Allies vs Enemies

Nov 11, 2010 by     No Comments    Posted under: Attitude, New York

A week or so ago, after a long 6am shift at the Urban Outfitters, whilst perusing million dollar real estate listings on the corner of Union Square with a very beloved friend, I encountered a stranger.

He approached me because of my 1970’s Marc Jacobs reproduction PAN-AM bag that was gifted to me by one of my roommates. Flanked with striped shoulder patches, military dockers, and an enormous smile, he closes in. At first he is ranting about helicopters that once flew off the MettLife building a few blocks in the distance and would connect with the Pan-Am flights out at JFK. As he pondered the glory days of the once ‘Great American Airline,’ I wondered how I could politely escape the situation.

But he continued. After my friend sweetly indulged him when he assumed that we were dating, he moved on to ask me about my past and why I am currently where I am. It seemed at first an all too personal question and my friend, at this point, had moved on to more interesting things awaiting him within his cell phone. I was stuck with the PTSD stranger but prepared for the conversation. I calmly replied, “I am from Colorado … and … I am an actor.”

Oops. I excited him! He immediately began his entire life story: how he is a radio DJ, how he never had a resume to save his soul and has gotten every thing from hard work and connections, and how its a beautiful thing (entertainment) that people NEED in their lives and that will never die. He then goes on to tell me that I have got some special “energy” and that my smile is “enigmatic.” If I have the right support and if I just stay in the game, I can do anything. Furthermore, he closes with a grand statement about how there are so many people in this industry who are going after the same thing and, as much as you need connections and a network, to never forget, NEVER FORGET, that these same people wouldn’t stop for a second and think about you when it comes to them fulfilling their dreams. You must be prepared to fight, fight to the death! Never trust anyone in the same line as you (both literal and figurative). I think the same applies to ordering at Starbucks :-p People are ruthless when they know what they want.

So… now… weeks later, I continue to wonder about his words. When I studied Jiu Jitsu, a great coach of mine once said: “never trust someone in a gi.” Which is a loaded statement. We wear gi’s (kimonos) to fight and train while we are taught in a partner system. Partners teach each other, trust each other, challenge each other, all the while wearing gi’s. We work together to grow stronger together and the same applies for actors, artists, and any peers in the same line of work. However, at the same time, everyone in a gi knows the same tricks, techniques, strength as you and they want the same things. As much as you need these people to help you grow, they can never truly be your ally. Ally and enemy found in the same person. That is the exact same feeling, for me, as being in a waiting room before an audition, a crowded EPA, or even being on the submission sites. Like jiu jitsu, like acting, like playing chess…

ahhh… life. This gentleman made 2 very good points:

1) know your allies, know your enemies, and know your own game: its a three pronged attack!

Trust in your technique and in yourself. There will always be people looking to get ahead of you but you should be more considered to always look out for yourself. Instead of fearing or fighting these ‘enemies,’ learn from them. Their savage lust for success is something you can adopt but perhaps leave off the cutting-down-other-people-to-get-ahead aspect.

At the same time, there will come a point where you will need to decide to trust some of these people and allow them to help you. Its very difficult to do this especially when you are in a new city and every body you meet is a veritable stranger. It takes time but it is the base for success in this business: LA, New York, Chicago – its not only WHO you know but HOW you know them. Your allies are those who know what good you have done for them, with them and only have good things to say about your work. Keep doing good work and no enemy will be able to get to you.

In sum, I shall be cliche: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Learn not only how to fight your fight (your chess game of a career) but decide specifically what you are fighting for. If you know what you want, then no one can stop you. I think that’s been the most difficult thing for me these past couple of months. In fact, I’ve sort of taken a sabbatical from auditioning and acting to figure out that exact question for myself. I used to be so… direction-ed. Everyone loses their way from time to time but if you know your final destination, sometimes you just need to sit back and allow the path to appear before you. Take some time to heal, to prepare, and to sort things out in your own mind. I have been working on this so that, when I know that I am ready, nothing will hold me back. There will be no resistance keeping me from diving in head first. Ben and I were speaking just last night about this issue and how every artist goes through it at least once (maybe even once a month) – something will hold us back from fully going forward even if we know our goals and dreams. I am working on defining my dreams but, in the mean time, I am going to read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (as recommended by Ben on this subject). I will get back to you and let you know if it helps or sheds any insights. And then, once I breakdown my own resistance, maybe I can fully commit to this path that I have chosen. This leads me to the second point Mr. PTSD made:

2) Stick with it. (Know what you’re fighting for and always keep it in sight)

Its so simple but a challenge EVERY SINGLE DAY. The true test of a real actor is just continuing with the ‘game.’ So many people want this and you do have so many “enemies” but the people that are in it for life will be there til the end and the other 95% will either give up, move home, go back to school, or inject something fatal. I think what this does is it makes us develop a very strange relationship with Time. You can’t fight Time but you need so much of it before you can really get where you want to be. So much that it almost feels like a waiting game more than a career path. Time makes up its own mind and its own pace that can seem to change in the blink of an eye right before you. When you’re happy, there’s never enough if it, and when you’re lost, it appears in abundance. But, if you succumb to the wait, your enemies may just fall by waist side. Get time on your side by agreeing to the ‘long haul’ and it’ll be as if you have three hands in your fight (another the three pronged attack) : your own two hands (one filled with business sense/industry smarts and the other with your artist) and the third hand (time: tenaciously attacking your goals every gosh darn day). I guess that makes six things essential to success:

1) know your ally

2) know your enemy

3) know your game (your edge, your style, what you have to offer)

4) know the industry

5) know the art (have the chops)


Anybody who lacks any of these hands will certainly lose against you.

Summaries on my encounter with PTSD man and writing this subsequent post:

Apart from the 2 points and 6 rules to success, I think we can also conclude from this quite verbose post that I use fight analogies A LOT. What’s that about?! Perhaps it means that I truly am a fighter (which is not mutually exclusive with also being a lover). This life, this career: I tell you that it doesn’t have to be a fight but… we are faced with so many challenges that it certainly feels like it at times. Many. So many challenges, many opponents, many self doubts, many up and downs. If we take each battle as a game instead of an excruciating fight, the joy returns. People who train in Capoeira don’t ask someone to fight, they ask them to play. In these games, plays, fights, lives: take JOY in the challenge until the losses and the victories don’t seem to matter much anymore. You will slowly become stronger simply by remaining in the fight that, when the time is right, you will be ready to really KICK SOME ASS!

So yeah… I’m a fighter :-p I’ll accept that.