOUR OPINIONS/QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS TOPIC TO MY TUESDAY FACEBOOK LIVE, 12PM PST
Every day news networks lead with shocking headlines solely to increase their ratings. To quote playwright, Adam Langer, “You never hear anyone say, ‘that’s too awful to be true.’ No matter how awful it is, you can believe it, why not no matter how good?” (Vivian in Film Flam)
Some may say that seeing the awful is facing reality. That in order to be safe, we must dutifully arm ourselves with worst case scenarios so as not to fall victim. We must watch the news, binge on real murder stories, click on depressing reports about our health care system and the environment – this keeps us ahead of the game! Beware hopeful stories, for they must be treated with suspicion. We must be careful not to have too much hope or else others will call us naive.
Our reality is based on what we believe. I like to play Black Jack, but I never win, because I have a hang-up about gambling. On the other hand, I believe so strongly in my body’s immune system that I’ve never had the flu even though I’ve never had a flu shot. Our beliefs are strengthened by what we choose to focus on. Good news – we can consciously shift our focus as soon as we are triggered by negative comments or disturbing stories. There is always good to be witnessed, and science shows it makes us healthier. Every horrible headline can be countered with something good. This is one of my favorites from last week: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/montana-governor-signs-executive-order-keep-net-neutrality-state/
Focus on the Good
You’re probably already seeing the connection between this and your career. I’ve encountered some crappy people and situations throughout the years, but the moment I no longer allowed them to predict my future, obstacles disappeared. Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
As I write this, I am between my fifth and sixth day of doing the Master Cleanse. For those
Ingredients for the Master Cleanse
unfamiliar, it is a fasting ritual that cleans the colon and other major organs over the course of several days. Each morning begins with a saltwater flush (good times!) and every evening ends with a cup of herbal laxative tea. Nothing – absolutely nothing – is eaten the entire time. A homemade organic lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper gives the body all the nutrients it needs. Sound crazy?
Call me crazy. I don’t write this to demonstrate how “disciplined” I am, nor to convince anybody to follow suit. I’m simply using this as an example of how others may see discipline. Throughout my life, friends have commented on how disciplined I am, but I’ve seen myself as quite the opposite. Until I discovered what discipline really means.
The root of the word is disciple. And what is a disciple? Someone who simply follows what he loves. Well now, that makes sense! Every “admirable” act of discipline I’ve ever executed – riding my bike over 500 miles in the AidsRide2, sticking with acting for over 30 years, doing the Master Cleanse – has always been about following what I love. Well, maybe the Master Cleanse in and of itself isn’t what I love (can I have some papas y cerveza, please?), but rather it is a means to what I love. I love renewing my digestive system, feeling energetic, light, and sharp. I love the vision of myself never having to be on medication. As author Michael Neill, puts it “Discipline is remembering what you want”.
And that’s it. What is it that you want? Really, really want?
Remember it, and discipline becomes a labor of love.
When I first moved to Los Angeles from Chicago, I had no plan, no agent, nor any connections. Within the year, I booked three major network co-stars and a national commercial. I tend to “jump off the edge” so to speak, exhilarated to see what happens next. Hence my love for improv.
There’s a difference between investing in preparation/education and going all in. For instance, back in 2003, I delivered a Carmen Miranda impersonation
for my theatre company’s fundraiser, and it brought down the house. I had the movements, the music, the voice and the outfit – none of which I had the month prior. A veteran company member stared at me backstage and softly said, “I bet you put 110% into everything you do.”
Make no mistake – this had nothing to do with working hard. It may look like I work hard, but at it’s core, it’s always been about me going all in. There’s nothing more fulfilling that going fully in. Even at junior high dances, my sisters and I were the only kids who actually dressed up – making it a real event – and danced every dance.
My career coach has a saying: “Part-time actors produce part-time results.” In 2015, I was years into a dry spell that left me financially dependent on my boyfriend, and sadly, the relationship was no longer working. Not knowing where I was going to live or how I was going to support myself, I ended the relationship. I hired a coach. I fully committed to my career, and showed up to the world in a way I hadn’t before. In eighteen months, I added five more network credits, two national commercials, and signed with a better agent.
