"Woolson has proven himself to be the go-to coach for actors who are serious about their craft."
Noela Hueso, The Hollywood Reporter
Failure or Success: What Stops You?
Photo Credit: Kristy Morrow 2013 All Rights Reserved

In my years of fighting the battle of life ascension and helping my clients do the same, I have discovered that the two biggest growth killers are success and failure. Certainly, sabotage in all of its various forms (drugs, sex addiction, drinking, bad relationships, and escapism) is a big enemy of progress, but nothing debilitates one’s development the way that success and failure does when the ego gets a hold of your spirit. Plus, sabotage is often linked to the fear of having what you want or not being able to cope when things go wrong.

In my teen years, I was behind in school and kept running into setback after setback. Life seemed to be giving me the message “What’s the point? I am just going to fail anyway.” Those failures deflated my spirit and caused me to only do the minimum required.

I was insecure, directionless, and suffering from what I call the “why even try” syndrome.

This went on until I moved to Los Angeles and met a mentor who helped turn things around for me by teaching me the joy of work ethic and accomplishment. I got on that work bus and rode it to success. I was happy; one great job led to another; I was suddenly living the life I had dreamed of, and, for the first time, I had felt a sense of real confidence. With the spoils of my success, I bought a new car, rented a nicer apartment, and treated myself to other material comforts. I busied myself with parties, shiny people, and the intoxicating feeling of validation. After awhile, the buzz of validation wore off, and I felt stuck, depressed, and lost. I began to wonder what happened to the passion and excitement for my work.

The problem was that my ego, which at that point convinced me that I had arrived, distracted me. I had become lazy and stopped doing the things that launched me where I wanted to be, like going to therapy regularly and taking enriching classes of any sort. I had forgotten how good it felt to be excited about my personal potential and that being creative is the path to passion, joy, and all things good.

Success had stifled my growth.

I work with many successful actors who also run into dry spells for these same reasons. Sure, sometimes it’s just the ebbs and flows of any career, but mostly, it’s that they become complacent and they lose the work ethic and passion that booked them their first job.

I also have extremely talented clients who have experienced “failures” and let those results rob the world of their best effort. After a set-beck or two, their attitude becomes “Why even try? They’re just going to pick someone else anyway.” Or, even worse, “Well, if I don’t give my best, when they reject me, they aren’t REALLY rejecting me because they aren’t rejecting my very best.” Little do they know that these thought processes become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? Because when the opportunity does arise, they often aren’t sharp enough anymore to get the job, and their overall defeated demeanor and lack of passion does not inspire the confidence of casting. These clients actualize their beliefs, as we humans always do. If you are going to actualize your beliefs, wouldn’t you rather they be positive beliefs?

It’s just life, isn’t it? You win some; you lose some. Your job is to pick yourself up and to keep on believing.

When faced with feelings of rejection, the first step to dealing with these emotions is to know that there is no such thing as true defeat. Think about it: the illusion of failure is merely a byproduct of shortsighted thinking. Every setback is a valuable lesson and an opportunity to start anew, better, stronger, and smarter. As cliché as it sounds, we should never give up on something we have a gift for, and if we ever decide to move on, we most certainly should never cite failure as the reason to cease.

How does one navigate the tough question of quitting versus healthily moving on? A therapist of mine posed a very important question to me when I was in the pains of transition: It’s not our job to make easy decisions but, instead, to continuously ask the hard questions. To the question of “Should I keep going,” if the answer is not a clear “no,” for any reason, then you must keep trudging forward. Sometimes, you can be in that place of discovering for a number of years.

When the answer is clearly “no,” and typically that answer will come to you organically and be very clear, then that is when it is time to start something else. So now, look at your life and ask yourself: Am I moving forward the way I’d like to? Am I becoming stagnant because of success or failure? If you are feeling stagnant, there are many ways to re-inspire yourself and bring passion to your work: reading inspiring blogs, taking a new class, booking a life coaching session, starting therapy, etc. Ask yourself: Am I at a crossroads where I need to move on and the answer is clear, or do I need to keep moving forward despite my insecurities?

Michael Woolson has become one of the most prominent and respected acting coaches in Los Angeles. He is recognized for his unique ability to cultivate depth and authenticity from his students in an environment that is nurturing and inspiring. Woolson has worked with thousands of actors from talented up-and-comers to award-winning celebrities. He is the author of The Work of an Actor and Emotion on Demand: An Actor’s Workbook for Mastering Emotional Triggers.

