You know what's heartbreaking? The number of actors who come to the Dojo suffering unnecessarily. It's heartbreaking because few are aware that they're experiencing suffering, and even fewer are aware they're suffering unnecessarily.
The most popular flavours of this suffering seem to be frustration, jealousy, and despair. And all seem to come drizzled with a sticky sundae sauce of self-criticism along the lines of, "I shouldn't be feeling these emotions/I'm doing something wrong/I'm not cut out for this".
It genuinely breaks our heart because if there's any group of actors we most need in this industry, it's Dojo actors. Y'all are some of the most talented, dedicated, courageous, generous, and warm-hearted people out. It's not just that you ninja homies deserve to thrive, the long-term health of our industry depends on it.
Here's how we approach working with actors in this situation. 1-On-1 coaching sessions exist, of course, but this might be all you need.
PSA 📢 : EVERY ACTOR FEELS FRUSTRATION/JEALOUSY/DESPAIR!
The above is in caps lock for a reason. Let it sink in. Yes, we're all special little snowflakes, but human emotions are human emotions, amigo. It's not personal. We're not doing anything wrong. We're also not alone. Anyone we encounter on the actor's path who's no longer suffering unnecessarily has simply face-planted on the realisation below.
Buddhist psychology offers a profound way of framing this "a-ha" moment.
Suffering = Pain x Resistance
Pain is a given. It's a part of every career path because it's a part of life. Suffering, on the other hand, is optional. If we're suffering, it means we're multiplying our pain by a number that isn't zero. We all remember what [insert any number] x 0 equals, right?
We voluntarily signed up to be an actor. Meaning we agreed to the rules of the game:
- No one gets to book everything always.
- No one gets to work forever without pause.
- No one gets the entire stadium cheering for them.
What's tricky is that 95% of us never received a rulebook, so we signed up without knowing the full extent of what we were saying yes to. The industry doesn't go out of its way to make this explicit (it would be bad PR). It's a self-defeating strategy, but it is what it is.
As a result, we always start by spelling them out in black and white. These are the rules of the game.
Enjoying the game
Acknowledging this, we now have a couple of choices. We can:
- Leave and play another game.
- Complain and rage (i.e. suffer unnecessarily — this referee ain't changing the rulebook for nobody).
- Accept and enjoy the game.
If we wish to enjoy the game, accepting the rules is crucial. It means every time we go to dispute (resist) a rule (pain) leading to (unnecessary) suffering, we realise, "Oh, yeah, that's right! This is one of the rules! It applies to LITERALLY EVERY ACTOR who plays."
That's called multiplying by 0, baby. And legit, it completely flips how we experience #actorlife.
For most, it takes a good few reps to get to that moment of pause and clarity and, ultimately, Taylor Swift-level freedom. But damn, they're reps worth putting in. Especially if we intend to play the actor's game for some time.
After some time, we may feel ready to step it up and start playing with the MVPs. That is, sharing our understanding of the rules with fellow actor homies. The industry may decide to keep these disguised and implied. We, however, can bring them out into the open and make them crystal clear. MVP status is automatically granted the second we empower another player.
That's the rules.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
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