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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.