Man Plans, God Laughs.

“Well, given the current situation we can’t plan anything anymore!” How often have you heard that these days? We can’t seem to move forward unless we have a set of givens. For the first time ever, we’re experiencing our lives with no certainty and no predictability.
 
Or are we?
 
This pandemic has reminded us that life isn’t predictable. Turns out, the only things we ever planned for were the things we were pretty sure about. Now that the important things are coming to the forefront, we see the true nature of life… is unpredictable.
Man planning with markers on wall.
Let’s look at goals and plans. The first is a vision, an aspiration, or a great desire, while the second is a “how to” strategy. Plans, while helpful in some areas (construction, engineering, creating systems), are completely useless when it comes to a vision. Once we know where we want to be or what we want to do/have, we can choose to either be open to infinite possibilities, or we can stick to one, rigid plan. Take notice of how many times something wonderful happened when we barely lifted a finger. When I decided to move to L.A. 22 years ago, I had no plan. When I arrived, I simply followed what was in front of me until I had booked three network TV gigs and a national commercial within my first year. And I had planned nothing.
 
When business started to shut down in March, I noticed how fearful people had become. As time progressed I noticed the urgent attempts to locate “reliable predictions”. People wanted to know what was going to happen and when it was going to happen so they could relax and move on with their lives. But it’s the other way around, really. Fear breeds the need to control. It’s opposite is surrender. When we relax into our world instead of trying to control it, only then can we move on with our lives. We can choose to plan every moment of our lives, or we can surrender to every moment in order to live.

Defy Logic or Die

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.

Survivor Tree, 2011.

I Know Why You’re Not Marketing

“The key to happiness is not to make yourself into a different person; it is to let yourself be even more of who you really are.” – Dr. Robert Holden

I work all day with actors who are stuck when it comes to their marketing. They are sincerely puzzled as to why they never get around to it. Some reasons they give are: “I don’t want to brag”, or “I don’t think it will do any good”. But I know it’s something more.

The biggest reason why we’re not doing our marketing is because we are stuck in the futile effort of trying to second guess what “they” want. To remedy this, we attend branding workshops where they hand out lists of adjectives for fellow attendees to label us. We listen so intently to what others are saying that we start to believe them. Yes, you’re right – I AM the Latina single mother who has a secret! We push to come up with something cast-able, so we settle on a brand that is not quite us. Our materials smack of subservience, pleading to be called in. As a young actor in Chicago, I was told that I would get more work if I wrapped myself in my Latin heritage. Speak the language, look the part. This confused me. I wondered how I was supposed to do that? I grew up in a Lithuanian neighborhood, my family never spoke Spanish, and I have no hips!

What we really want to say is, “This is me – take it or leave it!”

We admire people who unapologetically march to their own drummer. They are truly the most successful. So how do we find our drummer? Pay attention to the details. When we see the connection between the roles we most want to play and the ones we’re usually called in for, we begin to hear that drum. When we identify that “thing” we bring to every role, the drum gets louder. When we observe how uniquely we navigate life, we bear witness to our authenticity.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this is not just about marketing. It’s about life. If we’re bending over backwards to be more palatable to someone, or if we’re hiding parts of ourselves to fit into a group, we’re not living fully. Be authentic. Be happy.

David Bowie

I’m Not Disciplined. Or am I?

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.

Preparing vs Going “All In”

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.

Is Holistic Marketing Effective?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this term before – holistic marketing –  but it fits for me. When I work with actors on their marketing I find that they have a very limited view of it. Most likely, they’ve attended a seminar or webinar bombarding them with lists of things that they MUST DO NOW! Perhaps they’ve listened to a panel of “experts” who more than likely competed with their fellow panelists over who had the best answers. Holistic Marketing is exactly what it sounds like – considering the entire artist. I believe that the best answer always lies within each person. No expert can tell you what is best for you. My job is to shine a light on the artist’s own inner wisdom. I never tell anyone what they must do.

Considering the entire artist involves three areas for me: ACTION, SUPPORT AND PRODUCT.  As I mentioned in my recent interview (start 44:56), actors can go anywhere for postcards and mailing services, but they’re not going to get one-on-one guidance providing them with the next best actions. A printer will hand you your postcard order and wish you good luck. They won’t advise you on address lists and schedules. They can’t tell you which photo or message best communicates your essence. Younger actors tend to lioverwhelm-stacksmit themselves to on-line marketing, while older actors stick to snail mail. And neither group makes strong efforts towards in-person meetings. When an actor is left alone to make marketing decisions, the overwhelm often leads to no decision.

It doesn’t make sense that once we finish our courses or get our theater degrees, we’re pushed out the door with a “good luck”. As a matter of fact, it’s borderline cruel. Even if we’ve had early successes, there comes a time where we need to re-energize our marketing plan. And I’ve found a way to do it.  I’ve come up with a quick, painless easy program that is completely holistic and covers all three areas of action, support and product. The four week SMART Action Path Program meets on Mondays over the phone with a small group of like minded folks, provides next best actions for the week, and propels you toward your ultimate goal (whatever that may be) with a concrete marketing piece. I am so proud of of this program, and would like you to consider gifting it to yourself before the holidays derail your best laid plans.

So . . . what do YOU do?

