The Dark Side and the Power of Expectations

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of this three-part series on expectation, I offered a strong statement: In my experience, I have come to understand that expectation is both the most powerful tool we have for changing our lives for the better, and the root of everything that’s going wrong for us.   It’s  up to us to decide how we implement this tool in our own lives.   I myself in recent weeks have used the power of my expectations in both ways, positively and negatively, and reaped the rewards and results of the dominant thoughts I was thinking.

I’ve mentioned my recent experience at a casting director workshop and have touched on the positive outcome of that previously, but before I delve deeper into the things going right for me, it’s only fair that I first explore where they went wrong, and why.

A family member of mine has worked for a commercial airline, which has, over the years, allowed me the enormous blessing of being able to fly anywhere for free.   When the alternative can cost several hundred or over $1000 a pop, I am and have been in a very fortunate position in this respect, and I am extremely grateful for that.   Where I went wrong, however, was in my expectations of how my recent travel experience would unfold.   For those unfamiliar to it, this kind of traveling is called “standby,” and it involves standing by while all paying customers and those with a higher standby “rank” get on board and fill empty seats.   If there is an open seat remaining when they get to your name on the standby list, you’re in.

This can mean you may spend days in the airport, awaiting your chance to get on board and get to where you want to go.   I’ve personally had decades of experience with this, and know exactly what the deal is going in – but somehow, in packing my luggage, I neglected to bring along my clarity of perspective, my desire to find the joy in every moment, and my positive, knowing expectation that the matter what, sooner or later, I’m going to make it to my target destination.

Instead, I began to get caught up in my surroundings and the challenges and disappointments of narrowly missing flight after flight.   I lost focus on what a blessing it was, and all the things I’ve come to know about the law of attraction, about listening to my intuition, about letting go and trusting that no matter how things may seem, that all is well.

I let go of my positive expectation and began to expect the worst.   This was not a clear conscious decision on my part: I did not just choose to start thinking negatively.   No, it never works like that.  This is about losing sight of my positive perspective, and in doing so, falling back to an old “default setting” I had, involving the negatives and the discomforts of spending hours and hours in an airport, seemingly going nowhere.

I allowed outside circumstances to distract me from my spiritual inner perspective, and found myself in the midst of old thought patterns of negativity: focusing on my discomfort, remembering only my most tortuous struggles from long past standby travels, and bitching about my situation in text messages to a friend.   In a nutshell, I was doing all the things that quite simply are no longer me.    I had lost all sight of the amazing gift of traveling for free, of being able to meet my newborn nephew for the first time, and share this special moment in time with lots of family half-way across the country, all at a moment’s notice.   I let my focus slip, and the current of my old expectations on this topic swept me up and drag me down the river, hitting all sorts of rocks along the way.

I began to track and measure where my name was ranking on the list, which changes constantly, and found it got worse the more I looked.   I kept fretting about how moving back my arrival time was inconveniencing my brother picking me up later, even though he understands standby travel as well as I do.

And yes, I was even that guy you see and feel sorry for, as they awkwardly sprint to their gate, pulling their suitcase behind them, backpack swinging frantically, arriving at the check-in desk soaked in sweat.   Once was apparently not enough for me on this trip – this time I did it twice, from one end of one of the largest airports in North America to the other end: upon being late for that one flight, I got to sprint all the way back in hopes of catching the next one.   I was off the rails.

Because I was playing out this old thought pattern that “standby travel is a struggle,” those were the only thoughts that I had access to.   And the more struggle I experienced, the more I continued the same vibration, and became even further entrenched in it.   Non-struggling decisions and thoughts were no where to be found.   Had I simply taken a deep breath and centered myself, I could’ve plainly seen that I would not make the flight on the other side of the airport in time.   I could have simply let go of that flight, and the struggle to get there and back.   I could have strolled to the following flight, the one I actually got on, without any hurry without any sweat at all.   But I was lost in my need to control the situation that was out of my hands. Instead of just trusting that I would get there eventually, I needed to get on the next flight, and in doing so, I engaged the dark side of my expectations. In the moment I could have made a better conscious choice for myself, I fell for the illusion of scarcity and reaped the results of the law of attraction bringing me more stress, delays, and discomfort.

I had allowed myself to temporarily forget all the amazing circumstances that had lined up in order for me to be able to share in this special family moment.   You can be sure that I won’t let that happen again.

In stark contrast to my auto-pilot struggling experience of getting to my desired destination, my casting director workshop was a shining example for me of what amazing things can happen when you have your expectations firmly set in the right place.   I’ve mentioned this briefly in previous posts, but I want to explore in greater detail why it was such positive experience for me, and what I learned in fine-tuning the expectations that serve me, rather than engaging in a futile expectation of trying to control the uncontrollable.

In  letting go of the specific need for this particular casting director to “get on the D train,” I allow so much to potentially fall into place between us.   I effectively release the elephant in the room – the hopes and dreams and needs and desires about what this meeting could do for my career – and clear the way for a natural, organic, human connection to unfold between two people.

She is, after all, much more than just a casting director who has the power to get the massive boost my career and my life.   She’s far more than what she can do for me – she is a person first and foremost.   And if I can set aside what this person could do for me, and treat her simply as a person I’d like to find out more about, a genuine connection can take place, and both people can relax and do what they do best, and be the naturally engaging people that we are.

There are of course, things I can do, and did, prior to our meeting.   I found a good scene, and I memorized it well.   I worked on it extensively and played with the nuances and the emotions of this character long before I set foot in the workshop: I would not expect to make a positive impression on her or anyone had I done anything less.   How could I expect her to see me as professional if I had not behaved as one, even leading up to the meeting?

More importantly though, this whole experience took shape only after I had played the game of expectation.   For three weeks prior to this, after having first learned about this game, on a whim I had begun to say to myself repeatedly “I don’t know how, but I’m going to have a speaking role on my favorite TV show.”

I did not know where the show was filmed.   I did not know who the casting director for it was.   I did not have an impressive resume, or a completed demo reel to show anyone yet.   But I believed, and expected firmly, that I did not know how, but I was going to have a speaking role on that show.

This expectation, through series of intuitive nudges, led me, inexorably, to a workshop for the head casting director of that show.   And continuing to repeat my expectation mantra as often as possible, I went into the workshop (and my preparation for it) after getting into the right mindset: not that I had to work on this, have to have it perfect, but rather that I had a chance to play the hell out of this character.

I had the opportunity, even at home, to treat this whole experience as the joyful, detailed, nuanced play-time that I personally find acting to be.   It’s fun!   And if I’m not connecting to the fun I feel in doing it, I’ve missed the whole point of being an actor, much less the point of prepping for or performing in this or any other workshop or audition.

When I choose to play a character, or really, to engage in any activity at all, I am not someone who’s comfortable doing things “half-assed.” Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and acting, directing, writing, for me, are worth doing to the best of my ability at that given moment.

“What would the greatest version of me do right now?”

This is a powerful question to ask ourselves that I’ve mentioned before, and it applies across the board.   “How would the greatest A-list actor within me approach this?”   Ask yourself, and the intuitive answers will come.   Listen to them, and filter everything and everyone else out that says anything to the contrary.   Listen to your intuitive guidance enough, and you train yourself to hear and trust it above all else.   Do that, and your life will never be the same.

Back to the workshop.

So at the start, all of us actors are seated in the room for a Q&A with the casting director, after which, we would leave the room and be called in one at a time to perform,  hear her notes on improving, and receive a written evaluation from her.   As one might guess, the other actors are only asking self-serving questions.   “How do you feel about actors who do this, or actors to do that?   What happens to our head shots when we send them in?” Etc.

Completely logical, understandable questions, especially considering that we’ve all paid to be here.   But these questions only solidify the gap between actor and casting director.   You’re over there, and I’m over here.  They don’t allow for a human-to-human personal connection.

With the hit sci-fi TV show (my favorite) that she casts going off the air soon, I asked her what she was going to miss most about working on the show.   Her demeanor softened, and she proceeded to open up and describe not only what she loved most about her job, but also what made that specific show special for her.   In a room full of people,  she and I had begun a playful one-on-one banter back and forth, while the others had never even seen the show before.   We all were able to learn that during her time there, the producers had hired 98% of her casting suggestions for the show.   Before we all had left the room, before I or anyone had even performed for her, she had asked for and was using my name, and was already telling me I’d be perfect for a role on the show.

I learned that the show was already prepping episode 9 of the final 13 before going off the air.   I learned it was shot entirely in Vancouver.   And I learned that despite being able to fly there easily, I would still have to be a Canadian citizen and a member of the Canadian actors union in order for me to be on the show.   She playfully suggested that I marry a Canadian quickly so she could cast me.

This information could have distracted me.   The reality of circumstances for me to actually, physically be on the show would require far more precision timing, and personal sacrifices than I was willing to offer (my apologies to the lovely ladies of Canada).   That said, I was not about to walk away.   I have bigger goals, with less specific timing requirements, on the way towards being a working TV actor, right here in the USA.

In the waiting area, I let go of everything.   Even the great interaction I had already begun building.   I let go and thought only of my feelings of excitement in playing this role.   I felt like I was in the wings at a play about to step on stage and perform for a packed house.   Pure exhilaration and sublime serenity, all at once.   My only expectation in that moment was that I was going to squeeze every drop of fun and joy possible from playing this character.  In that moment, nothing else mattered.

I enjoyed it thoroughly.   So did she.   She repeated more than a few times how much she wished she was casting in LA, or that I was Canadian, because of how perfect I would be for one of the roles on the show.   And while another eight actors were still waiting outside to perform for her, she asked what kind of roles I’d like to play and if I’d mind if she gave me some suggestions on specific casting directors I should target – her friends.

For the un-initiated, taking a time-out like this to make personal, career path suggestions for an actor – for someone she just met – is practically unheard of.   I took copious notes, and thanked her for her graciousness.   I left with her saying she was really happy to have met me.

Now some may read this and think that the expectation game failed – that the reality of my having a speaking role on the show did not materialize.   To these people, I say, you’ve missed the point.

To savor playing this role so deeply, to have the head casting director of my favorite show go out of her way to help me further my career trajectory – this was the success I truly sought when I began playing this game a mere three weeks ago.   I had achieved the feeling place of my expectation realized.   I had arrived at the feeling destination.   The details of being in the Canadian union in time to be cast in one of the remaining four shows were and are irrelevant – the expectation game had led me to a greater place than that single experience would have meant for me anyway.   I had made a personal connection with a head casting director of several major TV shows who, after interacting with me and seeing my performance was now, gleefully, aboard the D train.

And that is a much, much bigger win.

“The Universe is abundant with everything that you want.   It’s not testing you.   It’s benevolently providing for you. But you are the orchestrator.   You are the definer, and you do it through your joyous anticipation.   If there is an emotion that you are wanting to foster, that would serve you very, very well, it is positive expectation.   It is excited anticipation.”
— Abraham – Hicks