“Reading is not for play. It is to gain knowledge” Stella Adler The Art of Acting[i] and she adds that “I, for instance, am very strict about what I eat and I’m equally strict about what I read.”
In keeping with our season theme of going back to the basics, and building the strongest 2.0 version of ourselves, I’m skipping to episode #199[ii] on “The Neuroscience of Self-Belief and Our Identity”[iii] from Feb 2022.
For those who are returning guests, welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, where we cover the science-based evidence behind social and emotional learning (for schools) and emotional intelligence training (in the workplace) with tools, ideas and strategies that we can all use for immediate results, with our brain in mind. For those who haven’t met me yet, I’m Andrea Samadi, an author, and an educator with a passion for learning and launched this podcast to share how the understanding of our complex brain transfers into our everyday life and results.
On this episode #288 we will cover:
✔ A review of The Neuroscience of Self-Belief and Our Identity
✔ How Belief in Ourselves Develops and Changes Over Time
✔ Top 5 Lessons Learned from Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting”
✔ Why Continual Study is Important
When I looked back to EP 199 on “The Neuroscience of Self-Belief and Our Identity” I noticed that we opened with a quote from the late Bob Proctor, and a meeting with my friend Patti, who worked closely with Bob’s seminars over the years. Patti and I met a few weeks after Bob moved from what he would say was the physical plane, to the spiritual, and we talked about some of the important lesson learned, and knowledge gained from those days working in the seminar industry, and how they’ve impacted our daily life since then.
Concepts based on our beliefs like:
“All things are possible if you believe.
“Our results are all based on our beliefs”
“If we don’t like what’s going on outside, we’ve got to go inside, and change our beliefs.”[ii] –Bob Proctor
These ideas were at the core of every seminar Proctor conducted, and he would travel the globe presenting these ideas in a way that would captivate and change the lives of his listeners globally.
Now I sold seminars for Bob from 1999 to 2002 and every time he would come up with a new seminar, people would say the same thing.
- What’s new with this one?
I’d explain that this new seminar had a different angle but some people would challenge this new angle and say, “that’s kind of what we learned in the last seminar” (belief in ourselves) to do xyz and the answer was yes… belief is behind everything we want to do… it’s at the heart of every seminar.
It’s also something that takes time to develop. I’ve heard it described in different ways. It’s like pouring a drop of red food coloring into a glass of water, and you stir it once, and the red coloring disappears. We’ve got to keep putting the red drops into the water, to notice the change in color. It’s not easy to notice at what point the color goes from clear to red, as this change takes time.
Just like the belief we must have in ourselves that develops over time.
It’s difficult to put belief into words, or know when we’ve got it, or not, but it can be seen easily by others. I saw it while interviewing Ryan O’Neill on EPISODE #203[iv] on “Making Your Vision a Reality” because I knew Ryan BEFORE he achieved the goals he had set for himself, and remember when they were just ideas, written down. Watching his success over the years has been nothing short of incredible, and the change shows up for Ryan on the outside. His knowledge, confidence, and success in his daily life, shows up clearly with his demeanor, as his work now is being showcased globally, on the Discovery Channel[v], and he himself agreed with me when I pointed this out to him. Over time, he could see it himself, but like the food color in the water, it is difficult to pinpoint the change as it’s occurring.
- How do we change our belief and identity over time?
- Other than continual study, and learning that leads to growth, what else would the experts in the field of learning suggest?
We can review the science behind self-belief, and where belief exists in the brain, by going back to EP 199 where we covered this, but today, I’ve got to go back to the seminar industry, because so much of what yielded success in those early days, worked for some reason, (I can list so many who have surpassed their goals with these principles) so my goal today is to revisit these age-old strategies, that have been around for over 2,000 years.
Today’s episode takes us back to this one book that speaker Bob Proctor would talk about in every seminar, and even in his book, Change Your Paradigm, Change Your Life[vi]. If you’ve ever been to one of his events, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He would say “You know, you’ve got to read Stella Adler’s The Art of Acting” whether he was talking to a regular person, like you or me, or an Oscar Award Winner, like Phil Goldfine[vii], who listened to what Bob told him, then took the action that led to his Oscar Award in 2014. I remember Phil standing and holding this prestigious award at the last seminar I attended in January 2016, explaining that it all started when Bob told him to write down his goals, and he did, and the next thing I knew, here he was, standing up and holding his Oscar, while the audience just listened to how simple it was for him to achieve it.
