Let’s be honest, we’re all creatures of habit and tend to enjoy the comforts of modern life. Smart phones, smart homes, smart cars, self-parking cars, self-driving cars, google, siri, same day delivery, apps, apps, and more apps, streaming services, mobile orders, Grubhub, Doordash, Uber, Lyft, that weird doorbell camera thing…the list goes on. I was at a party last night and saw the laziest Lazy Boy recliner I’ve ever seen. It had 4 cup holders, a tray for meals, 3 massage buttons, a seat warmer, an outlet, a phone charger, speakers, a reading light, and I think I saw a small toilet built into the bottom. Ridiculous yes, but really comfortable and convenient. This comfort, these luxuries, will keep us from challenging ourselves and reaching our full potential. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy them, we should. But when it comes to growth and change, I think we need to seek discomfort from time to time.
When I say discomfort of course I’m not talking about being in any physical or emotional pain. I’m talking about challenging yourself. Pushing your own limits. Doing things you’d normally never do. Ask yourself “what if?” and “why not?” Explore opposites from time to time. Talk to that stranger in the elevator. Take that class you’ve been curious about. Try new things.
One thing that often gets in our way when it comes to growth in our work and in life, is the ego. It’s really important that we set our egos aside and allow ourselves to take risks, to fail, to look foolish. We need to trust the process and get out of our own way from time to time. This can feel scary because it may not be what we’re used to. It’s unchartered territory. Let go of your ego whenever possible and embrace the unknown.
When I work with actors in class I often say things like, “Say yes and see what happens,” “trust your instincts”, “find the conflict and move towards it.” One of my favorites is, “Don’t be a polite actor!” In life we seek comfort, we avoid conflict at all costs. We don’t say what we really mean. In your work as an actor it’s crucial that you actively pursue conflict and discomfort within the scene. Conflict is where the comedy and drama come from. It’s what the audience is paying to see. Ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
I was working on a scene with two students in which the girlfriend wanted to have a serious conversation about their relationship and the boyfriend desperately needed a drink because he was an alcoholic. After they ran through the scene I asked him if he got what he needed. The guy playing the boyfriend said, “Well I couldn’t get into the kitchen to get a drink because my scene partner was standing right next to the couch and blocking the entrance.” What?! Jump over the couch, move her out of the way, threaten her, throw something at her; anything to get to that drink! He was being a polite actor and not playing truthfully. He was afraid of getting messy and confrontational and the scene suffered because of it.
When actors fight to get what they want the scene lights up. Confrontation and competition will fuel your work. I’m not talking about competing with other actors for a job, I’m talking about competing within the scene. Always work to affect your partner. When you affect your partner the audience will be moved as well. The best way to do that is to take those risks, work outside of your comfort zone, get messy, embrace mistakes.
Thanks for reading. Good luck and keep going. I wish you nothing but success in everything you pursue.
For more information or to schedule a coaching session, please visit www.ryankitley.com.