One Role

I was casting about for support structures again, and I happened on acting classes in the area.

I believe in performance.    I believe that increased performance requires performance.   I believe we get to communicate who we are and what we have to offer in the world by sharpening our performance, making it more focused, authentic, compelling and accessible.   I believe that too many people don’t consider their performance in the world and by doing that, they give into their own myopia, neediness and rationalizations.

I don’t need to learn how to shift roles, though, how to improv a quick sketch character, how to take the words of an author and the vision of a director and embody a marionette they imagined.   That’s not my challenge.

I have just one role that I have to hone and master, one character that I have to own.

I need to have a public version of me.

The private version of me is smart, sharp and well drawn.   I’ve created and mastered lots of material.

The public version, well, that’s still a freaking mess.

I recently saw some of Callan Rush‘s educational marketing on how to Wealth Through Workshops.   Her point is clear: genius is nothing, is unheard, unless you can attract people to it.    Unless you can identify and satisfy a need, solve a problem and hone your performance to expand your base and your resources, you are just a lone voice in the wilderness.

Of course, most of her clients aren’t visionaries, people doing their own thinking.   Most are missionaries, who take the classic lessons they have found and speak them, again and again in their own voice.   These people want to be evangelists not theologians.

Ms. Rush teaches you how to do the marketing work that is required in an age where cable shopping channel presenters are the master orators of our time.

I know how to pitch.   I just got an e-mail asking for an interview on our success at Startup Weekend to promote the upcoming event.   That was my product, and my part of the pitch had the judges cooing out loud.

I don’t know how to pitch myself, though.   I use a team to hone pitches, and there is no Callan team, none at all.  It’s just me.

From years of challenge, I know that I do not see myself clearly.

Sure, I have the old performance down, taking my sister through a cinematic experience yesterday as I shared my story walking through a busy mall.   (Walking and talking is very useful when talking about difficult matters because you don’t end up sitting in a pool of your own pain.)

It’s almost impossible for someone presenting as trans to see themselves clearly because  the “white noise” (as Ms. Rush calls it) in other people’s head becomes overwhelming.   Even they don’t know what they are feeling as they experience you, which creates a very slippery and unstable audience experience.   That’s why Janet Mock does third grade and Southern Comfort The Musical took all the real humanity out of my dear friend Lola.

You end up playing not one role but a different role to every observer, filtered through their own expectations, prejudices and fears.   That makes life a very exhausting minefield, where you are always tensed for the “third gotcha.”

The one role I need to master is Public Callan, that version of myself who is focused, authentic, compelling and accessible.

I fail at that role for a simple reason: Private Callan is still well and truly inside me, wounded, unsure, terrified.

When they made Double Trouble with Jean and Liz, the Sagal twins, they understood this problem.   When playing the twin most like themselves — the outgoing one or the introverted one — the girls would become self concious and wooden.   The solution was to switch the casting so the girls played against type, disconnecting their character’s choices from their inner personality.    This freed them up to take the bounces, knowing that the audience was not laughing at them but rather at their role.

What I ask for, over and over again, is for people to say yes to me.   I don’t mind if they say no to some things, but it is vital those nos are offset with affirmations, acknowledgements, yeses.    For people who are not conscious of their own personal performance, this is very hard to give.

There is just one role I need to master to get on with my life: Public Callan.   I am aware that many people think that should be an obvious and easy choice, but I assure you that for me, it is not.   It is a real and profound marketing challenge.

How are we supported past pain and fear to create a persona that can stand up on stage, be visible and authentic, compelling and safe, strong and resilient to serve the cause of getting new messages out into the world and building networks that deliver what people need?

How do find courage to create that public role — that product — that lets us return the gift of a lifetime?