Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Striving for Excellence

Excellence: An action, characteristic, feature, etc. in which a person excels.

This is one of the definitions from Collins English Dictionary.

This month I want to speak about excellence. To me striving for excellence is a goal to reach for. Excellence is what you achieve when you truly try.

Now, when I say it is what you achieve, that does not mean that you have achieved that excellence for all time. The thing about excellence is you do the best you can in any situation, but continue to strive for better. This is the difference between excellence and perfection. I believe you can achieve excellence, but never perfection. Excellence gives you the chance to continue growing and still have a satisfaction in what you have done.

Let’s say that you are giving a speech or meeting a new prospect. If you were striving for perfection you could end up getting nowhere. You will always be behind, for perfection is rarely attained. When most people think of perfection I believe that in fact they are thinking of excellence. These new situations we find ourselves in are ones that for many create daunting prospects.

They say that public speaking is the one thing that most people are afraid of. I can understand that. We don’t want to be thought of as fools. That feeling that we will be seen a fools, I believe comes from wanting perfection. If instead you reach for excellence then you take some of the pressure off.

Having said that I want you to understand that you still need to prepare, still need to continue to strive for the best you can be and do. One of my favorite concepts is to do what you can, with what you have and move on from there. This to me is the concept behind excellence. Many of us beat ourselves up for making what we see as silly mistakes. Give yourself a break. Like I have said, you are doing the best you can at that point in time. The key is to keep the growth continuing, to strive for the excellence that is very achievable. You simply keep on striving, growing and trying. To me that is where the joy and excitement comes from.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The issue with Perfection

How many of us think about how things would be if we were only perfect? Of course we never are so we end up being disappointed. This month let's look at perfection and the problems we face because of that ideal.

I am not saying that we should just give up and not try. What I am saying is that when we use perfection as an excuse for not doing what we know we want to do we end up with nothing.

The idea of perfection is just that, an idea. We use that as a goal to strive for. However, if we are honest with ourselves that perfection is never there. When we don't achieve that ideal we are disappointed and after a while we give up. How sad that we stop trying for what we want because we cannot have the unavailable. Wouldn't if be far better to go for the best, the most excellent? That is attainable. Of course we have to get started to get there.

When we give presentations to others, whether in conversation or in front of an audience the idea is the same. You speak to your friends even if you know that you are not prepared. You don't worry that it will not be perfect. To speak at a job interview, in front of class or an audience is the same principle. What people listen to is what you are saying. If you believe in what you are trying to communicate then the audience will be with you.

Now I am not saying don't prepare for the interview or speech. What I am saying is relax and say what is important to you. The speech doesn't have to be delivered perfectly. Instead try for excellence.

When we strive for excellence we allow ourselves to be human. Admittedly admirable humans but human none the less. Stop using perfection as an excuse for not going for the job interview or giving the speech. Allow yourselves the human response of trying and going for what you want. If you fall short you at least have gone further than if you had not made the effort. It only takes a bit of extra time to prepare and go for excellence. If you go for perfection you will never get there. Ask yourself would you rather get there or spend your life wondering 'what if' because you were afraid of making the mistake. We all make mistakes, the key is to learn from them on our way to excellence not perfection.

Some ideas and questions to ponder.
1. What have you not tried because you were afraid of failing?
2. Make a decision to take one step toward that goal.
3. Allow yourself to learn from the movement toward that goal even if you fail.
4. Keep going!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Presenting yourself to the world.

This month we will look at how we physically present ourselves to the world. When growing up we were taught to be seen and not heard. Not to talk about ourselves for people would think we were egotistical. Now you are grown up and there could be nothing further from the truth.

If you have ever seen children playing they are totally truthful. They will tell you who they are and what they can do. We think it is charming. Children are not necessarily trying to be better than others they are simply being honest about who they are.

What a lot of us failed to learn is that being honest about who you are is not egotistical, it is simply being honest. Being egotistical is speaking about yourself as if you are better than others are. The truth of the matter is you are no better or worse than anyone else. In all honesty, there will always be someone better at you in somethings and you will be better than some in other areas. Things tend to balance out. You do yourself and the world a disservice when you lie about who you are.

Each of us should take the time to get to know ourselves;learn to like who and what we are. The great joy of being human is we can change what we do not like and improve those things we do like. It takes courage to really look at yourself and admit to your faults and approve your greatness.

In the grand scheme of life we all want someone to love, but I would suggest that we love ourselves. In fact we should care enough about ourselves to want and be the very best we can be. Too many of us spend our time comparing ourselves to others. The only person you have to compete with is yourself.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Identify with your character

When we speak in public, whether it is as an actor or speaker, it is necessary to identify with our character. When we are unable to connect with the audience it is usually because we are not connected with ourselves/characters. There is a truth that our listeners know and miss when not there.

