Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Numbers

Even though I had bigger things on my mind this year -- the book, mainly -- I remain committed at least to quantifying the acting work. Surprisingly, this was my second best year ever in terms of income.

But first let's start with the numbers:
  • 19 print auditions
  • 24 commercial auditions
  • 16 industrial auditions
  • 2 film auditions
  • 2 commercial voiceover auditions
That's 63 total auditions. Rather remarkably, that's the exact same number as last year, and down once again from my 2007-2009 highs:
  • 2011: 63
  • 2010: 63
  • 2009: 101
  • 2008: 103
  • 2007: 86
  • 2006: 48
On the bookings front, here's how things looked:
  • 5 print
  • 4 commercial *
  • 5 on-camera industrial
  • 2 voiceover industrial
That's 16 total bookings (not counting extra work, which I don't count), a few more than my usual total of around a dozen. Things slowed considerably, since 12 of the 16 came in the first half of the year. But a couple of my biggest bookings in terms of dollars came in the second half.

Money-wise, a seemingly ordinary year turned out pretty well. It was actually my second best year ever in terms of revenue. Second best by far, actually -- about 40% higher than last year, which was my previous second best.

All in all, that's a year I would not kick out of bed for eating crackers.

* 1 of the commercial bookings was canceled (though I still got paid, so it counts) and another was just a "spec" commercial.

Friday, December 30, 2011


I have been "home" (I put it in quotes because really it's the place I grew up and where most of my family is -- I consider Chicago my real home now) more this year than any year I can remember. Four times: July, October, November and December.

That's a lot.

But it's also taken some of the shock out of seeing Dad and the state he's in. In a six- or eleven-month span a lot changes. With this schedule it's more incremental, but still as inexorable as ever. Some of his autonomic functions are starting to shut down.

But he's still at home, thanks to government-provided health care of the kind that some parties want to preserve only for the elite. He's getting good care. And he still seems to smile in his own way.

As usual, there's not much else to add. I will say the pain of going there is considerably easier to deal with than the guilt associated with shirking it.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Speed Racer

How do you shoot sunny outdoor scenes in the midst of a (semi-)harsh Chicago winter? Other people get swept off to LA or Florida. I get sent to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a great big 115-year-old greenhouse in the heart of Chicago.

It's a pleasant place in the winter to feel a little moisture on your parched skin. And today it was the setting for Day One of a two-day photo shoot. I "fished" and I "biked" and then I was done.

It's very odd doing acting work* this time of year. The casting and talent agencies are even shut down from Christmas to New Year's. (My agent's been calling me from his parents' house in the suburbs.) But I'm okay with it. The money is good.

Tomorrow I head up the North Shore where we'll be shooting in a lakefront mansion that Google satellite view indicates is bigger than my supermarket. I envision elegant, high-ceilinged rooms with temporary pathways of cardboard and plastic sheeting and lots and lots of rules pertaining to where we can eat and drink and wear shoes.

* And, yes, this is acting work. I get asked over and over during the holidays if I "miss acting" and I have to explain that even though I'm not currently doing theater, shooting commercials and industrials and doing photo shoots is still "acting" and it's still "work." And it's even fun sometimes. And it even PAYS. So there you go.

Friday, December 23, 2011

This is Why I Can't Have Sharp Things

From the week that was:
  • I've never in my life carried or owned a pocket knife. For early Christmas I got a Swiss Army Knife. Within seconds I had sliced open the tip of my thumb. This is why I can't have knives. Or guns, especially. (Still, I'm excited to be a knife owner.)
  • I got my stitches out today and the nurse said the wound is healing very nicely. Give me a set of written instructions (antibiotics for 1 week, no workouts for 1 week, light workouts second week, clean wound and change dressing twice a day) and I can do just about anything. (I even managed some light pushups this week.)
  • I've been invited to keynote a major regional PR industry conference in March. It will be my biggest in-person audience yet -- 200 people. And wouldn't you know it, it happens just 30 minutes after my webinar for Georgetown University ends. Back-to-back shows!
  • In my entire career I have probably worked less than 10 days total between Christmas and New Year's. And I have never, ever done acting work during that time. I just got booked for a day-and-a-half print shoot next week, and it's fairly lucrative. I'm surprised I got it. The audition was just the other day and they were looking for really upbeat, happy and warm people. Once again ... ACTING, THANK YOU!
  • Every year just as I start my Christmas shopping, I end up buying a bunch of stuff for myself. This year I haven't bought a single thing for me. It's awesome: I save money, have more to spend on family/loved ones, and feel uncharacteristically altruistic. Go, me!
That is all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On the radio

This weekend I did a radio appearance on WGN in Chicago. It's a short, 10-minute segment, which can be listened to here.

It's interesting that I thought actually being in the studio with the host, as opposed to calling in, would be an easier, more engaging experience. Better chemistry and being able to make eye contact and such.

But it wasn't quite like that. First off, we're in this windowed studio facing Michigan Avenue and people are pressing their noses up against the glass and the host somehow manages, without missing a beat, to enthusiastically wave to everyone who passes -- when I'm talking, even when he's talking.

Plus, radio hosts are monitoring a hundred different things. They've got producers talking in their ear and they're watching the clock and they're looking up stuff online and have messages coming over their computer screen and a bunch of other stuff. So he asks me a question then is immediately immersed in all these other things.

He still manages somehow to listen, which is something I could never possibly do -- achieving that kind of focus in the midst of all those distractions -- but it's a little disconcerting to have your "audience" kind of all over the place like that.

Still, it turned out well enough. He picked my segment among the four hours of material he got that morning for the site's webcast. So that says something. I still feel a lot of pressure in these short interview situations (like the two-minute TV appearance) to get everything in and be succinct.

I don't know how much time I'll get on Martha's network, but I hope it's a good 20 or 30 minutes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank you, Facebook

Kenny was one of my good friends from elementary school. A small gang of us would hang out, ride bikes, go to the pool, ice skate at the lake, have rock fights, start fires. The usual stuff 10-year-olds do.

Kenny goes by Ken now. I have seen him in person exactly once in the decades since high school, at our 10-year reunion. But we're still in touch. You know how? Through Facebook.

And even though the anti-Facebook backlash, which has been going on since about five minutes after Facebook was invented, continues unabated, Kenny-now-Ken has just added Act Like You Mean Business to the syllabus for a course he teaches at a major university back East.

All because of a status update he posted one day about being an English professor suddenly stuck teaching a business writing class.

He didn't adopt the book because we used to blow up my sisters' old Barbie dolls with firecrackers. Far from it. He was skeptical and I had to work for this sale, with a multitude of suggestions for exercises and homework assignments.

But I never would have known about it if not for Facebook.

There's surely a lot of nonsense there, from Farmville to that stupid ticker, but in all that stewy bathwater is a baby worth saving.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


It's the end of the year and I'm getting every doctor's appointment, checkup, procedure and test done now before deductibles for next year kick in.

I had four appointments last week, one this week and another next week -- eye, allergy and multiple derm visits. One of them they had to cut me open! It was a small carbuncle or something on my back that's been there for years but kind of bugs me.

