Archive for the ‘Tools for Career Success’ Category

How Are You The Solution to Someone’s Problem?

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

I just recently coached my one month intensive Jump Start™, and something came up throughout the weekend that feels worthy of a blog.  It’s the idea of being the solution to someone’s problem.

Problem-Solution-ResultSo, let me back up for a moment and give this idea some context. Because, often in this business, we are highly driven and focused. This is not a bad thing, but it can have a downside. That downside is that in our drive and focus, we only think about ourselves.

And what that looks like day-to-day is a “me, me, me” attitude. We are only looking for the solution to our own problem—the person we need to meet, the thing we think they can do for us when we meet them, and so on. This can lead us to becoming that very thing we most loathe, desperate.

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What is it time to let go of?

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

What is it time to let go of?

If you’ve been following me at all, you might know that I recently undertook a massive move with my family. My husband Gregory, who works in television most of the time, has described himself as a “FedEx package.” Meaning he gets shipped off to all sorts of locales for work. In the last two seasons months alone it’s been Mexico City, Savannah, GA, Atlanta, GA, Chicago, Toronto, Virginia, and Vancouver, BC. I might be forgetting one or two.

This is largely the result of runaway production. And since it’s unlikely to change in the near future, a few years ago we started strategizing a family move to a place where he’d be able to go to work in the morning and come home at night.

And so on August 1st Gregory, myself and our twin 5 year olds Niccola and Allegra all got into a u-haul pulling a car trailer and car alongside a mini-van packed to the top. We drove for three days and then crossed the border into Canada and pulled up at our new house in Vancouver.

Because Gregory was on the television show Fear The Walking Dead, the organization and packing largely fell to me. As you can imagine, it was a cathartic and confronting experience. We had lived in our townhouse for 11 years and in that time had gone from being a married couple to a family of four.

Over and over again I found myself asking the question, “What can you let go of?” And this question brings me to today’s blog.  (more…)

What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

(How to actually use this freakin’ quote to accomplish your biggest goals)

Happy new year! I hope you’re reading this blog having gotten rest over the holidays, feeling rejuvenated and excited about what 2015 brings.

Every new year brings the possibility of great things. And, January is different from other times in the year, I’m sure you’ll agree. Every year I look to understand what my goals are for the new year and what I can do differently and better to bring them about.

QuoteFailv2Many of you know that 2014 was a year of great accomplishment for me. After nearly a decade of trying to get several different feature projects into production, I directed my first feature, Saturn Returns, which I also wrote. We are now nearing the end of post-production. I’m happy to report that even after all of these months in post-production and years in the making, I still love it and I’m really excited to share it with you all.

Another big accomplishment for me was how my coaching business grew last year even when I was in the midst of making a movie. It was an accomplishment to be able to continue helping people accomplish their own dreams even as I was accomplishing mine.

And so, in examining what was different about last year, what finally pushed my big goals across the finish line in a way that hadn’t happened before, I’ve uncovered some new things to share. Here goes…

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Get Re-Connected to Your Why

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Often, we spend so much time talking about strategy, that we neglect some of the fundamentals.  So, I’m going to spend a few minutes today talking about one of the most important things in your career, your motivation behind your goals, also known as your Why.

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Your Why can look a lot of different ways.  You can be passionate about something.  You can identify with something.  You can have a dream or a desire or a love.  But, if you’ve been working on a project or goal for a while, chances are your Why has gotten buried a bit under the day-to-day demands.  The problem with this is that when we aren’t connected to our Why, it gets harder and harder to do the things we need to do toward our goal.  We feel unmotivated and we’re not sure why.

So here are 5 steps to reconnecting with your Why.

  • Go back to the first time you wanted to do what you’re doing. It could be the first time you ever wanted to act or write or direct or paint or produce.  Visualize that moment in time.  Where were you?  What were you thinking, feeling, doing?  Who were you with?  Close your eyes and recreate as much of that moment as you can.
  • What did that moment call up in you? A desire to do what?  Put that into words as clearly as you can.
  • Was there a change you wanted to make? A contribution?  Something you wanted to give or to share?

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Are you falling for the myth of “easy?”

