Batting Averages

Statistics are funny things.  I worked in sales for many years and one thing I learned for sure is, you can make numbers tell any story you want.  With enough perspective and your bull-o-meter on full blast, you can spin silk from twine.  Some people are under the mistaken belief that numbers are concrete and absolute.  Not so fast.  As we’ve seen recently from the woe-is-me-please-bail-us-out financial industry who then paid themselves multimillion dollar bonuses (is my opinion coming through here?!), there’s no such thing as a concrete number.  It’s like nailing jello to a wall.

As manipulable as numbers can be, sometimes it’s the only way we can measure progress or success.  Athletes use numbers all the time to evaluate their performance.  Tackles, shots on goal, greens in regulation, field goals, batting averages.  Most of these statistics deal with attempts to score.  More attempts usually mean more success.  But first you have to make the attempt.

I’ve been trying to write daily in this blog but have had mixed results.  I just figured out my percentage of days written versus overall days.  I’m at 29.4% for the year.  Not so good if you ask me.  Especially when I get daily updates from several blogs I subscribe to.  Not good at all.  I could go back and add postings to days gone by to beef up my stats but I’m choosing not to.  That’s not how I want to be held accountable.  I’m only accountable to myself but nonetheless I’m choosing to not go back.  That’s not the way I roll these days.  But I’m not really happy with my percentages.  And figuring out how I’m pacing is a good way to reinforce my goals of daily posting.  I won’t be able to achieve 100% this year, but I’m now more focused on increasing that percentage to a higher number.  Maybe if I get my percentages up high enough, the Cubs could use me!

Inertia

I’ll admit it.  I’m lazy.  I would rather stay in bed or on the couch all day.  I hate that I have to exercise to get healthy and feel good.  I want my hair to look perfect everyday with no effort at all.  And I would trade my right arm for the ability to beam myself from one place to another, or at least Samantha Stevens nose wrinkle myself to another place with perfection.  Alas, this is not to be.  But I fight the inertia urge every single day.  On some days, it’s every single moment of the day.  It is all I can do to virtually and physically put one foot in front of the other to continue the minute forward progress I try to achieve with each day.  Especially when I’m not getting feedback on what I’m putting out there.  That’s the funny thing about auditioning.  You just put it out to the universe, either on video or audio tape, and you just let it go.  You’ll rarely if ever get any feedback on how you did.  Unless of course you are hired.  That’s always interesting to explain to “civilians”.  They always eagerly ask about how it’s going and what I’ve done recently.  I’ll usually mention the latest thing I auditioned for which is followed up by their well meaning “when are you going to hear back about it?”  That’s the rub.  I won’t hear about it.  I’ll know when the recording date passes and I’ve not been contacted.

So I keep plugging along, in a Sisyphean manner, rolling my rock up the hill every day.  He did it without hope of ever reaching the top, a punishment for his egotistical belief that he was smarter than Zeus.  I do have hope of reaching the top one day but in the meantime, I must roll my big boulder of inertia off before I can start forward.  Ah…to be able to say “Beam me up Scotty”.

Millionaire Decisions

I’m pretty sure I’m probably the only person old enough to remember this but in the late 70’s-early 80’s when women were entering the workforce in droves, an entire cottage industry sprung up advising them how to look and be successful in this new endeavor.  And since this was new territory for women, they had no role models to look to for guidance.  The only examples available were men who dressed in suits and ties. Before long, there were entire battalions of women in blue suits, white shirts and floppy ties around our necks.  My first interview suit was much like this only it was brown and the shirt was a high-necked plaid one.  By then, women were breaking loose a bit from the IBM mold.  Wow, what creativity I showed!  All kidding aside, the overwhelming credo was to dress and act for the job you want, not the job you had.  So if you wanted to be an Executive Vice President at a bank, you dressed the way they did.  You made decisions they way they did.  You comported yourself the way they did.  That way people didn’t see you as you are currently but how you would be several jobs down the road.  And they felt confident in rewarding you with a promotion that you would be able to do the job and not embarrass them for promoting you.

