I’m Having Difficulty…

All too often, I really don’t pay attention to the words I use when I speak to myself.   The language I use isn’t the kindest or the most encouraging.  I say things like “shame on me” and “I can’t”.  The shame on me is pretty harsh and brings down judgment, regret and well, shame.  I’ve been working on this as I used to say it with frequency, not even registering what I was telling myself.  Shame on me.  Wow.  Slips in before you know it.

Then there’s the insidious “I can’t”.  Boy oh boy does that one creep in faster than a speeding bullet.  It’s not always verbalized but it’s there nonetheless.  It’s there when I fall short of a goal and don’t keep trying to meet it.  It’s there when I think it’s too cold/hot outside to work out.  It’s there when I don’t get hired for a VO or On Camera gig and I rationalize with I can’t be the voice, or the image they have in their mind.  It’s there more than I realize.  And I’m not one to give up easily on things.  Remember I’m the queen of “me do it”.  But it still exists in my vernacular anyway.  Saying “I can’t” is saying there’s absolutely no way to make something happen.  And there’s always a way to work around a problem or figure out a solution.

I’m not asking for superhuman efforts or perfection of myself.  What I’m asking for is a rethinking of the language I use to talk to myself.  Instead of saying “I can’t” I’m going to try to start saying “I’m having difficulty”.  It may be semantics but I think the way we talk to ourselves and to others has a far greater impact than I’ve realized in the past.  And it’s not one big change that will make a big difference but the thousands of little changes I make in my everydayness that will help me achieve my goals.

Putting It All Together

We’ve all done it.  Attended a conference, workshop or diet farm where we learned oodles of great tips and skills to help us get to the next level in whatever we are trying to achieve.  Our bags are stuffed with great ideas we have every intention of implementing the moment we arrive home.  This is a new beginning by golly and we’re going to just soar with all we’ve learned.  Then our feet cross the threshold of our homes and all that great knowledge, drive and determination go poof! right out of our noggin.  And before we know it, 4 months have passed, you’re cleaning out your office and what’s this?  Oh, it’s that stuff from that thing I went to back when.  What was it I was going to do with all that stuff?  I’ll just push it aside for a while longer.

This time, I’m really going to try to have a different outcome.  I’m going to put together a schedule for myself and make every attempt to stick to it.  It will take self discipline and determination and I know I may fall off the wagon but I’ll really try to get back on track.  Wish me luck!

Noteworthy vs. Noticed

The Midwest Independent Film Festival is a film festival with a twist.  Instead of running for a week with an insane schedule of movies to try to see, it runs once a month and focuses on films either shot in the Midwest or made by folks from the 7 states included.  The presentation this month was a series of shorts done by people from the advertising community.  Before the films are shown there’s always a producers panel that talks about the film to be shown and how they were able to get it made.  This time the panel was made up of judges from the selection committee for that evenings program.  The 3 gentlemen were all from ad agencies around the city.

One of the judges was a guy named Dennis Ryan.  He’s the Chief Creative Officer at Element 79, which used to be DDBNeedham a lifetime ago.  Dennis writes a blog about the ad business called Brands Are Opinions.  I like reading it not only because I was a part of that world for so long, but also because it’s well written and it makes me think.  He wrote a posting recently that really struck a nerve. It was about the subtle distinction of being noteworthy versus just being noticed.  Dennis was talking about the ad agency world but I took it far more personally.  That stopped me for a minute.  Lately it seems like there really is no such thing as bad publicity.  Being mentioned, no matter what for or why now, is the ultimate goal.  In today’s media savvy culture that craves more and more content, staying in the headlines seems to be the goal many are chasing.  And the work you did to get noticed and become noteworthy gets shunted aside in the quest to feed the publicity monster.

I think at some point every person unconsciously decides what kind of career they want.  Do they want to do good work over and over again and have their body of work be their most noteworthy item?  Or do they want to be in the tabloids coming out clubs at all hours or getting thrown off of sets?  This decision is usually not made with any deliberate thought.  It seems to be made as circumstances sweep a person along with the tide.  And by the time one becomes aware of what kind of career one has, it’s usually too late to make a change.

Dennis’s post made me thing about what kind of career I wanted to have.  While I will admit I want to be in US Magazine at some point on the red carpet INSIDE the ropes posing in some fabby gown (hey, I can dream!), I decided I want to craft a career that consistently does good work.  One that is far more noteworthy that noticed or notorious.  I can handle a photo or two of me taking out the trash with no makeup on, but I want to be known for quality not crap.

