Archive for the ‘writer’ Category

How Are You The Solution to Someone’s Problem?

Thursday, December 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.


Get Re-Connected to Your Why

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

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.


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?


Why You Haven’t Accomplished Your Goal, Yet: Reason #1

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

A lot of clients find my coaching when they are really frustrated.  They are passionate, talented, committed and working hard.  And they don’t know why they haven’t reached their goals yet.

Boy do I understand.  More than you know.

So, I’m writing this blog to shed some light on the problem of being stopped, stuck, or not moving very fast.  Understanding the problem is critical to finding a solution.

There are four reasons why you haven’t accomplished your goals.  Today I’m going to deal with the first one:

You don’t really know what your goal is. 

Okay, okay.  You know you want to act.  Or write.  Or produce.  Or work in television.  Or do make-up.

I still maintain that you don’t really know what your goal is.  Not really.  Not specifically.

Knowing you “want to be a working actor,” for example, is not really knowing your goal.  That’s incredibly broad. Work in what?  TV?  Commercials?  Theatre?  On a cruise ship?

You can start to see how broad and non-specific your goal of “being a working actor” is.

Same with “be a make-up artist.”  If I hire you to do kids face painting at my twins’ birthday party, that would be doing make-up, right?  But, is that your goal?

So now that we understand this part of the problem, here’s how we tackle it.  The first step is to set some kind of timeframe for your goal.  One year is a place to start.

“By December 31, 2014, I will have…”

Notice that I put a specific date in the goal, and also that I wrote “will have.”  Not “will try to” or “hope to.”  Use declarative speaking and you’re a lot more likely to accomplish your goal.

Next let’s look at what would be a breakthrough for you.  A breakthrough is a goal that is not predictable and not impossible.

By predictable I mean a version of something you’ve already done.  If you’re working at the make-up counter of MAC and doing a friend’s webseries for free every six months, in a year from now it’s predictable that you’ll be, well, working at the counter of MAC and doing webseries for free. Nothing wrong with any of this, it just might not be your goal.

Let me clarify what I mean by impossible.  First, none of your goals is impossible in and of itself.  What makes your goal impossible is the timeframe you’re giving it.  If you’re working at MAC and your goal is to win an Oscar next year, you can see how that would be out of the realm of possibility given that you need to get a job on a feature that then gets made and released in time to have an Oscar campaign and then win.  Highly unlikely if you’re not even working in features yet.  You get the picture.

A breakthrough is the sweet spot in between impossible and predictable.  When you accomplish your breakthrough goal, it will cause a state change with your career or project.  This means that your career or project will be in a new, different and elevated place.  You’ll be at a new level.

Here’s what else there is to know about breakthroughs…  You don’t know how to accomplish it.  If you did, you’d have done it already.  This is one of the things that make it a breakthrough.

Also, what could be predictable for you, could be a breakthrough for someone else or even impossible for someone else.  Your breakthrough is unique to you, your credits, your resources, your relationships, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and more.

So, let’s take a look at a few more breakthrough goals…

By December 31, 2014 I will have worked on at least one project a month as a make-up artist and be earning at least $250/day. 

By December 31, 2014 I will have pitched and sold my first television pilot and turned in a great draft of the script. 

By December 31, 2014 I will have directed at least 3 television commercials with budgets of at least $50k each. 

Now the important thing to know is that each of these are specifically articulated with regards to where the person is currently in their career, what they’ve already accomplished, and where they want to go.  For the make-up artist, this would be someone who is only doing a job every few months earning $100/day or less.

For the writer, this would be someone who has written television scripts, ideally on staff, and has pitched a little bit already.

For the director, this would be someone who has directed one low budget spot already, who already has a reel, but now needs to start getting jobs as a commercial director with regularity.

Tune in next month for The Second Reason Why You Haven’t Accomplished Your Goal. 

To get tools and solutions to help you clarify and accomplish your goals, visit and click on “Coaching and Mentoring.”  Check out THRIVE and Jump Start™ to get started.

Love and Success!

