by Dr. Monroe Mann, PhD, Esq, MBA, LLM, ME, EMT
Founder & Executive Director, Break Diving, Inc.
AUTHOR CREDENTIALS: Monroe Mann holds a NY law license and a PhD in psychology. He wrote his PhD dissertation from Capella University on the decision-making process of successful entertainers. He is an accomplished book author, actor, musician, film producer, director, attorney, public speaker, and entrepreneur.
NOTE: This post started as a stream of consciousness. At the end of the stream of consciousness, I was able to codify everything into a handy acronym called B.O.U.N.C.E.™ which will help you overcoming the agony of a great defeat. If you want to read the full psychological backstory and original analysis I did, start here, from the beginning. If you just want the handy final result, scroll down to the part called B.O.U.N.C.E.™ by Monroe Mann in bold letters. Either way, I hope this helps you!
Without exaggeration, I have been on the verge of my ‘big break’ in show biz (and in life) for 20 years, all starting with my audition in 1997 to be Michelle Pfieffer’s son in the film “The Deep End of the Ocean”. I didn’t get it.
Before I get to any of the ‘motivational’ parts of this message, first a little context will be helpful. Here are a handful of the times that I have been on the precipice of all my dreams coming true:
1997 – The dean of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts pulling me out of class asking me to audition for Deep End of the Ocean. Didn’t get the part because I looked too old to play a 14 year old.
2001 – My book “The Theatrical Juggernaut” taking the NY & LA acting scene by storm. It’s still a big seller even to this day (2nd edition), but it didn’t launch my writing career.
2002 – My never-ending upgrade from an extra to a principal in the major 20th Century Fox film Swimfan. Every day on set, and at all the parties the producers invited me to, director John Polson kept telling me in his trademark Australian accent, “I’m gonna make you a star, Monroe!”
2002 – My appearance on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer while at US Army intelligence school as a result of my book “The Theatrical Juggernaut” and appearance in Swimfan.
2002 – My invitation to meet with Mike Finnell (producer of Gremlins, Small Soldiers, the ‘Burbs with Tom Hanks) at Renfield Productions on The Lot in Hollywood. That meeting led to an amazing testimonial he wrote about me, which you can read on my website, and assistance with my film “In the Wake”, but no great career leap.
2003 – My band, Running for Famous, in negotiation with the producers of Trading Spaces to create a reality show about us. It fell through at the last minute. I was also talking to Island Records about a possible record deal. That fell through too.
2004 – Securing Avril Lavigne, Sum41, Mike Finnell, virtually every pro wakeboarder in the world, and even a multi-million dollar investor (Brandt Anderson, who went on to produce films like Everest and American Made with Tom Cruise) to sign on to my sports feature film, “In the Wake”… and then having it fall apart at the last minute.
2005 – Being selected to be a part of the Army Touring Theater Company (or was it final callbacks–don’t remember), but having to turn it down because I was at the time in Iraq on active duty. Haha, I asked my commanding officer if I could go and he said, “You’re fighting a war!” That meant no. 😀
2006 – Appearing on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch as a result of my book, “Guerrilla Networking”. It resulting in my becoming a regular contributor to the CNBC blog, but not the great national leap that I had hoped for.
2007 – While in law school, nearly signing a deal with the Allianz Fund with my then partner Phil Malandrino to produce a multi-million dollar multi-picture film fund. Guess what happened? Fell through!
2008 – My producing and hosting an online web series “Before the Big Break”, interviewing famous folks like AJ Pero (drummer for Twisted Sister), Gary Goldstein (Producer of Pretty Woman and Under Siege), and Ben Westergren (founder of Pandora.com). Despite initial enthusiasm from viewers, you’ll never figure out where it led: somewhere other than a big break!
2012 – My/our feature film, “You Can’t Kill Stephen King” getting picked up by a sales agent, making it to Cannes, and being sold in over 15 territories worldwide, including the USA (including a dvd deal with Netflix). I’m pretty stoke that we paid back all of our investors and lenders, which is a huge achievement, but alas, I didn’t end up paying off my students loans as I had hoped.
