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Mandela

I, like so many others are in awe of the indelible footprint that Nelson Mandela has left on the earth.  I don’t mourn his passing; I am inspired by his example.  I have never suffered under the cruelty of Apartheid or been beaten and locked away for twenty-seven years. I have never had my life ripped away from me, not to see my children grow-up and have everything I love destroyed…quite the opposite. I have had the luxury of thoughtlessness and bad behavior.

I didn’t know this man. I didn’t see him everyday. I didn’t share his color, and yet I am strongly influenced by him, a man I didn’t know. I use him in my teachings. I am guided by him in my life.

I have felt that I have been blessed with the gift of forgiveness for myself and others, but there are degrees in everything and I have never been tested as he was.  He harbored no resentments, no regrets. He even invited his jailor to his inauguration.  He is not a work of fiction but a living example of what’s possible.

I shall not miss him in the way that I miss those who were a tactile part of my life. He was never that for me. He has always been a guiding voice, a voice of freedom and forgiveness, a man who woke up to the possibility of life everyday indeterminate of his situation.

 

World Weary

Holidays, Facebook and Instagram have so much in common in terms of promoting delusional expectations of happiness and joy…It’s not that there aren’t times of joy and moments of happiness, it’s just that there are other states of being that get swept aside in the manic search for identity and a place to belong.

The times we live in get more and more ambiguous with each passing day, and our attempt to make sense and navigate all the external and internal disasters that besiege us is daunting.
 
We mark time by significant events and unfortunately there are more not-so natural disasters that litter the earth than ever before.  We take credit for the positive developments and we disavow any responsibility for the toxic environments (Emotional. Entertainment. The Earth) that we have lit up and set ablaze.  Our world and our world leaders deny the arch of fear that now permeates our planet.  We keep bypassing the truth in exchange for some temporary escape. Is it Art imitating Life or is Life driving what we call Art.   It’s not a mystery that there are more zombie movies given that’s the way most people look.  Smiles plastered across fearful faces, or Vampire Films as we suck the blood out of those that seem useful to us.

Trying to find touchstones/solid ground/answers is an ever-moving target.  I find myself like a five-year-old so many times unable to verbalize my fears, my frustrations, my concerns.

I, like you, fear for the world. And I, like you, know how important it is to slow down, check in and reconcile our behavior.  I only learn my lessons the hard way and my attempt and promise is to make my education much easier on those I love.  Too many times I travel so cavalierly through life, disconnected to what is really going on both personally and globally.  This is a confession of sorts.  A declaration of awareness. Certainly a personal call to action.

To try and understand 5,000+ people being swept away by a typhoon is impossible.  It is impossible to feel the pain of so many.  The displaced, the homeless, the loss of so many.

Contribution and communication to others who have been affected is as much for you as it is for those who have been severely hit.  We need to reach out to one another and we need to connect as much through our fears and struggles as we do through our celebratory pictures on Instagram… It is a glorious wonderful life, but it includes the heartbreaks, frustrations, disappointments and losses.
 
Some days we paint with a flourish of bright colors and some days we paint with impervious blacks but we must always find a way to pick up the brush…

Share your life…


Finding You Position

Ever wonder why some of the physically smaller actors have massive career success? Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg, Al Pacino, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Joe Pesci, and Mel Gibson are movie industry giants.  They star in roles where they often deliver powerful and intimidating performances.  Not what you would expect from a group of guys who are a couple of inches shorter than average.  Other major stars are only a bit taller.  But, their success derives in part from their ability to know and play their position.

Learning to play the right position is one of the keys to success in life. If you are 6’ 4” or taller, you’ve probably enjoyed dominating lots of sports and commanded respect and attention in business meetings. On the other hand, you also spend a lot of your life, probably subconsciously, trying not to intimidate people. You tend not to raise your voice too often or display intense emotions physically. You don’t have to. At 6’ 4”, you already get people’s attention. Conversely, if you are a couple of inches shorter than average, you’ve probably never intimidated anyone – ever. You can raise your voice, get physical, get emotional and act out and no one gets scared. This is one of the reasons that smaller leading men can deliver the proverbial acting goods. They know they can be intense and they won’t scare people off. Throughout their lives, they’ve had to act out a bit more than normal just to get a normal amount of attention.  They aren’t uncomfortable doing it in real life (picture Tom Cruise jumping around Oprah’s couch) or with the camera on (picture Tom Cruise screaming “show me the money” into a prop telephone). It’s part of their position.

In the career context, I have hundreds of clients that come to me to develop or improve their careers and I’ve worked with many actors.  Some can really act, some can’t.  Some are model-good-looking, most aren’t. Some command a room with a word and others can jump on a table and not get anyone’s attention.  Figuring out if they are in the right position is one of my premier focuses.

One of my clients (let’s call him Adam) first came to me about 20 years ago.  He was an excellent actor with a degree from theater school, all the right credentials and a solid career.  Everyone loved Adam.  He was charming, gregarious and great to be around.  He was incredibly dedicated to acting, yet somehow he was not able to break through to the next level and get the production he expected.  There were lots of things Adam could have done to get ahead including looking for different roles, getting a new agent, connecting with a few of the right people.  He also could have been trying too hard, leaving little room for creativity.