For more, follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter.

*Image courtesy of Kristy Morrow

You Can’t Argue with Crazy
You Can’t Argue with Crazy

“Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
Mark Twain

When does a healthy debate become an unhealthy one? When does your need to be right or your attempt to try to change someone make you just as insane as the person you’ve labeled “crazy?”

There’s no doubt that allowing yourself to be around someone who is negative or crazy, when you have a choice not to be, is a quick way to sabotage your happiness and quality of life. The question is: Are there boundaries you need to define or enforce with someone? Are there ways you unnecessarily add to the drama in terms of how you react or interact with them? Our ego loves to paint us as the always rational, responsible, heroic ones, but that’s a major trap for our own growth and the growth of everyone we have relationships.

The path of least resistance is to distance yourself from people and conversations that are unproductive and toxic, but we can’t live in a bubble, and so it’s crucial that we learn how we can remain grounded when we don’t have that choice.

Certain family members, spouses, and co-workers are good examples that invite us to find peace despite emotional triggers and circumstances that are out of our control. In fact, they can be our greatest teachers at times.

Whatever your philosophical views may be, here are some ideas to help you be proactive with all of this.

The first step is to call it like it is. Whenever you are spinning your wheels when arguing with someone, ask yourself whether it’s better to end the conversation or if there’s a way to change your approach. Of course, do your best to avoid chronic patterns, either with the same people or different ones. An easy example would be to skip talking about politics (or religion) if you find you get too worked up over the topic. Remember, rarely is someone with an opposing or radical view going to suddenly stop in the middle of an argument and say, “You’re right!”

Next, stop being surprised by the behavior of people you think are crazy or act crazy. We’ve all seen it or even found ourselves dealing with the same annoyances for months, years, even decades, and, somehow, we can continuously be shocked by the same results. “Did you hear what so and so did this time? You’re not going to believe what he said to me…” Why would we expect things to be different from what we have experienced from this person in the past? If they have consistently been rude, disrespectful, dismissive, controlling, immature, selfish, mean, or unloving, acknowledge whom you are dealing with and accept them as they are. By taking away the unrealistic expectations we’ve attached to this person, our energy is no longer wasted trying to change what cannot be changed. Believe me, YOU will NOT change them. That’s their job, whether they choose to take responsibility or not. So feel what you feel about it but don’t argue with what is. That, for me, is the most important step. Of course, people do grow and trust can be built or rebuilt over time. Just pay attention to your gut and the history there so you can get off the emotional rollercoaster ride and increase your chances of a healthy relationship instead of a depleting one.

I also find it extremely helpful to see the vulnerability behind the frustrating or destructive behavior. “Crazy people” are often living in a world without solid coping or communication tools. They have deep wounds or experiences that have shaped their viewpoint and approach to life and others. If you can see beyond their behavior and arguments to recognize the hurt, then it’s easier to have compassion. Let’s not forget that truth, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. If we are really honest, aren’t we all a little crazy when faced with life every now and again? No matter how evolved or conscious we may strive to be, I can guarantee you that others think we’re crazy at times.

Lastly, find the humor whenever possible. I don’t mean laughing in order to provoke a person but to find healthy humor in how you approach the situation and how you talk about it with others. Humor can be our savior when dealing with crazy people and situations. So, do your best to find the funny. It’s far better than the alternative of tearing yourself up with anger, stress, and disappointment.

Now, of course, there are people that are actually mentally ill and some that are truly dangerous. That is a whole other topic, but I will say that we, as a society, need to work together to provide easily accessible resources for people who need psychological and nutritional support so that we can end the cycle of domestic violence, tragic shootings, and the unacceptable rates of homelessness.

To sum things up, here are the steps you can take to add a little more peace to your life and the rest of the world:

1. Instead of being immediately triggered or stressed by crazy, instead expect the behavior. Crazy is as crazy does.

2. See the vulnerability or hurt behind the behavior. This will help bring a bit of compassion to the table.

3. If at all possible, have a sense of humor about the person or situation—not to provoke them but for your own sanity and perspective. It’s better to see the funny.

