I posted this on Facebook last night after an emotionally challenging day:
FEAR is a stupid, ridiculous thing. Do the universe a favor and stop with the fear. Or at least acknowledge that you’re scared and move through it. EFF your FEAR. Fear of pronouncing a “weird” name (like “Ratana”) wrong. Fear of doing the thing that scares you. Fear of love. Fear of letting someone in. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of finding the thing you were hoping for your entire life but were afraid would NEVER happen so you never articulated it. FEAR is limiting. Fear gets in the way of being amazing. And who are you NOT to be amazing? Go. Be Amazing. It might surprise you.
If someone is chasing you in a van with a machete, fear is absolutely valid. It spurs your flight or fight mechanisms and helps to keep you alive. But emotional fear - the lies we tell ourselves - they are limiting. They hold us back.
We can hide behind our fears - call them something else:
'Work is too busy'
'My family wouldn't approve'
'I have to wait until my children are older/I get that promotion/I have enough (money, time, passion, resources'
I hope you are challenging yourself every day. Even on small things. When an excuse comes up for why NOT to do something ask yourself:
'Is that really the truth?'
'What's the worst that could happen if I pursue this?'
'What's the best possible that could happen if I pursue this?'
I wish you joy. I wish you fearlessness so you can fear less and live more. What is your greatest fear? What’s the best or worst thing that could happen if that fear was actually a lie?
I like to think that my many years of life have taught me to check my ego at the door, to be open to what comes my way, and to stay present. That is a perfectionist’s lie.
I’m human. There are things I’ve accomplished or skills I’ve gained that I’m proud of. There are things in life I take for granted. And every once in a while the Universe conspires to teach me a lesson.
It’s ok. I need the lesson. We all do. We need to get locked out of our cars or homes every once in a while so that we remember to check for our keys. We need to have a workout or an event that pushes our boundaries - emotionally, mentally and physically. That way we remember to warm up or learn that we are capable of doing something we thought we could “never” do. We need to have a discussion that challenges our thinking and where we think our place in the world is or should be. It opens up our imaginations to possibilities that were previously unimaginable.
This lesson, humility, is a gut check. It’s the “You are Here” on the road map of life. We still hope, dream, strive. There’s still that big, hairy, audacious goal that we’re angling to achieve. But that gut check - it’s crucial. It teaches us where we are, what we need to fix or adjust, and opens our eyes to new possibilities.
What keeps you humble? What are you striving to achieve? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Sometimes, when you plan to do one thing, another thing happens. And you just have to go with the flow.
For 75 minutes on a beautiful, unscheduled Saturday afternoon, I was locked out of my apartment. I had left my home to sign for a package, and as soon as the door banged shut behind me, I knew I had left my house key safely tethered to my sneaker - because I’d gone for a run earlier that day.
And so, instead of sitting on my couch attending to client work, as I had intended to do, I found myself sitting on the steps outside my building, waiting for someone, anyone to come home. You see, I had left my house with nothing - no phone, no wallet, just my keychain that held my car key, but nothing else.
As minutes ticked by, I sat. I meditated. I stood up and went for a walk, borrowing a walking meditation I had read about in the writings of Thich Naht Hanh. I breathed. And I worked on being and staying present. Not worrying about what I was missing or what I’d do as soon as I got back into my apartment, and adjusting my schedule accordingly. No FOMO. No YOLO. Just being.
It’s harder and easier than you’d think. And it’s humbling. But rather than fret and be upset by the accident of locking myself out, I could find a small lesson: Be present. Be focused. Be grateful for a few extra minutes out in the cool pre-spring air and sunshine. And don’t forget to take your key off your sneaker the next time you go running.
P.S. If you’d like to read the book I read by Thich Naht Hanh, you can check it out here.
An actors’ life is a game of waiting. Submit for auditions, wait for a response. Sometimes none comes. Get a booking, wait for details. Sometimes the booking falls through or the requirements change. Get to set or studio, get ready to perform your role, wait for the production team to be ready to record your work.
What do you do while you’re waiting?
When I submit auditions, I move on. I don’t wait for the response e-mail or for the phone to ring, because more often than not, it never comes. So I move on to the next audition, or the next submission, or find a class or something to work on.
When I get a booking, I take a moment to celebrate. A moment of gratitude that out of hundreds or thousands of auditions reviewed, mine was the one selected. It’s a good feeling to be the needle in the haystack, when it happens. Prepare for the gig, book out with my agents, update my calendar. Then I move on.
When I get to the studio or to set, I take a moment to get my bearings. I’m so grateful for the work, but I’m also a professional. I get the lay of the land, make sure I am professional and prepared. Most of the time, the work happens around you, and then it’s your turn to perform. So in that down time, I review, take a moment to breathe, and review some more. When I’m done, I say thank you and leave. And then I look ahead and move on.
Waiting before moving means staying still. Not doing. In the zen form of the word, stillness is a good thing, it means you are present and non-judgmental. But waiting and not doing other things to ensure your productivity wastes time and energy. It’s opportunity cost. So the artist makes art, and then moves on. If someone buys the art (casts you, hires you, commissions you), awesome! A moment to complete the transaction, express gratitude. But then the artist moves on, moves forward.
The act of moving on allows the space to keep creating. And not waiting.
What are you waiting on right now? What are you creating?
When you work for a company, they pay you a salary, or maybe an hourly wage, as a way to place value on the service you render them. It is constant, reliable. You always know where it’s coming from, and if you do well, or the company does well, you may earn a raise or bonus as a result of your efforts.
Actors and artists have no such safety net. Our income is a cash flow game, tied to the whims of casting directors or buyers (clients) who place a value on our work by offering a rate. As an actor, we have a union that was created to help equalize our pay by setting the rates for the work we do. In that way, clients can get quality and reliable work, and actors can get paid a fair wage and do things we need to do like eat and pay our rent.
In recent years, there’s been a move to transfer work that was once union to non-union. This way, the clients set the rate - any rate - as a reflection of the ‘value’ the artist provides and a way to increase their own profit margins. I get it, it’s business. But as an artist and a human being, it hurts my heart. It hurts my bank account. There are so many projects out there that pay little to nothing, in exchange for an amorphous thing called “exposure.” But how many people will realistically view that video, ad, theatrical project? What is “exposure” worth, and can I use it to pay my Visa bill?
Recently, I saw a listing on a casting board asking for union actors, but paying half the rate that they should be paid (according to the SAG-AFTRA rate card, based on the work they were requesting). In addition, the casting notice stated that they required the actor to pay for the costs of the studio (usually, the producer pays this cost as part of the production). I found this somewhat alarming. A rate that has been dictated by contract is now negotiable and places a lower value on the work of the actor. The actor’s profit margin is diminished, because if he books the job, he is paid a lower rate, from which he must pay into his pension & health fund, his agent and possibly, a studio session fee. What is left after all those parties are paid? Pennies.
Other actors and even producers will say: “Well, just don’t do those projects.” or “Get a day job. Wait tables.” Actors who want to act, no matter what, will retort: “But I need to eat/pay rent/raise my kid.” Sure, we can get a day job, all that stuff. But an actor must act in order to keep evolving his craft, and to stay marketable as an actor. Catch-22.
In our race to the bottom, we dehumanize the process. We also signal, with our P&L’s and pocketbooks, that there is no value in art or the act of creation. No value in the work that we, as actors, have spent years to perfect. I love what I get to do, but sometimes, I have to shake my head at the way we view it. We admire those who can do it, but we don’t want to pay for it. If my art helps to increase your company’s bottom line, the marketing manager who helped to develop the ad will still get paid. I’ll get “exposure.”
Actors and Artists are constantly being asked to give away their creations for less than they are worth. It’s all negotiable for the sake of “exposure,” and give our clients buyout closure. How much would you charge for an invention to which YOU gave birth?– Ratana
Looking Forward, Looking Back, Taking Stock
The road ahead of us stretches endlessly. We sometimes go through life on auto pilot, setting the cruise control without thinking about what we’re doing or why we are doing it.
