Updated: Oct 15, 2020
The things that got us to this present moment, both in our careers and our lives in general, are not necessarily going to help us get to where we want to go now.
Think about this: Do you have any habits that, when you're around certain people where you have historically practiced these habits, you revert to doing again? Maybe it just comes easily with that crowd, so you play that role again because that's how they knew you the last time you hung out. And, even while you're acting this way, and you're aware that it doesn't represent the "Present-Day You" that you've come to be, you just can't help yourself from acting that way anyway?
We all slip up in this arena because we're human. But you can be more conscious of it, so that when it's happening, you can at least observe it, and maybe lay off the gas pedal slightly.
Recently, I was asked to join a webinar through an acting school in Vancouver, Canada, to speak to a group of mostly young actors, definitely more toward the beginning of their careers than I am. The gist of it was about recovering from the work stoppage of COVID-19 and discussing what would be next for our industry. But also, they had invited me to discuss the overwhelming odds of being an actor and a lot of what's covered on 10,000 NOs: the sometimes crazy, machine-gun fire rejection that you have to get through in order to make a living as an actor.
So I did it. And it was a lot of fun. As you can probably tell by now, that topic really awakens something in me. And afterward, the feedback I got from the head of the school, who was hosting and had invited me, was over-the-top positive. I found out through the person that had connected us that all of the students felt really inspired by the time I was done and overall, it just went very well, but...
That evening, and the following day, I found myself reflecting on how I presented myself. Something about the way I had acted didn't feel right. The irony is that, for the audience, they really liked the fact that I got fiery about the business and my own journey through it. For me, though, I didn't plan on that. But as I started talking about the early days of my career, and remembering all of the ways in which I had to overcome this system that, in many ways, feels stacked against the actor.
The specifics are irrelevant - the point is that I got fired up and I started getting increasingly animated, almost angry, to the point where I was throwing out F-bombs (in a funny way, I wasn't scaring them, more like, making them laugh, but it wasn't totally zen and professional). I felt like I was very honest with them like I've been with you. I told them, "Look, it's better now for me than it's ever been. But my battles are never over. And, in some ways, there are more challenges now. They're just new, different challenges." But the thing that I felt, and almost regretted after the webinar, was that I had reverted to this persona of mine that, over the years, has been praised by people. The truth is, there are certain things that do rile me up and when that happens, people have historically praised it, calling me passionate or fiery or inspiring, and I end up playing into that.
I do the same thing with eating when I go back home to where I grew up. When I was younger I was always trying to put weight on for sports so I would eat like a madman. And I had a reputation of, you know, "Del Negro can put down anything... four plates of food, he's gonna put it down," and it conjured up this feeling of pride within me.
We all have these things. For you, maybe it's not eating or getting fired up, but you have something. One of my former guests calls it "stupid gold stars", these things that you were congratulated for when you were younger, but they're no longer serving you.
So, people were into my schtick. I think it happened because I was remembering what it was like when I was in their shoes, that mode where I used to think, "you cannot kill me. I'm a cockroach and you cannot kill me," and I even now as I say that to you I get this feeling in my chest like I want to grit my teeth and fight someone. And I'm not saying it's wrong or it's bad. It can be a good quality if it helps you (we all need some fight in us), but it's not fully representative of who I am now. Not that I'm levitating like the Dalai Lama now, but I'd like to think that there's a little more breadth in me. There's a little less anger. There's a little less me versus them. There's a little more of, "This is the system. These are the machinations within which I am working. These are the levers that have to be pulled. And this is the way I've got to do it." And sometimes, I can go against the system and it will work. And sometimes it won't. But it's a little less muscle and a little more flow. I have a little less ego now, and more surrender to what will be. So, while I was honest with them, I don't think that my energy really reflected my new belief system. It's a reminder for all of us to ask ourselves what we can let go of in order to allow some new energy or habit that will be more specific to what we want now.
In the example I gave from the webinar, I didn't feel like I made a choice to be fiery and drop F-bombs. The feeling I had was that I was out of control and that I had allowed myself to be pulled into the moment. So probably, like me, you will continue to struggle with slipping into old habits that don't serve your new goals, but what I want is for you to at least be aware of it now. I want you to acknowledge that it's a choice. Because once you acknowledge it as being a choice, you have the power to choose better.
We all have qualities and habits that have helped us to survive as long as we have to be here right now. But, moving forward, if you want to thrive, and if you have new goals that you brought to this course, you're going to need to let go of some old patterns and choose new habits and qualities.
Acknowledging them and being aware of them is the first step.