Fortunately for me, those arcane dress codes have fallen by the wayside.  I still have a few suits but the last few years of my life, I dressed pretty casually and creatively.  I was starting to dress for the job I wanted, which was as a full time actress, and not as a Sales Manager anymore.  I was also starting evaluate and make decisions from the perspective of a full time actress and not as a Sales Manager.  This evolved recently into the next step in my decision making although I didn’t identify it at the time.  I began to weigh opportunities that were coming my way against the direction I wanted my career to go.  I was given a chance to audition for one of the top theatres in Chicago but as an understudy.  I decided even before I went in that I wasn’t interested in being seen as an understudy, that I would audition for them when an opportunity came up for a principal role.  I didn’t want an understudy career.  I also came to the decision that I was not going to do any more extra work.  I’d done 2 stints in the past, the Break-Up and Flags of Our Fathers (which got me on screen front and center at 45 minutes-Mom timed it-and made my parents faces light up when they saw me) but I learned what I needed to from those stints and didn’t see the purpose in doing more of them.  I felt the same way about doing plays for free.  You can work every night of the week in this town for free but what does it get you if you are interested in a film career?

A newsletter I get from acting career coach Dallas Travers coalesced all these beliefs into a philosophy I’m adopting as my own.  She says she’s not a millionaire yet but she makes decisions as if she is.  I’m not an Oscar winning actress yet, but I’m making decisions and evaluating opportunities as if I am.  Reading scripts before saying yes to a role.  Doing my work so I’m prepared when called to audition.  Taking care of myself as I am the product.  Targeting the job I want, not the job I have.  Things really haven’t changed in 25 years.

Bearing witness

Have you ever seen those interviews where the actor or actress, in answer to the question “What do you think about your performances?” and they reply, “Oh I never watch myself.  I can’t stand to see myself on screen”.  I can’t understand this.  Why would they expect someone to watch them if they couldn’t watch themselves?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Of course being the vain creature that I am, I love watching myself on screen.  I do pick apart every single flaw in the minutest detail but I get a big grin on my face when I see my mug up there.

Performing in workshops has never been an issue for me either.  For some reason, in my noggin, everyone who is there is on the same level as I am.  We are all there to work and learn.  No one is there to judge and no one person is better than the next.  We are at varying points in our career with the ensuing levels of success but this is irrelevant to me.  The fact that I paid the same as everyone else means my needs, goals and expectations are as important as everyone else’s.  This always makes me shake my head a bit as I’ve been in the room with some pretty successful talent that would make it easy to downplay myself.

What I can relate to is the pressure I feel when I am performing in front of someone I know and who’s opinion I care about.  Since I haven’t been on stage in a while, I’d forgotten about this feeling but it came to light the other day and surprised me quite a bit.  I was working with a friend on a joint voiceover project and all of the sudden I was in my head thinking all kinds of screwy thoughts.  I didn’t want him to listen to me.  Now how silly is that?  I think it was because I was voicing and I’m not the most confident about my abilities in this field.  But I need to get over it.  As the author Jessamyn West said, “It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes.  It takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own.”

Parking lots

I ran across a quote the other day, which really resonated with me.  The author Harriet Mears said, “It’s difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving.”  It made me think about how I was approaching my work and how diligent I’d been.  I have to admit I wasn’t the most disciplined in my undertakings and if I was being kind to myself, had to also admit I had much room for improvement.  So I started asking at the end of each day, “what have to done today to earn money?”  At first I didn’t use the word money, but instead said, “…earn something”.   But then I realized this wasn’t specific enough.  If I wasn’t more specific I could earn respect or points or karma.  All worthy in-and-of-themselves.  But the yardstick we often measure our success by is a financial one and since the bank does like to have its mortgage paid on time with a check that will clear, this is the yardstick I am using for the moment.

A funny thing started happening.  I goofed off less, wasted less time reading email or online following bunny trails going nowhere or on message boards doing the virtual water cooler thingy.  I started holding myself more accountable.  I have an accountability person I report to weekly but sometimes I view this in a screwy way.  Like my friend, who is so kind to be there for me, is a parent or a teacher whom I have to report to.  And I’ve really never been good with those in authority.  I have the unsatifactories on the report cards to prove it.  Anywho, because I shifted the responsibility to someone else, I wasn’t holding myself accountable.  I wasn’t buying into my own progress and eventual success.  Now how screwy is that?  But by simply asking myself a simple 8 word question, I got my a—-er, car, out of park and started moving forward.  And I started making some progress.  It’s miniscule at the moment, but the ground is starting to feel a bit more solid underneath.

