Category Archives: Goals

The Decision Contract

Success and failure are the results of the use of mind. Every success-motivated mind has been a decisive mind. Every failure-motivated mind has been an indecisive-mind. Only the dreamer who acted with decision on his dream brought  forth something new and valuable- Raymond Charles Barker

I’ve come to a point in my journey where I’ve identified those unpleasant moments that just seem to come with the package. Every career has them. Matter of fact, EVERYTHING has them! Parents may love being parents, but there are those times where dealing with kids may feel like more work than passion. The gift and the curse, right?!

I remember driving a member of my ensemble up to Big Bear. We were going to one of our weekly meetings and we had a discussion about the nature of the acting business. I think we got into a discussion about Heath Ledger or something and the subject of sleep. I was telling him how loaded my schedule was and how I wasn’t getting any sleep. He told me, “actors don’t sleep, it’s a fact of life!” I laughed at him and ignored his remark. I though he was just being negative and trying to avoid the fact that I would’ve gotten a bit more sleep if I didn’t drive him up there, because we were doing this more for him than for me. I told him that wasn’t going to be me and that I was going to get sleep. I wasn’t going to end up some sleep-deprived insomniac on drugs a la Heath Ledger or Michael Jackson. After all, rest is part of being healthy, right?! A healthy body with optimal health is definitely required for an actor. Our body is our only instrument.

Well, weeks, or months ago, I finally realized, yeah, to get ahead and seriously grind in this industry, you’re not going to be getting a whole lot of sleep. I wouldn’t say this is an objective view though. Maybe you’re not working two-different jobs and running to an audition on your lunch break. Maybe you’ve got a stream of passive income paying your way, or a large savings. Even still, the on-set hours are long and tedious. Endless rehearsals, repetitive practice, same take after same take.

Here’s the thing about decisions:

1.) You never really and wholly honor a decision until you’ve accepted the fine print.

Whenever we want to do something, buy something, experience something or someone wants to sell us something, all we ever hear about are the pros, the good parts. We seldom hear about the negative parts. Oh sure, we might hear, “it’s got a little scratch on the side,” or “it shakes a little, but they all do at times,” but we often must find out the negatives for ourselves. Maybe it’s due to the subjective nature of the words “pro” “con” “good” and “bad.”

The Fine Print

These things that lure us in stop looking so good when we experience our first unpleasant experience. But if you are fully committed to your decision then you should have come to accept “the terms and conditions of this agreement below.”

In the real world, this fine print is not always easy to find and know ahead of time. It’s an outlook, a prediction that is often hard to see-but not impossible- from the outside looking in.

Treat this like a real contract. Most people don’t know or can’t make sense of the fine print so they go out and hire a professional to make sense of it for them. So go out and ask someone in the field. Take them out to lunch and just talk about their experiences. Listen to their story, the failures and bad experiences they went through. People love to talk about their misery and how they’ve suffered. Go out there and test the waters yourself. Read a little about whatever it is that you’re looking to do or experience.

Do You Agree to the Terms & Conditions?

Once you find out or get a feel for what the day-to-day is like, come to accept them.

Once we come to terms with the day-to-day, our reactions usually lie somewhere along the 5 stages of grief. If you can’t come to the final stage of acceptance, maybe it isn’t the perfect fit for you.

I’ve come to accept that I won’t be getting very much sleep for the moment. Even if you can’t fully accept the conditions, you should be able to tolerate them while looking for something better. I don’t like having to go to casting calls after I’ve been at work all-night, so I’m working on building a passive income stream so I can drop my 9-5.

2.) You never really honor a decision until you’ve ‘burned the ships.’

Did you know the word decide comes from two little Latin words that literally mean “to cut off”?! Yep. To make a decision means to cut off other options and commit to one. If you could do both options, or however many you’ve got, then you wouldn’t have to make a choice and decide now would you?

To ‘burn the ships’ is not an entirely new concept, but one that most people aren’t familiar with. Basically, you cut off any areas of retreat to ensure you press on in any scenario, no “if ands or buts.” You sink or swim.

 In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill tells how a warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to insure his success on the battlefield. Basically, he and is army were going up against a powerful foe,whose army greatly outnumbered his own.

 Before the first battle, he gave the order to ‘burn the ships’ and told his men, “You see the boats going up in smoke! That means we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice- we win- or we perish!”They Won!! Only by doing so will an individual be able to maintain the mind state known as a burning desire, which is essential to success.

