30 Life Altering Lessons From 50 Hours Of Inside The Actors Studio
Are you doing what you want with your life or just what your parents want?
Is the weight of the world weighing down on you and you need to break free?
Do you need a kick up the backside to take your life in your hands and make this your best year ever?
If you are struggling to find some meaning in life, feel like you’re chasing your tail every day and not quite sure whether you are coming or going, you’re not alone.
In the last couple of weeks I have watched around 50 hours of interviews from Bravo’s “Inside The Actors Studio” and distilled them down into the very essence of what makes the world’s biggest stars tick. What gets them out of bed in the morning and what keeps them going when times get tough?
Here are 30 Life Altering Lessons I have learned from watching 50 Hours of Inside The Actors Studio.
ESTIMATED READING TIME 16 MINUTES – SKIMMABLE
1. Don’t Wait ‘Til Death To Realise It’s Your Life
You only have one shot and there’s no dress rehearsal, this is it. Don’t wait for some disaster to strike you down to decide to take back your life. Live the life you want. Not what your parents want, not what your friends want, not what your priest or your teachers or your agent wants. Live your life, for you. Don’t wait until death to realise this is your life.
Disaster strikes us all at some point in our lives. Tragedy rears its ugly head more often than any of us would like. I am lucky that I haven’t had any life altering tragedy happen to me in my short time on this earth but as Mark Ruffalo tells us on Inside The Actors Studio, being diagnosed with a brain tumour at 35 made him realise he had been living someone else’s life all along.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][bctt tweet=”When I die I want to look back and say; That was my life, I did what I wanted to do. – Mark Ruffalo”]
2. Reach Out, And Take It
The life you want isn’t going to be handed to you, you have to reach out and take it. You cannot be a victim in this life, says John Travolta, you have to be the master of your own destiny, the captain of your own ship. If you want to get somewhere then you have to take yourself there, nobody is going to do it for you.
[bctt tweet=”Don’t assume that magic will happen, unless you create it. – John Travolta”]
Kevin Spacey echoes this lesson in his interview on Inside The Actors Studio. That it’s not good enough to be ambitious and have an idea of where you want to get to. To want to be successful isn’t good enough, that’s just desire. You have to know why and how you are going to reach it and dedicate every breath in your body to achieving it.
[bctt tweet=”There is no prize, out there. The only prize is what you feel you want to accomplish – Kevin Spacey”]
3. The Only Thing Holding You Back Is Yourself
The only thing holding you back is you. The only thing stopping you from becoming all that you want to be and achieving everything you want in life is yourself, your own limiting beliefs. The beliefs that tell you you’re not good enough or not talented enough or not interesting.
Jim Carrey describes it as the ‘speck of sand in the oyster’. That we all start out thinking we have a little speck of sand in our otherwise perfect oyster and we then go on to form a personality around whatever that mistaken belief about ourselves is.
Al Pacino says that we must struggle to get out of our own way and we will be successful when we let go of those totally irrational, limiting beliefs that do nothing but hold us back. He quotes Michelangelo the great artist – “Lord, free me of myself so I may please you.”
4. Dark Is Easy, Find The Joy
We create our own suffering in life, our own isolation says Tom Cruise on Inside The Actors Studio. It’s easy to make ourselves miserable. The world is full of darkness and tragedy, it’s as bad as it gets. You read a newspaper or turn on the TV; it’s all bad news. Everybody looking over their shoulder all the time. You have to make a choice to find the light. Make a choice to find the joy, find the happy moments in life or create them for yourself.
You want to make this world a better place? Then wake up every morning and make a choice to be the light. For yourself, for your family, your friends everyone you meet. As Amy Adams says when she’s finding it tough, try to walk into the day that you want your family to have instead of bringing the day that you’ve had to them.
[bctt tweet=”Dark is easy, find the joy. – John Travolta“]
5. Everybody’s Got Their Bag Of Hammers
You don’t know how good you’ve really got it until you see what someone else is carrying. Everybody’s got their problems, their bag of hammers. Michael J Fox, who has severe Parkinson’s disease, tells a great anecdote where god sits everyone in a circle and gets them to put their problem inside the circle. After a minute everybody is given the chance to pull out any problem they want but everybody takes their own problem back. The lesson here is that there will always be somebody in a better position than you, but there will also be somebody far worse off. Count your blessings and be grateful every day. Gratitude is the antidote to pessimism.