So now instead of a lump I will have a scar. It's ridiculous how big the incision has to be for a such a small thing, and I'm hoping it heals up without being too heinous.

The worst part, aside from a couple of days' pain, is that I can't work out AT ALL for at least a week. Maybe two. I guess while I'm healing I can't have blood pumping super hard through my body. That, plus most workouts -- yoga, Pilates and weights -- are going to be pretty near impossible as long as a major muscle group is hanging together by a thread.

So I haven't been to the gym in four days and I'm already feeling really sluggish and sloth-like. Maybe I should be walking or something with this extra 60-90 minutes a day.

This, I suppose, is how the sedentary half lives.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Mood Swings

When you're constantly pitching yourself as a product, your mood tends to shift up and down with every yes and no. And since there are, by nature, more nos than yeses, it's not surprising that I get a little ... fatigued sometimes with all the rejection. (Or the indifference that amounts to rejection.)

It was like that on Tuesday. I was feeling kind of down about it and as the afternoon wore on just got really sleepy and lazy. Unbeknownst to me, PR Daily was just then posting an article I submitted. Had I known that, it might have changed my outlook that evening. As it was, I didn't discover it for almost 24 hours, when I noticed a spike of hits to my various websites.

So this morning I'm back on the horse and decide to follow up with a radio producer I hadn't heard from in a while. Last we talked she was going to check with the show's host. That was a month ago. So I emailed her, thinking it was futile at this point, and in a matter of hours she checked with the host who reacted positively and now I'm booked! (On Martha Stewart's radio network, btw.)

It's crazy. They tell you not to bug them over the phone. They say they hate the reminder call, or the "just checking in" call. But it seems to work. I think it's worked at least four times now. A couple of guys I called and emailed multiple times over several months are now running my stuff.

At some point I'm hoping for a snowball effect, and I get people calling me, asking me to appear on their show or write for their publication or post on their blog. It's gonna take a while, though. Especially because, well, I've got big ideas.

For now though, back to the well, trying to get some Chicago TV and some big time print.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The 7 Habits of Highly Annoying Commercial Extras

I don't do much extra work.

First off, the pay is usually terrible. On a feature film you may take home $65 or so for an 8-hour day.

Second, it's boring. Tons of standing around. On film shoots I've seen dozens of extras show up, wait all day, and never even get into a scene. (But they still get their $65!)

Third, if you like to work, it's tough watching other actors get to do great stuff while you walk in circles in the background.

But certain jobs -- commercial extra work, especially under a SAG contract -- can pay a decent amount. So today I worked as an extra, and it was the right call, but I was reminded of some of the things other extras do that annoy me.

So here is my list of the annoying things bad extras do. They:
  1. Denigrate the process. Background actors are essential to the production. True, just about anyone can (and does) do it -- students, retirees, bored people, the underemployed. But you are an actor filling a necessary role. Stop putting it down. Do you think the assistant gaffer bitches about having to run around taking orders and putting tape on stuff? Nope, he's there to do his job, and he shuts his mouth and does it professionally.
  2. Denigrate the production. Yeah, the director may not be Scorcese, but guess what? You're not DeNiro. They're earning a living wage doing this job. YOU are just a freaking extra on this production you think sucks. Do you know how silly you sound making fun of them? Calling them Cecil B. DeMille behind their back? Really silly. And pathetic.
  3. Refuse to listen. I learned this the hard way in just my second theater production. The director yelled at us, literally, for chatting and holding side conversations while he was talking. I thought he was an a-hole at the time, but he was right. I like to listen, even when the director's not talking to me. If I know what the principals are being instructed to do, then I'll have a better understanding of what I need do. Extras get very little direction or feedback, so every little bit, wherever you can get it, helps.
  4. Distract others. Again, some of us are trying to listen and pay attention. So shut up and save your stories for later. And in the meantime, work on them a bit. Take a tip from film: stories have a beginning, a middle and an END. Not to mention conflict, drama and human interest. Make it so.
  5. Obsess over the food. This is a big thing with non-actor extras on films. Some of them show up mainly for the meal (and they are not poor or starving). But I've seen professional actors obsess ridiculously over the food, complaining that it's not coming soon enough or that they have to line up behind the crew. We need to be fed, yes, but the craft table is not the main event.
  6. Bug people for stills and clips. First, you're talking to the wrong person. The photographer or the DP or the client or the agency creative director are not the people to ask for clips. They've got jobs to do. There's a production coordinator who signs your papers. Talk to him or her. But, seriously, don't bug them, either. Nobody wants to see a background, nonspeaking role on your reel. And if you'd like a photo, have another extra snap one of you.
  7. Complain about having to stick around. You signed up for 8 hours. You know the drill. Even if your scene was done before lunch, there's a 99% chance they are not going to release you until the end of the shift. Because you never know. You just might be needed for something. And for that 8 hours, they own your ass. So bring a book and be prepared to sit around all day.
So in addition to the pay and inactivity and the boredom, it's the people that sometimes make being an extra a really unsatisfying experience.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First class treatment

Wine o'clock, somewhere over Ohio

I must confess, I was not quite my usual festive self at Thanksgiving this year. All day long I was thinking about the TV interview the next day.

Partly I was concerned about it going well, but mostly I was worried about getting up on time (4:20 am) and being clear of head and white of cornea enough to do a decent job. In the end, it went great, as can be seen here.

But it did put a damper on the evening before. I had to get to bed early and I had to forego the wine at dinner. These occasions are dangerous -- every time you turn around somebody's filling your wine glass. By the end of the evening you don't know if you've had three glasses or thirty-seven.

I was feeling fairly cheated, but then my reward came at the end of the day, when I was upgraded to first class on the flight home. (Not on my own merits, mind you -- I have the good fortune to run with a super-platinum crowd.)

And that is where the bottomless wine glass came into play. Hoo-boy. Good thing it was just a two-hour flight or I might not have woken up 'til Sunday.

It was wonderful to see how the other 1% lives. I could really get used to it. In fact, flying is barely a chore when you've got endless leg room and a giant cushy seat.

The only downside? The plane was configured so first class boarded to the left and coach to the right. So I didn't get the chance to look elite to all those people streaming back to their sardine can seats.

Probably they'd be thinking the same thing I think when I file past: how did this schmoe rate?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tina Fey: Sexism and The Second City

Over the holiday weekend I finished Tina Fey's magnificent and funny book, Bossypants. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in acting, improv, TV, breathing and life.

I knew she had some insights in there similar to my own about the application of improv principles to the workplace. And I was actually surprised at just how similarly we treated the subject in places. For instance, on the topic of agreement, I say:
"If your scene partner says, 'Man, it's hot out here!" you can respond in one of two ways: 'Yeah, I'm sweating like a Pennsylvania steelworker in July!' (right) or 'Really? I find the temperature quite agreeable' (wrong)."
Meanwhile, Tina gives this advice in reference to the principle of YES, AND:
"If I start a scene with 'I can't believe it's so hot in here,' and you just say, 'Yeah...' we're kind of at a standstill. But if I say, 'I can't believe it's so hot in here,' and you say, 'What did you expect? We're in hell,' now we're getting somewhere."
Obviously, Tina Fey is a very insightful person. And way funnier than I am.

Another similarity I found in our experiences at Second City is that we both encountered narrow-minded authority figures identifying what they viewed as our limitations. For me, it was my age. For Tina, it was her uterus.

She observed:
"Of all the places I've worked that were supposedly boys' clubs, The Second City was the only one where I experienced institutionalized gender nonsense. For example, a director of one of the main companies once justified cutting a scene by saying, 'The audience doesn't want to see a scene between two women.' Whaaa?"
She goes on to discuss the groundbreaking milestone she had a part in: Second City's first 50/50 male/female cast.


Of course, being a dude, I never encountered much sexism there, but the conventional, limited thinking from which it stems? Yeah, there was plenty of that. Not more than most organizations of its size and age, but more than you might expect from a place that prides itself on creativity.

Regarding sexism, I had the pleasure of taking a couple of classes with the wonderful Mary Scruggs. One day a fellow student -- a male, needless to say -- complained that he couldn't write woman characters. Personally, my eyeballs are incapable of rolling back far enough in my head to give this trite observation the mocking skepticism that it deserves.

But Mary, ever pleasant and frank, simply advised him, in essence, "Write the character as a man then change the name to Susan."


I'm actually writing a letter to Tina. I don't know if it will get to her, but I want to give it a try.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Keeping Up and The Spray Heard (Almost) Round the World

This afternoon on Facebook, somebody posted the original UC-Davis pepper spray photo (not the countless hilarious memes that have come after), and a friend of his actually commented, "Where's that from?"

How is that possible? How is it possible for someone to be so cut off from the news? The incident happened Friday and since that time I saw the infamous YouTube video, along with a half million other people, as well as multiple other angles, photos and analysis.

I read the chancellor's original mealy-mouthed statement defending the police, the resulting outrage, the eyewitness accounts, the calls for her resignation, her later, more conciliatory statement, the widespread publication of the offending officer's name, email address, and phone number, her suspension of two officers, her walk of shame through the silent students, her suspension of the police chief, and numerous articles, blog posts, comments and other bits of analysis.

That's 72 hours worth of happenings. From political blogs to mainstream newspapers to cable and network television, not to mention Facebook and Twitter. And this guy missed all that? Was he in a coma?

Similarly, people are expressing outrage and surprise over the failure of the supercommittee to reach an agreement. I've probably read 30,000 to 50,000 words about the supercommittee over the past couple of months. It was clearly headed for failure. And, in fact, in this case failure meant the Democrats refused to capitulate to the Republicans' demand for a 230:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases (that is NOT an exaggeration. That was their final proposal).

Thank god they failed. It was all meaningless anyway. And predestined. Let the Bush tax cuts expire and most of our problems are solved.

Maybe I spend too much time keeping up on all this stuff, but I don't think it's any different than other peoples' obsessive devotion to sports or comic books or whatever it is.

But then I read articles like this: The Steve Martin Method. And though it's a guide to being famous, it's actually about success. One of the lessons:
Martin credits “diligence” for his success. But he’s quick to clarify that he’s not referring to working hard over time. What he really means is staying diligent in his interest in the one field he was trying to master; being able to ignore the urge to start working on other projects at the same time.

It can be hard to ruthlessly whittle down your ambitions to a needle-thin point. But Martin is clear on this point: if you don’t saturate your life in a single quest, you’ll dilute your focus to a point where becoming outstanding becomes out of reach.
Am I too diluted? Corporate communications, acting, book promoting, public speaking, to say nothing of other interests like politics and current events, reading, movies, fitness and nutrition and, um, cats.

To say nothing of the trajectory of my PR career career, spent in the nonprofit world in DC, then politics/government in DC, then state-level government and media relations in Ohio, then agency PR work in Chicago. I don't know. I used to mock the senior-level people at the PR firm who had spent 25 years IN THE SAME FIRM, let alone the same damned field.

Over that time they built a lot of influence. But certainly their expertise must have topped out around year 10 or 15. I couldn't imagine that life. I love that I've done different things. Even within acting: improv then sketch then theater then sketch and play writing, then film, commercial and industrial and print.

A case could be made that all the current events reading is part of my job. I always remember that from the PR firm: it was said that we worked in the one field where it was not only okay but expected to find people reading the newspaper at their desks. And certainly the UC-Davis case, just like Penn State and Netflix and so many other crises, will be endlessly dissected in PR journals over the years.

I have no answer. Just some thinking to do. About focus and moderation.

Friday, November 18, 2011

In My Head

I had a difficult pair of auditions this week (original audition plus callback) for an industrial. The scripts had tons and tons of highly technical copy (it's in the healthcare field) and they made a point over and over of saying there would be no teleprompter on set. If we didn't think we could memorize it, we should not do the audition.

I worked the copy for a couple of hours for the first audition only to find they had changed the scripts that morning. Oof.

For the callback, part of me said don't get fooled again. But another part said, just go ahead and memorize the damned things. So I did. Between yesterday and this morning I probably spent a good four hours working the copy. Thankfully they had not changed the script this time.

I did my best with it, but having it in your head on your own is an entirely different thing than performing it in front of 7 or 8 people. At the same time, they wanted us to be engaging and conversational and interacting with each other, and I'm thinking, which is it? Off book or casual and natural? Because accomplishing both is pretty tough.

The thing is, we weren't required to be off-book for the audition, and they even had the lines up. But I figured since it was such a concern of theirs for the booking that I ought to show some facility with a script.

And I'm glad I did the work, I suppose. Especially since another actor in the waiting room said that he wasn't going to get off book until they started paying him. That made me feel like a professional in comparison.

I still don't get the "no teleprompter" thing. Are they worried that we won't sound natural? Because I think it's just the opposite. I can sound incredibly natural reading off the teleprompter, but when I'm struggling with memorized lines in my head, that's where things get a little shaky.

I will either get this job or I won't. That's my prediction.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Doing the Hustle

In doing some client work the other day, I found some use for this old quote that I used to have on my website:
"Things may come to those who way ... but only the things left by those who hustle."
The source of the quote? Abraham Lincoln. Yeah, I've always been skeptical of that. It's hard to picture the Great Emancipator -- or anyone in the mid-19th Century, for that matter -- using the word "hustle."

I think I hit a wall today. All the hustling is dragging me down. I would love just a few things served up to me on a silver platter. Handed to me on a velvet pillow. Presented to me wrapped up in a bow.

I was reminded of this today when a PR industry publication that I've been pitching since August (August!) finally ran an article of mine. I'd love to link to it but it's in print only. Old school.

Of the 7 articles I've gotten published and posted, just one came through an invitation. Of the 5 speeches I've booked, just one was offered up to me. And that doesn't count all the unsuccessful pitches I've made. Which I guess I haven't actually counted, but it feels like a lot right now.

And it's never quite enough. Success only begets want. I was super happy when I booked that TV appearance in DC. For about an hour. But then I started feeling like I had to book a second one for later in the day and now that's my yardstick, and while others may be impressed, to me, just having one will be a bit of a disappointment.

It's not that I can't be happy with what I have. I have had a number of awesome projects and accomplishments that I would call a home run and that I was over the moon about. I guess that's what I want. More home runs, fewer base hits.

Or, I suppose, with a little more of that Abe Lincoln-style hustle I could be converting those base hits into inside-the-park home runs. Like this guy -- the original Charlie Hustle:

But really, I would just like one day where I go to the ballpark and the other team forfeits, handing me an easy victory.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Putting it all out there

About 10 years ago, when I was just starting this performance career, I very briefly tried my hand at standup comedy.

It was among the saddest, most isolating experiences of my life.

I would go to this open mic late on Monday nights at a bar, going straight from my weekly improv class to sign up on the first-come/first perform list. So while my improv friends were out at the bar together cracking jokes and deconstructing that night's class, I was waiting in another bar across town for my moment to go on.

The standups were a close-knit group that I wasn't part of. They watched each other's sets and laughed heartily in that way you do that's more about knowing the performer than truly appreciating the comedy.

By the time I got on stage, around 1 or 1:30 in the morning (these were Monday nights, btw), most people were off gabbing in the front room. I would do my two minutes or so, sometimes bombing, sometimes getting yanked and once or twice doing okay. Then I'd head over to the El and sit waiting for the Brown Line train, which often took a half-hour at that time of night.

Needless to say, I didn't do this for very long. A few months maybe, with other open mics mixed in. But I was always sad and lonely and thinking about the bonding time I was missing with my classmates. It really made me appreciate the value of an ensemble.

Hustling this book has been a similar sort of experience. Mostly on my own, constantly pitching to strangers, with a mix of rejection and acceptance. Today was a pretty good day, though. I'm going on TV in Washington the morning after Thanksgiving. Duly inspired, I'm going to pitch a second station for midday.

But even more satisfying than that were these words of encouragement I received in an email today from an old colleague:
Rob, you should feel a great sense of pride. Not only did you forge out to explore acting and writing, but you have succeeded at both! And, with all your speaking engagements and media appearances, you may be hiring staff soon.
That's really, really nice to hear. It fortifies me a little as I pick up the phone to call another editor or producer. (Talk about a tough room!)

Even with a lot of encouragement and support, I doubt I would ever have been a good standup comic. But I think I'm getting good at this other thing, and building toward something pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Close to Home

Arden Courts - Memory Care TV Campaign from Hart on Vimeo.

Here is the Alzheimer's commercial I shot early this summer. (It's the second one, starting at the :30 mark.)

I was worried that it would come across as maudlin or exploitative, but I think they struck a good balance. Sending the message that when the time comes, it's okay to ask for help and maybe assuaging the guilt that comes with taking the next steps.

It's actually the first spot that I found more disturbing, with the man applying toothpaste to his razor. A few years ago, when dad was still up and about, we were down in the kitchen and heard a ruckus upstairs. Dad's wife later explained that he had tried to shave with his toothbrush.

So it's an interesting detail they picked up on there. Dad did a lot of that -- applying anti-perspirant to the back of his neck like sunscreen, for instance. They did their homework.

I hope I did the issue some justice.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The sheep at the gate

Act Like You Mean Business introduction
October 10, 2011

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of this actors' group I belong to and which I addressed last month. Person after person came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the presentation and how helpful it was.

Sometimes I start to think that my material is fluff. But then the more direct feedback I get from people the more I realize that this stuff I'm spouting is good. Really, really good.

And I'm starting to kind of pity the fools who don't recognize it. The blog editors, the trade reporters, the TV and radio people, the professional associations. The people I'm constantly, constantly pitching. Some of them get it, but many don't.

And the trouble is, too many people in positions of decision-making authority abdicate their responsibility. They choose to be gatekeepers instead of curators. Instead of judging a person or idea or trend on its merits and putting themselves in the happy position of sharing something new and exciting with their audience, they just conduct a credentials check. Show me your papers!

How many Twitter followers and Facebook friends and blog subscribers do you have? Who else has published your stuff? Where have you been booked?

So that's what the gatekeepers look at, and that's why we constantly see and hear the same tired things from the same kind of people (old men with mustaches) over and over and over again.

I am busting my butt to break out of this. Bit by bit, with every speech (just booked my fifth one yesterday), every article (another being published any day now), every interview (just got a nice nibble from a national radio program). And someday it will all pay off. I know it will. And then the people who had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor will be left kicking themselves for their lack of foresight.

These are the same people who lament that they did not buy Apple stock when it was $10 a share. But will they change their behavior? Will they exercise a bias for the fresh and new versus the tried and true? Will they take a risk? Let go of their fear? Dare to do something different?

Probably not.

Friday, November 04, 2011


This has been sticking in my craw for some time now and, as usual, few people seem to share my level of interest/outrage in the subject.

A Facebook friend turned me on to an old Guns N' Roses song by the name of Used to Love Her, which is a fun little country-themed piece of mostly harmless misogyny:

So I downloaded it and the more I listened, the more I thought it sounded familiar. And it also occurred to me that I could actually figure out the chords by ear, which is not my strong suit. It's a very simple D-A-G.

Then when I confirmed that online, I realized why it sounded so familiar. It's the same chords as one of the dozen or so songs I know how to play -- Dead Flowers, a country-infused song by the Rolling Stones:

I mean, GNR adds an extra A in the verse -- D-A-G-A -- while Dead Flowers goes back to D after the D-A-G. And they have a different melody, or whatever it's called.

So maybe it's different enough, but here are two other major smoking gun-type clues. First, the album that Used to Love Her appears on is called ... wait for it ... LIES, which just happens to be a Rolling Stones song from their Some Girls album.

AND ... GNR actually covered Dead Flowers themselves, so they must have liked the song:

Again, it's just me that cares. And I guess the good news is I can now play another song without really having to learn it. Though, like every song I play, it will follow the rudimentary folk-strum pattern that seems to be the only way I can play and sing at the same time.

So that's what has me worked up right now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I am the definition of fun

Main Street Soda Grill, Vermilion, Ohio

This is what I tell myself. AND very clearly sense from those around me.

Any ordinary person would make the drive from Cleveland to Chicago the same ol' same ol' way they always do -- the Turnpike, with it's generic views and sterile (except for the filthy ones) oases.

But me, I'm an explorer. I saw more of of Ohio in my 2.5 years there than 90% of the natives see in a lifetime, from Zanesville to Steubenville, Marietta to Mansfield, Wapakoneta to Warren. So when I had the opportunity to finally see the Lake Erie coast between Cleveland and Toledo, I grabbed that bull by both horns.

Well, not so much. I didn't get to go the whole route, because even the most patient of traveling companions have their limits. But we did take a two-hour detour to see a 20-mile stretch from Avon Lake to Vermilion.

