It’s becoming a Saturday tradition around here for me to share my self-improvement articles and essays. It’s the slowest day of the week, and I realize not everyone feels they need improving.
For example, some people have been Internet trolls since the earliest days of the web and still haven’t snapped out of it. Let us discourage them, but with compassion, not anger. They are the angry ones. What people like that don’t understand, or are incapable of implementing, is that their actions formulate their structure of reality. The Internet becomes a place of deception because they chose to make it that way. The Internet, and all the world, is simply mirroring back everything that’s inside of them.
The latest entry to our new Level Up category is a back-page essay that just came out in a new magazine called Veni; it was a pretty cool project, as I actually edited the whole magazine. It’s the relaunch of an existing property, published by a guy I worked for a dozen years ago. It’s a fashion and celebrity lifestyle magazine for women, with the fresh angle of being about the process of making it in Hollywood. So more on the talent side than the celebrity gossip side. I interviewed a number of ingenues, and got to edit exclusive interviews with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman, which was pretty cool. Somewhat less cool — though it required me to keep mine — was being a man editing a Hollywood magazine for women while the Harvey Weinstein/#MeToo drama was unfolding. I hope I struck the right tone and balance.
Here’s Cate Blanchett — which we all know, or should know, from “The Talented Mr. Ripley” — checking it out:She’s not reading the back page, but perhaps she got to it eventually. For the final word, I wrote a piece on the theme that in life attitude determines everything. Which has a lot to do with what you believe about yourself. Which in turn largely fuels the “vibe” you give off to others, which then determines what life appears to be giving you. Basically all the stuff I’ve been reading and thinking about the past year.
Below is the text. Peace be with you, brothers. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
To make it and start living the dream, start by asking yourself what you believe
By Christian Chensvold
Veni Magazine, Spring-Summer 2018
How can two people in the same place at the same time doing the same thing have completely opposite experiences? And what about not just two people, but a hundred? It’s quite simple, and is a crucial life lesson I learned on a film set years ago, and have never forgotten.
I was newly arrived in LA, dreaming of using my one connection — a buddy budding as a writer/director — to try and sell the development rights to a sci-fi comedy story I’d published. Instead I got my lucky break for something else entirely, and was hired as a dance choreographer for an indie film called “Swing” starring Jacqueline Bissett. There were nearly a hundred extras brought in from the local dance community, and it was clear after a couple of long days that half of them were miserable and half were having the time of their life. What could explain this disparity? Simple: attitude. The big shots and prima donnas thought the movie should revolve around them, complete with solo routines, opening credits, and a sizable slice of the tiny budget. Meanwhile the others were happy just to be there, even taking vacation time from work to experience being on a film set and doing the thing they love in front of the camera.
The ancient Persian philosopher Rumi uttered a nugget worth remembering: “I became clever and decided to change to change the world. Then I became wise and decided to change myself.” The teachings of the world’s great mystics and sages is increasingly being substantiated by scientific research into the brain: specifically, that the inner reality of our thoughts, feelings and attitudes largely determines our experience of the outer world. Go into a situation with a bad attitude and you’re bound to experience negative emotions such as anger, resentment and bitterness. But go in with a mind open to exploration and discovery and an entirely different set of brain chemistry is activated.
That’s why it’s so important to believe in yourself: it will actually determine how your life unfolds. If you come to Hollywood full of self-doubt about your talent and convinced the industry is an impenetrable fortress (think Jon Favreau’s character, to keep things swingin’, in “Swingers”), it will become embodied in your posture and facial expression, and people will come to doubt your talent just as much as you do. On the other hand, if you radiate confidence in your craft and know it’s just a matter of time before it’s recognized, then the drawbridge is likely to be lowered with an invitation to come inside.
You’ve probably heard about the so-called “law of attraction,” that if you just visualize the things you want — Academy Award, star on the Walk Of Fame, island in the Bahamas — the “universe” (or at least Universal Studios) will grant your wish. But I don’t think that’s quite the right way of thinking about it. You’re not wishing for the outside world — which is beyond your control — to magically drop things in your lap. Instead, your visualization should be focused on the transformation of your inner world, of believing that you have all the skills you need to do great work, and can meet any challenge set before you. It’s not easy being broke and going from one audition to the next without a callback, waiting for your first break. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and whether you believe you can make it or believe you can’t, you’ll eventually find our you’re right.
If you study how to transform your inner world, the fruit of your labors will be the awe-inspiring experience of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, in which the world becomes like a dream in which everything is symbolic and seems to happen for a reason.
As the idea for this essay took shape in my mind, I was on my way to an event in Manhattan where everyone would know me, and had been feeling woozy all day. A shrill, cranky voice inside said I wasn’t up for this and should turn back home and crawl into bed. But then another voice, a deep, reassuring baritone originating in the center of my chest, said I’d manage just fine if only I’d believe — you know, like in the essay I was planning to write.
I looked up and saw a cafe, and figured I’d pop in for a cup of tea to see me through, and the song playing was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
So take a positive attitude, believe in yourself, transform your inner world to change the outer, and soon you’ll be living a waking dream, with the starring role.