Last Updated on September 2, 2020 by Paul Farrell, MRP, JD, PhD
“We meditate to discover our identity, our rightful place in the scheme of the universe.
Through meditation, we acquire and eventually acknowledge our connection to an inner power source that has the ability to transform our outer world.
In other words, meditation give us not only the light of insight but also the power for expansive change.”
– Julie Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Yes, acting is one of the more unconventional ways you can meditate. And yet, for many of us in the business world, it offers a perfect opportunity for personal growth. Remember, anything can be meditation. You are already a performer – the star in your life story. You have every reason to become the best “actor” you can possibly be.
Seriously, if you want to become a top performer in business, take acting lessons for a while. You’ll probably find out, as I did while studying acting and directing in New York City, that acting lessons offer a rare combination of creative expression, personal therapy and meditation, as well as a great way to prepare yourself for business presentations, negotiations, sales meetings, financings, and lots more – all from this one creative activity!
In fact, everyone in business should study acting for a while. Even if you never appear on Broadway or even in your local community theater, you will improve your chances of success in business, sharpen your edge as a creative thinker, and enjoy a more balanced, peaceful life.
“All the World’s a Stage!” Especially the Business World
Admit it, if you’re in business today, you’re always on stage, always performing, you always have an audience – bosses, employees, customers, bankers, investors. If you want to succeed, you better be an actor, and a good one at that, whether you like it or not.
You have no choice, it doesn’t matter where you’re working, in Corporate America, on Wall Street, or as an entrepreneur, you are putting on a show. You are acting all day, every day – selling, communicating, on the phone and in person, maybe a new project, explaining production schedules to your staff, rolling out a new marketing program, talking with employees, schmoozing clients at lunch, pitching them over drinks, appearing on camera, public testimony, dealing with lawyers, bankers and suppliers, delivering speeches to professional societies and civic organizations.
A Good Actor is Not “Acting”
You are always on stage, always putting on a show, always a performer. And if you truly want to succeed on that stage, you have to become a good actor. But does that mean you must become more of a phony, more “the act,” more identified with the role you’re playing?
Quite the opposite. It means getting more into the real you, more in touch with what really makes you tick on the inside, so that the outsides – the actor and the performer – are more authentic and genuine. It means connecting the act and the real you, not losing yourself in the act. It means making absolutely sure that every day you and the actor are one and the same, no split personality.
Lee Strasberg, the great Method Acting teacher said performers should “try not to act but to be themselves,” simply speak and gesture as they would normally. However, that’s not an easy task for an actor in a theater or in a business setting, because we want to impress your audience.
Acting Unlocks Your Hidden Powers
This is scary stuff, because you’re in a double-bind – damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you don’t become a better “actor,” you’ll probably never reach peak performance in business or in life. But if you do try to become a better actor, you’ll have to dig deep into your soul and expose who you really are, and that’s too scary for most people.
Either way it’s a tough journey because the stuff inside us makes us freeze with stage fright and performance anxiety. We all have secrets that block us. They prevent us from tapping into our full potential. They hold us back from becoming a top performer in business and a truly great actor in the drama of life. Acting wasn’t easy, but it was one of the best things I ever did – a great meditation, supportive therapy during my midlife transition, and it opened me to changing careers.
Strasberg’s ‘Method Acting’ as Meditation
While working on Wall Street with Morgan Stanley I took lessons at a couple acting schools in The Village: First the Sonia Moore Theater Academy. Moore wrote The Stanislavski System: Professional Training of an Actor. Then later I studied at The Strasberg Theater Institute, where “method acting” originated. Both are based on the work of Constantin Stanislavski, a Russian acting teacher who is regarded as the father of modern acting.
In An Actor‘s Handbook, Stanislavski describes several tools used by the great actors, tools which are surprisingly similar the traditional meditation methods used in today’s mind-body and stress management clinics. Acting coaches rarely use the word “meditation” when explaining their acting techniques, but the similarity between the two is unmistakable in three of Stanislavski’s examples:
- Focusing without distractions – “Concentration of attention… creativeness is first of all the complete concentration of the entire nature of the actor… In watching the acting of the great artists… their creative inspiration is always bound up with their concentration of attention.”
- Creative visualization – “The creative process starts with the imagination… We can use our inner eye to see all sorts of visual images… every invention of the actor’s imagination must be worked out.”
- Relaxation response – “Relaxation of muscles… at time of great stress it is especially necessary to achieve a complete freedom of the muscles. In fact, in the high moments of a part the tendency to relax should become more normal than the tendency to contract.”
Although the choice of terms are different, Stanislavski and modern acting coaches use many of the same tools and work toward the same goals as sports psychologists, mind/body clinicians, stress management experts, motivational speakers, media coaches and others who understand the benefits of meditation in their respective professions.