We saw pretty lakefront and big houses, out-of-place mid-rise apartment buildings and run-down ranch houses AND the quaint little town of Vermilion, which boasts a genuine olden-tymes diner.

And all along the way, I provided humorous commentary and composed copy for award-winning commercial spots advertising any of the many pizza and rib joints we passed on the road. It seems a strange combo to me, but I imagine an ad going like this:
Mom: What's everybody want for dinner?
Sally: I want pizza!
Bobby: I want ribs!
Sally: Pizza!
Bobby: Ribs!
Dad: Simmer down, you two!
Mom: You can both have what you want!
Sally/Bobby: Huuuuuuuhhhhh?
Dad: This is still America, and we're taking you to Geppetto's Pizza & Ribs!
Sally/Bobby: Yaaaayyyyy!
Mom: Thank you, Geppetto's Pizza & Ribs, for bringing much-needed harmony to this stressed out family!
See? One hundred percent fun!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Pretty much all I do these days is market the book. It's constant.

I've written to people who got comps, seeing if they'd like to book a speech or know an organization I should pitch. I read one industry publication after another and scan other relevant articles in business media, scoping them out as potential media I should target, looking up the authors, leaving comments and engaging in conversation and gently plugging the book.

And I think about TV and radio constantly. I've seemingly struck out with a morning TV show here and a couple of radio programs, but I did successfully pitch one particular radio program for a short segment in December. That was a good pitch. I played off a segment the host just did and I was specific. Which is what I always do anyway.

This weekend I'm in Cleveland and I even researched the radio stations here ahead of time and pitched one of them. It was last minute, but you never know. Next I'll be looking at DC TV stations for the day after Thanksgiving. Another longshot, yes. But my latest pitch is very specific -- tips to help people with their job hunt, which should be appealing.

The goal is to use radio to leverage up to local TV to leverage up to, dare I say it, national TV. Sounds crazy, but I really believe I've got something good here. An audience member at my first speech called me "charismatic," which is something I definitely am not in real life. But on stage and in front of the camera?

Well, I am an actor, after all ...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Golf is NOT like riding a bicycle

I was out for a walk on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I passed the Diversey driving range, as I do all the time. But this time I stopped and went in and hit a bucket of balls.

I think the last time I hit a golfball was almost five years ago. And it was at the driving range, not on a course, so I was a little, shall we say, rusty.

Rusty and stupid. One of the three irons I picked out was a left-handed club. Which I probably should have tried using since I wasn't having much luck with the right-handers.

What happened to my skills? I was never a great golfer, but I could manage to hit the ball. And my form, at least, was top-notch, as I always assure casting directors in auditions where I have to play a golfer ("Yes, I can credibly play a golfer and even swing the club well, as long as you're not too concerned with where the ball goes").

But this was terrible. I kept topping out, or topping off -- see, I don't even know the lingo. Just crunching the ball hard from the top, sending it into a massive low-angle top spin. It's a good thing I played from the upper tees or many of them wouldn't have been airborne at all!

I'm actually less concerned about how I play than how I look. I've never played more than once or twice a year. But I do want to look good when I swing a club. An instructor once told me I had one of the most natural swings he'd seen. And while it's entirely possible he was seeking to sell me extra lessons, I do feel I bring a certain elan to the game that I would hate to lose.

The range is heated and open all year, so maybe I'll bone up a little.

Friday, October 21, 2011


All week, and for a week or two before that, I've been developing and planning this webinar for my university's alumni association. My second of four ALYMB presentations booked (so far).

I was really concerned about the technology, which was new to both them and me, about the timing and, mostly, about the weird feeling of speaking into a black hole with no way to read peoples' faces and body language and interact with them as I went along.

It's done and I'm glad it's over. I think it went well. The feedback so far has been good, and apparently there were very few drop-offs as the call went on. I certainly couldn't have done anything more to prepare.

I have to say it's not as fun as presenting live, but it's a good skill to have, especially with companies cutting back on conferences and travel. In fact, I've already pitched another organization on it.

And now between the first two presentations I have a wealth of material to present. Apparently there's an old saying in the public speaking business: "It's easier to find a new audience than create a new speech."

I suppose that's true, but I've got no shortage of material. I could talk for three days on this stuff, and I'm looking forward to developing other segments. Because I'm not sure it's that easy to find new audiences, especially in this economy. I'd like to try getting repeat business from the same audiences.

And I really love my new vinyl Act Like You Mean Business banner. It made a fantastic backdrop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Leapfrog learning

When I was in rehearsals for my first scripted show ever, I was in a bit over my head. I spent hours and hours at home memorizing lines and rehearsing my blocking.

One night the director taught us a song and dance number, and the actors almost burned the room down in protest. He started by handing out the script for the scene and we worked it and started to get familiar with the lines and what was going on.

But before we got comfortable with the words, he started teaching us the music. And we worked on that for a bit, but then he started having us sing it together. And just before we got too cozy with that he introduced a few movements into the routine. And before we could get comfortable there he taught us some choreography.

It was insane. So we all started complaining, asking if we could just learn one thing at a time before moving on to the next thing. And he explained that it was deliberate strategy, that you actually learn faster through this leap-frog method.

And you know what? For all our whining, we learned a whole song and dance number in just a few hours.

I try to use that method of learning when I can and have been doing it with these presentations. Before I get one done, I start working on the next one. So as I'm delivering #2 on Friday, I've got #3 underway, and when I get done delivering #2 I'll start in on #4 as I'm finishing #3, and so on.

The best part? This is fun. I could talk for days about this stuff. And since I don't have a marketing juggernaut at my disposal, I'm counting on Seth Godin being right. I'm hoping the passion I bring to it and the fact that I'm "having a ball" will be infectious.

Which brings us back to sketch. That same teacher said if audiences see we're having fun on stage, they'll have fun, too. And they'll be more engaged and on your side.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Special Delivery

This afternoon I delivered a couple of books to my dad and his wife.

He's mostly the same since July. We all had lunch together and he opened his eyes for a bit and smiled when he heard my voice and name.

Deb appreciated that I dedicated the book to my mom and dad and their subsequent spouses. She told me my dad would have been proud, which kind of got me. Then she said, "You've done all this, everything, all by yourself."

That's not entirely true, but it's how it feels sometimes, and I almost kind of lost it.

Here is the book's dedication:
To my mother and father and Ed and Deb, who taught me to work hard, think critically, laugh often, and not be such a jerk all the time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

They came, they saw, they bought

Monday night I did my first live presentation on the book to a friendly group of Chicago actors.

First, I was relieved that the slides looked great and the technology worked flawlessly -- I ran the presentation from my iPad, hooked up to the flat screen TV, using my iPhone as a remote (which also allowed me to view my speech notes.

As for the content, it could not have gone better. I had two hours to fill, so it was more of a workshop than a speech. I kept it interactive, with group participation and exercises and lots of Q&A. And I customized it a lot, creating several big sections related specifically to actors.