6. The Shortest Prayer In The World
Regardless of how hard you try, there comes a point when you’ve done the best you can and there’s nothing left but to say the shortest prayer in the world:
Anthony Hopkins tells us that this is about knowing you’ve done everything you can in a situation and surrendering to the outcome, relinquishing control and at that moment, wisdom pours in. At some point you just have to say Fuck it, let it go and get on with things. Here is a clip from his interview on Inside The Actors Studio.
The next lesson is the reverse of that coin, somewhat contradicting this lesson but I’ll let you make up your own mind on which inspires you most.
7. There Are No Rewards For Giving Up
If you lay down on the ground and give up people will step over you but if you scrabble and try to pull yourself up somebody around you will want you to succeed and somebody will always give you a helping hand. There are no rewards for giving up in life but everybody loves a trier.
Who are you more likely to give money to; A beggar, or a busker? I know I refuse to give beggars money. This perfectly illustrates a lesson from Morgan Freeman.
“I was ready to drive a cab, work in somebody’s office, anything. Sure I got talent, so do half a million other people” – Morgan Freeman
8.You Progress, Or You Decay
It’s been a law of nature since the dawn of time, you adapt, or you die. Those that adapted to their surroundings were the ones that moved forward. In these modern times it’s not so much about adapting physically as it is about adapting your mind. You have to learn how to thrive in your environment. Making the best of every situation you find yourself in, constantly learning, improving yourself and putting yourself in the path of prosperity.
[bctt tweet=”You must constantly be absorbing life. You either progress or you decay. – Clint Eastwood“]
9. Allow Fear To Drive You Forward
Fear is a powerfully strong indication, of something. Nowadays what we call fear isn’t really rational fear; we’re not likely to die from any of our regular lives. What we fear most in today’s society is ridicule, embarrassment, failure. This is why when we get scared of something it’s usually because we are taking a step outside our comfort zone, pushing ourselves beyond our own expectations. In this way fear can be a really good indication that something is a good idea. Don’t allow fear to hold you back, let it illuminate the path in front of you, drive you forward.
[bctt tweet=”It’s like walking through fire; if you stop pushing forward that’s when you’ll be consumed. – Forest Whittaker“]
10. Life Is Easier When You’re In Good Shape
This might sound like a no-brainer, I always find it incredible how many people claim to know this and yet do nothing about it but – life is so much easier when you’re in good shape.
Just being generally healthy with diet and exercise has such a radical effect on your minds ability to function well, on your body’s ability to carry you through life. Whether its work or play it doesn’t matter, the experience of life is so much richer and fulfilling when you are taking care of yourself. Take it from Robert Downey Jr who spent the first half of his career on a 24/7 binge of drugs and alcohol.
11. Can’t Find The Answer? Try Greed.
Or learn a lesson from Samuel L Jackson on Inside The Actors Studio who spent a decade going from drunk to high and back again. He found his way out not through positive thinking or 12 step programmes but through greed.
Obviously it takes a great deal of strength to get yourself out of a dark place like addiction but is greed such a bad thing? He saw the glitter of the good side and decided that he likes the way he lives now. It all happened for him as soon as he went clean. He likes the person he is now, he likes the benefits of being who he is now and wants to keep it that way. Is that such a bad thing?
“If I picked up one drink, If I even picked up one drug, this would all disappear in a cloud of smoke and I’m just greedy enough not to do that again.” – Samuel L. Jackson
12. Your 20s Are A Question Mark Decade
Don’t put your life on hold waiting for the right moment to live, explore and play. In your 20’s especially but really all through life if you want to do something, go somewhere, just do it. Life is there to be lived and as Dustin Hoffman puts it, you are never going to have the luxury of ‘not knowing’ ever again. Here is his wonderful interview on Inside The Actors Studio.