On a recent road trip, I had a lot of time to think about these things. The road seemed to go on forever - hundreds of miles of desert looming in the darkness, while the sunrise greeted me from behind. It was lonely, thoughtful and glorious.
In those moments and hours while the sun chased away the darkness, there was time to consider:
- Where I am: on the road and in life
- What I’m doing: to be a better artist, to be a better business person, to be a better human/sister/friend/partner
- Where I’m going: to become who I want to be
When you stop to consider where you are in your world, are you where you want to be?
It’s been so long since I’ve visited my blog, I forgot my password. Or I reset it and forgot to note the change. Either way, it’s been a while. I’ve been remiss. If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with the silence. If not, no worries.
Either way, a year has come and gone. 2014 begins with a kick in the pants and a reminder that in order for amazing things to happen, you have to show up and do the work. Sometimes you have to suck it up and do work you don’t want to do, or don’t like doing, but you have to do it.
I started by resetting my password.
What are you starting this year?
2012 is behind us. We survived the Rapture, the Mayan Apocalypse, Hurricane Sandy and probably 1,001 other calamities, real or imagined. It’s nearly the end of February, and the start of the new year has been an interesting one.
So, here’s what I’m working on in 2013:
1) Growing my Creative Business
Last year was tremendous for me as an actor, an improviser and a dancer. I booked more (mainly VO) gigs than I ever have, and I finally fulfilled a long time goal, which was to learn Argentine Tango. This year’s challenge is to grow: realistically, I’m aiming for a 10-20% growth in bookings over last year.
The long term goal is to double or even triple my growth; that is the difference between being a ‘starving artist’ and a ‘sustaining, thriving artist’ - one whose income is completely based on creating her art.
To do this will be a balancing act: taking classes to stay focused and relevant, networking appropriately and auditioning as much as I can.
2) Improve Cash Flow & Management Of Cash Flow
Digging into my savings was tough. Paying unnecessary fees was tougher (and made me angry at myself in the process). The goal this year is to pay no unnecessary fees. Which means, managing cash flow better. To that end, I’ve been doing my homework:
- digging into my finances to figure out how much I need at which times of the month
- plugging those figures into various cash flow calculators to figure out what my minimum “daily balance” needs to be
- and looking into freelance or other work to sustain me as I continue to pursue my dreams
3) Staying Connected / Reconnecting
Losing a parent is one of the toughest thing a child faces. Even when the child is grown and long gone from home. For me, it was a reminder: tell the people you care about how much they mean to you. Purge yourself of relationships that cause you pain or harm. Forgive yourself and others. And reconnect with those you wish you hadn’t lost touch with.
I started this “project” off with a purge: I used to have two Rolodexes (remember those?) full of business cards. I had collected them over many years, starting as an undergrad in college. I went through them all over the holiday break and sorted through them. I scanned the ones I wanted to keep or stay in touch with. I purged those that were no longer relevant, or those for whom I knew the data was old and outdated. The next step is to rebuild those contacts - with an e-mail, a phone call… who knows?
Some of these folks may not remember me. They may not want to be found. That’s okay. But I might just get to reconnect with folks who, at some point, touched my life, and say thanks.
4) In Case of Emergency
My Dad’s life taught me a lesson: Be Prepared. He had a stroke and fell into a coma. No emergency directives, no DNR paperwork, nothing to be found that told us, his family, how he wanted to live out his last days.
Last year, this project was on my list of things to do, and I kept postponing it. I just didn’t want to confront such a large, lonely project. But this year, especially as the anniversary of his and my grandmother’s passing approaches, it’s a must do: Be Prepared. Which means, making sure my own will, end of life directives, home inventory and “emergency binder” of important contacts and info are put together. It also means that my family knows where all this information is located. To get me started, I visited a website called getyourshittogether.com, which provides templates and how-to’s for such things. And it’s exactly what I need to get started.
5) Managing Energy & Time
It’s a bit ironic, because I’m getting over a cold as I write about managing my energy. But it’s true. In order to do everything I’ve set out for myself, the resources that require the most optimization are Energy and Time. When they are gone - that’s it, they’re gone.