2012 – My speaking gig at the newly joined SAG/AFTRA which I thought was going to further launch my public speaking career. It didn’t.
2014 – While living in Shanghai, a big audition in Shanghai, China, which–if I had got it–would have established me as an acting talent in Asia worth knowing. Didn’t get it.
2016 – The release of my Udemy course “Time Zen” based on my book of the same name. Thought it got a lot of attention, and is now bringing in a regular monthly income (and I’m really excited about that), it too didn’t launch my ‘brand’ as I had hoped.
2017 – The launch of my not for profit Break Diving, Inc., while still going strong and growing daily (with now more than 5,500 members worldwide), didn’t become the instant sensation I had hoped.
2018 – After being selected out of 8,000 applicants, being asked to fly out to LA for the final chemistry test for the 2nd season of a national television show. Out of 21 of us who flew in from around the world, only 10 were asked to come back for final callbacks. Alas, I wasn’t in that final 10.
My point in sharing this abbreviated autobiography?
More so than many people, I know the agony of defeat. Often, when I speak to groups of artists, I ask, “How many of you have ever felt you were on the brink of becoming a star or your big break?” Most don’t raise their hands. Of those that do, they’ve only felt that feeling once.
Me? I’ve felt it about once or twice every year since I was 19.
And every time, I was on the verge of something amazing happening. Life changing, even, if only it had come through to fruition.
But it didn’t. And once again, most recently, while out in Los Angeles, it didn’t happen again. To be fair, I didn’t expect 21 people to be there, so I actually thought my chances were much higher. The producer and the casting director (both of whom I had spoke to via video chat prior to my arrival) kinda gave the impression that my flying out there was more of a formality–I thought I was up against a few others. Not TWENTY others! So my expectations were a little higher than they should have been, but the point is that yet again, I got THIS CLOSE to something really taking off like a rocket… and at the 11th hour, it all came crashing down. And oh yeah, it hurt. Why? The agony of defeat always does.
Is it because I am ‘unlucky’? No, it’s not that I’m ‘unlucky’. In fact, I consider myself quite fortunate that I have worked my way to the precipice of my big break so many times. It’s a badge of honor, and I know many people would have loved to have been in my shoes even once (hint: get off your ass people and make it happen!
It wasn’t luck that I got there, and it wasn’t unluck that I didn’t get picked. It’s about hustling, and throwing as much as you can against the wall, and eventually, something will stick and take off.
Which brings me to the point of this article: how can you successfully overcome this agony of defeat? As I am sure you are wondering, none of these ‘failures’ felt good. My gosh, starting in 1997 when I didn’t get that part opposite Michelle Pfieffer, I was devastated, because I had (not irrationally) put so much into my getting it. Of course I was excited! And shaken up when it didn’t happen. And that devastation continues year after year after year, with every project that fails to launch as expected.
Now, some of you may say, “Well, Monroe, it’s your fault that you suffer from this devastation because you put too much stock in the as-yet-unforetold outcome. Like the Gin Blossoms song says, if you didn’t have such high expectations, you wouldn’t be so let down.” Sorry, I don’t buy it. If you don’t get excited about possible great success, then where is the pride when it happens? If you temper your enthusiasm, yes, you may not be as disappointed when it doesn’t happen, but you also won’t be as excited when it does. And baby, I want to be excited when it does! Further, those who constantly (and falsely) temper their enthusiasm about something happening tend to become biter, jaded, and lose faith in themselves. Go figure.
So I don’t keep my opportunities to myself. I tell everyone. Case in point, last week, right before I flew out to Los Angeles for this ‘chemistry test’, I told those on my email list that I was up for this job. One of those, Aaron Mathias, replied. Who is Aaron? Aaron, like me, is many things. First, he is an actor who is now starting his own production company called Falling Awake Films. He is also on the verge of launching his lifestyle brand Elephant Walk, and also a political podcast. And he’s moving out from NY to LA next month. And I am meeting with him next week to discuss some of his entertainment legal needs.
