You Don’t Get To Stop Choosing

My old Chicago acting teacher and mentor, Kurt Naebig, warned us early on to never complain about the industry. Never, ever moan and groan about jobs or the lack thereof. His words, “The industry didn’t choose you. You chose it.”

He was right.

So why do we stop choosing?

If we chose to be artists, which is the biggest decision we could make, shouldn’t we expect to continue to make choices throughout our entire artistic lives? Choices about the material we’re passionate about. The material we stand behind. The material we absolutely have to manifest and share with others.

Or did we think that all our choices would be made for us?

Metaphor Alert!


I’m attempting an original metaphor. Wish me luck…

Picture yourself at a beach. You stand near the ocean, looking out. Tide rolls in. Tide rolls out. That ocean is the universe.

When the tide rolls out, bend down and quickly dig a hole in the wet sand. That hole is your life.

There are tons of different seashells nearby. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Those seashells are your art.

You have two options before the tide rolls back in.

ONE. Gather a bunch of seashells and fill up the hole with your choices. Your art.

TWO. Do nothing. Let the ocean fill it up for you.

Start With Why

In his best-seller Start With Why, author Simon Sinek argues that the best companies and organizations, the ones we remember, are those that have a clear sense of purpose. Their “Why” supersedes their “What.” Their products and services exist because of their “Why.” Mission before Action.

What if we did that for ourselves? As artists, what if we really honed in on our “Why” for creating. What if we had our own personal mission statement? Not just cool words on a page. But something we believed to our core.

I’m guessing that we would then get clarity on what projects we wanted to make. And with whom.

And our output, our choices, would reflect that clarity.

And then maybe, just maybe, we’d have a shot at being remembered. By the right people. For the right reasons.

Hobby, Job, Career, Vocation

A useful exercise…Write down these four words: hobby, job, career and vocation. After each, reflect and write down what each word means to you.

Next, watch this video from bestselling author, Liz Gilbert:

Once you clarify what you’re currently doing and what you want to be doing, then you’re free. Free to create art on your terms. Your clearly defined terms.

And no one can take that away from you. (That’s a hint by the way. As to what I’ve defined Vs. and acting for myself. See if you can guess.)

Memento Mori

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do, say and think.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Memento Mori is an ancient practice of reflecting on our own mortality. Reflections manifested in all art forms–paintings (like the image above), songs, writings (the Stoics and others), etc….even Walt Disney made his own personal Memento Mori cartoon.

Rather than scare us, Memento Mori should free us. It should free us into taking that leap. Making that decision. Producing that play.

If you know your days are numbered, why not do it? What do you have to lose? What’s stopping you?

Always remember. You could leave life right NOW.

The Virtuous Cycle

What happens when you find a play you’re passionate about and commit to producing it with excellence?

You create an incredibly meaningful experience for a whole lotta people. You start the virtuous cycle.

You create a meaningful experience for yourself.

For the playwright.

For the cast.

For the designers and crew.

For the audience.

Or for you visual learners, you create this…


The First Lesson

Tom Hanks Golden Globes speech should be required viewing for any artist. Especially actors. Two big takeaways…be on time and come prepared with strong choices.

Reminded me of a workshop I was in many years ago. Taught by a very famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. (Bonus points if you can guess who.)

It’s day one. Playwright’s on stage and thirty seconds in to the introduction…Door opens. (It’s in the back of the house.)

Enter an attendee/aspiring actor. Playwright stops, mid sentence. Addresses the person.

“You, there?”

“Me?”, the aspirant points to himself.

“Yes. You. Please don’t sit down. Turn around. Go back the way you came in. See the young ladies at the registration desk. They will give you a full refund on your tuition.”

The actor just stands there. Stunned. As are the rest of the two hundred-plus audience members.

Long, uncomfortable silence.

Finally, mercifully the playwright breaks it. “If you learn nothing else in this workshop, you will learn to be prompt. That’s the first lesson and the most important lesson I can teach you. Thank you. Good luck.”

Actor walks out. Workshop resumes.