That's something that struck me on the radio show: these lessons are for everybody. And it occurred to me that actors already possess the skills and training they need to succeed in all walks of life -- at their day jobs, marketing events, how they present themselves to agents and how they conduct their everyday relationships. The content really is very broad.

So the audience was engaged and I think it was a very informative and fun two hours. Most surprising is that people wanted to buy the book. Actors! People who aren't known for having a lot of excess cash lying around.

I actually ran out of books to sell. I didn't bring a ton of them, thinking I wouldn't need them, and it would be presumptuous to assume so many people would want it. I'm sure part of it was goodwill from a friendly audience, but I'd like to think that the presentation itself actually helped sell the book, which bodes well for future engagements.

The next one is a webinar for my university's alumni association. Once I get that presentation nailed, I will have a solid stump speech that can go anywhere.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Your TV Now

Yesterday I heard from a relative in Denver that I was in a commercial during the Broncos game. Apparently her daughter asked, "Mommy, why is Rob on our TV?"

Then I got another report from Cincinnati. And Chicago.

Apparently this commercial I shot last month is up and running and practically EVERYWHERE. I have to say, it's fun to be on TV again. TV that people will actually see.

As for my performance? I liked that I got to close things out, of course. As for the three clips they aired, I'm not enamored of number 2. I felt like my expression was a little cheesy.

But they did indeed manage to pull off this epic production, and overall it turned out really well.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

I said it six weeks ago when he stepped down from Apple, but Steve Jobs changed the way I listen to music, the way I watch TV and movies, the way I take, store and appreciate pictures and, maybe most significantly, the way I interact with and even feel about the computer.

Like a lot of people, I was working on an Apple device when I heard the news. Plugging away at my presentation in Keynote on my MacBook Pro. But I didn't hear it from the Internet. I was outside at my favorite tea place around the corner, where I had written the bulk of the book, and heard it from a passerby.

Maybe Steve's most important legacy, as I continue with this latest effort to fundamentally shift the course of my life, is the encouragement and permission to "think different.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Picture perfect

For the past week, my life has pretty much been learning Keynote, tinkering with design and searching the Internet for and downloading free stock images to use in my presentations.

I've found some really beautiful stuff, but it is massively time consuming. It's like shopping at Filene's or Marshall's. You have to spend hours rifling through crap to find the few hidden gems. But, oh, what I've found!

Via tdnb

They look even better big and in high res. I've found about 60-70 photos I'll be using. Including some of my own. In fact, that's a next step. Make a list of photos I need and take them myself.

I'm feeling really intense pressure to create knockout visuals. The people I've talked to and the stuff I've read say that you shouldn't use templates at all. Not using PowerPoint is a step in the right direction, and I also have tons of slides that are simply a full-frame photo with a headline overlaid.

Seth Godin says no slide should have more than six words and I'd say I'm averaging about three. Watching people read from slides like they're scripts is the absolute worst.

I could pay someone to do all this, but I don't think that's such a wise investment right now. When I start getting paid for speeches is when I'll invest in professional design and high-priced stock photography.

For now it's good to have the control. And I'm learning a lot. Most of all, I'm practicing what I preach (show/don't tell). And the reverse is also true -- the more I practice it, the better equipped I am to preach it.

I'm just really, really tired ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the radio

That went really, really well. I enjoyed the hell out of it and it was a fun, upbeat, high-energy, informative hour of radio. Seriously.

It helped that I knew the host. She covered the statehouse as a print reporter back when I was press secretary for the AG. Glad we kept in touch.

What also helped is that they had the brilliant idea of using clips from TV and the movies. In fact, they had the idea yesterday afternoon, and I spent an hour or so tracking down youtube clips from Star Trek and Mad Men and the Fugitive and other places.

I'd love to be able to use those in my own presentations, but that wouldn't fall under fair use, unfortunately. They're the media and I'm a guy selling a book (and ultimately selling speeches and workshops). So I've got to be a little more imaginative about how I bring these scenes to life, like with role-playing and such.

Anyway, it's great to be done. I was on a super-high for hours afterwards. It was like a performance -- if I read my own book it was a performance. And though I prepared really hard, gathering all my info and materials at my fingertips and even compiling two pages of soundbites, I found I only needed it once, to look up a quote I used in the book. I'm amazed at how much of the material I've managed to internalize and am able to call up in my mental rolodex -- anecdotes, lessons, tips. It's all up here *points to head*.

And it's great to have the record of it, which I hope to use to lure other radio stations and even TV to bring me on their programs.

Ahhhh ... good to have a good day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I should just hire a professional to do the slides, but instead I spent, I don't know, 10 hours playing around with different themes and graphics and customizing them and such. Probably a bad investment of my time.

A good investment of my time is prepping to be a guest on a radio show tomorrow. Which should be interesting, since it's something I've never done. But I googled some tips, got some others from friends, and have printed out and organized virtually everything worthwhile that I've said about the book in the past couple of months.

If I had any energy left, I'd index it all by subject or organize it into a database or something.

Also, too, this would be a good time to have not let go of my landline, since I'll be calling in.

Anyway, remember: speak in soundbites, repeat the key points, stand up while talking (for energy) and, most of all, BE ENTERTAINING.

Tomorrow, All Sides with Ann Fisher, Columbus Public Radio, 10-11 am Central Time. You can tune in online.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You're a presentation tool!

So much to do. Following up on hundreds of loose ends while writing two different presentations, learning Apple's Keynote program, and trying to do a little DIY design work with elements of the book (above). It may be time to call in a professional.

Meanwhile, I realize I completely forgot to shower today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Opportunities are now kind of pouring down like a waterfall. In the past week, here's what's happened:
  • My article in PR Daily, 6 Lame Excuses for Not Communicating, has been shared on social media almost 250 times and has been viewed more than 12,000 times. (Only a thousand of those hits probably came from me.)
  • Somebody at a communications firm in Poland wants to translate the article and run it on their website.
  • I've booked my first two speaking gigs. The first with the aforementioned acting group and the second is a webinar for my college's alumni association, which includes many tens of thousands of people.
  • My publisher got an inquiry from a speakers bureau in DC that may be interested in taking me on. They seem to have a large number of very famous people on their roster. We will see about that.
Someone I talked to about speaking a couple of years ago said, "You make your own luck." It's true. All of this came as a result of a lot of hard work and persistence. Two months of harassing that editor. I submitted my application for the alumni program a couple of months ago and had given up on hearing back from them. Turns out I'll be the guinea pig inaugural presenter.

And, of course, a book that was 16 months in the making (which is not long at all, actually).

It's amazing that just a few weeks ago I was somewhat despairing over my fate when results weren't coming as quickly as I would have liked. It truly is about putting your head down and taking care of all the little things, one-by-one, that will get you to your goal. Just keep doing them, keep trying everything.

And it never stops. I had a great meeting yesterday with someone who really loves the book. He's given me almost two-dozen leads to follow up on. And I've got pitches out for other speeches, other articles, other opportunities.

