A Year Ago

back in timeA year ago, I got some news that surprised me. Someone tried to tell me I wasn’t good enough for something. Well, the truth was, they did tell me that they didn’t think I was good enough for something. He basically told me I didn’t make the cut.

After I got over the initial shock since I found the assessment completely unfounded, I thought about the deliverer and I thought about the actual outcome of this news and its impact on the rest of my life. I realized that the deliverer wasn’t someone I admired who’s opinion I needed to listen to and the outcome I thought I wanted was absolutely unnecessary to the goals I had in my own life. Another outcome would have allowed me to check off a box that didn’t need checking in order to prove I live up to arbitrary standards of a system that’s becoming more archaic daily.

But rejection is never fun no matter what perspective you can later spin it into. It can bother you. And, despite the fact that I am now more relieved and well-aware that world is not one I want to be a part of, this one still bothered me for a while.

I mean, you want to get in an invite to the party even if you have no intention of attending.

So I was going to write a whole article in response going into detail about all the things I’ve done in the year since this day. But when this day neared, I lost my edge to write a vengeance-filled post bragging about all my accomplishments. First of all, it’s not really my style. And secondly, I just didn’t care enough. The truth is, this mattered so little to me by the time the day came and went, that I just let it go and forgot about it. I was too busy actually doing the things that I love to take time out of my day to focus on telling people that I’m doing the things that I love.

And when I realized I missed my chance for my year-later response, I couldn’t find a shred of me that really cared. It all felt so long ago and my life has been progressively getting better, more fulfilling, and happier since that day.

When the issue comes up, of course I’m candid and honest about how I felt about the whole situation. But the underlying truth of the matter is that I care about it a lot less now that I thought I would. Which, for the most part, is liberating. But a little part of me still wishes I were angry so that I could let their rejection continue to fuel me.

But I’m not angry. While initial frustrations and rejections can make for good tinder for a fire, they ultimately cannot sustain the flames. They can provide a little help making it burn brighter, but they flare up and burn out quickly. It’s the thick logs and constant care that keep a fire burning. For me, those thick logs are my own passion for creativity and storytelling, and the constant care is the diligence and consistency with which I approach turning my passion into a daily, viable reality.

To put it bluntly, I realized that the best way to show ’em up is to show ’em you don’t even need ’em. Cuz you don’t.

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Don’t Take It Personally

I’ve got some pretty thick skin. It’s pale, that’s for sure. But it’s also thick1300559_1383703671938_full.

I have to. I’m in the entertainment business.

I know from experience on all sorts of ends of the creative process that there are a thousand considerations that go into any decision. I know that, at the end of the day, this is a business and business decisions are made that have little to do with my personality.

So I’ve learned to take very few things personally. And I think it’s a valuable approach to most things in life.

Because here’s the thing- that guy who was an asshole to you on your drive over here? Odds are he’s just having a bad day for reasons that have nothing to do with you, you just happened to be around when he needed someone to yell at. That seems much more likely than the idea that he found out who you were, decided he didn’t like you, and has been studying you for months to know the exactly moment he could meet up with you in traffic and be an asshole to you because you personally deserve it.

Unless someone I know, love, and respect looks me in the eyes and says, “I’m going to say something to you about you personally that I hope you seriously consider…” I pretty much assume most decisions and interactions with people I have throughout the day aren’t worth taking personally.

As silly as this sounds, too, I apply this to both good and bad interactions. One of my favorite stories is about a boy and his horse (abridged version #6 here on this juicy list). I take that approach to getting too many emotions involved with people- positive or negative. People I’ve just met, even if I’ve had a great interaction with them, don’t really know me. So even if we’ve had a great interaction, I don’t really take it personally. I don’t go home thinking I’m so spectacular or amazing. I enjoy the positive energy shared, am grateful for it, and move along without investment in an outcome. For all I know, that person could only be being so kind to me because they want me to act in a certain way in the future that I may or may not comply with. and then they’ll get angry and turn on me. And, if I’ve taken their positivity towards me personally, I have to take their negativity as a personal attack, too. When the truth is, they have certain wants and needs that I don’t meet. And that’s a-ok. And it has nothing to do with me.