[bctt tweet=”Your 20’s are a question mark decade. You must play, it’s your only way not to go crazy – Dustin Hoffman”]
13. It’s OK To Pick And Choose
You don’t have to follow one set of rule, one set of guidelines, one doctrine. Those guides are there to help you and if something works for you great, if not, let it pass. In terms of spirituality or philosophy It’s ok to take a little lesson from Buddhism and a point of view from Stoicism and commandment number 12 and a quote you read from Goethe and stick them all together with an idea from a TED talk you saw if that works for you.
Allow others to have their own versions too; don’t impose your life on anyone else as what works for you they might not like and everybody has the right to make their own choices for themselves.
[bctt tweet=”In work or religion you should pick and choose the things that work for you – Johnny Depp”]
14. Everybody Should Study Acting
For all you non-actors out there, and actually a lot of actors would do well to explore this idea too, here is a great lesson from Hugh Jackman on Inside The Actors Studio, that acting training is really about being awake, being present and alive in each moment living it from moment to moment and dedicating all of your attention to that moment and that person or people you are with. Most of us walk around all day asleep to the world around us, not present in our relationships with others.
As actors we know what doing a stale show feels like, so we strive every moment to do anything and everything we can to raise each moment up and live in it, so why don’t we do that in life too?
15. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
After all of that it’s important to have a bit of levity. Life can get very serious and as Clint Eastwood puts it;
[bctt tweet=”Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. – Clint Eastwood”]
16. Knowing Is Not Enough
Throughout history we have seen many examples of this and yet today, more so then ever this lesson is greatly ignored. Knowing about something isn’t good enough to change it. Action must be taken towards change, talking about things or just shining a light on them doesn’t do anybody any good. Sure, this applies to big world atrocities from Auschwitz to Uganda but even in our own lives we learn nothing from history, we allow it to repeat itself over and over again. Whether it’s as simple as knowing you’re not in good shape, or knowing you should spend more time with family. Yes, acknowledging the problem is the first step but after that it’s no good unless you take action to change it.
“We always say that if we’d only known we would have done something about it but the fact is we didn’t and we haven’t. At least acknowledge that shining a light on something will never make it go away.” – George Clooney
17. Everyone Is Interesting
If you’re having a conversation with someone and you’re finding things a bit boring, the problem isn’t them, it’s you. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone is passionate about something. If you can’t get it out of them you’re asking the wrong questions or giving off a vibe that you’d rather be somewhere else than talking to them right now. It’s your job to unearth that hidden passion in everyone you meet, dig deep and find out what makes them tick. Something always does or they wouldn’t be here.
[bctt tweet=”People are interesting. You just have to ask the right questions. – John Travolta”]
18. There Is No Such Thing As Normal
In today’s culture it seems very obvious and yet we still have a long way to go in truly acting as if there really is no such thing as ‘normal’. We have gay and straight couples, black and white teachers, Jewish, Muslim Christian and Hindu bankers and bus drivers, male and female Priests. We have every conceivable combination of family upbringing and every possible permutation of society. There is no ‘normal’ and that is life. Everyone has their story to tell, and their right to tell it. Tom Cruise
19. Big Egos Have Bigger Insecurities
You think these A-List celebrities are the most confident people on the planet? You think they have egos of steel and an infallible sense of self-confidence? Think again.
Some of the most outgoing people around, the ones always in the spotlight, the biggest extroverts are deeply self-conscious, sometimes acting purely out of a need to get attention to feel wanted and most of them are never happy with how they are perceived. On Inside The Actors Studio we see countless examples of this;
Julianne Moore says she never finishes a film without thinking she’s screwed it up. Tom Hanks says the death of his acting is self-consciousness. Al Pacino was sure he was going to be replaced on The Godfather because he didn’t feel wanted. Insecurity, doubt, fear, pride and ego are just some of the demons that Mark Ruffalo has to ‘wrestle’ with. Naomi Watts almost quit because she started to believe all the negative criticism she was getting and even Johnny Depp has films of his that he’s never even seen.
As hilarious and entertaining as Robin Williams is in his interview, you can’t help but get a sense that the man is completely uncomfortable in his own skin. He uses comedy to dodge around any personal questions and avoids digging below the surface of himself for fear of what we may find. This is further underlined in a comment that he flippantly makes about himself which sheds a glimmer of light into his troubled yet brilliant mind.
“My early attempts at being funny were just to get attention from my mother” – Robin Williams, Inside The Actors Studio.
