We All Need a Guru

Phil Sutfin
Aug 22, 2016 · 3 min read

(Originally posted on August 3, 2016)

The other day one of our assistants enthusiastically came in my office to ask me if I knew who Tony Robbins was? “Growing up in the 80’s”, I needed to explain, “it would have been impossible to miss Tony’s infomercial barrage.” I could tell he was disappointed in my snarky reply even before he asked me my opinion of Tony. I then surprised him by explaining I was a fan. Like all self help gurus, I have always believed that the important thing is how you apply the message, not who the messenger is. The amazing thing about Tony is his ability to get people to engage with him personally, develop a trust, and begin to absorb his life affirming principals that sometimes redefine their lives.

That got me thinking about my role in the business, as well as the agents in our business. Now let me be clear… I’m not comparing myself or any other rep to Tony Robbins. If so, most of us would probably be even more successful and satisfied in our lives. Instead, it got me thinking about the role of agents/managers as motivators and sometimes teachers.

Perhaps sprinkling in a dose of inspiration is a natural extension of working with performers, yet our job descriptions are fairly simple… get people jobs, help them make more money, provide them more opportunities etc. However, the big difference between talent reps and middle men in most other businesses is we can’t really be that cut and dry. Our asset is talent, so when dealing with people we need to understand that routinely performing at an optimum level often means that talent has to be fully committed to the work. Any lack of confidence, undo stress, psychological impediments, even physical injury, etc. all negate a talent’s abilities.

So what can I do to help talent thrive when day to day impediments are always rearing their heads? The first thing I talk about is hard work is necessary to be successful. Great voice-over performers are constantly grinding through auditions and jobs. Granted it’s not digging ditches, but there is a perception that successful VO performers are either “lucky” or blessed with a god given instrument. Instead, the reality is those who strive ahead put in the hard work every day. The one thing any individual can control is effort, so I do my best to focus on the process instead of the end result.

Next, I focus on confidence because the most self assured talent tend to be the most successful. I know from my end that I wouldn’t be working with talent if I didn’t have confidence in their abilities, so it’s relatively easy to give them a pep talk when I sense they are struggling. Of course, it is impossible to know if our talks help, but I know it is vital if only to affirm my commitment to the performer. Often times, that commitment is all the talent seeks and they are able to get back in stride.

When it comes to everything else such as the more pressing matters of stress, financial pressures, relationships, etc., I stop right there. Unless I have a solution to a very specific problem, it is not my place to offer advice or provide coping mechanisms beyond voice over. That’s why the Tony Robbins’ of the world are so great at what they do because they recognize the need to examine the whole as they dive deeper to understand the problem. If only all of us had a Tony Robbins in our life who knows what the world would look like!