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  • Nick Maccarone

    Nick Maccarone is an actor, author, and speaker. He has appeared on Scandal, Law and Order: SVU, Elementary, and Unforgettable. Since releasing his book To The Prospective Artist: Lessons From An Unknown Actor, Nick has been invited to speak at universities, conferences, and workshops all across the United States. His message revolves around The 6 Principles that empower artists and actors to live a life and not just a career. In the future, Nick plans on growing his To The Prospective Artist brand to revolutionize how artists live their lives.
How I Learned the Importance of Emotional Intelligence (Hint: the Hard Way)
Emotional Health

How I Learned the Importance of Emotional Intelligence (Hint: the Hard Way)

During my last year of drama school my class was paid a visit by a gentleman asked to speak about the business of acting. I remember all 17 of us sitting at full attention, furiously jotting notes in an effort to soak up as much as we could on how to break into the fiercely competitive world of storytelling. And though I appreciated what the seasoned casting director had to say, there was a part of me that thought it all a bit silly. For three years all I cared about was improving my craft as an actor. The notion of having to network or invest in business cards wasn’t even on my radar. My concerns rarely went beyond memorizing a Shakespeare sonnet or scrounging for rehearsal space. All I wanted to do was act, and if possible, get paid to do so. I figured talent and hard work were enough to thrive in this industry. I believed with the right focus and preparation I could simply will my way to the top. But just two years after that workshop I found myself sitting on a park bench in a complete daze. I felt like I’d been sucker punched. “We’ve decided to no longer represent you,” the voice on the other end said. “But good luck.” How I Learned the Importance of Emotional Intelligence (Hint: the Hard Way) If there’s anything I’ve learned in pursuing an extraordinarily difficult dream and now entrepreneurship, it’s that your “why” must be sound, your “how” flexible, and your sense of self-awareness heightened. I later realized one of the reasons I’d been let go was because I had failed to cultivate a business mindset. Sitting by the phone for the perfect part to magically land in my lap apparently wasn’t enough. I needed to up my game. Opportunity comes to those who mobilize Much as changed since that spring afternoon. Today, I no longer wait for opportunities but mobilize to create them. I also understand the importance of diversifying one’s knowledge in their chosen field. I have learned to leverage my strengths while being a shrewd judge of my shortcomings. And in the process, I’ve even grown to appreciate those weaknesses. In other words, my understanding of the value of emotional intelligence has liberated me while making the work more enjoyable. You don't have to be great at everything The truth is you’re not going to be good at everything, and that’s okay. I once asked by an exasperated supervisor if I was “sent by the enemy,” when I failed yet again to grasp the system at the homeless shelter he ran. Being moved by rousing speeches and fascinated by the world of foreign policy didn’t mean I was cut out for politics, as I learned during an internship in my mid-30s. And you can bet the cost of a ballpark beer that I’ll never hit a baseball out of the Oakland Coliseum. READ: Know Thyself: Why Self-Awareness Is the Starting Point for Your Goals Today I’m okay with those realities, while just a few years ago any talk of limitations would have compelled me to work harder. I choose to focus on my strengths, while learning the skills needed to grow both personally and professionally. As a result, my efforts have become more deliberate and focused. Today, it’s so tempting to believe our trajectories must be congruent with the ones getting all the headlines. Spend a few minutes on any social media platform and it’s nearly impossible to sidestep news of the next billion-dollar start-up or rocket launch, which seem designed to make you feel like you aren’t working hard enough. But wanting to emulate someone’s journey because of the notoriety it draws isn’t enough. If there’s anything I’ve learned in pursuing an extraordinarily difficult dream and now entrepreneurship, it’s that your “why” must be sound, your “how” flexible, and your sense of self-awareness heightened. READ: Mind the Comparison Trap: Why Life's Race Is Only Against Yourself Unfortunately, it’s not hip to admit we’re not brilliant at everything. We’re led to believe failure should be avoided at all costs and that if we can’t be great at something it’s not worth pursuing. But the truth is there is profound courage in vulnerability. The ability to look within and assess how we can best make an impact requires a rare kind of honest introspection. And knowing ourselves helps us better understand how to leverage our gifts to create more value for others. The tricky part is trying to figure out just how to do that. Failure is wisdom masquerading as discouragement In an interview with Larry King, serial entrepreneur and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk was asked how one learns self-awareness. “I don’t know,” he said. “But I know it’s damn important.” So, if one can’t be taught how to best assess their strengths and take ownership of their weaknesses, what do we do? In my experience, the key has been learning to fall in love with failure. What I learned in an industry where you’re told “No” virtually 99% of the time is that not getting what you want is not a testament to your self-worth or even your talent. It’s merely feedback; another tool to assess where you are and where you need to be. READ: Embrace Failure to Learn the Things That Success Won't Teach If you can hone the ability to not take failure personally, it can work in your favor. First, it can be a stepping-stone to building resilience and in the process a singular type of character. One learns to not take exclusion as a character flaw, or worse, let it inhibit forward progress. Second, massive failure can help clarify a new path you may have never considered or even realized you were equipped to take. My acting career might not have panned out exactly as planned, but being trained in the art of storytelling has supplied me with the tools to share my message through writing, speaking, and consulting. But I would have never made the shift if my thinking had been inflexible or if I hadn’t been attentive to my sense of self. Allow your curiosity to be constantly piqued, particularly when it comes to your self. And though it would take several lifetimes to simply scratch the surface of what makes us whole, it is still a noble and worthy pursuit. Recognizing our limitations is key, but through trial and error we may even discover that we’re not as limited as we thought, especially in arenas we have yet to consider. We all have something of value to contribute, and no matter how long it takes to find, it’s worth striving for.


