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Playing it Straight

Over the years I've told many a story to clients and friends. One of them has had a profound effect on those I've shared it with. It doesn't matter what elements of it might be questionable. The fact is, the story was never intended to be a strictly factual story, merely one that makes a difference for the person hearing it.

The story started being written back in my engineering days when I was working at a local electronics plant. At that time I was continuously looking in the "Want Ads" to see what other engineering jobs were out there. Sometimes for fun, I'd share what other businesses were looking for with the engineers I worked with. It usually stirred the conversational pot and filled the time when we were waiting for lunch to finish.

One day while I was checking out the classified, I saw a position open for an engineer at an entertainment oriented business in Orlando, Florida. I chuckled at the thought of working at such a place and shouted over to my friend Nat that I was going to send a resume over. He smirked and said fat chance they'd hire me.

Taken back a bit at his comment I asked him if he thought I didn't have the expertise to do the job. He said it had nothing to do with my talent, it was my mustache that would keep the door closed for me.

"What's the mustache got to do with my working at that place? " I asked.

Nat proceeded to tell me that the entertainment industry in Florida can choose to hire and not to hire people based on appearance. It was part of the employment law that allowed specific hiring for specific roles. This was in spite of the fact that this was a right-to-work state.

I bellowed "Aha!, That has nothing to do with me being hired as an engineer. That has to do with actors."

He didn't flinch. He asked me if I remembered seeing the "Casting Director" signs outside some of these theme parks. I said yes and I thought it was a cute touch to the ambiance of the parks.

He said that it was not a "nice touch." It was a way that they were able to control who they hired. If I looked around I would not find anywhere a sign saying "personnel director" because there just was not any needed.

"So what's with the casting director thing?" I asked.

It's simple he said. They wouldn't hire you as an engineer. They're not interested in hiring "personnel." They're interested in hiring a person to fill a role. Hence, they'd hire you as an actor playing the part of an engineer. They'd give you a script and expect you to follow it to the letter. You'd play the role so that they would have the "character" they needed to fill the part in their show.

And part of that would be what you were supposed to look like and what kind of attitude your character is supposed to have while following the script. They want looks, attitude and behavior to fit perfectly. And since you would be paid a salary, they would expect you to play the part on campus and off campus. This way they could demand that you would not play a different part while you were away from their show.

That's crazy I said. If they hired me to play the part of a cartoon character, how could I play that part while out to dinner with my family and friends?

John! Get it. They're not wanting you to play the role of that cartoon character when you have the costume off. They're wanting you to play the role of a carton character actor. This way it doesn't matter if you have taken the costume off. They really want you to "be" the part 24 hours a day.

"Why would they want to have such control?" I asked.

How would you like one of your cast members doing something controversial and winding up with their face plastered all over the press with your show's name associated with them? Not too smooth. They don't like this possibility and hence as a salaried cast member who is playing a part, you would be assuring them you're a good actor and that this wouldn't happen.

I snarled, "Gosh that sounds so false though!"

Nat smiled, "Not if you're playing the part authentically. You see, they are not trying to hire people who can just "play" the part. They're looking for people who can "be" the part. They want the person to be so authentically the role that everyone who encounters them will think that they "are" the part they are playing. In fact, if they hired you as an engineer, they would expect you to be the part so authentically that "you" actually believe you are an engineer. Only the casting director and you will know that you are merely a great actor playing the role that they hired you to fill.

"And the tag line on all this is that they wouldn't hesitate to find someone else to fill the role if you were unable or unwilling to follow the script to get the characterization that they wanted. It's a simple game they play, with simple rules. And that's why they wouldn't hire you John."

"Are you saying that I couldn't pull it off?" I said.

Nat said, "Maybe you could. But not with that mustache."

"What does that have to do with it?"

"Sorry John," he smiled, "all the parts they have to offer don't call for an engineer with a mustache."

Ouch! Talk about attention to detail!


The interesting aspect of this story is that I usually share it with clients who are struggling with playing a specific role in their business or personal life. What triggers my telling it is when I notice that what they say they want and what I see them do don't quite match up.

Most people don't realize that to deliberately have something in their lives (a characterization), professional or otherwise, they must follow a specific path. That path is no less than a script or road map that must be followed without wavers. Any waver in the script will change the character or outcome desired. And the greatest force that contributes to wavering is how the person flip-flop in what they choose to "be" from one moment to the next. The "being" is the role they have chosen to play.

So, why is it so important to know your true role in any situation? Good question. If you're ready for the truth, this information is life changing!


Do you find this concept "provoking?" Care to read more? Want to take action that will "provoke your success?" This and fifty-seven more chapters designed to provoke your success can be found here.


Coach John S. Nagy is CEO and Lead Business Coach for Coaching for Success. Inc., a Business Coaching Service specifically designed for top level decision makers dedicated to peak performance in all facets of their activities. He's hired to focus them continuously in activities that bring higher returns on their resource use. His programs are for the seriously committed. This means having his clients work "ON" their businesses, not just "IN" it. He's a published author and a multi-degree professional with a nationwide client base. Coach Nagy can be reached through his E-mail address at his website at http://www.coach.net and by calling 813-949-0718.


Copyright 1999-2007 John S. Nagy

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