Slow as molasses

When you are single and living in a big city with no immediate family around, you surround yourself with friends who become your support system.  They become your emergency contacts, your rides to the airport, your go-tos when something breaks down.  I was a go-to recently for a friend who’d had a pipe freeze over the winter, which then proceeded to burst as she was leaving town on business.  Nice.  Try finding a reputable plumber from several time zones away.  She finally did and got the leak fixed but then had to deal with repairing the lovely hammered holes the first of 3 guys had made.  This is where I come in.  I met the drywaller at the house late one morning after talking to him on the phone confirming the time.  He assured me it would only take an hour to do the first part of it but he would have to come back to put the second coat of joint compound and paint the wall.  3 hours later he was still on first part of this process and I was panicking about being away from my office for so long.  My friend, on yet another business trip, was furious at how long this was taking out of my day.  Hey, I’ve done plenty of construction.  I remember thinking something was going to be an hour job and it took me all weekend long to complete.  But this guy supposedly does this for a living.  And don’t the home improvement shows get it all done in a ½ an hour?

Therein lies the rub.  First of all, I believed the guy when he gave me the time estimate.  I should know better.  Secondly, I realized I totally bought into the magic of the DIY shows that move heaven and earth in 24, sometimes 51, minutes.  Stuff needs to dry, measurements take time if done right, surprises happen.  Things that no amount of planning can anticipate.

Hmmm.  Now what does this sound like?  Seems like I’ve been running my career on the TV DIY schedule.  Expecting it all to happen instantaneously.  Getting not just ticked off but downright depressed when it didn’t.  You know, my Mom makes an incredible spaghetti sauce that simmers and bubbles on the stove all day long.  My Dad used to snitch out of it endlessly, leaving a trail of sauce all over the countertop.  A high compliment indeed.  I think I’ll have a career like her gravy instead of the Ragu career I’ve been expecting.

First time for everything

With every new venture we undertake in life, we learn new things.  And as our proficiency grows, we add new skills and new accomplishments.  As our competency grows, the confidence we gain allows us to push ourselves even further.  We hike a more challenging trail, tackle a plumbing problem, ski a black diamond trail.  Our first attempts at these loftier levels are pretty shaky at first but as we continue to push forward, our footing becomes firmer, more directed.  As the muscle starts to remember what we did before, the task becomes less conscious, more organic.

But you have to take the first step.  I did that recently.  I was given the opportunity to audition for a pilot for a comedy that is being put together out of Michigan.  It was my first pilot audition, heck my first television audition.  The script was pretty straightforward but because it was a comedy, the words were written very specifically so the comedy came out the way the writer wanted it to.  I have a not-so-good tendency to paraphrase and make things my own which doesn’t serve the script very well.  So it had to be memorized very specifically.  I had an idea of the character as I saw her but since I didn’t have the full script, I had to take some liberties.  I didn’t really know how to break down the script so I wisely hired a coach to help me accomplish that.  Which is what I would do if I were trying to tackle a mogul field, I hire a ski instructor.  We spent an hour going over things and practicing.  Interpreting the sentences, finding the funny behind the obvious.  It was recorded so I could go back and review my progress.

I have no idea how I did.  I don’t even know what they were looking for as the information provided was somewhat sketchy.  But I felt good afterwards.  Happy that I’d invested the time and money to work with someone so I felt confident when the camera started rolling. Plus it was a lot of fun.  On top of that, I learned some good habits that I will call upon for future television auditions.  You have to start somewhere.  Just make sure you don’t blindly step in, give yourself a chance to succeed.

Finding Your Pace

It’s actually spring here in Chicago.  Surprisingly we are having the type of weather one would normally associate with spring.  We usually don’t get any sort of moderation, we go from winter wools to sundresses in about 4 days time.  But this year has been a lovely aberration.  So I’m back out hitting the pavement trying to get a run/walk in every day.  I’ve been trying to get my stamina and endurance up for quite some time and have been having very little luck.  I can walk to the end of the earth but if you ask me to run, it’s like a slow motion train wreck as everything starts to fall apart one piece at a time.  Pretty soon I’m back to just walking, albeit at a brisk 4.5 mph pace.  I listen to my bottomless iPod when I’m out to keep me engaged and on pace.  There’s a mix of songs from the 80’s that are fun to walk fast to.  Today I went deeper into my song selection and stumbled upon a run of power ballads from the early 80’s.  You  know the type of song, headbangers crooning their unrequited love while the lead guitar cries along and the drum bangs out the broken heartbeats.  Good times.  At first I skipped past a song thinking it was too slow but then I had an aha moment.  What if I used this slower beat to pace my run?  Eureka!  It worked!  It wasn’t pretty but I was able to run about 30% of the way around my usual route.  My IT band didn’t get all tied up.  I didn’t run out of breath.  I felt like I was paint drying I was moving so slow but I was able to string together many intervals of running and walking.  And I was still able to do this even towards the end of my route.  I think I might be on to something.  My problem is I walk so fast that in order to feel as if I was doing anything different, I really stepped up my pace but I was in no shape to be able to sustain that pace.

