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!

Finding Heroes

Reading biographies is something I truly enjoy doing.  I buy into the fantasy and believe these words just came flowing out of the authors mouth perfectly onto the paper.  Ghost writers?  What are those?  I choose not look behind the curtain to see the main moving the levers and pushing the buttons.  Reading about another’s journey and what got them to where they are today is very inspiring to me.  I usually pick up something that lights my fire and keeps me going in a forward direction on my own journey.  Usually these people have reached a level of expertise, celebrity or notoriety that would allow a biography to be written.

Every once in a while I come across a story that isn’t like this.  The subjects aren’t famous.  They haven’t climbed to the top of their field.  They may not even have a field.  They are simple people trying everyday to reach beyond their present circumstances.  And their stories are every bit as compelling and inspiring, sometimes even more so, than those of the celebrated.  Such was the case with a documentary I recently watched, Waiting for Superman.  It’s been on my video cue for several months but I kept pushing frothier fare in front of it.  But I found myself on a long flight and it was in my bag.  And let me tell you, it was gripping.  Several times tears were just streaming from my eyes.  My heart was breaking for these kids.  If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a huge favor and put in on your must watch list immediately.  You’ll thank yourself.  The struggle of parents to get a better education for their kids was heartbreaking.  And when things didn’t turn out their way, they didn’t give up, they tried another route.  Nothing was going to stop them from getting a better life for their kids than they had.  And you know this is going on everyday, in every home, with single or dual parents, rich or poor, PHD’s or barely GED’s.  Parents realize a good education is the ticket to success for their children and they were going to move heaven and earth to make it happen.

That single mindedness, resolve and quiet determination really hit home with me.  It’s so easy to point to the celebrity or sport elite for inspiration but the real heroes are those that just keep plugging away, day after day in their anonymity, doing the best they can with what life throws their way.  They are real heroes.

Magic Bullets

It’s been a very challenging week.  First I realized I didn’t have the sultry voice I longed for, an hard realization to come to grips with.  Then another boom was lowered when I realized there was no magic bullet in my future that would catapult me into the stratosphere of my career.  No secret code to open the doors to riches and fame and back to back bookings.  No superpower guaranteed to make me the voice or the face in every auditor’s head.  Crap.  This really ticked me off.  It finally hit me that this wasn’t going to be a wee bit of hard work and then ta-da!  Here’s your dream career.  It was going to be a slog, a pretty long hard slog at that.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of hard work.  I relish a challenge.  Don’t be in my way when someone tells me I can’t do something, I’m sure to run you over in my quest to prove them wrong.  But I have to admit, I’ve bought into the instant gratification of our society.  What do you mean I haven’t lost any weight?  I’ve been dieting for 48 hours now?  What’s the problem?  Get me a pill for this right away.  Computers don’t help much.  We can email someone and it appears in second in their in box while we’re Skyping with each other.  Graphic intensive web sites load in less than a second.  We get real time feeds of weather radar so we know almost to the minute when the storm will be raging over our heads.  All of these things serve to reinforce that I should have a fully functioning and highly profitable career 10 minutes ago.

After I got over my rather substantial hissy fit, it hit me that accepting this annoying fact was somewhat liberating.  It actually put more control back in my hands.  If I no longer was waiting for the fairy godmother, Genie or leprechaun to bless me with the secret formula, I could now go out and make my own magic.  It would involve cold calling like I did a lifetime ago.  Asking people for help, something I’m really not very good at.  Researching who is who within a company.  And doing this over and over again week after week.  But I was no longer waiting for my career to happen to me, I making my career happen.  Seems rather simple when you think about it.  And a little less exciting than matching all 6 numbers in the multigazillion dollar Powerball lottery.  But I’ve done this before and did it rather well.  I can do it again.

Dirt Sifting

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Simple Dollar by Trent Hamm.  He does a daily blog generally about frugality but he also touches on many other subjects.  He is a prolific writer, churning out 2 postings a day and I don’t think he’s missed a day yet.  At least not since I’ve been following him.  The other day he posted something sort of off the beaten path for him.  The value of doing grunt work, or slog work as he called it.  It’s the necessary but mind numbing work that exists in every job, whatever it is you do.  It can be data entry, invoicing or in his case, dirt sifting.   Really.  He got paid to go through dirt.  One of the most challenging things I am finding about this transition to working for myself is consistently and purposefully attacking the grunt work that exists for me.  In my case, it’s doing things like auditioning on the pay-to-play sites, sending out an invoice, writing a blog post.  Finding the concentration to just get it done isn’t the easiest thing for me.  When I finish a post, it’s a natural ending point so I break off, go out of the office and it’s 45 minutes later before I return.  Goofing off instead of going back to the list of topics I’ve identified I’d like to write about.  I do the same thing when I finish an audition.  I feel like I need a reward for completing something so I head to the fridge, or check my email for the 98th time, or get lost on the interwebs.  All because of a lack of focus and discipline to just get the job done.  I used to have the same problem when it came to doing forecasting reports but I was able to knuckle down and plow through them.  I need to find the same focus I had then and apply it to my work today.  I know I can do it, it’s just a matter of figuring out how I did it before and doing it again.   It’s not fun, but it is necessary.  It’s on the back of diligence that a strong career is forged.  If you can do the dirt sifting well, you will excel at the bigger tasks.