This is what he wrote in reply (pasted here with permission), in part, as follows:
“Also man, just want to say I straight up admire and appreciate your relentless dedication and push to do things. I met you originally during your Theatrical Juggernaut days [Ed. Note: a book I wrote] and kept on your lists etc. and always keep an eye on what your are doing. I love the fact that despite obstacles (and I imagine facing your own personal issues), you keep going with an excellent can-do attitude. I believe there are many silent people who feel and observe this and don’t communicate it enough to you but you have my full admiration man. You put your money where you mouth is and I give you full respect for that! love it!”
His email resonated with me on many levels. First, it reminded me that people do read what I write, which is nice! Second, it reminded me that even those who don’t respond may be positively impacted by my life, even if they don’t tell me. Third, and most importantly, he reminded me that this is what success is about: a relentless dedication to push forward fueled by an excellent can-do attitude.
It seems like I’m going off on tangents, but I’m not. I’m still on point because I basically just explained how to overcome the agony of defeat, and use it to your advantage. In case you missed it, here is a full step-by-step summary:
1. GREAT ENTHUSIASM. You first need to have huge enthusiasm, always, or when you face defeat, you will potentially give up and not try again. I know a lot of people incorrectly think I’m arrogant, but many more correctly know that I’m just confident in my awesomeness. And I am. At this chem test in Los Angeles (which I will discuss in more detail in another post), I was so confident that I gave out my business cards to “my competition” and one person actually said in a snarky tone, “This is neither the time nor the place to be networking.” I had to laugh, saying to her, “Everywhere and every time is the right time to be networking”. Maybe she got picked, I don’t know, but that kind of naysayer negativity ain’t good anywhere. So lesson one: do not ever temper your enthusiasm. It will make you bitter and unpleasant to be around. Always assume the best, and assume that this time it is going to be your big break. First, your enthusiasm will show, and that’s usually a good thing, and second, enthusiasm is what helps you get on the saddle again after you get knocked down.
2. RESILIENCY. You need resiliency, and that only comes from a deep-rooted belief that the reason it didn’t work is because they are stupid and didn’t pick you because they made a mistake, and not because you yourself suck. And trust me, when you suffer the agony of defeat, the very first thing we always think is I SUCK! I AM SUCH A LOSER! WHAT A WASTE OF TIME! LIFE SUCKS! I WANT TO BE DEAD! For some of you, it may not feel that strongly, but for those of you who are really trying, we all know it does. I always say, “If you haven’t ever wanted to quit this business (or any endeavor), it means you’re not trying hard enough.” The only people who want to quit are those who really want it and are coming up against great opposition. If you don’t care about success, and don’t really make an effort, why would the thought of quitting ever enter your head? Answer: it wouldn’t, because you never come up against great opposition. As a corollary, the great race car driver Mario Andretti wisely noted that, “If you feel in control, you’re not driving fast enough.” The lesson: you need to drive fast, feel out of control, and yes, put forth maximum effort, and then… when it doesn’t work out, force yourself to recognize that the reason it didn’t work out is them, not you. Sounds like a cliché, right? It’s not. It’s psychology. The truth is, maybe it was you. It can’t always be them, right? Maybe I did suck at the audition. Maybe I did present a terrible package to investors. But… from a personal psyche point of view YOU CAN NEVER EVER BELIEVE THAT. You need to first fix your mental situation, and this requires that you (at first) take zero responsibility for the failure. Why? When in the throws of misfortune, we are at our most vulnerable psychologically, i.e. this is the period when you are most likely to quit. If you let the situation impact your self-worth, you may quit then and there. It’s happened to millions of people before you–the agony is so painful that you feel like it’s something you can never again recover from. The result? They quit. You cannot let that happen, so step 2 is to blame everyone else (privately, not publicly).
3. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. But you can’t just blame everyone, when the truth also is that you are responsible, or at least perhaps partly responsible, for the failure as well. If you blame everyone else, you take no responsibility, and those who don’t take responsibility never improve. So after you make it through the initial shock, and get your feet back on the ground, before you jump back on the saddle, you need to evaluate what happened. What went well? What went poorly? How can you improve next time?
4. DOUBLE YOUR EFFORTS. Finally, once you’re mentally back on track, and have physically climbed back on the saddle, the final question is: how can I use this situation to my advantage, and move forward farther than I was before, and indeed faster than I was moving before? You see, and here is another cliché, every cloud really does have a silver lining. After the negative emotions diminish, you can (if you think hard enough) come up with many ways to use what happened to your advantage. And as I’m also fond of saying, “The best time to give it your all is when you’ve got nothing left to give.” Whenever I want to quit, I always remember this sentence from my book, “The Theatrical Juggernaut”, and it pushes me to try. one. more. time. And not only that, but put forth even more effort than before.
The above four steps are really the only things you need to do bounce back from any defeat. And time. I have another great quotation I coined (I’ve got a lot of them, haha) and this one is most appropriate now that I mentioned time. “Time heals all wounds… but waiting’s a bitch.” Funny right? But it’s true. Time may help you get over a defeat, but sometimes, it takes forever to overcome something, or… someone. I am still mourning the loss of an ex-girlfriend from more than five years ago, and I honestly think it may take ten years, or maybe never. Scars often always remain. But I don’t use that as an excuse for not continuing to try. You must always continue to try.
I want to give you an example of each of the four steps using my own life, and this most recent defeat–this chem test in Los Angeles. I think by going through the steps with a real example, you’ll better see that what I’m writing about works, and works well.
STEP ONE: Great Enthusiasm. I was stoked about this trip to LA. So stoked that I emailed my entire email list about it. Is that ‘jinxing it’? No. It allows others to share in my excitement. Many caution me not to tell people about things that haven’t happened yet, but had I not, a number of things wouldn’t have happened. It’s only by sharing what I am doing that I can gain the support and help of others. After I sent off the email, telling everyone the good news that I had a big audition in LA, it accomplished a few things: a) it got them excited, resulting in others rekindling their belief in themselves, b) it resulted in about 6 people replying telling me that they were in LA and wanted to see me, and c) it resulted in me not having to pay for a hotel or a rental car, because people drove me around everywhere because they were stoked to be a part of this excitement as well.
STEP TWO: Resiliency. Part of the reason I am able to bounce back from defeat so easily is that I am resilient. And I am resilient for a number of reasons: a) I truly believe I am destined for greatness. It is why God put me on this planet–to succeed and inspire others to do the same. b) I have a great network of supporters who help me get through difficult setbacks. c) I tell others about my big projects and plans because it not only creates accountability, but it always results in people texting and calling and emailing afterwards, “So, how did it go?” And my response always sets up a good back and forth therapy session that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t told others about what I am doing. And d) I have hope. Amazing incredible hope that this ‘success’ was simply not meant to be, and that I am destined for even greater things. It’s incredibly painful while I’m going through the rejection, but it doesn’t last. It never lasts. It cannot last, because sitting there mourning only serves a purpose for a while. Afterwards, you’re just wasting time. So with this chemistry test in LA, after I didn’t get it, I mourned. The texts of support started arriving. Each time, with each person, my response was less and less bitter. Something else that helped me: I remembered a time when I was in Germany to see this girl I was dating before flying to Switzerland to my college reunion. She broke my heart, and I foolishly changed all my plans, booked an immediate flight home to NY, and missed my college reunion as a result. What an idiot I was! I always regret allowing my emotions to result in my ‘running away’, so I don’t do that anymore. Therefore, in LA, despite thinking, “What’s the point of staying here any longer?” and wanting to change my flight and fly home that day, I didn’t. I forced myself to stay and stick to the plan, and I stayed for 3 more days. End result? I met relatives I had never met before; I made many new friends; I saw many old friends; and I left LA with very little bitterness. Yay!