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

easy-streetSo, I have a bone to pick.  A pet peeve to vent about.  A wrong to set right.  It’s about it being “easy.”

So here’s what I see a lot.  People want it to be easier.  You’re tired of working hard.  You feel other people have it easier and so it should be easier for you.

I get it.  I really do.  This is a tough business.  It’s changing.  It’s contracting.  There’s runaway production.  The whole world wants to be in the movie business and it seems like they all come to LA.

And we look at our friends and some of them have it easier. They have a great agent who gets them good auditions.  They have a rich uncle and he gives them money for their film.  They have a mom who works at a studio and so they get a job.  The grass is always greener.

Being the mother of four year old twins has given me a new perspective on this idea of “easy.”  Here’s something that I’ve learned from my girls.

There are all these things that we take for granted as we get older that, it turns out, were anything but easy.  There’s something called “sleep training” because infants are not born knowing how to sleep through the night.  You actually have to train your child to sleep properly.

You have to teach your child how to walk.  And they get frustrated.  Really frustrated as they fall down over and over and over again.

And let’s not get into potty training and how long that takes.  My girls took months and months to learn how to use the potty.  No joke.  Turns out it’s really hard to stop using a diaper and start using a toilet.

I’ve never heard an Olympic athlete say it was easy.  Never.  If you want to be the best in the world at something, it will take an extraordinary amount of hard work.

And it turns out that most things in life that are worthwhile take hard work.  Sometimes lots and lots of hard work.

I’m not saying you should be inefficient or stupid.  I do think that working smarter is very important, because you want to minimize wasted time, resources and effort.

But, I do see that if we just embraced the fact that many things we want in our lives and our careers really take a lot of hard work, we’d enjoy the process so much more.  Stop resisting the hard work and embrace it.  Chances are that your friend who has it “easier” is working her toosh off and would tell you so if you asked.

And it doesn’t matter in the end.  Run your own race.  Work hard toward your dreams.  And while you’re doing so replace some of that comparing and complaining with gratitude that you get to run your own race.  It will make the journey so much sweeter.

Are you waiting for Prince Charming?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Let me start by saying that this blog is not just for women.  It’s for men, too.

You might have heard me talk about this business, show business, being a business of big dreamers.  You didn’t move to LA or NYC, for example, and you don’t sacrifice your nights and weekends because you have an itty-bitty dream.  Nope.  You’ve got a big dream.  You know the one I mean.  The one that has you rehearse your speech in the shower.  That one.

prince charming

And I know that you work hard toward your dream.  I know that you sacrifice.  But over and over again, I see both women and men falling for a myth that often comes along with big dreams.  It’s the myth of Prince Charming.  And both women and men fall for it.  A lot.

Here’s what it looks like…  If I just get my film into Sundance it will sell for lots of money and Hollywood will come knocking on my door.  If it can just get a better agent, then I’ll get better auditions and it’s only a matter of time before I’m starring in a TV show.  If I can just get the money for my feature, my career will unfold the way it’s meant to be.  If I could just win a contest, then I’ll sell my script for lots of money!  And on and on and on…

And, just like there’s no Prince or Princess Charming in real life, there’s no Prince or Princess Charming in your career.

What’s the big deal, you ask?  Isn’t it okay to have hope?

Here’s why I feel it’s so important to write this blog.  Because wishing and hoping and waiting for Prince Charming is really demoralizing.  Being liberated of the Prince Charming myth turns out to be really freeing.

To understand why, let’s go back to the fairy tale for a minute.

The way the fairy tale goes, the princess has to wait for the prince.  She has to be perfect, even though she has no idea who the prince is or what he will want of her.  She’s helpless in the story, waiting for this mysterious person to pick her.  She doesn’t get to pick him.  She has no choice in the matter.  She has no power.

In the fairy tale, the prince always comes.  But in real life, we know that the prince does not always come.  Sometimes he never comes.  Sometimes a false prince comes. Sometimes a bad prince comes.  And even when Prince Charming actually does show up, it sucks spending your days trying to be perfect for him.  What about you want? Doesn’t that matter?

Actually what you want does matter.  But you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t spend your days waiting for the prince and also spend your days creating your own destiny.