Will smith said in an interview that the success of his marriage to jada (even though he had previously had a divorce) is that they can’t have divorce as an option. They both don’t even consider it. It’s non-negotiable. They have problems but work through them. He took his vows more seriously. He says, “they’re either going to be together forever or someone has to die!”

He also made a great point in another interview. He said when you create a back-up plan you also create the necessity for that backup. You are subconsciously telling yourself, “I might not wanna go through this, I don’t know about this, let me just create this backdoor so that I might be able to escape when the going gets tough.”

Likewise, Sun Tzu mentioned in his classic, The Art of War,  how it is necessary to create an image of retreat for your enemy so that they won’t fight as hard.

Decisions, Decisions

Tough decisions are a part of life. What makes decisions tough are the stakes, consequences, tradeoffs, etc.Regardless of how tough decisions are, your ability or inability to make decisions can stagnate or propel your ability to take action in life. Any leader will tell you, if you can’t come to make decisions quickly, you won’t be a very effective leader. Before making decisions, first, figure out whether you need to even decide at all. More than likely, it’s not that serious.

Real decisions are like contracts, they take real committment and people rarely read the terms and conditions. Because of a lack of attention to the fine print, they usually get in trouble later and regret it. Take your time and honor your committment. Don’t be in such a rush to sign onto anything either, especially when it comes to something as serious as marriage.

*In a future post, I want to suggest a simple decision-making model that I’ve learned from a couple of great books that has worked for me.

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The Abstract

The Cookies

When I get off from work in the morning -yeah, I work the graveyard shift- I’m usually craving some type of sweets. One week it was candy bars, the next week chips. One week it was donuts, but lately it’s been cookies.

So I’m driving around town looking for a shop where I can buy some freshly made cookies. It’s too much of a hassle to make ’em myself, plus I only want one or two. As I drive towards the freeway, I stumbled upon Panera bread. Before now, I’d never heard, or been into a Panera Bread and I would usually frequent Starbucks in the morning. But on this day, I wanted to try something new. So I went inside and was hit with the aroma of their seemingly endless variety of baked goods. It’s hard to make a choice between everything, but I know that I wanted cookies. After getting my cookies, I took a bite out of their toffee nut cookie immediately.

AMAZING!!

If I had to describe the taste, I’d say the cookie was a fragment of heaven manifested in my hands as a snack. Those that have been there know the taste. Before leaving, I couldn’t help but chat up the artisan baker who had made my day. I told her how great I think her creations were and how fresh they smelled and tasted. After giving her my sincere gratitude, she told me, “thanks, I cooked them overnight.”

After walking out the door, I was hit with a flash of thought.

 “LAST NIGHT!! I THOUGHT THESE WERE FRESH!!!”

In my head, freshly made cookies had to be straight off the cooling rack. They had to be straight out of the oven, and maybe sat down on the table to be chilled-no more than maybe 40-45mins old! Maybe it was just me, but if anything was made overnight, or the night before, it was always considered a leftover in my eyes.  Not to take anything from the quality of her cooking because the cookies were GREAT! I just had to think to myself.

“Of course she’d have to make the cookies overnight. She has loads of things that she has to cook for the customers in the morning. Duh!”

The Abstract

It was then that I realized how often in life, we have these vague notions of abstract concepts. Ideas like success, love, power, wealth, health, intelligence. We think we KNOW these things and that we know them very well. That we have an idea what success is, what love or fresh is, but we rarely do.

Imagine I went back in there and argued with her. But how stupid would I look? We’re talking two different definitions of fresh here!

Imagine you were traveling to another country, or continent, with a totally new culture. You meet one of their people and as you point to your stomach, you say, “Food!” And they go and bring you a bowl of insects. Better yet, if you’re a meat-eater and they go and bring you some rice. WTF!?

Define It

It’s said that everything is created twice. One time in the mind, the second time as the physical manifestation. In order to realize our dreams and see our love, ideas and etc. manifest, we’ve got to smooth out the edges of these pictures and images in our minds that are slighty rough around the edges.

What is love? What is fresh? What is success?

We each see these ideas differently, so it’s imperative that you get clear and define them so that you’ll be able to recognize them when you see/achieve them. How else will you know them when you see them?

How are your cookies? Are they everything you thought they would be?

Update

As it stands right now, I’m your typical starving actor. I mean, I’m not starving literally, I’ve been living off of sandwiches, pasta and enchiladas and other cheap vegetarian food, so I’m good.

I’ve decided that for the greater part of next year, my primary focus will be on my finances and my career will take a step down to the secondary slot. My plan is to work an additional part-time job and to pour all of that income into a savings account. All that money will then be used to take more classes the following year.