STEP THREE: Take Responsibility. Yeah, these producers and casting directors did make a mistake not casting me, but in the end, if I simply blame them, how can I improve? So I went through an inventory of what I did well, and what I can improve for next time. I recognized that it’s just one opportunity, and I don’t regret going out there, because I’m glad that I tried. And thanks to me networking efforts, I made connections with many new friends both in and out of the business. And most importantly, I decided that if I’m such a great host, and if they made such a great mistake, then I should just produce my own news show. So that’s what I’m doing now, and “The Weekly 7 with Monroe Mann” will be coming to my YouTube channel soon. 😀
STEP FOUR: Double Your Efforts. As soon as I got home, not only did I come up with an idea for one show (inspired by new friend producer Rick Meeker), but I also came up with the idea for The Weekly 7. Now that I’m back in NY, I’m actively working on producing each one of those, and also finalizing my public speaking demo, updating my websites, and developing additional projects (both independently and through Break Diving) that I hope will continue to put me and my projects on the map. Remember, the best time to give it your all is when you’ve got nothing left to give. Why? When going through the agony of defeat, you can only then do one of three things: quit, do the same thing you have always been doing, or double your efforts. If I had quit, the bitterness from giving up a dream would have destroyed my psyche. If I just kept doing what I always did (wait for another casting), I’d probably not have another audition for a news/talk show again for months or years. If I doubled my efforts, however, then I could get back where I was more quickly. So after every failure, I mourn for a bit, and then, I move faster than I’ve ever moved.
I know this is a long post, and somewhat rambling. I basically have just been writing stream of consciousness. But in so doing, it has all come together in my head, so now I present to you a unique acronym (which will soon be a book) to help you B.O.U.N.C.E. back from a defeat. Ready?
B.O.U.N.C.E.™ by Monroe Mann
Trademarked 2018 by Monroe Mann, Esq.
B – Burn. You are going to hurt for a while, and you’re probably going to be angrily burning toward the person or people who didn’t choose you because you perceive they made a mistake and dashed your dreams, or you’re going to suddenly perceive that someone didn’t support you enough and had they supported you or helped you more, the result would have been different, or whatever. Maybe you are right; maybe you are wrong–the point is that this is to be expected. Just be sure not to angrily burn bridges while mourning by lashing out or sending emails you will regret. Quietly accept that you’re going to hurt for a while, while also knowing and expecting that you are very quickly going to move into stage 2: Overreacting.
O – Overreact. Next, you are going to overreact, and start blaming yourself. You are going to move the anger from others, to anger at yourself. You are going to start saying stupid things that you have no way of knowing are true, such as, “They didn’t pick me because of what I wore” or “I’m such an idiot! If only I had spent last night preparing instead of getting a good night’s sleep!” And so on. You have to recognize that you are not in a position right now in this stage to be making rational decisions. You are going to overreact mentally but you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT then overreact physically. Yes, you are going to start making stupid personal attacks against yourself that are probably not true, and you are going to be as confused as can be, but do not act on any thoughts going through your mind. In other words, do not be stupid like I was and change your long anticipated plans and skip your college reunion in Switzerland over some girl! Sure, some of what you may be feeling may be true, but now is not the time to believe anything you say to yourself–you’re in shock and you’re trying to overcompensate by doing or thinking something crazy in the total opposite direction. Just catch your breath, stick to the original plan (for now), and wait until you are ready to UNPACK.
U – Unpack & Untangle. After the initial shock wears off (and it will)(and let’s also hope you didn’t do anything rash), it’s time to unpack and then untangle what happened, and finally go over the good, the bad, and the ugly, and what it all means. In the military, we called this an AAR or After Action Review. For me, my questions to myself are: What went well? What are the positives that came out of this (and yes, if you dig deep, there are always positives). What are all of the objective reasons why I wasn’t picked, or why did this happen as it did? In what ways might I have been legitimately responsible, i.e. where are the areas I can improve? What reasons can I come up with that may tend to prove that I had nothing to do with why I wasn’t picked. i.e. they already knew who they wanted, or they gave it to a friend as a favor? What can I do next time to improve my chances? How can I use this experience to inspire others in similar situations?