Phil Goldfine would tell you it was just his belief that did it, and he went on to use the same principles to achieve something next with swimming, something he had yet to perfect, that I’m sure he has achieved by now. It took me two seconds to find an interview from 2019 with Phil Goldfine that showed me he DID in fact hit his swimming goal, and many others that he declared back in 2016 when he showed us his Oscar. What he said got him there was “action”[viii] and that’s one of the secrets within the pages of that book that Proctor recommended we read every seminar, The Art of Acting.
Stella Adler’s technique, called “Method Acting” is founded on an actor’s ability to imagine a character’s world. Now it’s all starting to make sense to me why Proctor would love this book, and talk about it so much, as he would hold his hand out and get us to all look up into the air, and “build our castles in the sky.” He was trying to get us to “imagine” the world we wanted to build. It’s called “Method Acting” and now I can see exactly how acting is connected to self-belief, building our identity, and goal-achievement.
Stella Adler was the only American artist to study with Konstantin Stanislavski, a prominent figure in Russian theatre and her technique encouraged actors to expand their understanding of the world, in order to create compelling performances.
You know, what we don’t understand, or we don’t connect with, we tend to ignore, and that’s what I did when Bob talked about acting. I remember thinking, oh shoot, here he goes again about that acting book, as he would stand on stage, and explain how Laurence Olivier could transform his character, and move his audience, using something called “Method Acting.”
Now I’m not at all into movies, and not usually star stuck by actors or fame as I’ve met many from this industry along the way, and I marvel at how they do what they do, but I’m most interested in the journey that got them to where they are today. I met film Director David Webb[ix], while he was shooting the horror film Taking Lives, with Angelina Jolie, Colin Farrell[x], while he was filming A Home at the End of the World, and they were both “out of character” and relaxing, just chatting to me about what they were working on. Then, I sat at a lunch table next to Stephen Spielberg[xi], and listened to what his day to day conversations, which was nothing out of the ordinary, but when I met Sean Penn, I KNEW he was an actor. Sean was in a swimming pool, with sunglasses on, and introduced himself to me as “hey, I’m the make-up guy” with an accent anyone from the 1980s could place, and I just laughed, knowing full well that he was playing the character of Jeff Spicoli, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, just to see my reaction. I glanced over at his wife, Robin Penn at the time, and just laughed. This was no make-up artist. He was Jeff Spicoli, and we all knew it. He was “Method Acting” and it’s taken me almost 20 years to learn about this method.
This weekend I finally read the book that Bob Proctor would recommend in every seminar, Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting.”
I never understood what an acting book would have to do with setting and achieving goals, so I brushed it off, and never read it. What a huge mistake. Just a glance at the table of contents and the lights went on (pun intended).
Stella Adler was teaching acting in a way that Proctor taught us success principles in the seminar world. “You’ll never be great unless you aim high” or “ideas are difficult because they are on paper, but read them several times slowly, the ideas will become yours and you’ll be able to give them back.” Stella Adler
Bob’s practices were right in line with Stella’s. He used to have us focus on a sentence, word by word, until we integrated the idea into our daily life (Thomas Troward as an example).
So what does acting, a profession that’s almost 2,000 years old, have to do with goal-setting and achievement?[xii] I didn’t see it either, until I actually read “The Art of Acting” and started to put the pieces together. There is a connection between reaching those high levels of achievement, that leads to a change in self-belief, and it begins with an understanding of “the stage” that Stella Adler outlines in her book.
I found an article written by Amy Beilharz, that outlined the Top 4 tips from this book, that translates to our everyday life, called “What Do the Oscars and Your Success Have in Common.”[xiii] She talks about “acting” as “doing” describing the lessons she learned in the book.
This book is something you just have to read, and you’ll see what I mean as you will see something in yourself, that you might not have seen before. She outlines 22 lessons, that were her classes, and begins with a powerful story from Laurence Olivier. I heard this story over and over again from Proctor, and I used to zone out because I just didn’t see what was so profound about some actor on stage, but after reading these pages, I began to connect the dots.
Proctor tells it better, but the main idea is that Laurence Olivier played Othello in a way that one night, blew the entire audience away. At the end of the show, everyone asked him “how did you do it” and he said “I don’t know” because he really didn’t understand what he did. He later discussed on interviews that he had massive anxiety about this, as he didn’t know how to replicate what he had done, and worried he’d never be able to do it again.