How do you connect? Well, if you are taking on a completely different persona, you study their background, their tics and twitches. You find people who are similar and study them. When you feel that you have learned all you are able in the time allotted, you start to integrate that information into yourself. You identify and become that person.

If you are a speaker, then you have the advantage/disadvantage of being yourself. Why a disadvantage? Well if you can't identify with who you are and why you are doing what you are doing, then you are just faking it. Believe me, in the long run faking it will not carry you through. It becomes necessary to identify with yourself and your commitment to your topic.

For both the actor and speaker it is the passion you bring to your 'performance' that will ultimately bring you the satisfaction you are desiring. Identify with your desire/character/ subject and let that shine through. Then you are on your way to the destination you are yearning for.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Being Prepared

How many of us go through life just flowing the with currents. We say, "whatever" or " if it was meant to be it will be". While a great sentiment, in this business they really are just excuses. Face it, it you are not ready when opportunity arrives, then you probably just added time to your 'making it'.

I can hear you now. "You are being too tough" or "You can't control outcomes". I would say phooey on that.

Let's start with "You are being too tough". Come on! Do you want to succeed or not? Life is constantly offering you chances. Do you take them, or do you even see them? Say you are in line at the coffee shop. You are in your own little world, not even aware of what is around you. There are many chances to connect with people. It helps with what you know, but it really helps with who you know. I am not saying to connect with people just to use them, but I am saying that when you connect with others it moves you closer to your goal. You never know when the next person you meet is the one who, in there own way, helps you to take the next step in the direction you are trying to get to. So no, I am not being too 'tough'.

Moving on to "You can't control outcomes." Please, I know you cannot control others, but you can control the outcome. The outcome is how you perceive it. If you think you have failed, then you haven't learned a thing. Failure is simply the next step to success. Let's use the audition process as an example. You prepared, gave a terrific audition, but did not get the part. Did you fail. NO! You didn't get the part, but if you were prepared you have made additional contacts, learned what works or doesn't work in certain situations. You may even have impressed the auditioners so much they will remember you and maybe call you for something else. The key is to control how you see the events. Learn every chance you get.

So always be prepared. Be prepared to meet and connect with people. Enjoy the process of learning to get from here to there. When you walk out, plan to make an impression. I have found one of the best ways in life to get to where I want to go, is head in that direction and be prepared for the opportunities that present themselves along the way.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Following Direction on Set

I recently met with my friend Jack. During the course of our conversation we began talking about film. He had the 'good' fortune to be on the set while they were filming one of his scripts. As we spoke the conversation revolved around actor behavior while on set. We both have had and heard stories that would make you wonder how a person was ever cast. The following story I think is very telling: Read on

The director was filming a scene in which an extra with a small speaking part was not doing particularly well. It seems he kept over acting and not listening to the director. This went on for around five takes. After each take the director would give the actor his direction and they would shoot again. Finally the director turned to some of the crew. He asked "Did I give this actor direction?" The answer was Yes. The next question was "Did this actor do as he was directed?" The answer was No. The director then proceeded to inform the 'extra' to accompany the A.D. and collect his time. The 'extra' then proceeded to make a scene. He was ultimately escorted from the set.

I wonder if that actor learned his lesson or even work after that. I am not saying that directors are always correct, but if you are given direction or asked to do a scene a certain way, by all means DO IT! If you have something you think may add, express your idea if appropriate, but the bottom line is, directors are there to direct. DO YOU JOB and follow directions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cold Reading

I have heard many say that they don't like or dread cold readings. They can be a bit frightening. Still there are ways to overcome that. (No, it is not imaging those who are listening to you in their underwear.)

First, remember that your voice is one of the instruments that you use in this job. To improve your voice and cold reading skills read out loud.

Sound simple huh! Well it is and it isn't. When you read out loud you should listen to yourself. Some people use a tape recorder or video recording. Unless your equipment is top rate, the sound you will hear when you play back is not very good. Additionally, you can't use a recorder when actually doing a cold read. Better to learn to hear yourself with out machinery. Learn to adjust your voice levels, the pitch of your voice and the speed at which a thing needs to be said. Practice using your voice and reading just the same as you would practice the piano, flute or any other instrument.

What should you use to practice. ANYTHING that is WRITTEN!! I have been known to practice reading the newspaper or magazine or even cereal boxes. The point it learn to read out loud. Learn the correct way to pronounce any word. Sometimes there are multiple ways to say any one word. Get comfortable enough that the unexpected does not throw you.

Personally, cold reading for me has become an easy task. I find I truly enjoy it. So the next time you have to cold read, relax, have fun. You have done your 'homework' and the next voice you hear on the screen or radio may be yours.