The funny thing is, slowing down is something I’ve been trying to do with my voiceover and acting.  I have a tendency to talk really fast when working both of these crafts and that hasn’t served me well at all.  Perhaps I’m finding a theme here, that I should slow down and smell the roses.  Be more turtle-less hare.  I think I’ll make a new playlist on my iPod dedicated to power ballads.  Who knew about the wondrous powers of these types of songs?

On Green Jackets and such

Last weekend was the Masters Golf tournament.  I’m a big fan of the event.  Not only did I watch it on CBS and ESPN, but I watched it on Masters.com before the on air coverage started.  Yes I’m one of those people.  I actually like watching golf.  It’s a side effect of growing up in a household of golfers, we all play in some form or another.  It’s something that links us together inextricably.  My Dad taught my Mom, he’d learned it from his Dad, and she got so good she regularly whipped his butt.  They in turn taught us.  Now my brother is teaching his kids and his wife is taking golf lessons.  It’s cool to see that chain continue.

Anywho, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the event several times.  My Mom has passes that are hers through her lifetime.  That’s how they work, you get to keep them as long as you are alive.  You can pass them to a spouse but not to a child.  They have to be returned to the pool then.  I joke to my Mom that she’s bought herself a few more years of life support with those passes-“yes Mrs. Tierney will be attending the Masters this year”.  For me, going there is a really special treat.  Not seeing the golfers, you can see them at tournaments all over the place, including here.   The specialness lies in the course itself.  Augusta is this really small town and this is their Super Bowl.  The course is right off a main road and you enter a world of green when you go through the gates.  Of course, after checking your cell phone at security.  Every service building is painted green so as not to stand out amongst the trees.  The main clubhouse and it’s outbuildings for the members are all beautiful white with black shutters on every window.  The flowers are explosive.  TV really doesn’t do it justice.  For me, the course was the star, not the players.  Not to get overly dramatic, but I am an actress/drama queen, I was on hallowed ground.  What struck me was how do the players put all this aside and just play their game?  How do they not get all wrapped up into all that it is and just curl up into a ball at the first tee?  I guess that’s what happens when you are a pro at what you do, you recognize your surroundings but don’t let it affect your performance.

Recently I had breakthrough in my own growth.  I realized I was holding the microphone too dear, too precious in my mind and this was affecting my performance.  For various reasons, I was letting this get in the way of just being me in front of the mic.  I’d created my own Augusta National in my noggin.  Not the best of circumstances.  So now I’m working on fixing that.  Maybe I’ll pull out that cute green jacket I own while I practice.

Studio Shoes

One of the great things about working from home is the ability to wear whatever you want to get the work done.  No one knows what you are clothed in and no one really cares, as long as you get the job done.  So for the most part, I jump out of bed, shower and put on something comfortable, right down to my shoes.  I really didn’t give what I was wearing much thought, after all, I figured it was an achievement to get out of my pj’s.  Recently I started working with a voiceover coach, Marice Tobias, who believes everything in your life affects what your voice delivers.  The clothes you wear, what you had for lunch, the argument you got in with your cable company, the shoes you wear.  It’s an interesting thought.  One I hadn’t really considered before.

I put this to the test recently when I was attending one of Marice’s workshops in Chicago.  She’d mentioned the shoe thing when I went on a retreat in February with an amazing group of women.  I was thrilled-finally I could deduct my shoes as a business expense!  Lots of laughter when I proclaimed as such.  On Sunday of this most recent workshop, I brought a pair of what I call my “limousine shoes”.  They’re shoes with really high heels that should never be walked in but can safely be worn while riding in a limousine to the next event where I’ll simply stand in one spot, thus avoiding any potential foot pain or ankle injury.  We were reading promotional scripts for television shows and I did my first read in the flats I’d worn to the studio but for the second read, I put on the black 4 1/2 inch snakeskin pumps with brass studs along the vamp.  Believe it or not, it really did make a difference, the engineer even heard it and commented on it.  Here’s a link to what I mean.  The second one has a heck of a lot more sass and attitude about it.

All this of course is one big rationalization for a recent purchase of way-too-expensive beautiful pale green tinged with gold snakeskin 4-inch pumps that now reside on my studio desk just waiting to be called in to action.  And I’ve really used them a few times.  Maybe someday they’ll see action at an event but for now, I’m trying to decide if this is a studio expense or an acting expense.