I went solo to the theater last week. Going solo is easy at a movie theater, but not for L.A. stage productions where everyone is checking each other out in the bright lights of the lobby, trying to figure out how they might know you, or looking for someone semi-famous to show up. theatre_audience I took my seat next to a young man and his wife. We were introduced by a third party who immediately walked away. (Probably to see if anyone “important” had shown up.) I was curious, and asked questions like “How do you know so-and-so?” and “What kinds of projects did you two work on?” I really didn’t know too much about his end of the business, so I couldn’t contribute much more than questions, and inevitably the conversation began to wind down. Then – with one of the most obligatory tones I had ever heard – he said, “So what do you do?” I hate this question in general, but his blatant I’m-just-asking-to-be-polite tone made me hate it even more. I suddenly beganmouth blathering about my business to which he reacted with the “eye glaze”. I tried to save the conversation by adding something more familiar, like ” . . . and I’m an actor.” That was his cue to ask me what time it was, because he “needed to check on something”. He left me alone with his wife who, thankfully, was much more pleasant.

It drives me nuts when I forget to do what I encourage my clients to do: Share your enthusiasm with others. It’s the one, immediate thing you can do to market yourself that requires no money or materials.  If I had chosen not to let this guy’s tone affect my energy, I could have shared my love of working on actors’ self-promo and how rewarding it is to see them light up with inspiration. Instead, I came off apologetic (the ultimate sin!) and reduced my business to nothing more than “marketing”. As an actor, I could have mentioned I was there to support a fellow actress while exploring new plays – instead I proclaimed my profession with about as much enthusiasm as if I were announcing my credit card debt.

I know better, right? And so do you. Have you ever found yourself talking about a project apologetically? If you know that there’s just got to be a bFind-Your-Voice-298x300etter way to marketing, then come join me in November’s SMART Action Path Program. It’s four weeks to finding your marketing voice that will catapult you into the New Year with fresh marketing materials. You will discover what holistic marketing is, just how enjoyable self-promo can be! Sign up by October 30th, because it starts Monday, November 3, 2014.

YOU’LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT, KID

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! christmas-Ralphie_santa 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.ChristmasStory_boot 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.

How to Dodge the Flying Sh*t

slippery-slope-3One year ago, the beginning of my downward spiral began. On September 11th, my boyfriend’s father called to say he didn’t have long to live. I drove my boyfriend to the airport, supporting him with strength and optimism. I thought he’d be back in two weeks. Instead, he spent four months tending to his dad’s declining health. From September to January, I drove back and forth from my place to his – over the hill and back – to forward his mail and personal items, water his (now dead) plants, and care for his cat. Kitty’s renal failure required special care. As bad timing would have it, I began to suffer from painful facial eczema that greatly affected my quality of life. My strength and optimism were beginning to wane. Just before Thanksgiving, my computer died. With all my running around I had no time to see friends. I was quite alone, and started to feel it. We decided it was best if I moved in to his place. I felt a sense of relief, but now I was looking at having to purge thirteen years of my lifePallBearers. On New Infinite Year’s Eve, I gave my thirty days’ notice, and on January 3rd, my opératoire boyfriend’s father died. I had my phone turned off when he tried to call me. Epic Fail.

I jumped on a plane to help with his dad’s funeral, but didn’t expect to help with his mom as well. Dementia was setting in, and now her son had a new reason to stay even longer. Back in L.A., I had to either sell or give away most of my belongings before I could I’m move. It wasn’t until March when I felt I could finally catch up with my business and my life. (Really, there is no “catching up”).

Now six months had passed, and my savings were drained. Commercial auditions were unusually scarce, and theater jobs trickled. I still suffered from the eczema, buGetting to know yout could no longer afford a doctor. In May, Kitty was diagnosed with cancer and needed even more care. In June, my theatrical agent went out of business, I had a terrible falling out with a friend, and my dentist informed me that I needed a $1000 crown. July was a very dark month. Then on August on 29th – in the vein of “wfronthat else could go wrong?” –  my parked car was totaled by a reckless driver.

Don’t’ ask me if I can see that “everything happens for a reason”. That’s such a question to occupy the mind, not the heart. Here is what a my heart awakened to: Every terrible thing I experienced gave me something concrete to fix/solve, and wholesale mlb jerseys every single time, it revealed itself as a distraction. Everything distracted me from working on my art and on my business. This is not to say that I place no cheap jerseys importance on these outside events. I very much site do. What they’ve brought to my attention, however, is my willingness to put my art and my business aside in favor of them. There are no clear outcomes, no guaranteed results in creative endeavors. To do the work for the sake of doing the work is “poo-pooed” in our culture – How can you enjoy (fill in the blank) when (fill in the blank) has happened? Are you making money at it? wholesale nba jerseys Are you forwarding your career? These questions are nothing but excuses for not showing up to the canvas. couch_potatoDuring hard times, it is more acceptable to self medicate in front of the TV than it is to expand ourselves. What we cheap jerseys must see is that exercising our talents – with no societal agenda or audience approval –  is how we feel better, feel joy, and reap the rewards.

What is that thing you’ve been yearning to do that will expand your talents and put a smile on your face? doingMakeUpAre you too busy checking off your to-do list to get down to the real work? Are you doing the work, but repeatedly coming up for air to see if someone is clapping? Thicke Expanding our talents is what we are meant to do. It is not selfish. It is mandatory, and it gets us through the hard times.