In addition, I plan to launch a Site-Build-It website with the same focus- the journey of an aspiring actor- come January. If everything works out, I should have my passive income stream in place by the end of the year. As an aspiring actor, I can’t think of a better way to support our career path. It should get rid of all the juggling jobs and stress that we have to deal with.

To this day, I have been posting on this site periodically without any type of schedule. Until I get my laptop fixed, which I plan to do in the upcoming weeks, my internet time is pretty much limited to the libraries hours or whenever I can get my hands on a friend’s laptop. Once that is done, I will posting more regularly and reaching out to connect and build more relationships with you people. Chow.

Sharpen Your Acting: The Habits of an Actor

I made the jump earlier this year to follow my passion of acting head on. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was to go about doing it, I just started moving. I eventually started researching the best schools in my area and came upon Stella Adler Los Angeles.

I made the move and got enrolled. The class was great. The only thing was, I only had enough money for one class.

Use Your Time Wisely

I came upon my first setback. I planned to only take one quarter off and find a better paying job (or an additional one) to help me pay for the rest of the classes I planned on taking. The job that I thought I had lined up didn’t come through like I had hoped and I felt stuck. I knew I had to do something to keep my skills sharp while outside of school. So I emailed my teacher and told him about my current situation. He then sent me a list of creative habits and books to read while I was away.

Why Doesn’t an Actor Act?

We pay all that money for training and acting school, and after we feel confident enough we go searching for work.Alan Nusbaum asked on his blog, “if a painter paints, how come an actor does not act?”It’s a great question because as actors sometimes we tend to forget all about the theater and student films and go straight to Hollywood for the paid gigs.

Here is the list of creative habits my teacher gave me to keep my craft sharp

1. Work time- find yourself a time to work that you protect. Know when you work best and take advantage of that time. Structure your day around that fact.

2. Pianists/ Musicians- They always accept the fact that for them to be better they must do their scale work . They must practice. Dancers are the same way. What are the scales for an actor?

  • Practice Script breakdown- get a play and break it down into its beats, units, etc.  See how fully you understand it. What is the plot? What’s the theme? Setting? Idea?
  • Practice cold reading- If you plan on becoming an actor, this skill is an important part of the audition. Grab a monologue and practice.
  • Poetry- My teacher had us doing poems. He would have us see the images before we would speak. I learned that in order to move an audience with the poem, I had to be moved myself. If it meant nothing to me, it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. So it forced me to start taking time to connect with things in real life. Just to be present and allow myself to become affected by things I come across. Different images and what not. Poetry is a deep form of self-expression and can better you as an actor.
  • Shakespeare-need I say more?
  • Reading history, philosophy, literature, political theory, religious texts, psychology, and studying other cultures. Acting is all about connecting with the text and bringing the life behind that text to life. What better to study than life and people itself. Not only your own but that of others as well.
  • Visiting art galleries and museums. Museums carry things of significance. Things relative to points in time, a peoples’ history and items pertaining to a their culture. Art has a way of carrying a peoples’ culture and history. It can represent their times  and evoke feelings.
  • Observation/ People watching. It’s the heart of our work and all art. Learn to see, putting yourself into the shoes of others.
  • Writing-anything. Journal, poetry, plays, screenplays, film. Get to know yourself.
  • Anything that can give you focus
  • Watching great work of both theater and film. Learn from your fellow actors

3. Take care of your body and voice- practice physical work and voice work everyday. Our body is our instrument.

4. Doing theater- It’s our place.

In addition, he gave me these words of advice:

Acting is a lifetime committment to learning

Discover what moves you, what do you want to fight for or express

If you are not learning you are standing still

Set goals for the parts you want to play

The Path

I’m sure you’ve heard this quote before

Keep your eyes on the prize

You might have heard that quote a number of times, or you might have heard this one by Russell Simmons from his book Do You

“I know some people say “Keep your eyes on the prize,” but I disagree. When your eyes are stuck on the prize, you’re going to keep stumbling and crashing into things. If you really want to get ahead, you’ve got to keep your eyes focused on the path.”

Effort

I think the wisdom behind both of these viewpoints is simply to have a vision of where you want to end up, but keep your mind focused on the now. To know your goals, and keep them in front of you. As Stephen Covey said, “keep the end in mind.” But remember, we only have power in the present, in fact, it’s all we ever have. If you don’t have a destination in mind you may end up wherever the current of life takes you. You are the architect of your life, but you only build that life by focusing on your present actions.

Don’t try to build a wall. Just lay a brick. But lay that brick as perfectly as you can and continue to put in that same effort day after day. -Will Smith