So let’s all just relax a little and take most things that happen less personally, eh? I know it’s fun to play the victim, but odds are whatever happened to you probably had nothing to do with you.

Constantly Recommit

commitCan I be honest with you, internet? Can I? What’s that? You’re not going to respond because you’re an abstract concept and not an actual human being? I’m making up this whole conversation in my head right now?

Ok, cool. I’ll be honest then since I know I can trust you.

I’ve been feeling a little lazy lately.

Granted, I know that my productivity levels can fluctuate greatly. I know that there are times I go through intense period of productivity. I know, too, that there are times in my life when I have the schedule and energy to really output a lot of material and other times when I just don’t have that luxury. I know that and I really do embrace it.

But I think- for various reasons- for the past month or so I’ve slowed down a bit. I’ve slowed down on getting to open mics. I’ve slowed down on my consistent writing. I’ve slowed down on spending every waking non-money-making-hour on producing creative content. Sometimes, I hang out with people I enjoy spending time with. Sometimes, I watch comedy I want to see on Netflix. Sometimes, when I’m really feeling self-indulgent, I go to the grocery store like a normal adult human being.

And while all this is fine and dandy (and what some people might call “healthy”), I realized laziness and resistance are insidious. Before you know it, you’ve slowed down or stopped completely. And while I’ve been fortunate enough to be riding a wave of momentum from my previous hardcore energy and productivity periods- so my “slowing down” hasn’t been as obvious, I need to be careful. I need to be careful I don’t become complacent. I need to make sure I’m constantly growing and challenging myself. It’s fine to continue to keep certain elements of balance that bring calmness and happiness in my life- but I need to be protective of my momentum.

I was reading a few books lately of success and productivity thanks to a close friend. What I realized in reading those is that you need to constantly recommit to whatever’s important to you. You can enjoy the fruits and labors of previous work, but you need to always be present and goal-oriented about the things that are important to you to keep them healthy. Whether that’s a relationship, a career goal, a fitness goal- whatever. You can’t just assume that you’re going to keep something going at the level and pace it was because it’s always gone at that level and pace. You need to constantly reevaluate and recommit to make sure you’re responding to the world around you and to your own gut feelings.

For me, at this period of my life, that means recommitting to some goals I have. Sure, it’s not yet New Years and this is an odd time of year to make yourself goals and really push it out since the usual momentum for all that shiz starts at the beginning of the year. But it makes no sense to wait just for waiting sake. That’s just letting laziness and resistance win. So I’ve recommitted. I’ve made specific goals for the rest of the year and am working on implementing them. I will keep pushing and not letting myself be satisfied or complacent.

I suggest you do the same.

Vacay

IIMG_6291 am good at going. I am good at doing. I am good at moving.

I am not very good at stopping.

But I recently was fortunate enough to get to stop for a while.

Through a series of fortunate circumstances, I snagged a four night vacation in Hawaii.

Lucky. I know. Believe me… I know.

I was of course looking forward to some time in paradise. But I wasn’t sure what I was really going to do with myself. I wasn’t going on my own so it’s not like I could do what I normally do when left alone and create a series of make-believe characters that converse with each other. I couldn’t even really take too much time to write or work on any of the pending projects I’ve got coming up because I wanted to actually enjoy the beauty around me.

So I had to stop. For a period of time.

I had to not make plans. Not contact people. Stay off my phone as much as possible. And just enjoy the scenery around me.

And I’ll be honest, it was extremely refreshing. I read two books. Two! I never take the time to even finish one because I only have a few minutes here and there in my day. But I had time to read two!

I went for hikes. I woke up energized with the sun and watched it rise over the ocean from my incredible balcony view. I saw rainbows and went swimming in the refreshing water. I took deep breaths and enjoyed myself in the moment.

And I came back totally ready to work again. But this time, with a new revitalized perspective. I’ve relaxed because the relaxation of the vacation and the island seeped into my core.

