Be a Beginner

Norma JeanI’ll keep this short because its simple. Like in any other profession, as actors, we strive to be the very best at what we do. We train so that we know how to breath, listen, react, speak, behave. This kind of rigorous dedication to craft can also breed a need to get it right. We leave an opportunity and think, That didn’t go right. It didn’t go the way I planned, and then we chide ourselves for not being the best, and let this preoccupation with perfection override our compassion for ourselves as humans. We aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. I do my best, should be the way of thinking not, I am the best. Especially when we reach a certain level in our careers … we have booked some pretty great gigs, we’ve trained at some of the best schools, we are riding high. After that, when we make a mistake, we think … That shouldn’t happen … I’m a professional. I’m on the level. Well … that level doesn’t exist. News flash! Even an actor who works everyday, as a lead on a TV show, f—ks up sometimes. What we have lost sight of is our beginner minds. Remember when you are first learning to do something, when you have no experience doing that thing before? You are a true beginner. Like when you first tried to learn a language, or ride a bike. If you are ever around any babies who are learning to walk, watch them. They are focused and fearless. Beginners have no preoccupation with getting it right. They simply want to learn it, to get it. And they have an intuitive understanding that mistakes are inevitable. How are you expected to do a back-flip on your very first attempt?? Try to approach things with a beginner mind. Get back to it. Because in that state, the hunger for learning is more important than the need to already know it; You actually listen better, learn more, and give yourself the freedom to get it wrong … which for an actor … is vital.

My illusions didn’t have anything to do with being a fine actress. I knew how third rate I was. I could actually feel my lack of talent, as if it were cheap clothes I was wearing inside. But, my God, how I wanted to learn, to change, to improve!

-Marilyn Monroe