My advice:  Spend your days creating the life and career you want and if or when a rad guy or gal shows up (they don’t have to be royal), and they fit your description of a good partner in your career or your life, you’ll have so much more to offer.

Sounds good, right?  So why do we keep falling for the myth?  Because it’s so much easier to wait and hope than to take responsibility for making your dreams happen.

It’s way easier to complain about not having an agent (or having a bad agent) then it is to get out and cultivate relationships and get those auditions ourselves.  It’s way easier to just send a script to a contest and hope for a good result then it is to network with producers and get them to read your scripts.  And man is it easier to wish for money then it is to raise it.

But after all that wishing, what do you have?  No agent, no auditions and no starring TV role.  Even if you have a contest win, you probably haven’t sold your script for lots of money.  You definitely have no money to make your film.  And you’ve wasted a lot of time wishing and hoping, playing it safe and getting frustrated.

Do yourself a favor and purge the Prince Charming myth once and for all.  Take responsibility for your career goals and go get them now.  Sure you’ll get rejected.  Sure you’ll get frustrated.  Sure you’ll be uncomfortable and afraid.  But it will be yours.  Your mistakes, your fear, and your victories and triumphs.

Go ahead and kick Prince Charming to the curb.  Don’t waste another minute.

What to do if you feel nervous before auditions, big meetings & performances

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Paul Cuneo

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I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this article, it’s because you deal with nerves before auditions, meetings or performances, especially in those last moments before you go into the room. I’m like you in that way. I go through the same thing. But I imagine that unlike you, it doesn’t bother me that I’m nervous. I don’t care.

In 2013 I booked four national commercials, I believe in large part because of the new attitude toward nerves I developed about three years ago. It started in an audition waiting room. I remember I was nervous and performing exercises I had read about that were supposed to eliminate, or at least mitigate, nerves. I was holding my breath, and then, when that didn’t work, I was focusing on my breathing. I was pressing my feet hard into the floor, sometimes pinching myself for extended periods of time. I was tensing my whole body, then releasing. I wasn’t imagining everyone in the room naked, as I had tried that before and it never worked for me. (My gosh, the number of things I had tried: thinking about nature, counting backwards by threes from 100, talking myself up, talking myself down. You name it, I had tried it.)

But that day, in that audition waiting room, something opened up in my consciousness, and I realized three things that radically and irrevocably changed my auditions for the better. I realized

1. that I was paying way too much attention to my nerves.

2. that I was judging myself for feeling nervous and anxious, and it was actually this judgment that was exponentially intensifying my anxiety.

3. that nerves could exist in me, along with everything else I was feeling in that moment, and not prevent me from doing what I came to do that day.

With those realizations, I made an immediate change to how I prepared for auditions while in the waiting room. That change took the form of four steps I’ll walk you through right now. I hope they help to free you as much as they helped to free me.

Step One: Make a gentle commitment not to judge yourself for how you feel.

You’ve been judged for how you feel for much of your life. “Why are you so sad? It’s a beautiful day outside.” “How can you be hungry? You ate 15 minutes ago.” “Why are you so upset? I was just joking.”

You may have adopted this tendency to judge yourself for how you feel, but you can disown it. Whatever your role is in the industry, TV, film, theater, internet and radio are all about connecting to an audience emotionally. Emotion is the lifeblood of your work, and judgment of yourself for how you feel is the clot in that lifeblood. Judgment makes you second-guess yourself where you would be spontaneous. It makes you fearful where you would be present. It turns you inward where you would shine outward.

Worst of all, it compounds your anxiety by multiples. Judgment is an attack against yourself by a very worthy opponent: you. Stop judging yourself for feeling nervous and you will head off the heaping on of anxiety that comes from being under attack. You will feel a new sense of freedom, and you will realize it was never your nerves that caused you so much stress but your judgment of your self for feeling nervous. You’ll stop feeling bad about feeling nervous; you’ll stop feeling bad about feeling anything, and you’ll create a space for feeling good.

Step Two: Acknowledge how you feel. Say to yourself, “I’m nervous.” Just as a fact. Without judgment. Just to give your feelings a place. Nothing around it. Just to give yourself permission to be exactly who and what you are in that moment. It feels so good. SO GOOD.