Getting Unstuck

I’ve been working out recently with one of the DVD programs you usually see advertised on TV late at night.  It’s a pretty good workout with enough variety to keep me going to the next day.  One day I’m working a muscle group, the next I’m doing some form of cardio workout.  I feel good after each workout and I like all the workouts.  Except for this one workout.  It’s 50% longer than all the others and I really don’t enjoy doing it.  It’s a Yoga workout and while I usually like Yoga, I really don’t like this one.  I struggle with the moves, holding the poses and the overall length of the workout itself.  I find every excuse I can to not do this workout.  Which throws off my daily routine of trying to get a workout in every day.  I abhor this workout so much, it has completely derailed the good momentum I had going about a month ago.

I’ve noticed this happens in other areas of my life as well.  If I can’t seem to get a blog post written the way I want it sound, I’ll let my writing languish for days.  I let it stop me from my goal of trying to write everyday.  Or if I am craving a certain usually off limit food or type of food, I’ll eat all the way around the food, most likely adding WAY more calories than if I just ate the dang thing in a moderate portion size.  Or even if I’m having difficulty reaching a contact I really want to do business with, all other cold calling stops until I reach that contact.  Instead of replacing the ickey workout with one of the multitude of others available in the DVD set, or starting a completely new blog post, or eating the craved food, or putting aside the elusive contact, my stubbornness and narrow-mindedness allows these situations to take control of otherwise good progress.

No more.  Tomorrow I start fresh resuming my walk/run.  I’ll get to the DVD’s on Monday when it’s supposed to be over 90 again.  And the elusive contact goes to the bottom of the contact list bumping up every other prospect higher in the list.  And the troublesome blog post gets saved as a draft, perhaps never to see the light of day.  Instead I published this one.  You’re not the boss of me frustrating situations.  So there.

A subtle, but important, distinction

Today was an office day.  No auditions or appointments were scheduled so I was able to spend a substantial amount of time working in the office.  Now I will admit there was a bit of faffing about.  And by faffing, I mean goofing.  It’s a VO term that’s currently in vogue and is the name of an unconference being put together by a wonderful group of VO professionals.  All the details can be found here.  Faffcon isn’t the purpose of this post but didn’t I work it in nicely?

Instead I want to talk about the cold calling I’ve been doing.  I know, exciting stuff.  I’ve been trying to make as many contacts for my Voiceover business so today was a research and cold calling day.  I try to set a goal of so many cold calls each week.  I hit my goal for the week today and I still had several hours of the business day available.  I had a momentary thought that I would stop for the week and save some for next week.  But then I realized, this is exactly what I would have done when I was working in corporate and I no longer wanted to work that way.  I wanted to make as many contacts as I could because there would be more contacts in the pipeline.  Always more people to contact.  Why stop at the week’s goal?  So I didn’t.  I made a few more calls and plan on making some in the morning tomorrow.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine,Bob Souer, who said this was the difference in being an entrepreneur and a corporate drone.  When you work for yourself, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned, any opportunity overlooked.  And just because you hit  your goal, you don’t stop.  You keep the momentum up.  I used to do this when I was selling local television time.  Once I achieved my goal, I wanted to see how much over I could achieve.  It’s a great way to approach the business of finding new business.  And I have tomorrow to add to my number.  It’s all good.

Just waitin’ on the world

I had a bit of an epiphany today on my walk.  You probably already know this but the word epiphany harkens back to biblical times when the revealation of God in human form appeared in the person of Jesus.  Now I’m not saying Jesus appeared to me on the 4700 block of Lincoln Avenue but the clouds in my brain parted a wee bit to let in some clarity and light even on this beautiful, albeit windy day.  I’ve been frustrated more than I care to admit about the progress of my career.  It seems I can’t get any momentum going forward or solid ground beneath my feet on which to build.  The eureka moment I had was when I realized the problem was, the world didn’t know what to do with me yet.  I’m not a typical type, easily categorized and cast, not the ingenue, the Mom, the old lady.  So that requires more work to find my niche.  My voice isn’t the quirky teen, raspy seductress, assuring expert.  Again, more work.  The thing is I’ve been trying to fit into a category, any category and this hasn’t been serving me very well.  I’ve been trying to make myself fit in when in reality, I’m in my own category.  I don’t mean this in an egotistical way, more in a practical, reality way.