Green Eyed Monster

It’s not something I’m very proud of.  But I’ll admit it.  I suffer from the green eyed monster, Jealousy.  I know I’m supposed to strive to be better and to be happy for those who win.  My time will come if I’m just patient and hard working.  There’s enough work for everyone and all boats are raised when 1 boat is raised.  Yeah, right, whatever.  Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not that evolved.  The thing is my failures or non bookings keep getting rubbed in my face time and again.  The commercials, the films, the narrations, the TV shows I audition for end up on the air and I usually see or hear them.  Sometimes over and over.  It’s salt in the proverbial wound.  Or a friend takes the leap of faith and heads out to LA to make it happen for themselves and I’m reminded of my progresslessness-if that’s a word!

I get that everyone is on an individual path and timeline and mine doesn’t match theirs.  At least I get it intellectually.  That doesn’t mean the petulant child in me still doesn’t throw a tantrum more often than I care to admit.  That I don’t wallow in self pity on my couch with the remote control in hand and a bag of whatever food drug I’m using to numb my pain.  It just stinks that this is taking so long and there aren’t any surefire ways to make it happen.  So forgive the melt-down.  I’m due.  My goal is to spread out the meltdowns a little further apart from the last one I had.  Now that’s progress!

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!

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.

Fabulous Hair

I am a devoted reader of Seth Godin’s Blog.  I have it delivered to my inbox every day.  Which reminds me I need to let all my 4 readers know I have the ability to do that for them as well.  Anywho, I love how he looks at things.  He takes a situation, turns it upside down, inside out and backwards and helps me to look at something in a completely different way.  And in doing so, I break a little further out of the mold of “I’ve always done it that way”.  He’s also great at introducing me to new thoughts, new ideas and often new words. And you know I’m a word junky.  I love collecting them.  One of his recent blogs was about the word Sprezzatura, which is an Italian word meaning the ability to do your craft or work without visible effort.  In his words, it’s a combination of elan (another great word) and grace and class.  It’s the golfer finessing a shot under a tree but over a bunker to land on the green 4 feet from the cup, the surgeon who calmly and precisely opens a chest, inserts a pacemaker into a heart and restores normal rhythm to a struggling patient, or the film actor who take after take hits his mark exactly while delivering his lines slightly different from the take before, thus giving the director options when he edits the film.  Or for me, it’s my hairdresser Elizabeth who blows dries my hair so fabulously it has that come hither look about it.  I sigh in resignation each time I watch her at her task, determined to figure out what she’s doing that I’m not because no matter how hard I try, I just can’t duplicate her results.  One time I blurted out “Now why can’t I do that?”  She chuckled and said “well first of all my arms aren’t connected to your body” -good point for her as I have a hard time reaching the back.  She continued “And it could be the fact that I’ve been doing this for 15 years” which made me think, yes but I’ve been blow drying this hair for 3 decades and it’s the same head and hair I’ve always had so why can’t I do as well as she does?  I came to realize that the difference is how we approach the task.  She is a professional who is trying to please a client so she has learned the proper techniques and motions to create “Hollywood” hair as I like to call it.  Me, I just want to get it done and dry as I have 35 other things that need my attention once I’m finished so it’s a chore to get completed, not my passion.  If it was really that important, I’d practice over and over to get it right which is what I do each time I audition or perform.  It’s still not at the Sprezzatura point, but I’m getting there.  And now I know what to call it when I reach that point of effortlessness.

29 months

As I’ve been known to say, Holy Macaroley.  I was talking the other day with my career coach, Kristine Oller , whom I’ve been working with for a while.  I started with her when I wasn’t happy with the way my acting career was progressing and some of the things I’d heard her say at a conference really resonated.  As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  So I contacted her and on my next visit to Los Angeles sat down with her.  Her forte is organizing but one of the things she said that struck a chord with me is her favorite space to organize is the mind.  That really hit me.  I felt so helter skelter in my career planning.  I was going at fits and starts and really not gaining any traction.  It was at that first meeting that we started to map out the transition I could make from full time day job/part time actor to full time actor.  That day was was pivotal to me as it was the first day I really considered acting as a full time career.  It was the first time I’d allowed myself to entertain even the possibility of giving up the career I had worked at for over 2 decades to take on a new challenge.  Over the months that ensued, she and I reviewed my progress and set new targets for the next steps to take.  That arrangement continues to this day.

But purpose of our conversation on this particular date was a coffee date she was recording for her new venture and she wanted me to tell my story for those that were contemplating the switch to a full time creative.  In her introduction she mentioned that we’d begun working together in October 2007.  That stopped me cold.  We had only been working together for 29 months.  29 MONTHS! I couldn’t believe how far I’ve come in so short a time.  I was amazed at my progress.  All too often I bemoan the fact that this or that hasn’t happened and certainly nothing was happening at a pace that was fast enough for me.  I am so grateful Kristine happened to mention that date.  If she hadn’t I wouldn’t have taken the time to look back and see how far I’ve come.  I know I have so very far to go but I am so encouraged by my progress. And proud of myself.  Who knew I had it in me?!!  And who knows what lies around the corner?