The Authentic Life

I spent most of my adult life working in film and television, so using acting as a metaphor for life is very natural. In this case I’ll be using different types of actors as examples of how to live in a state of ego versus a state of being. I realize both “ego” and “being” might seem like nebulous terms, but hopefully this metaphor will resolve that in a way that is helpful to you.

The ego actor is a performer. He needs the audience’s approval. For him rehearsal is waiting, the ego actor is alive only in front of others. Acceptance, support and 597 Relax and Succeed - Truly healthy peopleapplause are very important to the process. This actor may be very, very talented through careful and dedicated study, but there will still be an important difference between them and the true artist.

I’ve known a lot of actors and like in most jobs, a small percentage were truly stellar. And not surprisingly, those actors were all very similar. They weren’t just super-talented, extremely authentic performers, but they also treat crews extremely well, and they’re generous with other cast members (whereas the ego actor wants to steal scenes). They’re in my experience generally loving, smart, supportive parents and I would rank them among some of the most compassionate and aware people I’ve met.

When I teach film I’ll often point my students to my friend Shaun as an excellent example of a true artist. I’ve used him before when talking about authenticity because his life demonstrates to students the most artful, skilled and sensitive approach to acting they could hope to have. Every time I’ve worked with him he is all about the work. He has so much personal character he would recommend his character come across worse if he felt it helped the production. He’s a team-player that comes up with excellent ideas and he makes everyone around him better.

597 Relax and Succeed - Be yourselfSo how does he actually do that? It’s because he’s completely about the performance itself. There is no Shaun in there. Shaun’s needs and agendas are gone and the production and the character’s needs prevail completely. This singular and powerful focus strips away all of his busy personal thinking in favour of him using every useful input to contribute to his being of the character. He’s not striving to be impressive, or seen as talented, or even just to be accepted, but all of that and more happens anyway because his performances are so wonderfully authentic.

So while the ego actor is trying to win over an audience the true actor is trying to most authentically realize a character and story and then whatever happens happens. Except one to his brother, Van Gogh didn’t sell a painting in his life. So why didn’t he change styles? Because he wasn’t painting for us. He wasn’t painting to sell. He was painting to explore. To delve. To know. And as Shaun’s strong career demonstrates, audiences can sense that focus on the work itself. They find the generosity of the performance to be magnetic. Meanwhile the clown has changed clothes and faces so many times no one can figure out who he is to see if they might possible like that person without all of his makeup and costuming on.

No matter what your job is, don’t perform through your life. It’s what egos do and we’ll all do it sometimes, but if you’re vigilant you can easily ensure you don’t do it often or for long. Then eventually it’ll just be your nature to be more natural.

597 Relax and Succeed -  There are people in your lifeSo don’t put on clown makeup and try to make people laugh. Don’t trip and fall for applause and don’t repaint yourself to be who the audience wants you to be. Don’t try to fit into what people want. Be more like the creative archaeologist. Uncover a brilliant example of what you’re doing and take your pleasure from the experience itself rather than from people’s approval. We’ll all love that.

Real artists don’t just make art. Some are lawyers and doctors and concrete workers and teachers. You can do anything authentically. And that’s always better. When the agenda is to achieve good ends for others we’re all okay. We get into trouble when we’re not focused on good ends but rather on struggling to ensure we’re acceptable to others. One is exhausting and the other is enriching.

Be an authentic actor in your life. Be true to yourself, trust that you’re always ending up in the perfect place and then don’t ruminate on the alternatives. You don’t need sequels or re-takes. You just need to leave your ego behind so that you can be fully and completely present for your all-too-brief time here on the stage of life.

Have yourself a wonderful, artful day.

peace s

The Friday Dose #43

539 Relax and Succeed - Cosmic Girl

Since it’s Halloween it seems appropriate that today should have something to do with that. Since my background is from making films and TV shows, why don’t we start off with some incredible make-up jobs? I’ve worked in that industry for a long time and these are some of the best makeup jobs I’ve ever seen:

Scary Faces

.

Next we’ll take a look at texting. You would be shocked at how many times I will be working to save a marriage that only came apart because of some text messages (or status updates) being misunderstood. The people’s emotions chain one into the other until I’ll have a couple sitting in front of me as though they hate each other and yet if I track back, essentially nothing has happened other than a misunderstanding. So the two people are the very same people and yet they’ve been duped into thinking they may be wrong for each other on the basis of misreading at text, or because they took one out of its emotional context. Comics Key & Peele do a good job here of illustrating that point:

.

