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Several months ago, I was invited to a party for a man that was getting ready to launch a book. He was going on a tour of sorts, trying to get influencers to speak positively about it before it came out. It was a small dinner that had been organized at Spaggo in Beverly Hills and there were some interesting people there – a few talk show hosts, some people from the movie “The Secret” and several Hollywood types (agents, producers and so forth).
Most were lured to the event due to the promise that various famous people would be there and the promise of a free dinner.
The most interesting person I met was a psychic who worked for the State Department. She had just come back from a tour in Afghanistan where she was charged with predicting events before they happened. She was well dressed, professional and looked like a lawyer – not a psychic. She hinted that she was paid a great deal of money for this skill. I’d never met a professional psychic like this before. I asked her for her number so I could check in later about what was going to happen in my life.
The man with the book told his life story. He had spent a lot of time in prison for some mafia-related crimes when he was younger (car thefts as part of a car theft ring, I believe). He had formerly run a giant empire of real estate schools where he had apparently made hundreds of millions of dollars scamming people by promising them various riches if they got into the real estate business. The government found the schools fraudulent and shut them down and took all of his money (except his hidden money).
His wife left him.
He had become addicted to cocaine and alcohol and spent several months in rehab in a very expensive rehab center in Hawaii.
After getting out of rehab, he started travelling the world looking for the meaning of life. The book he had written was his understanding and distillation of what life means garnered from his hidden Swiss bank account tour of the world.
He was very large, muscular, and appeared to have had a lot of plastic surgery. In addition, he was charismatic, even though I was not sure what his conclusions were! His delivery of the material in the book was far more interesting than what the content of it might have been. I noticed that while discussing various insights he had, he plucked what appeared to be a few fake tears from his eyes.
At one point we took a break and I went to the bathroom. I was standing up in the dimly lit bathroom peeing at a urinal. The man had gone into a stall next to me and I could hear him pulling what seemed like a lot of toilet paper out of a roll. I was not sure what he needed so much toilet paper for.
“Harrison …” he said. “Are you really happy? I mean can you stand there today and tell me you are happy?”
Since I had initiated no conversation whatsoever with him, and did not even realize he knew my name, I was a bit taken back. I pondered this question while making sure not to pee on my leg.
“I’m not sure,” I told him.
The first part of the event was held in a dining room where the man could deliver his pitch about the book. The second part of the meeting occurred in an area of the restaurant where waiters brought around various appetizers and food to all of us as we stood around.
I found myself standing next to the man’s assistant at some point. She had a few strong drinks in her. Like him, she was from Florida and was traveling around with him. When I started speaking with her, she seemed to think I was flirting with her and started telling me stuff I did not think I should be aware of.
“He is not interested in any of this stuff,” she told me. “This is all about getting people to sign up for his coaching and other programs. He’s going to make millions training people how to be happy,” she told me.
“You mean this is all about money?” I asked.
“Of course it is. He’s barred by the government from doing anything related to real estate, securities and other stuff. Coaching people how to be happy and find themselves spiritually is not something he is prohibited from, though. That’s why he is doing this. It’s his next big business.”
Later in the evening, I spoke to the man. He told me how the government had taken away his jets and how at one point he had been worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I paid $48,000,000 cash for one jet at the height of my business,” he told me. “I used to spend the weekend in Rio.”
None of it seemed very spiritual to me. When I spoke with him about going to rehab, he told me that he had a 3,500 square foot bedroom at a mansion in Hawaii where the rehab was. He also told me he’d rehabbed with several well-known people whose names I would recognize.
I met a couple of other interesting people. One guy, a success coach, told me I could talk to him on the phone 90 minutes a week for $200,000 a year.
“For that price, I would be thinking about you and your issues 90 minutes a week,” he told me.
He said he had attended some program in spiritual psychology at an unaccredited school called the University of Santa Monica.
“Are you serious?” I asked him. “Do people actually pay that?”
He then proceeded to tell me he had more work than he could handle.
As I was leaving, I met an acting coach and he gave me his card. A few weeks previously I had spoken with the CEO of a large business company who wanted me to start speaking to business audiences of thousands of people around the world about how to do various things with their websites.
Since I do not have a ton of experience with public speaking at this level, I thought maybe an acting coach could help me. I resolved to meet with the acting coach to work on my public speaking skills so I could confidently speak in front of huge audiences.
For some strange reason, when I left that evening I felt pretty good. It was interesting meeting someone like the author, the psychic, the acting coach, the high-priced success coach and a few other characters I ran across.
When I got home that night, I opened an advance copy of the book that the man had given me. I read the first few pages and they said something like this:
This book has set up a huge movement. All over the world, people have been flocking to get the book’s intensive one-on-one coaching program and people are mobbing our website for the classes and other services the book offers.
What was so interesting to me about this, of course, was that none of this could be true because the book had not even come out yet. The man was preaching transformation to other people – but even in his message was his own transformation: To a guru and author of sorts sharing a message that was going to make him rich as well.
A few days later, I was sitting in the acting teacher’s class somewhere in the Valley in Los Angeles.
I’d never been to an acting class.
The class was inside a storefront in a strip mall. It had maybe 50 theater seats in it and a small stage. I came in a bit late and I had to sit in the back because there were no seats. The audience of acting students was literally mesmerized by the teacher as he marched back and forth on stage shouting and emphasizing such statements as:
-You are in show business and need a quality product
-Most people think the past is not the future
-Most people hate change. Those who do not change will not move with the times
-The more visible you become, the more vulnerable to criticism you become
-You do not want attention because you have low self-worth
-Average people find the pain – extraordinary people find the lesson
-Crisis is an opportunity and a possibility –crisis is an opportunity to grow
-You need to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary
-Bring out the best in others
-You need to get people to join your team
-If you do not change, you are going to have the same life as before
The audience of professional and wannabe actors – people of all ages– ate all of this up. They had all paid $50 at the door for a three hour class.