What does this teach us? Well, it shows us that these people are really no different from any of the rest of us, that they struggle, every day, with the same struggles that we do but what makes them different, what makes them stand out is that they were willing to put all of that aside, push through their fears and insecurities and allow the world to see them when they are most vulnerable. To show the truth of who they are in the cold light of day. It’s not about learning not to be self-conscious, it’s about learning how to set that ego to one side and show the truth of who you are. On Inside The Actors Studio, James Lipton reads a very revealing extract from Kate Winslet’s diary while she was rehearsing ‘Titanic’;
“I feel ugly, talentless and uncommitted. Frightened, lonely, nervous, mad…” Kate Winslet.
20. Life Is A Wonderful Puzzle
Sometimes, as you go through life, things don’t go the way you wanted them to, or how you expected. You don’t get the job you wanted or you don’t reach a goal you had set for yourself and you have to make a new choice. How often have you thought “Have I been wasting my time all along?” or “Where the hell am I going to next?”
Well, as John Travolta puts it, life is all a wonderfully complicated puzzle. You have no idea what the big picture looks like when you dump all of the pieces out of the box and start putting them together one by one. But when it’s finally all done and you look back at what you’ve created it will all make sense so don’t worry so much about the finishing picture, just enjoy each little piece of your life as it comes.
21. There’s More To Life Than Just Increasing Its Speed
While you’re working on putting those pieces together to create that work of art remember that there is more to life than increasing its speed. Living life is an art in itself and it is there to be enjoyed and savored. Don’t just go for the ‘5 dollar cheeseburger’, be adventurous go down the street and have the ‘5 dollar wine with fish’ at the French restaurant instead. John Travolta describes the “fast food version of life” that they live in America. Make time for the people around you, the people you care about. Family, friends, get out from behind your selfie-stick once in a while and enjoy the moment as you’re actually living in it. Here is this moment from his interview Inside The Actors Studio.
22. Celebrity Is An Illusion
Being a celebrity doesn’t mean anything, it has no substance. It doesn’t make you any better or worse than anybody else all it means is that a few million people think you are better than everyone else, or worth more. Yes it has its rewards, like opening certain doors that would otherwise be shut, or affording you certain privileges that others are not afforded but really, it makes no difference to the person you are. How you choose to conduct your life, how you choose to use that stardom that has been given to you makes you who you are. You can choose to stand in the presence of something or someone that you feel deserves a glimmer of your spotlight, a charity, a friend, a noble cause for example, or you can choose to bask in the fallacy for as long as you are lucky enough for people to care.
[bctt tweet=”This whole superstar thing is just an illusion, a snapshot of who I am. – Bruce Willis“]
23. Fame Is Not A Quest
Fame cannot be your reason for doing anything; otherwise there is no difference between fame and infamy. In today’s celebrity culture where media outlets are only concerned with bums on seats no matter the cost people who get famous for doing something stupid or making a fool of themselves are worth as much or more than people who go above and beyond to create good in their lives and the lives of others.
This is a shallow, embarrassing and misguided quest. As Ricky Gervais points out, it still sells your books or your records or gets you on TV.
You have to proud of what you create, proud of your quest in life, proud of yourself and your own achievements regardless of whoever else thinks you’re a VIP.
“There is nothing wrong with fame as long as it’s an upshot of what you do. When it’s the result of a talent or an art, but when fame is the quest it’s deplorable and embarrassing” – Ricky Gervais
24. Creativity Is A Drug
Creativity is your brains own natural buzz, it acts just like any stimulant and is just as addictive. When you finally realise an idea you get a little endorphin kick, it’s like getting just a little bit high and your body loves it. Your brain learns to like this feedback loop and so it gives you more ideas to play with which in turn make you feel better and perform better in all aspects of your life. Creativity is a drug that’s literally good for your health.
“To me the greatest drug of all is creation because in terms of evolution, your brain gives you feedback. When you create every so often you get a little endorphin buzz.” – Anthony Hopkins
25. Just Do The Next Right Thing
It doesn’t have to be perfect, just take a step forward. You don’t have to be right, just take a guess. Doing something that is within your power is better than waiting for anything that’s not. You just have to be honest with yourself and do the next right thing, whatever that is, letting go of the outcome and just taking the next positive action towards a meaningful goal. Michael J Fox reminds us that something is going to happen. Chances are at least 50/50 that it’s going to be something good. Don’t be afraid to take the chance.