Step Three: DO NOTHING TO GET RID OF YOUR NERVES.

When I was a kid, I found a little bug in the corner of our living room. To study it, I went and got our family’s large magnifying glass. I put the glass over the bug, and it moved. Scared the living daylights out of me because I saw this giant bug move in front of me.

Your judgment and all the attention you pay to your nerves while in the waiting room are like that magnifying glass. Your nerves are just these little emotions you’re feeling, but you pay all this attention to them in the form of judgment and analysis and in all the ways you try to get rid of them. The more you judge, analyze and try to get rid of your nerves the larger they appear. Take your attention off of them and they remain the little, harmless bugs in the giant living room of your consciousness.

Step Four: Feel, then fill, the beautiful space.

After you perform steps one through three, you’ll feel an expansion and a clearing in your consciousness. Just thinking about it makes me feel good. You’ll be tempted to analyze that space: “Are my nerves gone? Did the steps get rid of my anxiety? Was I successful? Did I do it right?”

Let it go. Release it. You’re back to judgment, analysis and a desire to get rid of your nerves. Just feel the space, enjoy it. Experience the flood of beneficial thoughts and feelings that rush in, now that you’ve emptied yourself of judgment. And then keep filling that space with things you love to do, like working on your sides or going over your pitch or admiring the shag carpet under your feet. You’ll feel yourself snap from focusing inward to focusing outward, and you’ll be present to your space, your partner, your world, regardless of whether or not you’re nervous.

I gotta be honest—I actually hope you are nervous! I hope you get the opportunity to practice these four steps and to experience the rush of good feelings that come with implementing them. In short, I hope you get the opportunity to go from being your own worst enemy to being your own best friend; I hope you get the opportunity to move from judgment to love.

Paul Cuneo is an actor and acting coach specializing in revealing and eliminating blind spots in actors’ performance technique. He taught movement at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting for seven years and has been a grateful client of Shawn Tolleson’s for over six years. His national commercials include Taco Bell, Starburst, Infiniti, USAA, Pace Salsa, Real California Milk and Ford. Television and film include Franklin & Bash, Disney’s Imagination Movers and Breathless, opposite Ray Liotta. To learn more about Paul’s coaching, please visit paulcuneo.com and click on Blind Spot.

It Takes a Village Pt 2: Lessons from an Olympic Gold Medalist

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

I am writing, as promised, to share about the Saturn Returns process.  As we gear up for our shoot in June I’ve been learning so much!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the concept of “It Takes a Village” to make a movie like this one.  Well, today I want to share one of the places that concept led me to and the wonderful lesson I learned.

In the spirit of “It Takes a Village” I’ve literally met hundreds of people who I’ve shared the film with. And by meet I mean actually sit down and have a meeting.  It would be tempting sometimes, as I talked about in the last blog, to get frustrated and feel like “if only I can do my art!”

But, once I embraced the concept that building the village is as much a part of the creative process as the director’s prep, some wonderful things really opened up for me.  Here’s one of them…

I was introduced to the amazing Kelly Clark.  If you’re a Mammoth-lover or Mammoth-local, you know that she is the most successful snowboarder, man or woman, of all time.  She won her first Olympic medal, the gold, in Salt Lake in 2002.  Now, 12 years later, she is still the one to beat.  She’s the only woman who can throw a 1080 (3 turns in the air) in competition.  She came in 4th in Torino, bronze medaled in Vancouver, and then competed in Sochi.  I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with her and we had a terrific conversation a few weeks after she came back from Sochi.

If you didn’t watch the half-pipe competition, here’s what you have to know; the conditions in the pipe were terrible.  The weather was really warm and the organizers couldn’t keep the pipe frozen.  It kept melting and then refreezing when they put chemicals on it.  The result was a combination of slush, ice and lots of bumps.

I’m not a snowboarder, but as Kelly told me, when you ride down and then up the pipe, you have to “carry a lot of speed” to be able to do the tricks.  If you don’t go fast enough, you can’t throw tricks.  If the conditions are bumpy and irregular it slows you down.  Also, if you land on a bumpy wall, you are a lot more likely to fall then if you land on a smooth wall.