I love traveling. I haven’t traveled (for pleasure) much lately. And this was a good reminder that taking a few days off make a huge different in my happiness and productivity levels. So even though I’m not always good at stopping and it can take me a bit to build back up the momentum I had before stopping… I think once in a while it’s worth it.

My Totally 10 Year Reunion

romy and michelleLast weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. I dreamt of that day since my freshman year in high school. I couldn’t wait until I triumphantly returned to my class and got to brag about all the incredible things I’d done with my life in the past decade. I’d be like Romy and Michele except I wouldn’t have to lie because I’d actually be super successful (though if I did lie, it’d be way more believable than inventing post-its).

But, like most things in life, the past decade didn’t go as I had planned back in high school. What actually happened is that I was unable to make it back for the weekend because I couldn’t afford a plane ticket from LA to Indy and was already booked for a couple shows in LA. But I could have gotten out of the shows. Truth is, I just couldn’t afford the ticket.

Because I’m not yet financially successful. I couldn’t arrive in a limo or in a helicopter like I wanted. I couldn’t even arrive on a Southwest redeye I paid for with a credit card because I don’t have the money available on the credit card and don’t have the time to give off work. I’m far from home out here in LA so a trip like that is a commitment. I know friends who were able to make the trek to say hi. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’m juggling too much here in LA too delicately. Too much time off and something has to give. And I’m not yet in a position to be able to give anything up. So I didn’t go.

I was class president for two years and student body president my senior year. And I didn’t make it to my 10-year high school reunion.

In case you can’t tell, I’ll just say it- I was disappointed. Not because I had anything to prove. I actually had wonderful friends in high school, many of whom I keep up with regularly. I even get to talk to some of my teachers too because social media is great for all that. And I’ve been back to my high school a couple times since graduation so it’s not like I’m a stranger around there.

I was disappointed not only because I wanted to be there but I think I wanted to be further along in my career at this point, too. I wanted to be able to tell people that I had a dream and I made it a reality and look at the cool stuff I have to show for it. But not really because I needed to show other people. I think I just wanted to prove it to myself.

I know I’ve chosen a different life path than many of my peers. And I’m happy with where I am and happy with the decisions I’ve made. I know as a result my journey is windier and weirder because it’s more unconventional. And that’s ok. But sometimes, there are clear reminders that I will miss out because of my choice. Missing my 10-year reunion was one of those reminders.

So if any of my BJPS Class of ’04 buddies are reading this, I hope the reunion was awesome. I would have loved to have been there and gotten drunk with you (since I was such a prude and a nerd and never did so in high school). I would have loved to have heard about your careers and your kids and your spouses and your sex changes and your college years and your job complaints and your future goals. Please know that I was there in spirit. And hopefully I’ll catch you at the next one. Because I swear to god if I can’t afford a friggin ticket to Indianapolis by then, I’m going to run away and join the nunnery. I hear they love comedians.

More Than Talent

talent quoteI heard someone talking about Ariana Grande the other day. They were saying how she may have the same range as Mariah Carey.

People seem to like to do that. Compare new people to living legends.

Love or hate her, Mariah Carey has a legendary voice. But before we go comparing all the newbies with great range to someone with an established career, I want to remind everyone of a lesson that is near and dear to my heart.

It takes a lot more than talent to become a standout success in any career.

I’m not knocking down Ariana Grande. Nor am I trying to build up Mariah Carey. I just want to make it clear that people talk a lot about talent as if the best talent will always shine through. But truth be told, you’ve gotta work your ass off and have talent in order to break through. Then you’ve gotta continue to work your ass off for years in order to continue having a great career. In my example (that I’m not super proud of at this point), Mariah Carey is extremely talented. No doubt. But she also has worked her ass off to become a household name and near-legend. And she’s done it for years. So could Ariana Grande be the next Mariah Carey? Time and her work ethic will only tell.

