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Career Dispatches

3 Self-Help Concepts for Artistic Evolution

3 Self-Help Concepts for Artistic Evolution

I popped into a coffee shop yesterday and spotted a friend absorbed in a book. “Whatcha reading?” I asked. His book snapped shut. “Hi! It’s uh—it’s a self-help thingy,” he mumbled. Poor guy looked like he wanted to die.

Until Barnes & Noble gives the Self-Help section a more empowering moniker (“Getting Good at Life”? “Kicking Ass More Often”?), I thought I’d unabashedly share some principles uncovered during my own coffee-shop sessions.

Focus on Your Core Genius. This one is from Jack Canfield. It’s about identifying that one thing you’re fantastic at and giving your best and primary efforts to its evolution. Artists want to avoid “mission creeping,” where activities intended for the “side” creep into the foreground. Believe me, I’ve done it—I’ve creeped. But I don’t do it anymore.

Be a Con Artist. Strategic coach Dan Sullivan said, “All entrepreneurs are really con artists. They get other people to pay them to practice getting better at what they love to do.” I’ve been working to sharpen my dialect skills, and last week I found myself narrating the final scene in an audio book in which angels and demons from foreign lands wreak havoc in NYC. British, Russian, French, Australian, German, and American dialects flew out of my face with ease. I was improving, having a ridiculous amount of fun, and getting paid.

Stare at Who You Want to Be. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I took this quote to heart and formed a Mastermind Group made up of an actor (me), a poet, the head of a nonprofit, a novelist, a monk turned inspirational speaker, a Pilates guru, the head of a tech startup, and an awesome guy whose liquor brands have been sprayed on rappers in videos. We meet monthly to brainstorm. Surrounding myself with generous people who are successful in fields other than the theater is enormously eye-opening.

On my website I’m sharing a list of self-help books, complete with ultimately awesome information. Go on. Read ’em. I won’t tell anyone.

Erin Mallon is an actor, writer, and voice artist and the curator of the Brooklyn Generator, a monthly new play–generating project. She is a proud member of InViolet Rep, a devoted volunteer at the 52nd Street Project, and the voice of many commercial spots and audio books.

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