If we circle around in our heads, trying to figure out the “how to’s” of this and that, we create obstacles that weren’t even there before. Nowadays, everyone is trying to sell us the “Top 10 Secrets of How To – (fill in the blank)”. We know people who collect these “secrets”, who have a personal library filled with “how to” instruction manuals, but it doesn’t bring them any closer to their goal. The truth? Solutions appear when we go all in.
When I returned to college (for the second time), I didn’t know how to pay for it, how to fit in with classmates 20 years my junior, nor how to use my new degree. I threw myself completely into academia, loving every minute of it. During my second year, I (coincidentally?) booked several commercials which paid for my fees, new computers, and design software.
The Greek Theatre
Who could have predicted that I would give the graduation speech as class valedictorian, and that my graphic design degree would lead me to start my own business? I went all in, and the world laid itself at my feet.
This marketing thing can (suck) be overwhelming. There’s so much to consider: what to say, who to send it to, is this the right photo? Five years ago, I made a video called “Why Actors Want to Send out Postcards”.
In it, I talk about outside reasons/ business reasons why to send postcards, and it still holds up.
What I want to talk about now is the point of the connection. Whaaaat?
With every marketing piece, drop off, or phone call there is a point of connection. That moment when you’re talking to another human being – in person, on the phone or via mail. This can be the biggest block for most of us. Too often we put the kibosh on taking action because we are so in our head about how the other person is going to perceive our outreach. The easiest way to solve that problem is to see the purpose of your action.
Sherlock used her Halloween card as an ice-breaker for her drop-offs.
“Following Doreen ‘s advice to meet CD’s in person was rewarding.
As it was before the Thanksgiving Holiday it gave me the idea to go in, drop off a little nosh and say Thank you. I had a purpose. NOT to ask to get cast or to be called in, but the sole purpose of thanking them (regardless of how long ago they called me in or if at all) I just wanted to thank them. I even got weepy with one as it hit me that I have a pension and it started with this one CD with whom I booked the biggest job of my life. It was an “us” moment. We did it together. I actually had fun because I like to thank and acknowledge those with whom I had/have/or wish to have a working relationship. I wouldn’t have done this on my own without Doreen’s support.” ~ Sherlock Ganz, Actor
Be clear. Have a purpose. Dropping off to casting directors because they’re on your list is not good enough. Mailing a warm letter to a show creator because you truly appreciate their work is exactly enough. You get the idea.
So focus on the point of connection. Visualize that moment when someone reads your card, answers your call, or sees you in front of them. What is the real message you want to give? Now plan the perfect action that will create that!
Tune in to FACEBOOK LIVE every Tuesday 12pm PST! You can participate in the discussion and ask questions on this or any other topic! So don’t wait until the last minute. Get on my Facebook page, “Like it”, and set your calendar alert!
I think it was in college when I fully embraced the busy lifestyle. I went to a theater conservatory, held a full-time schedule, had nightly rehearsals, and hostessed on the weekends. I loved it – the ever changing rotation of shows, schedules, and jobs fueled me. I continued this pattern after college as I pounded the pavement creating a career in Chicago theater. Explaining my artist’s path was exhausting, so it was easier to prove myself with projects. I kept doing and doing and doing, and saw my results as markers of my worth in the entertainment field. I was so focused on results that I never stopped long enough to see why I was doing what I was doing.
I believe, the 17th century philosopher, Blaise Paskal, said it best: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Today, when I sit in silence (a practice, practice, practice), I am able to sense what is important and what is not. I am able to sense that my True Self can never be validated by results and outside recognition. That while advertisements insist that “more is better”, I understand that the differences I make in the world – no matter how small – are enough. I understand all of this, because silence reminds me of why I do what I do. So when I first speak with a potential client, I simply listen. Inevitably, they call me to find out how they can solve a problem. The truth is, even if I tell them the “how”, they will never follow through until they know the “why”. So I ask, “Why do you want to do XYZ?” – and this is where the silence begins.
They say (“they”?) that our minds have on average sixty thousand thoughts a day. There’s nothing wrong with thought. I love thought (I love algebra for cryin’ out loud). Goals, dreams and problem solving tend to emerge from thought. But I believe that vision, self-compassion, and solutions are born in silence.
If you’ve never seen the holiday film, A Christmas Story, I apologize for all of the references here. (Seriously, you’ve never seen A Christmas Story?)