I’m not writing this because I care anything really about these people. It’s really a reflection of my own work and my own ambition. I know I’ve got talent. And so do tons of people around me. Which is spectacular because they challenge me to be even better. But in order to really stand out and have the type of career and success I want, I have to be willing to work hard and work for a long time. And that means actually doing the work.

Which reminds me, I gotta jet to a meeting where I have to go show someone who might be able to help me that I’m talented. Likely they’ll just say “thank you” and and move along. So I’ll have to do even more work. And that’s ok with me. I’m ready, willing, and able.

Let’s do the damn thing.

 

The Talented Mr. Abdi

For the past couple days, various news reports have announced that the very talented, Oscar-nominated actor Barkhad Abdi is reportedly “broke” and living off per diems Sony Studios provided throughout awards season. (Click here for the report from The Hollywood Reporter)

People are outraged. They’re upset that this great actor could be a part of something that made so much money and was so successful and somehow as financially sound as his multi-millionaire peers.

Something about these articles rubbed me the wrong way. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot. And I finally figured out why I was so bothered by all the outrage.

Here’s the thing… Hollywood is f*#@ing tough.

I think it’s wonderful a talent like Mr. Abdi got the opportunity to have a huge break and possibly make a career for himself. And in no way am I writing this to question or undercut this man’s obvious talent. He’s a great actor and deserves lots more opportunities to shine onscreen.

But let’s look at some of the realities of the situation:

It was his first major film

He got lucky. Really lucky. Like, really really lucky. He is a very talented man with a gift who happened to be in the right place at the right time and was handed the perfect role to show that off. That happens. Rarely, but it happens. And when it does, it’s the start of a career. The first step in what can become and extremely successful and lucrative career. He was compensated a fair amount. And he continues to be compensated. Yes, he lives off a per diem and needs help from his friends to make his dreams a reality. I live off a day job and get help from my friends all the time to make my dreams a reality. That’s called started an acting career. It can be years of tough work. Even after you get big breaks. Just look at any average actors long-spanning career. It’s filled with little breaks, big breaks, and a ton of tough shit in between.

Tom Hanks was the box office draw, not him

I think people are so upset because Mr. Abdi was playing opposite one of the most successful box office stars of our generation. And he did a stand out job. There is no denying it. But Tom Hanks is the star. Tom Hanks is the household name. Tom Hanks is the reason the movie was financially successful. Sony is not going to pour millions of dollars into a movie about a guy barely anyone has heard of starring a guy nobody has heard of. That’s not going to happen. Studios care about making money. They’re a business. It’s a good business decision to have Tom Hanks be the star. And while Mr. Abdi has and should be rewarded for the excellence with which he portrayed his role, he is not the reason the movie was a financial success. Tom Hanks is. Plain and simple.

In ten years, assuming Mr. Abdi can consistently be the star of several financially successful blockbuster hits, then he should share the lucrative financial rewards (aka “points on the backend”) with someone like Tom Hanks. Or even five years from now. Or even three major movie hits. My point is, Tom Hanks has earned his keep. Of course he made more money in the film. He’s the reason the film made money.

Mr. Abdi lived and worked outside Los Angeles. He recently decided to move here and pursue his dreams, riding the coattails of this huge amount of publicity and success. Good for him! I’m happy for him! I hope he has lots and lots of success. But it won’t come without lots and lots more work. And probably lots and lots more poverty. Because this is LA, baby. Rent is high and actors plentiful. Your best bet is to do good consistent work, find people you love creating with, and do it for the love of creation. If you’re lucky (and smart about it) maybe you can turn that into a lucrative career. He’s certainly at a major advantage right now to do so. But careers are not made overnight. Great performances can be rewarded, but you have to consistently prove yourself before people will begin believing that you’re worth what you say you’re worth.