Adam came to me to create a plan for improvement and press on. Not so fast, I thought. Working with Adam I could see the way he is wired and coded and knew that working harder was not something he needed to do (for other people that might be exactly what they need).  I knew something bigger was at play.  Despite his already tremendous success, Adam wasn’t cut out for acting.  Like so many people, Adam was out of position. Yes, he could’ve continued to be an actor and make some decent money. Yes, he was up for the work and he loved working hard but I knew his success should come more easily.  There was something that felt forced about it.

Being lovable, charming and easy-going do not necessarily translate into being a successful actor.  Most really good actors are a bit uncomfortable in their own skin and can’t wait to jump into someone else’s skin via a role. When I told Adam this, he was completely taken aback.  The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.  Adam couldn’t believe I was recommending he get out of acting – he’d made it in a career where tens of thousands would give their left leg for his career.  He just wanted a tweak.

Often before you can leave something, you need something else to move toward.

So, I told Adam that I thought his position should be as a writer and producer.  That way, he could use all of his extroverted talents and people skills to help develop and move projects along.  The fit was perfect. Adam is now one of the biggest producers in television, writing and producing several of the hottest shows.

Adam got in the right position and his career took off.  When you get into the right position, everything moves.

When you understand the bigger vision and your role in it, everything works out. In Adam’s case, he continued to be able to use his acting skills to write better scripts for other actors, cast the right people for the right roles, and put together a team that created a great environment for the cast. Being in the right position also allows you to turn your liabilities into assets (turn lead into gold) and turn those assets into creativity and productivity. For Adam, he was able to take his work ethic and determination and place it on a bigger stage so to speak.  He could use that energy on multiple fronts (writing and producing) where it had been pigeonholed as an actor. The right position allows you to have the right mindset, which is so essential. Like going to the gym to tone your body, having the right mindset allows you to tone your mind.  It is a discipline that you have to dedicate yourself to.  Most of us spend our lives trying to manage the content that fills our days.

Dedicating yourself to developing the right mindset and heart-set will change every aspect of your life.

Although Adam’s heart and mind were focused on acting, he now gets to give so much more of himself in his expanded role.  Adam is in position and now he and everyone around him get to enjoy his passion and energy.  Its magnetic.



 

Sound and Fury

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying Nothing.
-WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
 

Many people consider this to be a cynical commentary on life. I don’t. I think it sums up in 10 lines a very accurate account of how we live life. Not all the time, but enough to take notice. What we choose to Strut and Fret about is not so much the problem; it’s just the circus. It’s that we think it has so much significance…

We human beings are crazy. We are the best show in town. That’s why reality television is so popular; it just doesn’t get any better. To start, we don’t admit that we are collectively living life under some sort of threat. Not just sometimes, but most of the time. Sometimes low-grade. At other times, it is as if we are pinned down with a heavy boot across our neck, choking the life out of us. We also have a collective conspiracy that we want people to think we are perfect and there is nothing threatening us – that’s called marketing. I often thought that the Editors of People Magazine should change the name to People You’re Not.

We want others to believe that all is well; that we are happening (and you are not). But, it doesn’t take much to set-off the “Sound and Fury.” Sometimes it’s a benign comment. A person who’s driving too slow or too fast. Getting lost. Being late. A bank statement. A bill. All the things you can’t control. People in your way. People stopping you from getting on your way… We are in a low-grade resting place waiting to explode.

There is a reason video games and weed are so popular; they postpone the “Sound and Fury”. Those are just two of the many answers to this dilemma. There’s also greed, sex, alcohol and other drugs, having a million “friends” on Facebook, having a killer body, and plastic surgery. There are lots of solutions to the problem, but like all solutions, they more often than not affirm the problem rather than solve it. The more you try and solve the problem, the more the problem exists. 

We are a world in “SURVIVAL” – a world run by fear and shame. We are a world in reaction. Rocked back on our heels. Trying to stay upright. Now, as crazy as this sounds, I don’t think this is bad. I just think this is a very significant part of how we human beings are designed. I don’t think it’s the whole story; it’s just the one I am telling here. Just like Shakespeare wasn’t saying this is the whole story, but it is part of the story and for the most part, it’s being ignored. The nature of a “Survival System” is to survive. So, what better way for it to survive than to give you a problem you don’t have, and then get you to dedicate your life to solving a problem you didn’t have in the first place? It guarantees the survival of the system but it also guarantees that you have an itch that will never get scratched.



Smell of Summer

The smells of fresh cut grass and honeysuckle remind me of my boyhood summers. I am reminded with an ear-to-ear smile and boundless energy. I am reminded as I bounce out of bed. There is no preparation for the day. I am always prepared. I am reminded by all the possibilities that are in front of me. The beach, my friends, catch, my brand new Schwinn bike. I am torn in all different directions.

I never walk; I run everywhere. I have no purpose but I am in a real hurry. I run past all the smells of summer. Mint and jasmine. Salt water and heat. Fresh-baked bread and diesel. A dog barks and follows me for a time. I speed up. I am out of breath. I am always out of breath. I run over people’s lawns. I run with delight through Mr. Crenshaw’s sprinklers. “Get the hell off there, you damn fool,” Mr. Crenshaw says from his porch in his bathrobe and slippers. I wave and shake the water off me like some dog. Mr. Crenshaw just shakes his head. I start running again. How great it is to be a “damn fool.”