Pool Hall Lessons

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I was in film school when I first saw Paul Newman pick up a cue stick in the 1961 movie "The Hustler." Ever since then, I've been in love with the game, and I still play on a regular basis. There's something very comforting about a dark pool hall and the sound of a strong break. Shooting pool is how I relax.

Unfortunately, loving a game isn't always enough to make you a great player. Sure, I can pull off a tricky bank shot, but I still have days when I feel like an absolute beginner. That's frustrating because the key to any skill is being able to deliver on a consistent basis.

As luck would have it, I just signed a Canadian named Lisa who has "expert pool player" listed on her résumé. We talked about this, and she revealed her dad was a professional who taught her the game. (That's right. Canadians play pool. Who knew?) So as a way of thanking me for taking her on as a client, Lisa agreed to spend the afternoon with yours truly at his favorite pool hall.

It didn't take long for me to realize she was good. I'm talking Paul Newman good. And let me tell you something. It's not easy when a cute girl from Vancouver kicks your ass at a game you love. But I decided to check my ego at the door so I could be open to any wisdom she cared to share.

That was a good move because after our first game, Lisa pulled me aside and told me to do three simple things. They weren't huge adjustments, just tweaks. But my game improved on the spot. I couldn't believe the difference. (She still beat me, but I didn't feel as bad about it.)

On the way home, I realized there's a life lesson there for all of us. Maybe our goals aren't that hard to achieve. Maybe the difference between success and failure is nothing more than a few small tweaks.

Keeping that in mind, I want you to take a close look at your acting career. Is it possible that some minor changes might propel you to the next level?

I know an actor who made a resolution this year to drop 20 pounds. That's not a huge amount, but he's never had the willpower to make it happen. But something must've sparked because he finally set his mind to it, and the 20 pounds are now history. That minor change did more than lower his waist size. It also made him more attractive and much more confident. A recent mailing nabbed him an excellent commercial agent, and I feel he's finally on his way.

On the same note, I know an actor who went from timid to secure just because she changed her hair color. That might sound superficial but the results speak for themselves. She now goes through life with an aggressive attitude that has paid off in more bookings and more connections.

Now let's go deeper. Too many actors have a bad attitude that gets in the way of achieving their goals. Others see success as an impossible dream. All that negative chatter can prevent you from spotting an opportunity. So consider changing the way you see the world. Who knows? A minor tweak like that might change the way the world sees you!

Have you ever tried to master a new accent? Do you have any improv experience? Can you sing and dance? Those are all skills that might give you the edge over another actor. I'm sure you can come up with more.

As for myself, I'm off to my favorite pool hall. I need to practice so I can teach a certain Canadian actor a little lesson about Hollywood comebacks.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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