How to Suck Until You Don’t

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Guys, do you ever just feel like a piece of shit? I know, this is the best way to start a blog post, isn’t it? Lead with the negative, that’s what I always say! But let’s be real. We live in the land of plastic positivity, particularly on social media. Everyone’s life is perfect on Facebook, isn’t it? Let’s cut through the bullshit. What happens when life just sucks?


Recently, I was feeling comfortable in my career. Honestly, it was the first time I had felt comfortable in anything here in LA since I moved. This was a few months ago. So I set out to change that. I knew I needed to feel uncomfortable in order to grow. Yes, I was booking, but everything I was booking was sort of in the same tier. I didn’t see any growth in my future. I set up a meeting with my agent who suggested I start looking for managers, and that’s exactly what I did. I met with Victoria Monroe of Monroe Talent Management and immediately felt a connection. We signed the next week. Her first piece of advice was to get myself in an on-going scene study class, and of course, that’s what I did. I did loads of research and finally found one that excited me. It was at a studio called Lesley Kahn & Co. What I liked about this studio was the fact that getting into scene study wasn’t super easy. I first needed to take a 2-week comedy intensive followed by a 4-week clinic in order to continue to on-going scene study. At this point, I’ve only completed the 2-week intensive, and that’s what I want to focus on today: the mother f***ing comedy intensive of Lesley Kahn. We met for 3 Wednesdays in a row from 5 pm to midnight. Every day in between, we met in small groups for 3 hours. That’s a total of 57 hours of work in 15 days. Guys, I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty details of what was covered, but just so you know, it kicked my ass. It KICKED. MY. ASS! And not just mine, but several others in the class, too. There were many crying actors. In fact, at 10:30 at night on the final evening, I almost broke down. So this is the moment where I realized life sucks.


What’s that? I’m being dramatic? NO!! ME?! But here’s the reality: I’m an actor. Every day I wake up unemployed. If you aren’t an actor, can you say the same? It’s a terrifying feeling. And then to be challenged over and over in one class and be lead to question your ability constantly? That sucks!


So here’s the question: Is suckage a bad thing? About a week into this class, I did some research on the process of learning, and I found the “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill,” by Gordon Training International’s Noel Burch:


  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence


Do you remember learning how to drive? For me, up until the age fifteen, driving seemed so easy (Step 1: Unconscious Incompetence). My parents would drive me around wherever I needed to go, so I figured it couldn’t be too difficult. Unfortunately, I was wrong (sort of). When I started driving, I quickly discovered how overwhelming the process of driving was (Step 2: Conscious Incompetence). In Driver’s Ed, we learned all the rules of the road. I learned how much I needed to learn before I could get behind the wheel. I remember after getting my license, sitting in a movie theater with my best friend unable to focus on the film because all I could think about was how I had to drive that damn car home. I focused on every small detail of driving. Put your seat belt on. Check your mirrors. Don’t forget the turn signal. You get the idea. (Step 3: Conscious Competence). After trudging through Step 3, over time, driving eventually became second nature (Step 4: Unconscious Competence). Now, sometimes I arrive home and wonder how I even got there. Get it?


Theoretically, these four steps of learning can be applied to the acquisition of any new skill set. So why can’t we apply them to a two-week comedy intensive?


This class exposed me to a whole new way of dissecting theatrical text, and I really beat myself up over it. Why the hell do I suck? Why can’t I just get it? Turns out, I was trying to skip straight to Step 4, when in reality, what I should have been asking myself was . . .


“Why the hell do I suck at sitting in the consciously incompetent state?!”


Think about it. I was just introduced to a whole new way of thinking about acting. I was a fool to believe I’d be an expert over night. I really hate Step 2. I hate knowing what I don’t know. Sometimes, the truth hurts. But in reality, knowing this step is inevitably a necessary evil.


Sometimes I think I’m too old for this. I think I started too late. I think, how do I have time to acquire a new skill? How do I have time to be exposed to an entirely new way of thinking when I’m surrounded by a million actors half my age and three times as successful. How do I have time for this? The real question should be . . .


How do I NOT have time for this?


Don’t rush the steps, friends. Sit in them. Explore them thoroughly in order to truly and organically move on to the next one. Your future self will thank you for it.


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