Hollywood does not reward pure talent alone. It can recognize it, as is the case with Mr. Adbdi, but that doesn’t mean the most talented people automatically get exalted to consistent big screen hits and stardom. It’s a weird and incalculable, usually unmeasurable, series of factors that make someone a star. Many times, being in the right place at the right time is a major fact that needs to fall into place. And Mr. Abdi got that. But after that, there’s a thousand weird things that need to continue to happen to keep your career progressing. Don’t ask me what they are. If I understood it, I wouldn’t be eating two day old chicken for lunch in my studio apartment before heading to spend hours at a day job that has nothing to do with acting. All I know is that it seems like consistent good work, a positive attitude, likable personality, inexhaustible work ethic, and overwhelming desire to create are eventually rewarded.

At least I hope so.

He is not a “casualty” of the system

One of the articles reporting on Mr. Abdi wrote that he may become a “casualty of the Hollywood system.” I would have thrown my computer across the room if I weren’t so poor and dependent on it for all my creativity at the moment.

Because here’s the thing- he’s not even close to a casualty. He’s an exception.

There’s a big ass difference.

If he becomes just another actor struggling for roles and working every day towards that next break to prove himself again, he won’t be a casualty. He’ll be a regular working actor.

The casualties of Hollywood are the people who give up. The people who come to LA with stars in their eyes, get worn down by the constant hardships and rejection and move back home. They’re the people who have lived and worked in LA for 20 years without ever getting their major breakout role and become so downtrodden they give up on their dreams. They’re the people who lose all their money to the constant scammers who prey upon them and give up on their dreams before they’ve ever even started. They all couldn’t take it and gave up on their dreams. Those people are the casualties.

Mr. Abdi is an exception. In his first role, he got to play opposite a major movie star in a blockbuster international hit movie and was nominated for several awards. That’s exceptional. If nothing ever comes from his career, it can still be considered a success. He was nominated for an Oscar. An Oscar. He can never be a casualty of Hollywood.

If I haven’t yet made it clear, this has nothing to do with Mr. Abdi’s talent. He’s awesome. I wish him nothing but success. This tirade has to do only with the assumption that just because a person is talented and made a good movie that Hollywood should automatically reward them. It’s never been the case and it will never be the case.

Besides, he was at every major awards season ceremony with huge movie stars who knew him on a first name basis and praised him for his work. If that isn’t rewarding, I don’t know what is.

Careers span decades because the creation has to continue. People become stars because they deliver consistently great performances over long periods of time.

Besides, if Mr. Abdi really is broke, that doesn’t make him any less of an actor. If anything, that makes him just like all my other extremely talented and extremely broke friends. Welcome to the club, Captain. Time to get to work.

Somethings Gotta Give

And I’m not talking about the classic movie. I’m talking about the phrase for life.

Obviously, I love working out. I discuss it on here regularly. But the past week or so, I’ve been terrible about it. I don’t even want to tell you the number of times I’ve gone to the gym compared to how often I was going at this time last month.

But here’s why. It’s the end of the year. I’m in LA for only a few more days before I head home for the holidays. I’m trying to continue to do a few last shows while wrapping up several projects while also continuing the major campaign for my web series we’re going to begin filming in early 2014 (Called The Other Client List).

And I’ve learned that when you’re taking on so much- especially when it all reaches a crunch time like it is right now- something’s gotta give. And for me, that’s been working out in the mornings. I was terrible about it last week. And my motivation is low for it right now. I’m still forcing myself to do it- because it’s sooooo good for my mind and body- but it’s a struggle.

And some days, I just don’t flippin’ make it.

And that’s ok. Because everything is a flux. And as long as I am being productive and happy with what I’m doing (and making sure I’m still staying healthy and not just excusing laziness) then it’s all good.

For now.

Besides, New Year is around the corner. Perfect time to reset. And get back into a better routine.

Hollywood Pretty

It’s no big secret that I belong to LA Fitness. I typically go to one main gym nearest to me. But I like having the convenience and ability to go different locations in the city depending on my day’s schedule.

Last Tuesday, I had some time to sneak into the LA Fitness right in the heart of Hollywood. It’s literally located on Hollywood Boulevard feet away from The Chinese Theater and tons of other Hollywood landmarks.

And it is filled to the brim with actors and pretty people.

