Why I do What I do
I was born in Texas to a loving family. Unfortunately, all the adults in my household were alcoholics.
My mother drank. In fact, I love the smell of bourbon because it reminds me of her. My stepfather drank. In an hour, he’d down six tall glasses of gin and then go for the second round. He’d actually get out-of-his-mind drunk. He tried killing my mother, twice, and didn’t even realize who she was or what he was doing.
Even my grandparents drank. Every morning before breakfast, Mimi would swallow two shots of whiskey. And every Christmas, Papa would give me a purple bag as a present, because he always received a bottle of Crown Royal as a gift, and it came in a purple bag. I’d carry those whiskey-bottle bags to school as purses. Papa would serve the Crown Royal to his clients and employees when they came to his huge office at his 11-acre factory. The drinking culture permeated all areas of our family life.
At twelve, I was the only sober person in the house. To escape, I joined my school’s theater program. I know what you're thinking...who goes to the theatre to find normalcy? Doing that saved my life.
Even though we lived in a small Dallas suburb, one of our theater teachers had studied in New York City at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater. Actors like Steve McQueen, Joanne Woodward, and Diane Keaton studied there. This teacher taught us the same approach they used. The Meisner Method.
With Meisner, you don’t just say lines. You imbue those lines with the emotion. To make the character you’re playing believable, you have to “live” the lines. What’s more, you have to conjure up the proper emotion on command, so you can do a good job in front of audiences night after night.
For me, this approach was manna from heaven. I got to throw myself into characters far different from me. In “The Crucible,” I was Abigail Williams, accusing the townspeople of witchcraft. In “St. Joan,” I played the heroic Joan of Arc, who led the French resistance and was burned at the stake (four times a day).
I became a devoted student of emotion. At home, my mother, stepfather, and grandparents were allowing their emotions to get away from them. They were allowing their emotions to control them.
Through my theater training, though, I learned that emotions can be reliably controlled, and used for positive purposes. I learned that the proper emotions can turn a person’s mental state around. When they need to, they can become happy. When they need to, they can become creative. When they need to, they can even become powerful.
A few years later, I left the theater and went into the world of business. During my senior year at Texas A&M, Papa lost the family business due to one ill-timed emotional tirade. After that, working with people and their emotions has become my life’s calling.
When businesspeople need to be braver, I help them create the emotion state that leads to bravery. When they need to lead, I help them create the mix of emotions that inspires them to leadership. When they need to decide, I help them access wisdom.