And since Halloween is a chance for people to be creative, let’s end with Kevin Smith and Zen Pencil’s look at why it’s worthwhile to encourage an artist. I always find it fascinating that the arts get talked about—by non-artists—as though they are trivial, and yet almost everything everyone chooses to do (as opposed to being forced to do, like your job) is based on art. So my one brother claims art has no value in life and yet he’s a car nut who will spend years choosing what body to put on his racecar and what pain scheme to do it in. Well that’s sculpture. And you all listen to music, and you go to movies and watch TV shows and nearly every employee in those huge small businesses will be an artist. You sit on furniture created by a designer, you walk through buildings designed by architects and when you eat at a fine restaurant the chef will be known for his creative work with flavours and textures. Art is all around you. Art is a lot of where the value in life comes from. Maybe look up from your own self-centered thinking and feel better by seeing all of the hard work people have put in to make your world enjoyable. People like Kevin Smith and Gavin Aung Than:

539 Relax and Succeed - Encourage an artist

Happy Halloween!

Boo! s

.

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Focus on these and change your mind. Enjoy.

Why I Love Artists

33 Relax and Succeed - We think we understand the rulesI seriously wish I could do one-on-one sessions with everyone on Earth just so I could steal their script. Did you know you were performing a character? Can you recognise that we are all largely puppets performing in society’s play? It’s not an exaggeration. We act out what others have taught us is acceptable or desirable. That’s what hairstyles and fashion are: performances we engage in within society’s theatre because that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what our societal script claims.

But are you aware that you are ultimately the writer of the play? You are also the director and its star. You can do anything you want. Instead you do what everyone else is doing. Because that’s safe. Because people might compliment you on that, and that would be a connection. And after all, connection is the only thing you’re ever really looking for.

33 Relax and Succeed - Every child is an artistThis is what I love about artists: they work four times as hard for a quarter of the money and they still like their jobs more than most people. That really tells you something. I have a long history in the arts and it’s almost without exception an extremely compassionate, supportive group. That’s why outcasts feel comfortable in the arts. That’s why people think artists are weird. They don’t get that we’re not really outcasts; we’re a collection of people that care a lot less about the play that everyone else is performing in.

You don’t really do what you want to do. You conform. You try to be liked. You make choices others have already made. You don’t want a boldly designed home that strongly represents your personality in case it would be ugly to someone. You want the banal showhome that isn’t even trying to be loved—it just wants not-to-be-disliked. It’s safe. It won’t be criticised. You wear the clothes that you think will make you look impressive. You listen to music you think will make you look cool. You try.

33 Relax and Succeed - Choose a job you loveArtists pay in a different way. They may not care quite as much about what people think of them, but at the same time they have to put every single piece of work they’ll ever do up to be judged by the public. That requires serious bravery. Imagine if every single thing you did at work would get judged out in the open by everyone all the time. Artists live like that. And doing so involves risk.

When you put on a real play—you’re out there. If people don’t like it you will find that out clearly and personally. If your book doesn’t sell it doesn’t sell and you make no money. If people don’t watch your TV show they don’t and the ratings report it. If they don’t like your song they’ll say so and that stuff really hurts. Your income is dependent on people liking you. And more than that; your creations are like children to an artist. And yet despite all of these ways to suffer artists keep doing it anyway. Why?

If you’re inside the matrix of society you can’t comprehend what you’re missing. You’re like a two-dimensional person trying to understand the idea of over. You’re not familiar with the experience of freedom and expression. Instead you are filled with anxiety as you try to be beautiful, thin, sexy, rich, smart, capable, vulnerable, strong, classy blah blah blah. Why criticise yourself all day worrying about what co-workers think about your life? How about being yourself instead? Because that would be awesome. No one else is being you, so if you don’t do it your you-ness will never get lived and the world would lose something important.

33 Relax and Succeed - Don't ask the worldLook, even artists are loaded with ego and we too lead lives with plenty of suffering. But artists put up with that too-often horrible work-to-pay ratio for one reason: it allows them to spend time with other people who can also see through some of the aspects of our social and economic systems. They’re the ones pushing on life’s borders looking for more room, maybe a way out. It’s brave work and more respect for it wouldn’t be misplaced. It’s also quite exciting. Like Neo in The Matrix exciting.

The next time you see someone you’re inclined to call silly or lazy or childish or irresponsible, try considering the fact that silly can be called creative, lazy can be called efficient, childish can be called confident, and irresponsible can be called free. It all depends on how you look at it.

Forget the rules. Forget what’s popular. Forget what’s in fashion. Forget what people think. Just take off the mask and breathe. We’ve been waiting for you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.