“Try to look at your weakness and convert it
into your strength. That’s success.”
Zig Ziglar

Several months ago I wrote a newsletter about the experience of failure, specifically describing my experiences with it in theater (Lessons of a Locked Door). In that article I promised to share the key to this particular locked door once I found it, and today I realized the time has come.

To clarify, I am speaking of the experience of putting a lot of effort and discipline into a goal, only to have it fail at every turn. I know from my work with clients how common a problem this is, and how it will show up for people in different ways in different places. For some career is always easy, but relationships remain a constant difficulty, or health, or something else.

I believe my discovery can be applied to any stuck area and start to create progress at least equal to the effort being made.

It starts with feeling “high”.

I’ve spoken before about the feeling of “high” being a reaction to being stuck in some way. The idea is there is something solid and heavy in the unconscious that doesn’t move easily, and your energy bounces off of it and goes up (where it’s not useful) when it comes in contact with it. Any time something feels like it might actually elicit change, the energy of change flies upward, becoming very present in conscious thoughts and emotions while the unconscious locks down on its problems, laying a future landmine that will crash the high and start the process over again.

Using myself as an example, any time I had an audition that went well I would buzz with a level of excitement that could keep me up all night. This kind of excitement is not the result of success but of desperation. It’s wanting something and not believing it’s possible, so when it starts to seem possible it elicits an eagerness that’s out of proportion to the prospective gain.

If there’s been an ongoing issue for you, you likely have “breakthrough” moments where it feels like you’re finally making progress, only to have it fall apart after a few days or weeks.

My discovery is about what to do when the high hits, so it actually yields the results it promises.

Normally we try to channel it into action, figuring out what to do now that the thing we want is within reach. The folly of this effort is that it’s rooted in the belief that it’s not really possible and ultimately sabotages itself.

What I learned to do instead is send this energy down, through my feet, about six feet into the Earth (a practice based in Qi Gong). This is based on the premise that the further down the body one goes the further we go into the unconscious. By sending the excited energy downward, I viewed it as watering the deepest roots of my unconscious with the force of change.

How to do this involves a combination of visualization, breath, and physical practice. You can combine these according to what works best for you. For me I do extra well when in a state of physical discomfort, so the first time I did it I walked in the cold rain for about a mile imagining drawing the excited energy downward with each inhale, and anchoring it deep in the Earth with each exhale.

Another way to do it is with the same inhale/exhale practice, standing in horse stance and moving the hands down the body in combination with the breath.

The most important factor is the visualization with breath, followed by a physical action or stance that helps facilitate the intention. You can play around with this idea.

The results for me so far have been profound. An element of effortlessness has begun to show up around acting that I’ve never experienced before. In my Voice Acting class I went from failing to execute basics in the midterm (despite a mountain of effort that went into it), to “shocking” my teacher with the nuance and range of my voice at the Final (which involved far less effort).

Shortly after I connected by accident with the leader of a theater company in Portland, who said “it’s nice to see a really real actor”. This sentence is in direct contrast to when a teacher told me less than a year ago, “you’re not a real actor”. To me, the similarity of phrasing is not in any way a coincidence.

I now work as an actor part time at OHSU, playing a patient for doctors in training. Many actors throughout Portland do this as well, and I’m essentially being paid for networking opportunities.

The next time you start to get excited about something – a money making opportunity, a new relationship, a job interview – try breathing it down and in. Send the energy of success into your roots, and it will guide you into successful actions your conscious mind can’t fathom or control.