So, with all this knowledge, here’s what Kelly shared with me.  She fell five times before her last finals run.  She fell every single training run.  She fell in a qualifying run.  She fell in her first of two finals runs.

She also told me that she almost never falls.  By way of comparison, the week after the Olympics she competed in another event and didn’t fall the entire week.  She barely put her hand down once in 15 runs.  This gives you an idea how bad the situation at Sochi was.

And here’s what I heard her share.  She kept getting back up.  Even after her first finals run, she fell and she got back up.  On the world’s biggest stage, in primetime, with more then 3 billion people watching, she fell… and she got back up.  And then she won a bronze medal.

I saw her a few weeks ago and got to talk to her some more and hold her medal.   She said that this medal was the most special of all the medals that she’s ever won because of how hard it was to win it.

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I was incredibly inspired by Kelly’s story for a couple of reasons.  First, we hear all about how getting to the Olympics and competing on the world stage with the best of the best involves sacrifice and hard work.  But, when I heard the details of what Kelly went through I really heard something I’d never heard before.  The sacrifice and hard work involve not just runs in the pipe, workouts and travel away from your family.  The sacrifice I saw was the sacrifice of ego.  The sacrifice of the easy way out.  The sacrifice of feeling good.

She kept getting back up on the board and riding down the pipe, fully aware that she might totally bite the dust, look stupid and fail in front of 3 billion people.

And here’s what Kelly’s story has in common with making a film.  I can’t say that I’ve fallen 5 times at the Olympics, but I can say that I’ve been rejected by hundreds if not thousands of people in the five years I’ve been working on Saturn Returns.  I’ve gone to meeting after meeting and been told no.  I’ve been told yes and then no.  I’ve had people tell me yes for three years or even five years and then tell me no.  I’ve had people question my sanity, my creativity, my judgement, and more.  In short, I’ve bitten the dust, looked stupid and failed.

Turns out the keys to getting a movie made and winning an Olympic medal aren’t so different.  You can’t win if you don’t get back up and ride again. 

By embracing the it-takes-a-village concept, I got to hear Kelly’s story and get inspired to get back up and keep going another day.  And now I get to share it with you.

I hope it inspires you, too, to keep going even when you fall repeatedly.

Please consider supporting our indiegogo campaign and going on the journey with us as we make the film.  Lots of cool ways to participate!  Only 6 days left!

 

 

It Takes A Village

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

I am writing, as I promised, to share about the Saturn Returns process.  As we gear up for our shoot in June I’ve been learning so much!

One of the things I most want to share has to do with the idea of team.  Now, you probably know that I spend a lot of time talking about team building and leadership in my various classes and coaching.  Today I want to talk about something a little different.  To borrow from Hilary Clinton and the Nigerian Igbo culture, I want to talk about the idea that a project (or your career) “takes a village.”

You might have heard me talk about the idea that nothing of any scope or magnitude in life happens alone.  We can’t even procreate by ourselves, right?  Yet, this business can be extraordinarily isolating if we’re not careful.  We write alone.  We go to auditions alone.  We sit at our desks making calls or sending emails alone.  When we get to be a part of a group making something, it’s often short and fleeting, preceded and followed by a lot of work all by ourselves.

When it comes to Saturn Returns I’ve found myself using the phrase “it takes a village to make a film like this” over and over again.  And while that, in and of itself, has not been a big surprise, what that actually looks like and really means, practically speaking, has been surprising to me.  Here’s what I mean…

It takes a village, and you have to love the village.  A lot of actors I meet tell me “I just want to act.”  A lot of writers I meet tell me, “I just want to write.”  Ditto with directors, sound mixers, wardrobe stylists, you name it.

We feel we have a calling. There’s something that we love doing and we’re good at it.  If only all this other junk would just go away, we’d be so much happier and fulfilled.  We come to resent all this other stuff we have to do.  All the people we have to meet, the calls we have to make, the events we have to go to, the hustling we have to do.  Ugh.  When does it all end?

