Monday, May 20, 2013

Acting from the Center of Your Being

One of my favorite activities is attending storytelling shows and festivals because I believe everyone has a story to tell. But no matter how good you think you are, if you want to hook people onto your ideas, you need to act from the center of your being. This requires authenticity and transparency. Don't create layers between yourself and the essence of who you are. The same goes for creating marketing content. Even if you're writing about something that is fairly technical, simplicity can cut through all the unnecessary layers. 

On the last Tuesday of almost every month, fearless storytellers regale the audience with entertaining stories from their lives at the Marsh Arts Center in Berkeley, California ( It is one of the finest storytelling shows in the San Francisco Bay Area. Another storytelling event I recommend is Real Stories at 1515 Restaurant and Lounge in Walnut Creek, California ( When my son was younger, he used to attend the Bay Area Storytelling Festival ( with me. Now that he's a teenager, he seems ashamed to be seen in public with me! 

One of my favorite actors is Daniel Day-Lewis because in every movie he's in, he becomes the character in the story he is portraying. I saw Daniel Day-Lewis for the first time on the big screen in the 1986 movie A Room with a View where he played the effete upper-class fiancé of the main character (played by Helena Bonham Carter). During the 1980s and 90s, I continued watching movies starring him. Some of my favorites include The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1987), My Left Foot (1989), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), The Age of Innocence (1993), and Lincoln (2012).

Daniel Day-Lewis is an artist who acts from the center of his being. "He developed a reputation for his refusal to break character. For example, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, he learned Czech and refused to break character on and off the set during the entire eight-month shooting schedule. During the filming of My Left Foot, Day-Lewis played a severely paralyzed character on and off screen. He insisted on being moved around the set in his wheelchair in order to gain insight into all aspects of Brown's life, including the embarrassments. During filming, he broke two ribs from assuming a hunched-over position in his wheelchair for so many weeks. In The Last of the Mohicans, Day-Lewis reportedly underwent rigorous weight training and learned to live off the land and forest where his character lived, camping, hunting and fishing. He even carried a long rifle at all times during filming in order to remain in character and learned how to skin animals. To prepare for The Age of Innocence, set in America's Gilded Age, Day-Lewis wore 1870s-period aristocratic clothing around New York City for two months, including top hat, cane and cape during colder periods. For his role in the movie, Lincoln, Day-Lewis read over 100 books on Lincoln." 

One of my favorite Day-Lewis quotes is: “Given the chance to enter into areas of one’s soul, of one’s experience, that can be extremely unsettling; nonetheless, there’s great joy in the exploration of that.” We're all living out our own personal stories of what it means to be a human being in this lifetime. Being able to tell your story well requires authenticity, and being able to act from the center of your being. The ultimate human challenge is being able to tap into the essence of your story and creating meaning around it.

You can choose the story you want to tell. Are you a purpose-driven entrepreneur or a fledgling small business owner? Are you a visionary business leader or a corporate yes man? Are you a talented mother or an ordinary housewife? Telling your story well gives people a reason to care about you and your ideas. The more people care about you, the more they will respond on your behalf.

Take a long, hard look at all the major events in your life. Can you wrap a story about these events or is each event an unconnected dot in the story of your life? If you can tell your story well and act from the center of your being, eventually you will find some measure of success in life. Whenever I have been brave enough to act from the very center of my being, the experience has been both unsettling, but liberating at the same time. It’s so easy to slip into the default mode of conformity, but whenever I have done that, the false sensations linger in my body like a saccharine aftertaste.

I admire Daniel Day-Lewis’s dedication to his craft. Here is a man who knows how to work from the very center of his being and by doing so, manages to slip into other people’s beings as well. How many of us have the courage to completely immerse ourselves in someone else’s world when we scarcely know how to occupy our own worlds entirely?

One of my favorite weekend activities is Ecstatic Dance at Historic Sweets Ballroom in Oakland, California. Here is their Web site: I enjoyed dancing with the paralyzed man in the wheelchair. Although he was unable to move his legs, he was able to move his arms and I marveled at his ability to use his wheelchair as an extension of his own body. If you ever have a chance to visit Oakland, California, you can watch an inspiring performance of dancers with and without disabilities ( I admired this young man's confidence to enter the world of dance unencumbered by his physical limitations. In the story of his life, he evolved beyond the story of handicap and disability to the story of grace and possibility. Which story do you want to tell about your life? Which story do you want to tell about your ideas? 

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