4. Ask yourself if there is a lesson in any of this. What can be learned through this person or situation?

5. Find any piece of positive behavior or trait that you can focus on that helps you feel less triggered by this person’s behavior and attitude.

6. If at all possible, consider spending less time with anyone that depletes you.

Note: This article was written by Michael Woolson and his wife Rachel Avalon.

Michael Woolson has become one of the most prominent and respected acting coaches in Los Angeles. He is recognized for his unique ability to cultivate depth and authenticity from his students in an environment that is nurturing and inspiring. Woolson has worked with thousands of actors from talented up-and-comers to award-winning celebrities. He is the author of The Work of an Actor and Emotion on Demand: An Actor’s Workbook for Mastering Emotional Triggers.

For more, follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter.

Toolbox for Happiness
Toolbox for Happiness

I can’t count how many times I have woken up on the wrong side of the bed feeling scared, lost, angry, or discouraged.

I don’t know about you, but it’s at least once or twice a week that I feel one of these emotions. All sorts of things can trigger these feelings, such as lost business opportunities, physical pain, rejection, or just about any negative event. For many years, I was surprised and intimidated by these feelings. I would allow them to overcome me, sending me into a tailspin spiraling into the abyss. Thoughts would run through my head like, “I had a bad meeting. My agent’s going to drop me. I am a horrible artist. I am a horrible person. In fact, nobody likes me. Maybe I should just move back to Ohio.” On and on it would go until I was so far down that dark hole that I couldn’t even see a glimmer of light. In those moments when I felt sad or depressed, I believed that’s what I really was at my core: a sad and depressed person and, therefore, worthless.

Throughout the years of reading self-help books and studying with great teachers, I kept coming across the idea that thoughts and feelings are separate from our true self. It wasn’t until I read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth that the concept became a cemented core belief. It finally clicked that the part of me that could look at my thoughts and feelings and understand them is where the true self lies.

Feeling emotions is natural. Look at babies. They go from one emotion to the next, and they don’t have any judgment or noise in their heads about it. I now see feelings as simply feelings. They come and go, and although they can seem very intense, they do not equal who I am. I don’t allow them to control me because I have armed myself with the power of choice.

Now, when I wake up scared, sad, angry, or discouraged, I allow myself to feel the feeling, and then I separate myself from it and ask “What can I do to get out of this dark place?”

I then use my arsenal of positivity to combat the negativity. Sometimes, I take a walk or bike ride in the neighborhood; other times, it is to simply eat better, breathe deeper, go to a yoga class, call my best friend, or any number of healthy actions that bring me to a place of mindfulness and peace. Can you name one thing more important than being happy and loving others?

The problem arises when we start being a jerk to ourselves. After all, just because you feel like crap one day doesn’t mean that you are crap. We take those negative emotions and follow them up with sabotage or escapism (using negative addictions or behavior to combat these feelings). Forms of sabotage can be overeating, undereating, too much TV, Internet, or drugs of one kind or another, gambling, sex/love addiction, and general passivity. Though you may get a momentary relief or high from these behaviors, ultimately, they will only bring more confusion and darkness. So if you are stuck in a bad place, it’s often a message to love and take care of yourself more.

I also want to say that I am aware there are people, myself included, that have struggled with depression or chemical imbalances that make this sort of work difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. In these cases, treatment, nutritional therapy, and/or professional help are often necessary.

The bottom line is negative thoughts and feelings don’t define you and are not the enemy. They are simply our soul’s way of helping us grow. Our job is to ensure that the process is as healthy as possible.

“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
Pema Chödrön

My recipe for building positivity:

  1. Identify and honor the feelings you are having.
  2. Pick a few loving, simple actions for yourself (writing a list can be extremely helpful). Some things that work for me are taking a walk, getting a massage, planning/going on a vacation, exercising, taking a bath, or reading a self-help book.
  3. Trust, breathe, and wait for the light to peek out of the clouds.
  4. Focus on an attitude of gratitude to strengthen positive feelings and circumstances.

Michael Woolson has become one of the most prominent and respected acting coaches in Los Angeles. He is recognized for his unique ability to cultivate depth and authenticity from his students in an environment that is nurturing and inspiring. Woolson has worked with thousands of actors from talented up-and-comers to award-winning celebrities. He is the author of The Work of an Actor and Emotion on Demand: An Actor’s Workbook for Mastering Emotional Triggers.

For more, follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter.