Success principles we can learn from Method Acting

Talk the talk’ or ‘walk the walk’ is a popular statement I am sure you have heard before. This statements implies that if you wish to be successful you must act as if you are successful. But is it that easy?
There is a lot of truth in these clichés but those who do so without some thought are deluding themselves. Success like beauty is not skin deep.

You may have watched some episodes of The Apprentice where many aspiring leaders compete to work with Alan sugars in the UK or Donald Trump in the US. In the beginning of each new series one can but cringe as the contestants introduce themselves and trot out the lists of motivational sayings which they have gleaned from books on leadership while they strut with arrogance. It all sounds and looks so forced.
They do not come across as trustworthy leaders to say the least.

If you want to be successful, you have to start acting that way. Mouthing a few quotations is not acting, it is a childish game. The image you portray must be real. It must include all the qualities of leadership. Great leaders are not tough guys, male or female, who simply bark out orders, they are people who command the respect of others by being able to empathise with them and inspire them.

However, while you learn about success and how to get the best out of yourself you might as well start acting like the person you wish to become, because ultimately you will learn the habits of success and live by them. If you have watched other similar shows on TV, dancing, singing, ice skating or the X Factor you will have marvelled at the improvement in the contestant as the weeks go by. This is obviously due to training and learning.

Repeatedly we hear a judge say to a contestant that they must allow themselves to be the character they are portraying. When suddenly they allow themselves to feel the emotion of the part they suddenly grow into the artist they wish to be.

Success is about emotion. We cannot fake success. It won’t take long for people to notice if you are faking your expertise, skills or success. Acting the part involves adopting the emotions of success and acting through the feelings.

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Method Acting which is used by many of the great actors of our time is fundamentally doing this. The acting school of Lee Strasberg in New York is the centre of this acting method which was conceived by Stanislavski.  It involves the actor building a repertoire of their own experiences and emotions which they can use to build characters on stage. The actor will feel real emotion and as they act, the portrayal will be true to the extent to which they have achieved the precise emotion or package of emotions. The attributes of successful people can be studied, collected and used in a similar way.

A stark demonstration of people adopting roles happened in an unfortunate study at Stanford University, which had to be stopped after just six days. It took a group of emotionally stable students and divided them into two groups for the experiment. One group were to act as prison guards over the other group who were to act as their prisoners. Both groups adopted their roles so well that they became too emotionally involved; the guards too strict and the prisoners too submissive and depressed. These emotionally stable people were very quickly deeply affected by the emotions they adopted.

The trigger point for acting the part can be through adopting the physical portrayal of an emotion. A study by Ekman and Friesen, who tried to map all facial expressions, showed that if people adopted a particular facial expression for long enough, they began to feel the emotion they were portraying. This effect has been demonstrated also in other studies by people adopting the body language of a particular emotion.

It is possible to Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk, this can help us to change the way we feel and behave but it is essential to do it from deep within. We also know that practice makes perfect.

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Also published on Medium.