It's a lot like auditioning. You can't sit around worrying about booking a job, you just have to go to lots of auditions, forget about them instantly, then move on to the next one. Eventually, something will net out from your efforts.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My next book

Several actor friends have suggested I write another book that's sort of the opposite of the existing one: helping actors apply lessons from business to further their careers: how to market and package themselves and manage the business side of things, etc.

Hell, it could even have the same name -- Act Like You Mean Business.

Of course, the big problem with that book is that it would be charity, basically. A small audience of people who are mostly broke all the time.

It's also not necessarily a book that I'm particularly inspired to write, and that's the bigger problem. (I could do a little self-published e-book if I wanted.)

But an interesting thing has happened. I've been asked by the leaders of this actors' group I belong to to deliver a presentation at the next meeting. Which is great, because it will be good practice, if nothing else.

And as I scope out the content, as I try to find lessons from the book that actors can use, I'm discovering that there's a lot of material there. I don't have to really reinvent the wheel -- just reshape it or something. Wherever the logical extension of that metaphor would take you. Buy a new wheel? Rent one? Inflate it?

This all makes me realize that the book I've got is a lot broader than I thought. There are lessons for everybody here -- not just business professionals or even business people or even people who happen to work in an office. Anybody. And everybody.

How do you present yourself at networking events and cocktail parties? How do you prepare for a job interview? How do you have a difficult conversation? Or constructively confront someone you're having a problem with?

So my next book just may be this book.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


So this is what's it like, I guess. Being an author.

For the record, I was NOT on the Today show this morning, so don't bother checking the Tivo. But look for it in the New York Times' Sunday Book Review. Not.

Anyway, it was a relief to finally just get the official announcement done and out of the way yesterday. I got many nice responses to the emails and posts and updates and things. People sharing the info with their friends, posting on their walls and some even buying the thing. Multiple copies, even.

Hell a couple of friends' friends -- people I don't know -- bought it. Go figure.

It was a lot of work. The publisher is doing plenty of stuff, of course, but I felt I needed to at least get my own circles in order. And I'm not sure I could have done any more, with hundreds of individual appeals over the past few months leading up to yesterday's big group announcements. Even those were segmented into four groups with targeted messages.

The point is, I don't think I left anything on the field, as it were, and by mid-afternoon I was pretty wiped out.

At the end of the day I actually got my first invite to speak. It's a free thing, but it's a start.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Sale NOW!

Sixteen months and two weeks after I first put fingers to keyboard, Act Like You Mean Business is now on sale. Find out why one reviewer called it "required reading for every Fortune 500 CEO."

Neither a dense textbook nor a sappy self-help tome, Act Like You Mean Business offers hundreds of practical insights and tips, all presented in a way that is fun, entertaining, and highly readable. In a nutshell, I set out to write the kind of business book that I would want to read.

So if you're like me (and God help you if you are), you will enjoy this book and even learn some important things about business writing and communication.
You can order it from Amazon or direct from the publisher, which is actually the better way to go, at least from my standpoint. (Cut out the middleman, pass the savings on to me, and all that.)

To ease the pain of having to do more than one click, we're offering a $5 discount through September. Just enter the code "alymb" when ordering from Brigantine.

Still not convinced? See what others have to say. Read a sample chapter. Watch some videos. Check out the blog.

Run, do not walk, to your nearest computer or mobile device!

Monday, September 12, 2011


I worked for two months to get one of my articles placed in this influential industry publication. And now it's happened. Check out 6 Lame Excuses for Not Communicating.

I feel pretty good about it -- about the article itself and just the sense of accomplishment after banging my head against this thing for so long.

That's five articles now published in various trade and industry media in the last six weeks:
I guess it's true what they say about persistence paying off ...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago today

It was a weekday morning like any other, so it started in the usual way. I got up a little before 7, padded out to the front door to get the paper and to the fridge to get a diet coke, and went back to bed to read and wake up with GMA on in the background.

At some point they broke into the (tape delayed for the Midwest) broadcast with a live bulletin that a small plane had hit the world trade center. I watched the footage for a bit then played media critic, grousing about the hype they were already giving to what appeared to be an accident involving a small private plane.

Then the second plane hit on live TV. I didn't see it, but one of the newscasters did and called for a replay and there it was. I think I lay there for 10 minutes, the newspaper still hanging in one hand, watching in disbelief.

Then I got up, went to the living room and watched hours and hours of coverage like the rest of the world. It didn't even occur to me for an hour or two to check in with loved ones in New York. One of the most disturbing moments of the day was getting an automated phone message saying that the lines were down due to a tornado -- that's right, a tornado -- in the area.

I had been happily working on my own for two years and this was the first time I felt any downside to it. I thought it would be helpful to go through this experience with co-workers. I suddenly felt very isolated.

On the other hand, I discovered the virtual community that was the Internet. And since phones and offices were in chaos, my conversations with people online constituted most of my interaction. I learned from others, engaged in useless speculation, was comforted, and also did considerable spleen venting, expressing some things I regret. Vengeance and retribution and all that.

One thing I'm grateful for is that I've really let go of the anger. Now I mostly have sadness, both for the event itself and for all the horrible, useless things our nation did in response. George Will uncharacteristically summed it up well today:
"Of all the sadness surrounding this anniversary, the most aching is the palpable and futile hope that commemoration can somehow help heal self-inflicted wounds."
I hate that my feelings about 9/11 have to be so complicated now. I long for simple, unalloyed sadness.

Sometime late in the afternoon on that Tuesday, I had had enough. It felt like I had spent a week in front of the television. I turned it off and went down to the lake and was surprised to see so many other people there doing the same thing. Some seemed engaged in normal, everyday conversations, even smiling and laughing together.

It was a surreal moment, but an early signal already that things would, indeed, get back to normal. Probably faster than we'd imagine.

I am hoping that tomorrow marks the beginning of a new and better decade, filled with hope and prosperity. I thought the '70s were an awful time. How little did I know.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Epic production

Thursday and Friday were 10-hour days shooting a couple of commercial spots for a brokerage company.

I couldn't believe the scale of the thing. Based on the storyboards, I assumed they would shoot us on green screen and overlay us on footage of a trading floor. But no. They actually created their own trading floor, with dozens of video screens and FIFTY extras swirling about. Between extras, principals and crew, there were easily more than 100 people at work on the set.

I can't wait to see how it turned out. It should be pretty cool. They shot us alone on the floor, then separately shot the background players rushing around, then did a third shot with all of us together. It was an intricately choreographed ballet, with the camera synchronized to zoom out at the exact same angle each time.

Coming to TV screen near you this fall ...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


The book is here! Got a box full of them this afternoon, and I am ... happy, of course. Satisfied, really. Not over the moon and cartwheeling or anything.

I guess I should be, but it's been "done" in my mind for quite a while now.
There have been so many milestones along the way. First draft, second draft, etc. Draft to publisher. Final draft. Proofing, design, etc.

And I've been so wrapped up for so long in all the next steps -- all the stuff that has got to happen to help sell this thing -- articles published, reviews written, speeches booked, etc. So I feel like this is less a culmination than a beginning.