This is the village I’m talking about.  This is the village we have to love.  It would be so easy for me to resent how long it’s taken to raise the money for Saturn Returns, the number of meetings I’ve had that have gone nowhere, the number of people who’ve told me they’ll invest and then backed out, and on and on.  But one of the things that I’ve come to learn is that the village is every bit as much a part of making Saturn Returns as the actual filmmaking.  They go hand in hand.  There’s an idea that you can be a filmmaker without all of this other stuff, but, frankly, I think it’s a myth.  At least in this day and age.  And the sooner we kiss the myth of the pure filmmaker or pure artist, actor or writer good-bye, the better.  It’s like kissing the myth of Prince Charming good-bye.  Hard but so freeing once we do it.

So, my lesson is love your village the way you love your art.  You can’t have one without the other.  It can be hard to love your village, I know.  But, truth be told, some days it can be hard to love your art, right?  Your village and your art demand a lot out of you.  But it’s in the service of something important, something extraordinary, something you’ve dedicated your life to doing.

Gotta love the Village.

 

Why You Haven’t Accomplished Your Goal: Reason #4

Monday, May 5th, 2014

As I’ve written the past few months, a lot of my clients find me and my coaching when they are very frustrated.  They work hard, get training, go to networking events, make phone calls, submit themselves and their work, and yet they aren’t getting where they want to go!

This series of blogs gets to the bottom of why you’re stopped, stuck, or not moving very fast.  In February, I tackled the problem of not really knowing what your goal is specifically.  In March, we dealt with the second reason you might not have accomplished your goal, that you don’t have a strategy.  Last month I dug into the problem of knowing your goal and your strategy but not doing what you need to do.  If you haven’t read these blogs, I highly recommend checking them out.

Let’s look at the fourth reason you haven’t accomplished your goal…

You know your goal, you have a strategy and you’re executing it,

but you’re not doing it effectively and powerfully.

You know you’re not making the most of networking events.  You make phone calls and no one calls back.  You submit your work and never get a response.

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Someone says “tell me about yourself” and you answer in a big jumble.  You labor over decisions about what to do next, only to find yourself feeling like you went down the wrong path or made a mistake.

If any of this resonates, then there are some flaws in your game.  You are not executing your plan as effectively as you could be.  And, the effect of this is a lot of wasted time and effort and way too much disappointment.

I can’t go into all the reasons why you might not be executing your game-plan powerfully, but I can give you a few tips and steer you in the direction of where to get the tools you need.

First…

You’ve got to share yourself powerfully to accomplish your goal. 

If people don’t know what you’re up to, they can’t support you, partner with you or mentor you, pure and simple.  It’s up to you to share yourself in such a way that someone is inspired to read your script, wants make a phone call on your behalf, or have a meeting with you.

In Jump Start™ we work on what I like to call a personal logline.  This is a short, powerful way to share yourself in any situation.  It’s short enough to say it on the briefest phone call, in an elevator, or at a party waiting in line at the bar.

Second…

You need to know your brand and have everything aligned with it. 

You have a brand, whether you know it or not.  If you don’t know it, chances are others don’t know either.  If people don’t know your brand, it’s hard for them to hire you, and create with you or for you.

Recently, a client of mine got very clear about her brand in one of my classes.  She’s a sexy scientist.  Lo and behold, the very next week she booked a great role in a studio feature as, wouldn’t you know, a sexy scientist.  She’d never gotten this clear before, even though as she looked back at her career she realized that she’d been predominately cast in these types of roles.  Once she got crystal clear she stopped going out for roles she wasn’t right for, her booking ratio went up, and she started booking better jobs.

Third…

You need to build powerful teams around you

and take responsibility for leading them. 

Most creative people are used to going it alone.  We write by ourselves.  We compose alone.  We go to acting class with a just few people.

This might be great for the creative process, but it is death to your career.  To have your dream career, you need to have a passionate team working on your behalf and you need to lead that team effectively.

By team I mean your agent and manager, yes, but also your significant other, your accountability partner, your coach, a mentor (or more than one,) your producing partner, and more.

Executing your strategy is made up of many components.  I’ve dealt with a few here, but I tackle these and several more in Jump Start™.  To learn more and get more tools, visit www.entertainmentcareerstrategy.com.  Click on “Coaching and Mentoring” or “Breakthrough Store.”  Check out THRIVE and Jump Start™ to get started.

 

Love and Success!