Friday, September 22, 2017

Know the Best Decision then MAKE It

There's a great interview with investor, hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and founder of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio available online. While promoting his new book, Principles: Life and Work, Dalio reveals the fundamentals that made his company, which oversees $150 Billion in assets, such a success. 

"Most importantly, you have to know what the best decisions are and then you have to have the courage to make them."

His point is there is a profound divide between knowing what to do and doing it. The two are not binary. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

You Can't Wait for Inspiration

Songwriter, producer, arranger, and performer David Foster has won 16 Grammys in his career and been nominated 47 times. He's produced musical giants like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Seal to name a few.

During an interview he was asked what he did to overcome any creativity blocks. "Is there anything you do routinely?" His response surprised me. He said, "No, there's nothing I do routinely but what I'll do is go back and hit it again. And I will make myself get through it. I won't walk away from it. Just grind through it...People say, Where do you get the inspiration for songs? There really is no inspiration. You get up in the morning and get to work."

If you're waiting for inspiration to strike you before beginning meaningful creative work it's likely you'll never begin. The key is to just start, be consistent, and be committed to making art even if it's not mind-blowing every time. Because it won't be.

Start. Do. Do. Do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Satisfied Doesn't Mean Settling

One night after a long rehearsal a group of my classmates and I headed down to a popular watering hole called, The West End Bar. Students like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lucien Carr spent hours there during the formative years of the Beat Generation.

The place had changed quite a bit when I arrived. (I'm gathering the fusion Cuban dishes and karaoke were recent additions.) But that night I couldn't help myself and decided to partake in the latter.

I've always said, there are two things you don't want me doing: cooking and singing. And after my performance I understood why. But what informed me more about who I was at the time were not the missed notes but rather my habit of berating myself for my performance -- even for something as trivial as singing in a noisy bar. 

Of course, it was tenfold when I'd get off stage. Nothing was every good enough. I strove for perfection each time I delivered a monologue or stepped in a black box theater. I needed to be the best at any cost, even if it meant losing a part of myself.

Looking back, I realize being satisfied doesn't mean you're settling. It simply means you give yourself much deserved credit for a job well done and have decided not to delay something that simply can't wait: JOY.  

Find it wherever you can in whatever you do. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

You're in Good Company

As a casting reader I had the good fortune of performing opposite A-list movie stars and Tony-Award Winning actors. There were times I had to pinch myself as I read opposite actors I’d long admired.

Surprisingly, the most poignant lesson I took away was not about acting at all. What I discovered was no matter how successful the storyteller, nobody is beyond getting a little nervous.

Pre-show jitters are an integral part of this industry whoever you are. The only difference is these particular actors didn’t let it stop them from sharing their voice or claiming the real estate they needed to deliver their best audition.

Remember, your challenges don’t suddenly dissipate the higher you rise. You simply trade your old problems for a set of new ones.

So if you get a little nervous before the words, “Whenever you’re ready,” rest assured you’re in good company.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Done is Better than Perfect

Some of my early screenplays were so bad my friends didn’t even know where to start with their feedback. My first try at getting a literary agent was met by well over 100 rejections. And my first few films were passed on by so many festivals I lost count.

But by not taking those failures personally and choosing instead to interpret those setbacks as deferred successes, I continued to write blogs, articles, screenplays, one-man shows, and even a book. And as I developed my voice my confidence grew – convincing me I had something valuable to offer. 

Your time is limited. Don't waste another second deliberating over how to get started. Just begin. The longer you wait the more you cultivate the seeds of excuses to grow and eventually flourish.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Psyche of the Modern Day Artist

I spent years sitting by the phone hoping the perfect part would magically fall in my lap. Eventually, I discovered my story would never be told unless I wrote it.

These are a collection of lessons I've learned in my 12-year journey on how the modern day artist and actor must can create his or her own opportunities. 

-- Creating your own content is much easier than you think with the Internet, accessible state of the art camera gear (including the camera on your phone), and filmmaking resources like Final Draft Pro and Story Writer on Amazon. As Shazi Visram, founder of Happy Family food company notes, “If you are creative and you know how to execute your ideas, you can win and you can build something that is a living, breathing work of art.”

-- Learn from the greats. Watch interviews and read articles from the artists you admire most and pay attention to how they took bold action to get their voices heard. I highly recommend Mark Duplass's speech, "The Cavalry is Not Coming."

-- Find a team of like-minded collaborators committed to creating new and original content and getting it out through the countless channels at your disposal.

-- Just get started and learn as you go.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


In the fall of 2009 I volunteered as a youth mentor at a high school for young men between the ages of 14 and 18. Each week we would talk about goal-setting, serving the community, and the importance of constant self-improvement. I loved my time at the school. The students dreamed big, had brilliant ideas, and taught me far more than I offered them. 

The experience in Queens was just the beginning. Soon I found myself giving resume workshops at a women's shelter, offering tips to nervous high school students on public speaking, setting up beds at a men's shelter, and mentoring a homeless man trying to get back on his feet. By 2013, I was doing similar work at orphanages and schools around the world.

The people I met from all my travels became a compass steering me towards a life of greater purpose. I redefined what was important and tried to live in accordance with my core values. Along the way I discovered a few things:

-- There will always be someone in the world facing greater obstacles than you

-- Service to others immediately takes the focus of yourself offering a dose of much-needed perspective

-- Helping people help themselves gives integrity to your ambition. There’s nothing quite like the fulfillment you get from helping, in whatever small way, improve the life of another person.