So the epiphany was, I just need to wait for the world to catch up with me.  Once they do, then things will start to go my way.  Once they figure out how to place me, the bookings will come.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep making myself a better and better version of me.  The world’s pretty smart, they’ll figure it out.  I’ll be here when they’re ready.  I just hope it’s soon.  I’m not the most patient of people and I’ve got things I want to accomplish.

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!

Not now, thank you

One of the most frustrating and undefinable parts of this business I’ve chosen to be in is the casting process.  So many times, getting cast in a project has nothing to do with your talent.  I know that doesn’t make sense because off all the training and workshops and coaching we actors continually invest in.  Those things are very important and shouldn’t be ignored.  But all that training and coaching isn’t for those who are casting but for us the actors.  It continues to inspire and inform us.  Those who are casting assume you have what it takes to do the job or they wouldn’t have invited you to the audition.  That’s something we as actors always forget.  You wouldn’t be there if you couldn’t do the job.  We need to remember that first and foremost.

What it comes down to so many times, more times than we can even imagine, is are you the voice they heard in their head or are you the face they saw when they wrote the script?  Most times the answer is no.  And that’s not easy to accept.  After all, we know we can do the part, voice the script.  We did a great job at the audition.  Why weren’t we picked?  ARRRGH!

Sorry…I digress.  What is actually happening isn’t a “no” but a “no thank you, not now”.  You just don’t fit what they need at the moment.  But that doesn’t meet that they won’t be calling on you soon for a different project.  A no in casting is rarely a forever no.  It’s just a no for now.  Eventually it will be a “Yes!  Thank you!”  Eventually.

Relentlessness

The other evening, due to a mixup on scheduling, the class I usually take was cancelled which allowed me to attend a meeting at the Chicago Film Actors Meetup group.  I haven’t been to one in a really long time so I was quite happy with the situation.  The forum for these meetings is usually chocabloc full of fantastic information for the Chicago actor and this evening was no exception.  They were interviewing owners and instructors from various acting schools around Chicago on their curriculum and philosophies.  One of the great things about this group-aside from the fast that it’s run by a very accomplished actress and organizer Grace McPhillips-is it’s adaptability and relevancy.  The forums aren’t set in stone so if something comes up that resonates with the group, that path can be followed.  On the other hand, she’s great at reining in rabbit hole discussions that lead to nowhere.  The question was asked by an audience member what is was that made an actors successful, was it training, networking, luck, voodoo offerings to the gods at midnight in a cold dark swamp?  Actors especially, are always looking for that secret key that will unlock everything for us.  The answer came back that those in this person’s mind who were successful, where those that were relentless.

That hit me like a 2X4 between the eyes.  I’d had a not so great couple of days that were filled with frustration and no signs of progress.  I wasn’t going to give up by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets pretty tough to keep moving forward when nothing seems to be going right.  Especially when you are going at it alone.  But moving forward is exactly what I need to do and the message came through loud and clear.  Relentless is exactly what I’m going to be.

Remember that school yard game where you linked arms with your mates and marched lockstep around the playground chanting “we don’t stop, get out of our way!”?  The nuns didn’t like us to play that game.  But that’s going to be me with my career.  Sorry Sister.

Two Paths

One of my favorite saying these days has become “There are never any wrong moves in life”.  I’m not sure if I made it up or if I am co-opting it from someone far wiser than me but just acknowledging this to myself has helped tremendously.  I put an immense amount of pressure on making the right choice in any situation.  I research every thing I can about a situation, try to think of every contingency and forecast every possible outcome I can think of.  While this planning has it’s merits, it can also be very counterproductive and time consuming.  After all, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, the one constant is change.  And this is something that can’t be factored into all my thinking and planning.  Which of course totally ticks me off.

So something I’ve really tried to instill as default thinking is there is no wrong move I can make as I make my choices.  I try to assess the information I have available and then make the best decision I can given what I know at that moment.  And if what I decide is proven not to be the best path for me, I try to stay flexible enough to make adjustments in my course.  To not get locked in to only one way to go about something.  As the wise philosophers Led Zeppelin says “Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Stay loose, absorb the bumps, continue to refine your course.  Wow, 2 quotes in the same post.  I must be feeling learned today.