Acting Lessons – Doorway to New Career!
Acting was great for me – although I never went professional, taking lessons paved the way to a new career path as I shifted out of a dominant left-brain, logical personality into the freer right-brain creative world! Your path will, be different but probably no less unpredictable than mine:
From New York to Hollywood
Acting lessons with Sonia Moore, then later at The Strasberg Institute were followed by an audition at an off-off Broadway theater that resulted in an offer to act in an Eugene Ionesco play, a Hell of a Mess
During this period I also wrote a script for a horror film, after that, a thriller about a financial takeover involving the mafia, and then a musical comedy based on Goethe’s Faust
I joined a TV Academy Workshop for wannabe directors, writers and actors where I directed a short film, Ophelia’s Mascara that later won a Gold Medal at the Virgin Islands International Film Festival. That got me a fellowship at the American Film Institute as a student-producer, which got me out of Morgan Stanley and New York City.
You never know what life has in store for you. Eventually I wound up in the Hollywood scene at the Financial News Network where I was executive vice president of almost a thousand hours of live television news
Later I became executive vice president of Michael Phillips film company, Mercury Entertainment Corporation when it went public. Michael was also producer of The Sting, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Taxi Driver.
All this happened over a ten year period. My friend Dan Travanti, Captain Furillo in The Hill Street Blues television series, once put all of life’s twists-n-turns into perspective: “You have to run like hell to left field. Then magically you end up in right field. You don’t know how that happened. But if you aren’t running out to left field, you never get to the right field.”
Acting, Meditation and the Midlife Crisis
Acting is a great way to meditate, maybe not for everyone, but it certainly was for me. And I know there are many other left-brain, super-rational folks in the business and financial world going through a seemingly endless mid-life crisis asking, “is that all there is?” questioning their career path.
All the work I was doing in the performing arts complimented everything else I was doing in personal development and recovery; seeing a therapist, attending self-help meetings and going to a dance meditation group. All part of the searching people do in the business world, quietly, behind the scenes.
This may also be part of your journey. Remember, I was working at that venerable old House of Morgan when all this started quite by accident. Maybe you’re working somewhere in Corporate America or on Wall Street, maybe you’re curious – what have you got to lose? Besides, you don’t have to give up your day job or even tell your friends at the office. Explore. Take the risk. As Julie Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, “Leap and the net will appear.”
Take a Course in “Acting for Non-Actors!”
If there is a little voice nudging you to risk something new, here’s a simple suggestion. Go online and search for courses in “Acting for Non-Actors.” When I checked, over 250 entries came up, including one in New York City at the Learning Annex. Another at the Self-Expression Center in Houston explained the course in a delightfully inviting way:
“Acting for Non Actors: Discover the Thrill of Acting. Ever thought you could act? Thought acting would increase your self-confidence? You are right! Acting is not about faking or pretending. It’s about being genuine in the moment. Acting for Non-Actors will help you discover you can act. You will work with short scripts from plays and movies. Simple step-by-step techniques will help you relax and feel confident on stage and in daily life. Learn how to:
- Free yourself to be real on stage and in life
- Develop the presence of a star
- Create rapport with others
- Listen and respond spontaneously
- Activate your creativity”
Take the Big Risk
Go ahead, listen to that little voice inside you. Find one of these courses on “Acting for Non-Actors” near you. Think outside the box, push the envelope, take the big risk, and venture out beyond your comfort zone! You’ll never regret it.
Remember, you are already an actor in the business world, every day. You’re on stage performing all day for one audience after another.
So why not learn how to become a better actor, sharpen your creative talents in the process while improving your opportunities for success in the business world, and maybe even find a new career, add some balance and peace to your life, meet new people, and have some fun too!
Acting, performing, what a beautiful way to meditate. Try it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain – discover the real you!
Leap, and the net will appear.
About the Author
Dr. Farrell is a Behavioral Economist. His books include The Millionaire Code; The Millionaire Meditation: Stress Management for Wall Street, Corporate America & Entrepreneurs; The Zen Millionaire; The Winning Portfolio; Expert Investing on The Net; Mutual Funds on The Net; and The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing.
He also published 1,643 columns on DowJones-MarketWatch and for years was their #1 traffic-generating columnist. Before the Internet, he edited & published FNX: Future News Index, a financial newsletter for stock market traders. Earlier he was a Wall Street investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Executive Vice President of the Financial News Network; and Associate Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
He has a Doctorate in Psychology, Juris Doctor, Masters in Regional Planning and Bachelor of Architecture. He worked on the Esalen organic farm and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant in aviation computer technology.