Everyone around me was beautiful. They’re in excellent shape, perfectly proportioned people with amazing skin, hair and teeth who love to watch themselves workout in the mirror. So they were clearly actors.

When I went to the cardio section, half the treadmills were filled with magazines and the other half were filled with highlighted scripts for people memorizing lines.

I even recognized some people I’d seen on TV and other’s I’d worked with around the city. So. Many. Actors.

But these are my people. I’m an actor at heart too (despite the thousand other things I also love doing). So I workout because I’m trying to look good. Sure, it feels nice to be in shape and it’s important to me that I stay healthy… but I really want and need to look good to help catapult my career. And having tons of beautiful, in-shape people kicking their butts around you is excellent motivation.

Plus! The Juice Bar even comes equipped with the ability to give you your own eating disorder! I got a post-workout shake that gave me food poisoning later that night! I totally puked up everything I ate the whole day, which inched me a little closer to my goal weight! Thanks, LA Fitness Hollywood Juice Bar! Now I know how easy it would be to be bulimic (just in case eating right and exercising regularly aren’t good enough)!

Nail polish

I have this theory on nail polish. I don’t know that it applies to everyone, but it certainly has proved true in my life. The theory is this:

When my nails are painted with nail polish, I’m taking better care of myself overall. When they are not painted, I’m probably not spending enough time on my own care.

The first time I realized and started sharing this theory was in high school. I would rarely take the time to paint my nails- even though I love it- because I very rarely had the time to sit down and do it. Even if I did have the time to do it, they wouldn’t last very long and I certainly didn’t have time for maintenance.

So I would keep them painted sometimes. But usually not. It was a treat. Once in a blue moon (my favorite beer…) I would get a manicure and then they would really last a long time (like a week!).

I didn’t think much of it until  a few years ago when I was living in Chicago. I had a few life changes go down and decided to start taking better care of myself. I put on more lotion every night and I took the time to make sure my nails were always nice (or at least relatively presentable). Then I met a guy who noted that when I talked to him. I proceeded to date that guy for over two years. I would make it a goal to keep my nails polished not because he insisted on it, but because it was a neat thing he would notice. And it made me feel feminine. And reminded me to take time to balance.

That relationship has ended. I tried to keep up with the nail polish on my own. I love nail polish on people. I notice it on my friends. I really do love when my nails are done. But I’ll be honest, the past few weeks, I’ve been shitty about keeping my them painted. I did it a little bit for a Vegas weekend, but they immediately chipped and I got annoyed with them and they’re naked again.

I’m not spending money on manicures right now. I don’t have the money to spend on those frivolities. Every little bit that comes in that doesn’t go towards basic life maintenance (rent, groceries, car, gas, etc.) gets spent on career. Parking, drink minimums, classes, headshots, workshops, video and show production, festival entrance fees… you name it. There’s always something else I’d rather spend the money on.

And here’s why… I’m not worried about balance right now. I’m not being very balanced. I’m in a phase of my life where I have a one-track mind. I’m constantly working and focusing on all things creative that could help me be funnier and a better comedy package to market and share with the world. I’m still taking time for myself at the gym (because that’s helpful for both my mind and career) and I’m still trying to get plenty of sleep.

Other than that, I’m not spending very much time at home. I don’t have a lot of downtime for non-productive things. I don’t have a lot of interest in balance right now. I’m ok with the nails because at this very precious very rare time in my life, I can spend every waking hour working on forwarding my career. And- although nails are great when I have time- I’m ok with not having the time for it right now.

I’ve spent big chunks of my life in good balance. And big chunks of my life focusing on people, places, and things that were not “productive” to my career. I wouldn’t change those times for anything because they very much inform who I am now. And I look forward to the future when I have more time for those places, hobbies, and people again. But right now… I’m in focus mode. And nothing- not even gorgeous nail polish- is going to distract me from that.

And I’m ok with it.

Though…if I see a really cute color or style and have an excuse for a party or even to wear it to, I may splurge. We’ll see.