Dad's Life Lessons

I stole this blog from my Dad.  

Kind of.

His “blog” was actually a hand-written letter he wrote to my brother who was about to start college as a pre-med student.

The anniversary of my dad’s death is on the 29th, and it's always comforting to read this letter. I love reading his words and “hearing” his voice, even though the letter wasn’t meant for me.  

The letter has multiple references toward being pre-med, of course, but I have added alternate ideas in brackets. But I’ve left most of it unchanged because his points have remarkable relevance for just about anyone’s path in life, including as actors.

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I know this looks silly – writing you a letter – but there are so many things I want to tell you, and if I did it in person, it would come across as a boring lecture, and you will get enough of those this fall.   I don’t claim special qualifications for writing this letter, other than the fact that my 56 years of life experience must count for something.

1. Create a demand for yourself.  

This sounds like a marketing concept, but it’s true.  Why should someone or some situation favor you, pick you, select you, demand you, over the thousands of intelligent, attractive, likable, talented human beings in your same situation?  Give them a reason why. Educate, train, teach yourself something that will somehow make your face look a little different from the multitude of good-looking faces around you.

2. People only really care about themselves.  

This sounds cruel, but it also is true and may be one of the last and most difficult lessons one learns.  The only exception here is probably members of a close-knit and loving family.  Deep down, everyone innately knows (possibly unconsciously) that basically, they are in competition with everyone else, including those they would count as close friends.  Stripping away all superficial layers, when one has to make a decision of profound importance, they will always make it with their welfare in mind, not yours. This is not to say that people are basically scum.  All I’m saying is examine everyone and everything closely – you will only have a (small) handful of true and selfless, devoted friends in life.  All others may be fun and exciting to know, but when the chips are down, they’re thinking “me” and not “you”.

3. Your life’s motto should be “No Excuses.”

Take responsibility for everything that happens to you – good and bad.  If you really objectively and honestly think about it, almost everything that happens to and around you, you will have some control over, even if small.  Therefore, learn from these experiences, and move on.  Mistakes are in reality a learning device – just don’t make the same one too many times.

4. There are no “right” and “wrong” choices.  

Only choices, period.  Once you have examined the situation intelligently, then choose, and work to make the best of the choice you have made.  There is no such thing as fate – you will never know what would have happened had you made the other choice, so leave it, forget it, and work to make yourself happy with your decision.  In general, you will find that the choice that makes you happiest is the one that answers the question, “What is best for me in this situation?”.

 

5. Create, don’t wait.  

I kinda like this one (made it up myself).  In other words, don’t wait for things to come to and happen to you, but instead be the one to do, create, and cause those things in the first place.  Act, don’t just react.

6. Take advantage of everything you can in life.

Experience as much as possible – this is the only real way to learn.

 

7. Don’t be intimidated by being pre-med [or of your goals].  

Picture yourself 10-15 yrs from now – what you will be and how you will be living.  If you inwardly and honestly can really see yourself as a doctor [or whatever else you want to do or become], then there is no question you can be one [you can do it, or at least get pretty damn close].  If you inwardly and honestly see yourself as something else, that’s fine – then work towards that goal.  The “what” is not as important as having a goal, any goal. I was a B- student in my [high school] class of roughly 350.  To the best of my knowledge, only 4 or 5 of us became doctors, and there were many, many who were better students than myself.  At one point, in college, I just said to myself “this is what I’m going to do, damn it, and nothing is going to stop me”.    

8. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from following your dreams.

Well – all the bytes in my mind are used up – I can’t really think of a single additional thing to say, except I love you –

Dad

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Pretty special, right?  

If I have one action item for you because of this letter, it's #5: Create. Don't wait.   To me, it means that you need to stop waiting to START following your dreams.  

No more, "I need to get new headshots, lose more weight, find an agent, take more classes....before I start looking for an agent, submit to casting directors, etc..."  

No.  

Just start.  Make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes. Start again.  

Create. Don't wait.   

P.S. I would love to know what you're going to START doing. Hit reply and let me know so I can cheer you on.