I KNOW WHAT HE DID.
And it took me back to PART 5[xiv] of our Think and Grow Rich book study, where we learned about how to transmute our energy from one form into another.
It’s one of the “Secrets” is in the pages of Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting” that explains why Laurence Olivier moved his audience.
He became someone else while he was on stage in a way that no one had seen before.
Like Sean Penn who became Spicoli, he became Othello in a way that hit the audience from the spiritual, intellectual and physical mind, and it was masterful. It was unforgettable. I bet it took the breath away from those watching. It shocked Laurence Olivier just as much as it shocked his audience.
You’ll know what I mean when you think of an artist that hits you to the core on all 3 levels (spiritual/soul, intellectual/ mind, and physically as you can feel the performance).
I can name a few artists I’ve seen who can do this. Think about this for a minute? Can you? Who moves you to the core when you watch them perform, that you can barely speak? You’re captivated.
That’s Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting”
And it takes the belief of the artist FIRST.
REVIEW AND CONCLUSION:
To review this week’s Brain Fact Friday, we went back to EP199 on “The Neuroscience of Self-Belief and Our Identity”[xv] that took us back to improving our self-awareness that we covered on EPISODE #2[xvi] of our podcast back in July of 2019. We looked at where self-belief and our identity exist in the brain and we pondered:
- Where does self-belief come from?
- How does it get instilled in us?
- How can we inspire it in others?
Then we looked at Stella Adler’s “The Art of Acting” to see what acting has to do with self-belief, our identity, goal-setting, and goal-achieving.
There were many timeless lessons in the pages of her book, and I do hope that you will read this book yourself, but here are the ones the stood out the most to me.
- 1. ACTING IS DOING: (Class 3) She says that “you learn acting by acting” and isn’t that true, that we learn when we take action. But Stella Adler was very strict with the actions that she takes. She said it in the beginning that she is strict about what she eats, and equally as strict about what she reads. She was also very strict about how someone stands, walks and presents themselves saying “if your body is not in good shape, your acting cannot be in good shape.” (p18).
- 2. THE ACTOR NEEDS TO BE STRONG: (Class 4) where she reminds us again of the importance of health and sitting upright, not looking like we have “broken bodies that turn inward.” I can just imagine her yelling out “sit up straight” to her students, as I remember that was the key to projecting our voice when I was in choir in 5th We were taught to breathe from our diaphragms and she explains this with the importance of projecting our voice. And to build our voice she suggests “to read an editorial aloud every day.” First, read it with a normal voice, and then your voice should get “bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger.” (p55). I can tell you for sure that recording solo podcast episodes has helped me to build my voice. I know I speak much differently into the microphone, than I do if I’m talking to someone in person, or even on the phone. My WHOOP device logs my heart rate that goes well into the target heart rate zone every time I record my voice, and over time, I do see this practice has helped me to improve my speaking and presentation skills. I know there’s ALWAYS room for improvement here, but that’s what Stella wants us to remember.
- 3. DEVELOPING THE IMAGINATION: (Class 5) Stella reviews the importance of health again here, and how “we are instruments of our bodies, and have to keep them in optimal condition.” (Page 63). We’ve focused entire episodes to the theme of health (mental and physical) on this podcast, as I also believe that without our health, we are at a disadvantage, but she connects this to our ability to create something in our minds. Stella teaches her students how to “live imaginatively” building images on the screen of our mind first saying that “anything that goes through your imagination has a right to live.” (Page 66). She has many exercises in this class to build up your imagination faculty so you can “bring aliveness” to your acting, which is much different than just acting “the facts.” She says that “you must give back life and not death.”
- 4. YOU MUST DRESS THE PART: (Class 16) This chapter we heard over and over again in the seminars, as Proctor lived it himself. It was rare to see him wearing jeans, even when I had to drop something off at his house, he would be dressed up. He talked about the importance of “dressing for success” especially when working from home, and treating a home office, just as you would if you had to drive to one. Stella believed the same, saying that “You are what the clothes makes of you. Clothes say something about your self-control, your self-awareness, your social awareness. Clothes say something about your ability to be restrained, your ability to be respectful.” (Page 192). She says that when you come on stage, to “stand in a way that expresses power that comes from the ground up.” (Page 196) I agree with her that you can feel the power, and energy with the way you dress, and stand tall. The fastest way to “feeling” successful, is to put in the effort to look your best every day.
