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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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