The 3 P's: Why Travel Matters for Your Personal Growth

A few weeks ago I sat down in a busy coffee shop, cracked open my laptop, and decided to Google “Most underrated places worth visiting.” To my surprise, Granada, Nicaragua came up twice. Images of the Spanish colonial-style buildings, awash in orange clay and pale yellows, were all I needed to figure out the next place to have my passport stamped. The oldest city in Central America seemed to be calling my name. The most common question asked when I shared the news of my impromptu adventure was, “Why?” Some friends seemed dumbfounded, while others were unsettled by my decision to visit the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. I received the same suspicious glances when I set out to see Haiti, Nepal, and a small village in South Africa. Still, I took their misgivings in stride, convinced each corner of the globe offered worthwhile experiences and lessons to be learned. Whether you decide to see the Roman Pantheon, the Great Wall of China, or venture just beyond your zip code, traveling matters a great deal for your personal growth. And as far as I can see there are three main reasons why -- I call them "the three P's." The 3 P's: Why Travel Matters for Your Personal Growth One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. - Henry Miller 1. People Four days into my trip I met up with the uncle of a friend back in California. After a quick breakfast in downtown Granada, I returned to find an older gentleman milling around the front of the house I was staying at. He stood about 5"6', sported a thick flannel shirt, and proudly wore a bright red hat with the Canadian maple leaf sprawled across the crown. “I’m Raymundo,” he said before offering a hug. Minutes later, he whisked me away to a small beach town called El Transito -- the kind of place you hear about, where making it hinges on navigating choppy back roads and being able to forfeit fluffy towels and mints on your pillow. El Transito is so remote that many of the locals in Granada have never even heard of it. But during our time together I learned a great deal about the man I’d eventually refer to as “Uncle Ray.” He regaled me with stories of his childhood in Managua, raising two boys, and the highs and lows of being a pediatrician in a country with a wildly imperfect health care system. We talked sports, politics, and all the places we’d visited between us. Each time I took at peek at the driver’s seat Raymundo was beaming, as it dawned on me in our two hours together I’d never seen the man not smile. Soon enough we were sitting in a cozy little hideaway watching the waves rise and fall off in the distance as a hot plate of fish and chips sat in front of us. We talked in between bites as I looked off to see a few patches of ominous-looking clouds racing towards us. “I think it’s going to rain,” I told him. Uncle Ray just smiled and took another carefree sip of his beer. This guy’s got it all figured out, I thought. After an email or two I’d met a person from another country with a unique view of the world. My journey had allowed me to challenge the assumptions I held about a community and its people. And through our connection, my life had become enlightened and far richer. 2. Patience Years ago, I paid homage to the land my great-grandfather left for America: Sicily. While thumbing through a Lonely Planet guidebook one hot afternoon, I searched for a bus to take me to a beach just outside of Syracuse. For nearly 30 minutes I watched my driver-to-be argue with a man I gathered was known in town for stirring up a little trouble. I was hot, tired, and after a long train ride anxious to soak my feet in the Ionian Sea. But after a few minutes a strange thing began to happen -- my frustration gave way to a sense of peace. I realized there was nothing I could do about this frustrating, and in hindsight, rather comical episode. I’d experienced similar tests before in various parts of the world. Whether waiting for the power to be turned back on in Nepal, water to be restored in South Africa, or for a seemingly unending security check to move along at the Bosnia-Herzegovina border, each incident tried my patience in unique ways. Ultimately, I was nudged to consider the world didn’t work on my time line. I learned to stop prioritizing the urgent over the important and started to look beyond my own needs. 3. Perspective After Granada, I traveled to a popular tourist destination on Nicaragua’s southwest coast. On the way my bus weaved through narrow roads, hugging the vibrant and lush countryside of this Central American gem. It was one of the most beautiful rides I could remember. But as soon as I’d set my bag down in my hostel in San Juan del Sur, I found myself planted in front of my laptop, an all-too-familiar place. I sat impatiently waiting for the spotty WiFi to connect me to the world I was trying to unplug from. I griped and grumbled as the waves of the Pacific Ocean rose and fell literally 100 feet from my room. Fortunately, I collected myself long enough to consider the scooter ride I’d taken the day before in Granada, and the depths of poverty I’d casually rode past. I was complaining about email when 24 hours before I saw children wearing tattered clothes and covered in dirt. I was reminded that someone somewhere will always be facing greater challenges than me, and though travel may not be an antidote to the world’s problems, it can offer a dose of perspective. When our awareness is heightened, our ambivalence begins to gradually erode. And through greater consciousness, we can find ways to lend a hand, however big or small. So wherever you choose to venture off to, remember to protect your curiosity, to be bold but not reckless, and flexible enough in your thinking to reap the treasures this remarkable world has to offer.

