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Posts tagged ‘actors’


Slump? Here are my 5 tips for getting out

Ever found yourself in a slump?  Like a baseball player, only in life?  It can be professional, relational, spiritual, or some other aspect of life.  The one common thing is this: at one time or another, we all will endure them.  

On a very personal note, I’m coming out of one now.  Without turning this into an Oprah episode, I’ve had a rough, year-long stretch professionally.  After an insanely busy 2013, I became a bit complacent.  Work wasn’t coming in as it had in the past.  On top of that, I developed an eye disorder that I’ve had to learn to work around.  So of course, like a lot of people, I looked the stress square in the eye and began medicating it with food.  So I put on a lot of weight, which helped a ton.  (Pun intended to enhance sarcasm.)  So I’ve had recent experience with the reality that, sometimes, I will have trouble with the curve ball that I was scorching into the upper deck just two years ago.

Over the years, I’ve taken note of a few things I’ve learned about how to get out of a slump.  Also (and perhaps mainly) I’ve observed how others successfully claw their way out.  I was thinking on this recently, and felt compelled to share what I think are five great disciplines that might help you start swinging the bat effectively again.  For the scope of this article, I’ll frame my thoughts around the actor – and specifically, the audiobook narrator.  I truly believe, however, that these practices are healthy for everyone in every walk of life.
DISCLAIMER: Since our national discourse today seems to be controlled by lawyers, I must say for the record that I am NOT a counselor, doctor, therapist, or guru.  I make no guarantees, claims, or predictions in anything I say or write.  I’m just a fella who cares about people, and want to help when I can.  Your mileage may vary, some restrictions apply.  OK…play ball.
1) Know who you are.  This sounds so easy, but there is a real tendency for us to begin defining our identity by what we do, rather than who we are.  Actors do this a lot, especially men.  Self-employed folks are also susceptible.  Self-employed actors…well, you get it.  I think it’s a wonderful practice to take a piece of paper and really spend some time.  Who are you?  I made a list of 7 “I am” statements that define who John is.  I review them frequently.  When you have a firm grasp on your true identity, you’re in a much better position to weather the storm.  This is especially true when your business hits a rough patch, as mine has.  If you fall into the trap of defining yourself around what you do for a living, professional slumps can be very deep and damaging.  
2) Embrace gratitude.  I narrated a wonderful book in 2014 about this that really stuck with me.  Gratitude is one of those things that is so often taken for granted today.  Take a moment to consider what exactly you are grateful for, and to whom.  If you’re like me, you’ll have a list as long as your arm rather quickly.  That’s all well and good – but when was the last time you expressed that gratitude?  And I’m not talking about sending expensive gifts or sending your favorite client on a cruise.  I’m referring to the simple things.  A hand written note, a fast phone call, even a text are all great ways to say Thank You.  And the great thing about gratitude is that it is mutually beneficial.  Both ends of the relationship are enriched.  One last thought – if you’re a parent or grandparent, you know it feels great when a child comes up and thanks you for a gift you’ve given them.  But how much better does it feel when that child comes up and thanks you for just being you?  Think about how that idea might translate to your professional life.
3) Invest in a prayer life.  I’ve always thought of a person being a three-legged stool: physical, mental (emotional), and spiritual.  If we take good care of all three legs, our lives will stand with good sturdiness.  But if one leg weakens too much, the stool can wobble and fall.  Of course, we all have different beliefs in this area.  Substitute the word “prayer” with “meditation” if you’d like.  Either way, a healthy spiritual life is a good thing to have when you find yourself striking out constantly.  I think this one is tied closely to item 1 above.  It is for me, anyway, because I believe that my identity is determined by God and what He thinks about me, not by my career, bank balance, or popularity.  My prayer life helps connect me with my true identity, and shores up my ability to push through the tough seasons in life.
4) Get some exercise.  Those of you that know me personally can see that I’m not great at this one – I’m trying.  But I have noticed that when I do “get out there,” I feel better – inside and out.  Narrators are often stuck inside, usually in a very small space, and required to move as little as possible (at least when we’re working!)  Next time you feel that “slump funk,” go for a brisk walk.  Go hit a bucket of golf balls.  Get your juice moving.  At the least you’ll feel better physically.  Sometimes, though, this simple practice can have a very positive impact on your entire perspective.
5) Get up an hour earlier.  I’ve heard this one from several very successful and inspiring people over the years.  I’m not totally  sure why this works, but it does for me.  I spent many years doing morning radio, when meant the alarm went off at the charming hour of 4am.  It also meant that bedtime was around 9.  So when that all ended, I was very excited.  I began to stay up late, and sleep until 7:30.  But fairly recently, I took the advice above and began going to bed at 10pm, and rising at 6am.  It’s amazing the difference it makes in my day.  Again, I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s just a psychological jolt that makes me feel more aggressive, productive, or like I’m getting a head start on the day.  Whatever it is, it makes me feel better personally and professionally.  Plus – and you can take this for what it’s worth – I believe that nothing good ever happens after midnight.  Discuss.
I hope these things help you like they are helping me.  Slumps are real (I’m a Brewers fan, so I know!)  But by consciously placing new disciplines into your routine, maybe you can emerge more quickly and start hitting again.  I sincerely hope you do.

Don’t read…act!

Actors of all kinds would do well to remember this important reminder from the great Paul Alan Ruben.  Whether performing commercial copy, corporate narration, or narrating an audiobook, this lesson is dead-on.  It’s one of the major differences between a reader and an actor.  Thanks, Paul!