Summer Reading to Inspire & Educate You…

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Summer is well on its way.  Okay, soon to be over!  But, this blog about books to educate and inspire you has been on my mind for a while, so here it is.  These books are good any time of the year…

My favorite book on Acting:  The Year of the King.   
This is hands-down my favorite.  And, I’ve read them all.

What do I love about it?  First, it’s incredibly practical.  Antony Sher really lets you into his head for his process.  He explains his challenges with the crazy amount of lines he had to memorize, for example, and how he conquered them.  He delves into moments that he doesn’t understand and how he makes sense of them.

Second, it’s quirky and funny and very authentic.  His voice is unblemished by any façade.  Third, the journal-style approach with his wonderful sketches is unlike any other acting book out there.  And, he humanizes one of Shakespeare’s great anti-heroes, Richard III, a man who tests most everything human.  If you haven’t read this  book yet, I highly recommend it!  You’re really in for a treat!


Complete 2012 Powerfully + Launch 2013 with Commitment Part 2

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Now that it’s the dawn of 2013, your mind is probably racing ahead to the days, the goals, the good times you want to see unfold.  You might still be relaxing (I hope you are!), but you’re starting to get antsy.  You might have thought of a few new year’s resolutions already.  But this time around, you want it to be different.  You want to really accomplish them!  Not just make them and then halfway accomplish them or give up on them.

If you haven’t yet done the Complete 2012 series of exercises from my previous blog, I highly recommend that you do them before starting the work below.  You can read all about them here.  It’s not too late to do them.  In fact, I normally do the completion exercises over the first weekend of the new year.  It just seems to work out that way.

Following, you’ll find Part 2 of the two-part structure, Launch 2013 with Commitment.  As with Part 1, it will take a bit of time.  But, I promise that the reward of doing these two exercises will surprise you.  I do them every year.  And every year I get something totally unexpected out of the process.


Complete 2012 Powerfully + Launch 2013 with Commitment Part 1

Friday, December 21st, 2012

As the year winds down perhaps you’re having a few thoughts about how 2012 has gone.  Well, okay, more than a few.  And perhaps there are some ideas floating around about what you hope and dream for in 2013.

This post is designed to help you with a bit of structure.  There are times that are great for musing, certainly. And once that’s done, some simple, effective structure can help you take those musings, solidify them, and get to work making them a reality.

Following, you’ll find Part 1 of a two-part structure, Completing 2012 Powerfully.  This will take a bit of time, but the reward will surprise you.  I do this every year with my husband and it’s one of my favorite things we do together all year long.

First, I encourage you to carve out time for yourself.  Go somewhere that you can focus on this important work, but still be relaxed.  For me, it’s one of two favorite cafes.  An extra hot vanilla latte at King’s Road does wonders for putting me in the right zone.


The Power of Being a “Yes”

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Have you ever noticed that some people are naturally either a “yes” or a “no?”

I don’t mean that their answer to your question will always be “yes.”  What I mean is, whatever the answer, with some people we feel positive and supported.

Whereas, with other people, we feel shut down.  Or, that the answer is “no” even when they haven’t fully listened to our question.  The whole encounter is negative.

Consider this:  We can choose to operate in life as a “yes” or a “no.”  And, the results we get will correspond directly.

So, what is a “yes” person, you ask?  And why is it important?

It starts with attitude.  Being a “yes” means that you operate from a place of abundance.  This can sometimes be easier said than done, I know, but this really is a choice.  A “yes” person is generous.  A “no” person is stingy.  A “yes” person looks at the glass as being half-full.  A “no” person thinks it’s half-empty.

The renowned theatre director William Ball, founder of ACT in San Francisco, had the mantra “praise to success.”  It wasn’t that constructive criticism wasn’t necessary.  It was that leading with praise was the most sure-fire way to create a receptiveness in his actors. Then they could hear his notes and soar with them.

Being a “yes” is proactive.  If you are a “yes” you look for ways to contribute, to support, to be generous.  Why do you do this?  Because generosity begets generosity.  Support begets support.

Being a “yes” is more fun.  Think about it.  Who do you want to hang out with?  Debbie-Downer?  Or the person who makes you feel great?  Who is generous and supportive?