Small but related detour: most people who don’t reach their dreams, who give up, and who become very bitter usually stop after a) burning and b) overreacting; very few reach this third stage of unpacking and untangling; this process of rationally, calmly, and introspectively analyzing (on paper) what actually happened and how they can move forward with the lessons learned. Don’t be that person. If, however, you focus on unpacking and untangling, very soon, your attitude is going to start improving and you will naturally start moving towards stage 4: NAVIGATING.
4. Navigate. Your mood at this point is already on the mend, and quickly moving on the up and up. Why? You’re already taking action. Long ago I learned that the absolute best way to overcome my depressive spells when I hate life and don’t want to do anything is… to do something. When I absolutely feel like nothing will get me out of my negative mood, I forcefully (figuratively grabbing my own shoulder and dragging myself to the computer, or the front door, or whatever) get up and just force myself to agree to start doing something productive for 5 minutes. Before I know it, 2 hours have passed, and I forgot that I was depressed. As it is said, idle hands are the devil’s playground. It’s true. So I get up and start doing something because God’s mission for me will not come to fruition if I just lie in bed or play video games all day. So this next step is to navigate. Piggy backing off of the questions you asked in the previous step, it’s now to time to use that information to create a new plan. New questions to ask: What can I do to keep this momentum from dissipating? What could I do to take the bull by the horns and take charge? Could I do the same thing with another team? By myself? What’s my plan to get more opportunities like this? Who can I get involved with my new plan? What tools, education, and resources must I procure to use this ‘failure’ as a stepping springboard to something just as cool, or even cooler? Write it all down. Create an actual written plan. Oh man, at this point, I am getting so excited and the adrenaline is again coursing through my veins. Time to quickly move to the next step: CLIMB BACK UP.
C – Climb Back Up. You’ve already done the easy part: you’ve created a plan. Now, you need to mentally make the decision to get back up on that horse of resiliency. Nothing will come of your new navigation plans unless you actually decide to do it. It pains me to see how many people make great plans, but don’t make the decision to execute. Think about it: to bounce means to go down and then pop back up. There is no bounce without the decision to get back on the horse, and without finding the strength to physically climb back up on the saddle. You can ‘make plans’ to climb back on the horse every day for the rest of your life, but until you put your foot in the stirrup, push off with the other and swing that leg over, you will never again sit tall on the saddle. So do it. Create a great new plan, and then get your ass back up there! Once you do, you get to move to the final step of B.O.U.N.C.E. — EXECUTE.
E – Execute. Remember, many people come up with great new plans, get up onto the saddle again, and then… just sit there. They tell everyone that they are kicking ass and taking names, but actually, no, they are just sitting there in the stable, or tethered to the corral, looking left, right, backwards, and all around, never once making the OH SO SCARY decision to release the reins, look forward, and boldly yell, “GIDDY UP!” For most people who make it this far (including myself) this is the hardest part. The part when you actively put yourself out on the line again, once again thinking, “Why am I doing this again?! Why am I going to risk that horrible burn again? What is the point when the odds are certainly once again against me? Where is the sense in trying again when there’s only a 1% likelihood of success?” The answer? Because that 1% chance could this time be yours. This time, it could happen. This time, your life could change forever for the better.
Yes, the odds are always against us. But we say in the world of sales, “All you need is one yes to change your life forever.” That’s why I B.O.U.N.C.E. back every time–I know that just one yes is going to change my life forever. Maybe it happens today. Maybe it happens in 20 years. Maybe it never happens, but I die trying. And I’d much prefer the pride of knowing I died trying than the daily bitterness of having given up a dream that I feel I am destined to fulfill.
I hope you too will B.O.U.N.C.E. back from every agonizing defeat you face… or die trying.
On that note, meet you at the top! Or heaven. Whichever comes first.
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