For Energy, I plan to continue running, supplemented by yoga and dance. I just finished my second half marathon and am seeking out a third to run later this year. By doing so, it ensures that I keep a running schedule. Yoga has always been restorative for me physically and psychically, and I practice it for the balance it brings to my life. And Dance is my passion, with a side benefit of getting exercise and staying social.
For Time, meditation and keeping my schedule focused. A meditation practice (for me) is a way to center myself, get present and focus on what really matters to me. Keeping my schedule focused means balancing work, social life and other activities. It means limiting meetings to certain days of the week, so that I can focus on creating and growing my business on other days.
We’ve already begun, and the year is flying by. More stories to follow. But first a question: What are you working on for this year, and how is it going?
Previously, I wrote about what happened this year that went well for me. This was a year of tremendous change, and a true re-imagining of how I view and run my life. And while there were many victories, there were also some things that I wish I had done differently or had turned out better. That’s what this post is about. Some of my failures this year are intensely personal, but no less related to my outlook on the coming year.
Relationships & Family. This year, my father and grandmother (his mother) passed away within a week of one another. I like to think grandma passed away first to welcome dad to afterlife and chastise him for not being a better son and father. My dad and I weren’t the closest in life, and geography and language separated me from his parents, who spoke no English. We think our parents (and grandparents) will live forever, or at least we hope they do. When they passed away, I remember going to the ocean to honor their memories and thanking them for the lessons I learned from them, by their absence. Which is to say: you don’t get to choose your family, but appreciate them for who they are and what they have taught you, explicitly and implicitly. My dad taught me about entrepreneurship, and about following through.
My grandmother taught me how to communicate effectively without ever saying a word. When we used to visit my grandparents in Bangkok, I would watch them interact with my dad, and not understand a single word they were saying. I felt tone, watched body language, and my Grandmother’s reactions to my dad were so strong, I felt I understood her, even though I didn’t understand any of the words.
Both of them, in fact the entirety of my dad’s side of the family, taught me by their absence what a gift it is to know your family, and how important it is to forgive and let go. If you could understand how you got certain traits or habits, could that possibly make you a more effective person or a kinder human being by doing more or less of something?
The second lesson here, on a broader level, was to honor the relationships I have. I am grateful for each and every person in my life, however long they choose to stay. My part is to remain present and attentive, to make choices that nurture the relationship, and when our time is up, for whatever reason or circumstance, to let them go with honor and respect.
Finances. Guess what? When you don’t have a steady pay check from a day job, your finances become a cash flow game. On the whole, it was a good year for income as an actor, and using my savings effectively, but I could have done so much better. Case in point, managing cash flow. Knowing how much you need in your accounts, by when, so you can pay your bills and not incur the wrath (e.g., irritatingly expensive fees) of banks. Over the past few years, I’d been working hard to create a process for managing my finances that allowed for this, but I didn’t plan for how that would change when my income went from a check of the same amount once every 2 weeks to a check of various amounts every whenever it came. Because of this very expensive lesson, one of my areas of focus for the coming year will be how to manage cash flow on a freelancer’s unsteady income.
Time & Energy Management. I am my own boss, I manage my own time. For the most part, I have been very good about keeping a rigorous schedule. Each morning spent in exercise, meditation and then focused on auditions and creating. Each afternoon focused on networking, and nurturing my relationships and mind with meetings, classes and performing. I have found on the few occasions I’ve been sick or injured this year, that it’s been too easy to slip into laziness, and that I need to be more consistent about how I manage my time and energy. In the first few weeks of the year, I’m planning a little experiment, a simplified version of a consultant’s time study. The purpose is to document my time by accomplishment (or lack thereof) and identify patterns and areas to improve over the course of the year.
I am a fan of the idea that you should fail early and fail often. You should learn from those mistakes in order to grow and move on. After all, even Thomas Edison failed at creating a light bulb the first 10,000 or so times. The failures and missteps of this year are opportunities for me to grow and evolve. And in the next post, I’ll explore what I’m focused on for 2013 and outline how I plan to get there. Thanks for reading, and if you are so moved, feel free to share what you wish had gone better for you this year, and perhaps, how you’ll address it in the coming year!