Yes” is inclusive.  “No” is exclusive.  If you are someone who is a “yes” you include and are included.  If you are a “no” you exclude, and, well, are excluded.

You can be a “yes” even when your answer is “no.”  How, you ask?  Well, if you’ve ever gotten a “no” from someone but felt great even as you were being rejected, you know what I’m talking about.  How did they do it?  The key to being a “yes” even as you say “no” is to be warm, supportive, generous, looking for things to acknowledge and praise, even though your answer in that moment is “no.”

You also do not need to explain why it is a “no.”  You can simply say that it’s not a fit for you right now.  The key is how you do it.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much effort to make someone feel great, even if you can’t give them what they want in the moment.  I’d also suggest that the “yes” approach takes less effort than the opposite.

Being a “yes” attracts true believers.  First, let me talk about true believers by giving a call-out to longtime client Deborah Puette.  She defined true believers as “people who have their antenna out for jobs for me.”   With this in mind…

Your career success is directly related to the quantity and quality of your true believers. 

The more people who have their antenna out for jobs for you, well, the more jobs you’ll have!  Okay… So how do you get more true believers, you ask.  Be a “yes!”

Think about it.  We want to support people who are supportive of us.  We want to find ways to give back to people who’ve been generous to us.  We love the people who make us feel great.  We want to see them succeed.

The secret of being a “yes” is that it creates more “YES” everywhere in your life.  By being unselfish, we get so much more in return.

But don’t just take my word for it…  Start by saying “yes” to being a “yes” person!

Having a Hard Time Getting Back Into the Swing of Things After the Summer?

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

As the summer winds down, I’ve talked to several people who express that they feel disconnected from their goals, desirous of “getting back into the swing of things.”  Some people feel overwhelmed, not sure where to start.  A little anxious even.  Any of this apply to you?

Here are three things to keep in mind as you leave the vacation mind-set and re-enter your pursuit of your goals!

1. Vacation is good for you.   

You read that right.  Vacation is not just good for you, it’s great for you.  Steven Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopletalks about “Sharpening the Saw.”  By that he means taking time away from your work and your goals to do things that make your tools sharper.  This can be a vacation or a day off.  Ideally, you need to take both!  You’ll find that your time working will be much more effective if you take regular breaks—at least one day off every week and a vacation every once in a while.

2. It doesn’t matter how you feel. 

What?  Yep.  When you come back to something, be it exercise or work, you won’t feel at the top of your game.  And it doesn’t matter.  I just went running for the first time in 2 months.  Did it feel good?  Nope.  It felt terrible.  “I’m the worst runner on the planet” kept going through my head.  No lie.

What matters is that I laced up my shoes and put one foot in front of the other.  One of the mantras of the P90X guru Tony Horton is “just press play.”  Meaning, put on the exercise DVD and move your body, even if you don’t feel like it.

You won’t feel like you’re back into the swing of things until you are back into the swing of things.  The key is to let that be okay.  Stop making yourself wrong because you took a break, and you’ll enjoy the process of easing back into the saddle so much more.

3. Set a schedule and keep to it. 

As you are easing back into work, the key is to set a schedule and keep to it.  Make keeping to the schedule the victory.  Don’t say that you’ll spend “all day” on your goal and then beat yourself up when you don’t stare at the computer for eight hours straight.  Set a realistic amount of time to work on your goal, say, two hours each day, and then keep to it.

You’ll feel great that you did your two hours on the first day back.  It will get easier after that.  Your clarity and stamina will improve.  And guess what… you’re back in the swing of things in no time.

Specificity Wins: The Key to Getting What You Want

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Specific:  free from ambiguity

If you’re an actor, you know that vague, muddy choices do not make for compelling acting.  If you’re a writer, you know that a generic character is not someone the audience will root for.  In all things in life, the more specific you are, the more likely you are to clearly communicate and get what you want.  If you want to paint your house but you just say “brown,” well, there’s a lot of room for interpretation.

So, why is it that so often you are ambiguous or generic with your goals?  I often hear that someone wants to be a “working actor.”  Not to be crass, but that could mean that you’re working in porn or in my home video for which I bought you a cup of coffee.