At one point, the teacher started talking about how he had met a black girl in a line at a grocery store and invited her to class. He invited her on stage.
“Where did you sleep last night?” he asked her.
“In my car,” she said.
“How much money do you have to your name?”
“Three dollars,” she said.
The girl had apparently left her husband and baby in Oklahoma and come to Los Angeles with no plans. She met the acting teacher in the grocery store and decided she wanted to be an actress now. The acting teacher was allowing her to come to class for free.
“Who wants to help this girl?” he asked the audience.
Just about the entire class reached into their pocket to give her some money. I think I gave $100. I learned later that the teacher gave the $50 each of the students had paid to go to the class to the girl later. She received almost three thousand dollars from everyone and the teacher that day.
Everyone was really trying to help her grow and become a better person. The teacher cared more about helping her than his own welfare. He really wanted to help the girl grow.
I saw this and realized that what I was witnessing was a group of people who were good.
I started attending the acting classes each week. I was never that interested in acting; however, there was something very genuine in the entire exercise. I could see that the teacher was actually interested in helping people and that he was not a “false Messiah” like the man with the book. Instead, he really stood for something and genuinely wanted to make people become better people.
I also saw the transformation in his students. Over the course of several weeks I saw people becoming more self confident, losing weight, becoming happier and becoming more energized and authentic when they were on stage. Some people stopped coming to class when they received various parts on television series, plays and so forth. What he was teaching was working.
But there was something even more significant that I learned about the more I got into everything:
I was trying to understand the teacher’s message. I really did not understand it until I had gone to several of his classes. It boiled down to one simple thing: You need to increase the value of other people.
All around this man, people were improving and becoming better due to the things he was saying. He was propounding a positive message to people that was increasing their value. Because he was increasing their value, they were able to increase other people’s value.
More importantly, the people around him started treating themselves like quality products.
The best actors, agents, producers and others have the ability to increase the value of the people they are working with and speaking to. The man with the book was masquerading as someone who could increase the value of the people he was working with – but he was really trying to take from people.
Since meeting this acting coach, I’ve met many of the most famous and well-known producers, casting directors, actors and others in Hollywood. What is interesting about these people is that when you speak to them they never talk about themselves. Instead, they all want to know about you. They ask questions about you because they want you to feel good and they steer the conversation to you – they only want to know about you.
The acting teacher was actually creating better people. He was making them more valuable.
What is so interesting about Hollywood is how clear it is that people are products. As people in the teacher’s classes realized they were products, their value increased and what they offered others increased.
How do you know if you are a quality product? Make no mistake about it: You are a product. Wherever you work, wherever you are, you are a product and you are for sale. If you are looking for a friend or mate, you are a product. What quality is your product?
You can recognize a quality product in the following ways:
First, how well do you treat your product? In the acting world, I am amazed at how well people treat their products and the things they do for their products. It is about much more than just being a good actor. It is about how you eat, how you exercise and how you take care of yourself in all respects. It is about how you sleep and what you put into your product.
When I started meeting people in the acting world, it was not uncommon for people to spend as much money on nutritionists each month as they were spending on their apartments. If people drank alcohol, they typically drank very little. Hardly anyone used drugs. In short, people were taking the very best care of themselves that they could.
When you think about how well you treat a product, it is no different than how a store treats a product. A store selling an expensive product may put it on a raised shelf to look very exclusive and untouchable. They may keep the product under lock and key. The more important the product is, the better it is treated. For example, it may be handled with silk gloves. The way the product is treated is indicative of its value.
Second, how much are you investing in your product? When you are trying to be great, you need to invest a lot in your product. You need to give it education, the best foods, the best teachers, and the best experiences.
People who want to be great actors put a ton of time and effort into making sure that they’ve invested everything they possibly can into their products. They spend a lot of money on special wardrobes. They get their hair done at expensive salons. They buy expensive skin creams and do everything they can to make themselves incredible. Many, I have found, even use psychics to advise themselves about the future and their future prospects.
The point is that if you have a product you need to invest a lot into it to make it exceptional. Most actors do this and they spend everything they can on anything that can make themselves better and more valuable.
Third, what are you surrounding your product with? If you have a good product, you are going to surround that product with other good products. The best actors are constantly seeking to surround themselves with people who are better than them so they can get better as well. They avoid gossip and negativity. They avoid being around people who have self-destructive behaviors. They avoid negative people and situations.
If you value yourself, you will surround yourself with people who help you get better and who support your personal growth. If you do not value yourself, you may surround yourself with people who drag you down. If you value yourself, you will hold out for the sort of friends and acquaintances and social situations that will improve you – not hurt you.
Fourth, are you making sure your product measures up to today’s standards? What makes a good product one day could be irrelevant at a later time. You need to always ensure your product is measuring up and do everything you possibly can to have a good product at all times.
Making sure you have a good product means you never stop learning or trying. You should always try to better yourself and never stop growing.
I have a heard a story a few times about Charlize Theron, the actress. At the height of her career, filming a major motion picture, she would still attend acting lessons each week. While in itself this may not sound that significant, it shows that she was someone who never stopped trying to improve – even at the height of her career.
In order to be the sort of person you are capable of being, you need to increase the value of other people. While it sounds somewhat crude to say, the fact is that you are a product. In order to really increase the value of the people and businesses you are working with, you need to treat yourself like a quality product.