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Claim Your Space!

by Doug Shapiro, Accelerated Artist Career Coach 

Last week I was knocked off my feet by phenomenal talent. One of those instances in which their example paves the way to an artistry I can only hope to achieve myself one day.

It wasn’t a singer belting to the rafters.

It wasn’t an intimate breathtaking performance by a movie actor.

It wasn’t a dancer drumming out his story through his tap shoes.

It was a Human Resources manager claiming her space.

Allow me to explain.

I work for an excellent company that trains corporate employees to improve their interactions with fellow employees and clients. As part of this training, they bring in actors like myself as Business Role Players. We learn a bunch of background material and then embody characters, interacting with these employees in a variety of ways so they can hone their people skills.

In last week’s scenario, I was playing a manager of a local office. The Human Resources manager I’m praising (I’ll call her Tonya because I’ve always liked that name) had just come from another role-play in which a global manager was advocating for their own needs which were contrary to mine. Tonya’s job was to work out a compromise plan of action and then enroll both parties in agreeing to it.

Now, the trainer had told me about Tonya and said that because she was so good at her job, she had breezed through the previous role-plays and had requested more of a challenge this time.

Ah, a gauntlet has been thrown down. Mwahahahahaha. I accept.

So, I take all the chairs in the conference room and push them facing up against the wall. As she enters, I’m facing the window with my back to the door. We begin and she’s thrown off balance slightly as I pace around the room and never offer her my direct attention.

Then the magic happened.

Tonya stopped, assessed the situation, and then rolled a chair away from the wall, politely stating, “I’m just going to sit down, if you don’t mind.”

It was perfectly balanced. She presented herself as an equal, taking care of her needs without creating an adversarial energy.

I kept pacing about the room to see what putting herself in a physically lower position would do, and after another minute or so of this Tonya, again, stopped what she was saying, assessed the situation and said,

“You know what? I know how important this is to you and I need your eyes and your focus right now. Won’t you please sit down with me?”

She was calm, composed, and confident in her value. I had no choice but to sit and engage with her.

The rest of the time, Tonya really heard my concerns, addressed them using my words, and even gauged the personality type I was playing and swayed me through flattery, appealing to my strength and decision-making. By the end of the session, I was completely enrolled in her suggested course of action.

Frankly, it was thrilling.

I tend to crumble a bit inside whenever faced with the perceived disapproval of others. If the audition monitor is cranky, it can kill my audition. If someone comes at me with anger, I’m hit with the emotion and may not really hear the content of their concerns. I can go to the subservient place, trying to figure out what I must have done wrong to make them so surly and feel the need to appease them.

And you know what I mean when this comes to our careers, right? We don’t want to send our script in to that producer because they get so many of them. We rush in and out of our auditions because we know they have so many people to see. We keep soldering through the song when the accompanist is playing in a different time signature than we’re singing.

Tonya demonstrated for me how, even in the most uncomfortable situations (and she later shared that she was extremely uncomfortable), we can be prepared enough to support our talent and self-worth. We can call a time-out. We can calmly make our needs known. We can enroll even the most difficult personalities in service of benefitting the important task at hand.

When you find your calling, you know in your bones that the work you do is crucial. Your voice, your words, your movement, your brush strokes hold incredible power in service to your art and the world at large. It is vitally important and your job is to enroll the lucky people who will have the privilege to be your partners.

Casting Directors are your lucky equal partners.

Agents are your lucky equal partners.

Publishers are your lucky equal partners.

And if you are an extraordinary Human Resources manager like Tonya, everyone from the Global CEO to the Local manager are lucky equal partners in your artistry.

So when your business interactions become tense or overwhelming:


Accept your own worth.

Assess the situation.

Take care of yourself.

And dive back in to the important work that all of you can create together.

Thank you for being an artist. Now be brave enough to Accelerate!

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