But this has been a really good day for two other reasons. First, for a few weeks now I've been contributing articles to Business Insider, and it's been going well enough. But one of the things that you want is for your article to be "promoted." That means it earns a semi-permanent position on the home page, instead of sliding down and off as other articles come up. It also means they tweet it to their tens of thousands of followers.

My first two did not get promoted. So I worked hard on the best one yet and I just got word that it made the cut! And they paired it with a hilarious picture of a starlet waving from a convertible.

You can check it out here. It's basically a summary of the book's most important lessons in 800 words.

Plus, I used these BI articles as leverage with a trade publication I've been pitching mercilessly for a couple of months now and today they bit. So it looks like another good article will be running there in a few days.

So yeah, getting the hard copies of the book is great. But these are the things -- just two of hundreds of little things -- that must be done to get the word out, build momentum and credibility and, maybe, lead to actual sales.

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Ha! I got the job. After all that. In cases like this, it's good to be wrong!

Then, in a classic balancing of the universe, five minutes later I got doored on my bike. Luckily I wasn't hurt. I was knocked off the pedals, but didn't fall or anything, and no soft body parts made contact with the car door.

It was bit of a shock, and I let out a brief yell/groan. I would have been really pissed off but a) it was partly my fault -- I came whipping around a corner so I think even if he had looked before opening the door he might not have seen me; b) I was in a good mood; c) I wasn't hurt and my bike seems undamaged; and d) he was very apologetic and concerned.

Hell, he had me feeling bad for him and his door, but apparently there was no significant damage on his end.

I wonder what story he's telling right now.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

I've Got Personality-Minus!

It wasn't until several hours afterwards that I realized exactly how I blew that callback this morning.

In the initial audition, I did a good job. Obviously -- I got called back.

But today I was hung up on the direction I got then. The director told me to keep the performance small. Minimal gesture and expression. Simple, easygoing, calm.

Today the client was there and they very clearly asked to see our personalities. I heard them, but I didn't listen. Or I listened, but didn't hear. Either way, I was too stuck in what I was doing the other day to give them what they wanted.

It's a bummer, too. That would have been a nice gig. And now would be a good time for a nice gig.

UPDATE: I swear, not 5 minutes after I posted this I got a call from my agent. They put me on first refusal. It could still fall through, of course, and if I don't get it, it's quite possible that a better performance would have clinched it for sure, but I'm not unhappy with this result.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

There's no escaping me

A friend was buying a car in California and there I was, staring him in the face. The Real Deal Ref.

I knew I was on the website, but had no idea I was also at the proverbial point of sale.

I wonder sometimes if stuff like this and the commercials and other things will somehow come back to haunt me in some way. I mean, it's not like doing porn ...

I hope whoever comes across it that might have some power over my future views it in a positive light. Something fun, interesting and unique, as opposed to odd, cheesy and off-putting.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reality Check

Over the past few months, and twice in the past weekend, I've run into people who have asked, "How's the book selling?" Which tells me two things, both of which I kinda knew, but it's good to have it vividly presented right in your face:
  1. People just aren't into your stuff and your life the way you are. There's just no getting around that. Again, I knew this, but it's useful to be reminded.
  2. A lot of people who are perfectly enthusiastic about the book are not going to buy it. They just aren't. It makes sense. For some of them, the content just isn't relevant. They're not in business. And even for those who are? Well, I rarely buy business books. Now some friends may buy the book as a favor, but most won't. I probably would not. Just like sometimes I go to friends' shows, but quite frequently I do not.
Now on the other hand? I went to a gathering and a couple of people who I thought had no interest whatsoever in the book -- mainly based on a lack of feedback online -- actually showed a lot of genuine excitement. Which felt really, really good.

But again, realistically, it's quite probable that even that enthusiasm won't translate into sales.

And that's the truth.

Monday, August 29, 2011


I always wonder about people whose email accounts get hacked. I mean, how naive do you have to be to click on links from strangers? Or strange links from friends?

Now it's happened to me. At 4 am Sunday spam emails went out to pretty much my entire list on my old AOL account.

I swear I never clicked on any link myself. And I never got sucked in by any phishing scam where I gave up my personal info to the wrong people. I understand some of these emails just have to be opened to spread a virus or plant a worm. But I don't think that's it either.

Maybe I entered a password over an unsecured wifi network out in public? Who knows.

It was pretty embarrassing, and I spent my Sunday morning trying to lock things down and warn as many people as possible by email and Facebook. The most embarrassing thing, of course, is having an AOL account at all. But I mostly use it when I need to give an email address on some website -- so I get notifications, newsletters, retail offers, etc., through AOL.

So my clients think I suck. That's too bad. And people I haven't been in touch with for a decade got a weird reminder of my existence. One good thing, at least: the contact list was so old I got scores of bouncebacks.

Lesson: keep your contacts clean. Get rid of anybody you haven't talked to in years and have no intention of talking to. Hell, delete them all if you're using another (more reliable) provider, like I usually do.

I hope I'm out of the woods ...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Apple changed my life

Steve Jobs stepping down from Apple got me thinking about how he, the company, and its products have changed my life:
  • I was never a gadget person before. Probably because most gadgets presented expensive and complicated solutions to simple problems. Like multi-function watches that do everything but tell the time well or electronic rolodexes that are impossible to load. Apple's gadgets are elegant, clean, simple and beautiful.
  • I almost never listened to music. CDs were a pain to haul around and even kind of a hassle to use at home. When I got my first iPod, I never went anywhere without it. And now, thanks to the iPhone, I don't even need that anymore.
  • In my entire adult life I have purchased maybe 10 DVDs and VHS tapes. I got another handful as gifts. I hate physical media. I hate clutter. Since I started using iTunes, I've purchased hours and hours of TV shows and movies.
  • On planes, I never watched movies. Now with the iPad, that's all I do. It's amazing how much more tolerable flights are.
  • I am never at any time unconnected to the Internet. I always have at least the iPhone on me.
  • I haven't kept a physical photo album in years. I suppose I went digital before the Mac, but with the iPhoto app, storing and displaying photos is easier and more fun that ever. I can create slideshows in a minute and set them to my favorite music.
  • Related to that, when I'm on vacation, I can connect my camera directly to my iPad and view, edit, albumize and upload my photos to the Internet almost instantly. No big chore awaiting me when I get home.
  • I edited my reel all by myself on my Mac. It was easy.
  • With my phone or iPad I can get directions, check the bus schedule, show off vacation photos, access my headshots and reel as well as my business portfolio, check my calendar, access and even edit my documents, listen to music, watch movies, buy movie tickets, find a restaurant, annoy cats, do crosswords, send emails, pay bills, give a presentation, figure out if that light in the sky is a star or a planet, play games (if I was the type to play games), read books, write a book, blog, Facebook, tweet, text, get the news, check the score, write a note, dictate a voice memo, play guitar, identify birds and songs, tell the time, and a few other things. The iPhone even makes calls, though I hardly ever do that with it.
  • Speaking of phones, I no longer have a land line.
And that's just the beginning. Thank you, Steve Jobs.