[bctt tweet=”Today is the tomorrow I was so worried about yesterday. – Anthony Hopkins“]
26. Sometimes You Just Have To Jump
There is only so much you can read about something. There is only so much that knowledge can be useful but at some point you have to actually do something. There is no substitute for experience. Christopher Walken says if you want to build a house, just go build one. Don’t ask anyone how, just go and build one. You will learn so much more from the experience of doing it than you could have from studying it. I also believe that you learn the most by surrounding yourself with people who are better than you or more advanced, further down the path that you see yourself on, but as Robert De Niro says in his interview on Inside The Actors Studio…
[bctt tweet=”If you just take the leap you often arrive at the place you thought you had to go through hell to get to. – Robert De Niro”]
27. You’re Only As Good As The Chances You Take
Shame on you, shame on you for never putting your toe outside the line. For never having a look outside the box. For playing ‘safe’ out of fear of failure. There is nothing wrong with failing, failing is how you learn, it’s the only way to improve. If you’re not failing every once in a while you must be playing it too safe and safe is a sin, far worse than failure says Dustin Hoffman. Go by your gut and damn the torpedoes. Staying safe so that you won’t get hurt is far worse than failure. It’s selfish because you are denying yourself and everyone else your gift.
[bctt tweet=”You’re only as good as the chances you take – Al Pacino”]
28. Good Enough Ain’t Good Enough
Now more than ever this lesson hits home. No matter what business you’re in, good enough just isn’t good enough anymore. If it’s your new cafe, I’ll just pop next door. If you’re a teacher, I’ll just learn it online. If you’re a bank, I’ll take my money elsewhere. In the world of screen acting your mediocrity is immortalised. People have too much of everything in life these days. Too much information, too much food, too many Facebook friends. If you don’t make it your business to exceed expectations and be, not just good enough but ‘Great Enough’ than you’ll be forgotten faster than an X-Factor winner’s latest single.
[bctt tweet=”Good Enough’, baby, ain’t good enough. – Mark Ruffalo“]
29. Risk Being Unpopular
To do anything meaningful you have to tread close to the cliff edge, you have to cut close to the bone. You have to be willing to go places that nobody has ever even conceived. A lot of people won’t like you for that. Some will even hate you, ridicule you, laugh at you and pity you. It makes everybody else look foolish; to be striving for better instead of doing things the way ‘they have always been done’, to innovate in an area that hasn’t seen change in years because it makes everyone else look unimaginative, like sheep. You have to risk being unpopular to do anything worthwhile, anything close to your heart and the hearts of others. On Inside The Actors Studio Jim Carrey says;
[bctt tweet=”At some point you have to divorce yourself from doing the things that other people want from you – Jim Carrey”]
30. Find Your Own Path
Robert Downey Jr talks about Joseph Campbell’s concept that if you are walking through the forest of your life and you’re travelling down this nice safe beaten path then it’s not your path. Somebody else has already trodden that path before you. Have the initiative to take a look around and try exploring the weeds over there to find an interesting direction for yourself because only then will you stop being compared to others who have gone before you. If you carve out your own path you will never be called “The Next…” or compared to everybody else around you. Cate Blanchett agrees saying “It’s very difficult to just be yourself and form your own way but hopefully it will connect because that’s why you do it.”
After 50+ hours of dissecting each of these interviews on Inside The Actors Studio there is only one common truth and that is that there is no ‘right way’ to live your life, there is no ‘one way’ to make a career for yourself. The only sure thing is that, if you don’t want to get to 60 and wish you had your time back, you have to find your own path. You have to make your own way, create your own opportunities, for you. Not for anyone else but yourself. Nobody is going to hand you the life you want you have to carve it out for yourself.
[bctt tweet=”The life you want is waiting for you. Reach out and take it. – Jason Broderick “]
What Was Your Favourite Lesson From Inside The Actors Studio?
Leave a comment below and let me know what your favourite lesson was. Was there any you disagree with? Why? Have you got any lessons of your own?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]