- 5. PORTRAYING CLASS ON STAGE: (Class 22) This is where Stella talks about “the method” where “understanding your character has to go beyond your own life.” (Page 253). She asks us to imagine playing a peasant, and getting into the character with class, by looking at Van Gogh’s painting of peasant boots saying “that everything has value. Nothing is old—or rotten.” (Page 252). Stella learned “method acting” directly from Russian playwright Konstantin Stanlisvaski who “directs the actor to apply deep personal and emotional connections to a role to achieve a realistic and naturalized performance.”
- Not all actors believe in this “method” as Laurence Olivier was famous for “expressing disdain for method acting while filming the 1976 film Marathon Man. Exasperated with the lengths his co-star Dustin Hoffman was going to for his role, (who actually stayed up for days to become sleep deprived) and Olivier asked, My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting”
- which I thought was hilarious and so very true.
Stella Adler “was wary of Stanislavski’s idea of emotional recall to generate emotions on stage and felt it limited actors to their small realms of experience.”[xix] Adler believed more in cultivating the actor’s imagination to bring their characters to life.
I hope that you can now see, like I did, the clear connection that exists between acting and our future success. Some people like Phil Goldfine, or Sean Penn, have used these practices to reach great heights with their careers, and Proctor would call these people “consciously competent” as they were aware of what they were doing to get these results. Others, like Laurence Olivier, were shocked and amazed at their results, having no idea what they had done, and Proctor would call people like this “unconsciously competent” meaning they couldn’t explain what they had done.
While I know we all won’t be as good as Laurence Olivier or Sean Penn, right away, the goal is to keep reading, learning and getting better at whatever it is we are doing, so that our results become predictable, aimed high, and that we work towards being consciously competent at whatever it is we are working on. If we can do this, then we can teach it to others who follow in our footsteps.
If we can follow Stella Adler’s “Art of Acting” with whatever platform or stage we are performing on daily integrating her tips into our work, and aiming at hitting our audience on all three levels: physically, intellectually and spiritually, then we know we are on the pathway towards something special.
Remember: She would say “What is acting? Voice. Voice. Voice.”
I’m glad I finally read “The Art of Acting” to gain this new perspective of building self-belief and identity, and can now add Stella Adler’s tips to help me to become a stronger, more resilient version of myself with her strategies that go back 2,000 years in time.
With that, I’ll close out this episode, and see you next week.
[i] Stella Adler The Art of Acting (compiled and edited by Howard Kissel) https://www.amazon.com/Art-Acting-Stella-Adler/dp/1557833737
[v] Warner Brothers, Discovery UK and Ireland https://twitter.com/chrisfleming91/status/1647083554118021120/photo/2
[vi] Change Your Paradigm, Change Your Life by Bob Proctor https://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Paradigm-Life/dp/B09G5132VW/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=604546232584&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9030068&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=4410657837430788254&hvtargid=kwd-622963963620&hydadcr=22592_13493326&keywords=paradigm+shift+book+bob+proctor&qid=1683679068&sr=8-1
[vii] Phil Goldfine Grammy https://www.facebook.com/OfficialBobProctor/photos/phil-goldfine-has-been-a-student-and-friend-of-mine-for-many-years-last-night-hi/10152248842639421/?paipv=0&eav=Afb0ArYL4FwVIZqrj0nxLES9BYlLb6erWqGP8VbuO3_KABPdpfgY-LMt5VWDasplRkM&_rdr
[viii] Oscar and Emmy Winner Phil Goldfine Shares 5 Things You Need to Know to Succeed in Show Business Feb. 25, 2019 by Yitzi Weiner https://medium.com/authority-magazine/oscar-and-emmy-winner-phil-goldfine-shares-the-five-things-you-need-to-know-to-succeed-in-show-b3152bbf985e
[xii] What do the Oscars and your success have in common? https://www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com/9551/what-do-the-oscars-and-your-success-have-in-common
[xiii] What do the Oscars and your success have in common? https://www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com/9551/what-do-the-oscars-and-your-success-have-in-common
[xviii] Why Hollywood is Finally Over Method Acting by Emma Nolan April 22, 2022 https://www.newsweek.com/why-hollywood-finally-over-method-acting-1700143?amp=1