“You have to have absolute arrogance to think you can run a mile faster than anyone who’s ever lived; and then you have to have the absolute humility to actually do it.” - Herb Elliot.
Actors should think arrogantly, but act with great humility.
People are afraid of the word arrogance. They are afraid of being perceived as arrogant by other people. Arrogance is considered as an exaggerated sense of our own importance or abilities. And people are afraid that others will think they think themselves important or special.And Heaven forbid we think ourselves as special.
Why? Because we are social creatures, we have required the cooperation of others to help us survive since we walked on all fours. Our greatest fears surround social exclusion. Being perceived as arrogant, consciously separating ourselves from the rest of the tribe, might lead to our social exclusion. It is an ancient fear, coming deep from the amygdala, the most primal part of our brain. It is ancient, and in this case, useless.
I am not advocating you becoming an arrogant person. I certainly don’t want you to cultivate arrogance in your behaviour. I am advocating you think arrogantly.
It reminds me of that incredible quote by Marianne Williamson, although made famous by Nelson Mandela:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be… Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you”
You must not play small. If you want to achieve BIG things in your life.DO. NOT. PLAY. SMALL.
Say to yourself what you want to be, have the arrogance, the ambition or the balls, to say what you want to be in your life and then have the absolute conviction and humbleness to carry it through.
And do not listen to those who would tell you otherwise. Their insecurity is not a reason to play small. If people exclude you because you want to achieve something in your life, then it’s time to make a decision. Do you want to live a life with your choices dictated to you by the insecure and jealous of your desire to better yourself? No matter how much they you love them, their insecurity will keep you small. Surround yourself with those who believe you can.
In a 2002 study of mental toughness in exceptional performers, two of the key attributes for success were listed as:
- Unshakeable belief in ability
- Unshakeable belief in possessing unique qualities and abilities.
To achieve great things in your life, you are going to need to THINK of yourself as exceptional. You MUST have an exaggerated BURNING belief in yourself and your abilities.
And then you must act with great humility. You must be willing to arrive early, stay late, sweep the floor, skim your knees, and at times sacrifice all else. You must be willing to make an attempt, fuck it up, try again, fail again, pick yourself up bloody and tired without feeling sorry for yourself and come back to do it again tomorrow.
To support this slog, you have to THINK arrogantly, you have to cultivate the belief that you CAN. But at the same time, you must BEHAVE with great humility too.
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To You, the Best
Mark Westbrook is the Head Coach at Acting Coach Scotland