In all seriousness, the lack of specificity is one of the main reasons—perhaps the main reason—why you do not accomplish your goals.  It is the main culprit in your requests not being answered and your efforts not paying off.  It is the main source of your frustration and overwhelm, the reason that you look over your to do list and wonder what to do first.

If you are so intent on achieving your goals, why do you leave them ambiguous or back-pedal when you describe them?  For most people, the reason is that you are afraid.  If you commit to something and then fail to achieve it, you might feel like a failure!

Leaving your goals vague is safe.  It gives you wiggle room.  But it also prevents you from working to your full capacity and enrolling those around you to help achieve your goals.  In the end, though, leaving your goals vague makes it nearly impossible to achieve them.  The irony is that the very thing that makes you feel safe—keeping things non-specific—dooms you to failure before you even start.

So, what can you do?  Read on for some ground rules on bringing specificity to your goals.

1. Be as detailed as possible when you articulate your goal while still being concise.

This can be very challenging, but remember, as you articulate your goal, so you will accomplish it.  If you’re a director you might think you want to direct anything and everything, but you don’t.  What do you really want to direct.  Say it loud and proud!  You’ll be a lot more likely to direct it.

Your specificity will also dictate which avenues are most important to pursue.  For example, the people who cast commercials, theatre, music videos and television are all different.  You can’t know all of them, so figure out what you want to do, and then the list of people you need to cultivate relationships with will become clear and manageable.  It’s still challenging to meet and build relationships with these powerful individuals, but at least it’s possible.  It’s not possible to know everyone in Hollywood, so narrow it down.  Narrowing it down starts with the specificity of your goal.

2. Check your language for non-committal words and phrases.

Look for words like “try” and “hope.”  Once you find them, cross them out!  Replace them with a declarative statement, as in “By (DATE) I will (YOUR GOAL.)”  Your commitment starts with your speaking.  If you aren’t fully committed, how can you expect anyone else to commit to supporting you?

3. Eliminate milestones and to do list items from your goal.

Your goal is not your to do list.  It’s not the milestones you must cross on your way to your goal.  Your goal is your goal, the end result.

So, take “clean up my office” and “get new representation” out of your goal.  Cleaning up your office is an item on your to do list.  It might feel like a goal because your office is a mess, but it’s not.  Take it out of your goal, get some help to get it done, and then cross it off your to do list.

Getting a new agent is also not your goal.  It’s a milestone.  It’s something that is challenging, that you’ll need to accomplish on the way to your breakthrough.  Think about it, though, did you come to LA or NYC to get an agent?  Do you face rejection everyday to get an agent?  No!  You came here and you sacrificed because there is a kind of work that you are committed to doing.  You’re committed to making movies, performing live, or working as a series regular on TV, not to getting an agent.  So, keep the articulation of the goal to the kind of work you are committed to doing, and you’ll be more inspired and motivated to do what it takes to accomplish it.

4. Make sure your goal has a clear timeline.

This is where we often hedge our bets.  Don’t.  Give your goal a date and then see if what you want to accomplish is possible in that timeline.  It might be hard, sure, but it needs to be possible.  You might find that you have to rework your timeline once you’ve broken down the steps you must take to accomplish your goal.  Without a timeline, however, your path for accomplishing your goal is unclear, and, say it with me, non-specific.

5. Make adjustments when and if necessary.

The point of being specific is to create a structure for accomplishment.  Do everything in your power to maintain the goals you have declared.  If that is impossible or if you do not achieve it as declared, take stock, understand the issues and set a new, specific goal.

In summation, as you articulate your goals, so you accomplish them.  As you are able to share your goals specifically and powerfully, people will understand them and see ways to support you.  Clear and specific steps will emerge.  Behaviors that have been hindering us will become obvious.  Obstacles that were overwhelming will become manageable.

With all of this to gain, is it any wonder that specificity wins?

Shawn Tolleson is a career coach with her company Strategy Coaching™.

Empowering you to accomplish the career of your dreams: Strategy. Action. Breakthrough.