During my recent participation in a business webinar, I botched an opportunity to talk with one of my favorite authors. I love this woman – I’d been listening to her for 7 years – her business and life coaching always gave me something meaty to chew on. (High praise from a vegetarian.) Since my business flow had become stagnant, I felt I needed help. They opened the phone line for questions. I didn’t really have a question, so much as I wanted to talk with her. I thought it’d be kinda cool. Like “touching a rock star”, ya know? I had it all planned out: I’d listen to her other callers first, and formulate my question based in theirs in time for my turn. But I ended up getting through. The screener immediately asked for my name and my question, which I didn’t have. Really – I didn’t think I’d get through! Suddenly, I was about to be “face to face” with my hero, but I never really expected that. This is where I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he finally gets to sit on Santa’s lap: Put on the spot, I squeezed a lame business question out of my butt. Something about overcoming overwhelm in a sea of competition? What? Whatever – I thought I could reformulate it into a better question before they got to me, right? Not a chance, because not only did I get through, I was also the very first caller! Before I could think, “What was I thinking”, I was on the phone with this world-renowned, life/business coach. When she asked me for my question I, like Ralphie, blurted out the equivalent of “football”. She snatched that up like a single woman diving for a wedding bouquet. This was her cue to launch into old advice I’d heard her give at least a dozen times before. I mean, I was such a big fan that I knew virtually all of her tips. As she went on about something completely irrelevant to me, I felt myself desperately trying to climb back up the “slide”, in an attempt to rephrase my question. All I heard was “blah blah blah” until she finally asked, “Is that true?” No it’s not!! You got it all wrong! is what I wanted to scream, but it was now too late to defend or explain my true situation – the boot had touched my forehead. I simply replied, “If that’s what you hear from my voice, then it must be true.” Not what she wanted to hear, which prompted her to move on to the next caller. My mic got cut off, and down the slide I went. From somewhere in the “cotton pit”, I heard her say to her partner, “Well, I’m not a mind reader!”
I felt gypped. I felt like I had finally gotten my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring and all I got was a lousy commercial! She gave me old advice. It was a template – cookie-cutter – advice. I was sooo angry and frustrated . . . and embarrassed. I knew it was the wrong advice; it was so clearly the wrong advice – based on the wrong question! So I started to think, well what did I want her to say? What I wanted her to tell me was . . . Wait! This is when I realized that I knew all along what the right advice was. OMG – It wasn’t a matter of me needing her or any other expert’s opinion. It was a matter of me just doing what I needed to do! The hard truth: without accountability or support, I had cycled into over thinking, fear and procrastination. This “Doh!” moment propelled me into action. I immediately dug out a list of objectives I had begun in January and began with my most difficult task: reaching out to people I didn’t know. Scary.
A month later, I still know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m committed. I’ve been told that real progress – more often than not – is made with just ten seconds of outrageous courage. Not only do I believe it – I know it.
Get out of your head and you will have access to infinite possibilities. How many times have we been told, “Get out of your head”? The problem is the harder we try to do that, the more we stay in it. When our minds are occupied by thoughts of trying Summer to think ahead or trying to find the joke/game or what furthers the plot, we are no longer open to every possibility. So what to do? Get out of your head and get into . . . the now. You might ask: But if I get out of my amazing memory of impressive facts, how can I wow the audience with quick wit and pop culture trivia? Or, how can I make the scenes relevant without implementing current events and philosophical references? Personally, I hate when wholesale jerseys a stage gets littered with wholesale nba jerseys “clever clutter”. It’s a guaranteed sign that the actors don’t trust the scene. The 13th century poet and mystic, Rumi, said, “Sell your wholesale nba jerseys cleverness and buy bewilderment.” Observe the artist who successfully suspends their rational, linear mind and is moves ‘into the zone’. It’s when your thinking mind lures you out of the zone – out of the “now” –that you resort to the clutter. Be present. Look at your partner. Mini Look at them gastronomía entirely. Really look at them. (Or really feel them.) When you get into the present, your mind stops, wholesale nfl jerseys and everything that is important rises to the surface. Compare the hyperactive dispensing of cleverisms to a string quartet where the musicians are banging on their instruments. If the “chatter” is noisy, then no one will notice the subtle pluck of the perfectly tuned viola. That subtle pluck could be Moses, what takes you to the next level of relationship and cheap jerseys scenic progression. That subtle pluck was probably the heart of the scene. If you’d rather make a joke, then that subtle pluck will never be heard.