It's Easy to Criticize, but How Are You Contributing?

It's Easy to Criticize, but How Are You Contributing?

I once had a friend who could convince me the world was going to pieces just by how he said hello. He always saw the downside of up and wondered why he couldn’t find his path in life. Each time I encouraged him to look at things in a more positive light he’d tell me, “I’m just being realistic.” Over time, I didn’t like who I was becoming when we spent time together. I started talking badly about people I cared about, criticized just about anything under the sun, and strayed far from my core values in an attempt to placate him. Each time we parted ways I had an emotional deficit I needed to dig out of. Eventually, I had to limit our associations even though I cared about his well-being. The truth is it’s easy to criticize. Today, you can hide behind an anonymous screen name and bully people bold enough to share their voice with the world. We can hurl insults at those whose belief system challenges our own, not realizing we sever the ties to community and a part of our own spirit in the process. It's Easy to Criticize, but How Are You Contributing? When you criticize more than you contribute, your credibility begins to erode and you forfeit the value you have to offer the world. What we need more of is compassion, vulnerability, and greater consciousness. As far as I can see, there are three meaningful actions we can take to make sure we lift others up instead of cutting them down. 1. Get involved A few years after graduating from drama school, a funny thing started to happen. I found myself picking up The Economist instead of the Hollywood Reporter. I was suddenly fascinated by the world beyond the stage and curious how I could affect positive change in my community. I was also frustrated by the lack of unity and integrity I saw in our leadership. So, instead of complaining I decided to volunteer with a New York City councillor I respected. I was by far the oldest intern she’d ever seen, often mistaken for a staff member. For four months I didn’t get a dime and every morning I received marching orders from someone nearly half my age. But by swapping my pride for an open mind I forged meaningful relationships, informed myself about my city government, and learned to appreciate how difficult a job being an elected official really is. I also realized that affecting change is rooted in action and not rhetoric. The more I knew the less inclined I felt to make stale criticisms and instead focus on the positive impact I could make. 2. Praise others Before graduate school I spent a year working as a substitute teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. The days were long and never easy. By the end of the school year I’d worked with kids of all backgrounds, age groups, and grade levels. I could tell instantly which students had never been told how important they were. No matter how long my assignment in a given school I made a conscious effort to tell the kids they were doing good work and that I was proud of them. Watching how they’d light up from those simple words convinced me that praise, however seemingly inconsequential, can breathe life into a dormant spirit. A kind word or two can put an extra bounce in someone’s step, giving them the courage to put their best foot forward. And with action comes an awakening to one’s potential. 3. Seek a higher consciousness Years ago, while taking a walk with a close friend, I started to share my frustration with my acting career. I told him I’d had a tough time getting a fair shake at parts I dreamed of playing because of the lack of opportunities for people of color. It wasn’t an issue he could personally identify with in the least, but he listened without any judgment. Instead of criticizing, he sought ways to understand. He taught me if we could all look within before speaking out, the world would change overnight. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If empathy is the ability to understand another’s feelings, compassion is concern for another’s hardship, even if we’ve never shared the same experience.