The PPAI Expo wraps up its five-day run today in Las Vegas. One of the highlights of the week was Tuesday’s general session featuring actor, speaker and recent Golden Globe winner Jeffrey Tambor.
As he spoke to a packed ballroom on “Performing Your Life,” a relaxed Tambor injected humor and insight, eliciting laughs and drawing questions from the audience to further connect.
Born and raised in San Francisco by Ukrainian Jewish parents, Tambor developed a love for performing while visiting a neighborhood theater. The veteran actor and master teacher said that, too often, he has seen individuals with talent stop giving life and work their all. “What’s keeping you from performing your life?” he asked. “I’ve spoken to some billionaires, to some millionaires, and I’ve seen 80 percent of people settle for more comfortable rooms and more comfortable lives, and I’m an enemy to that. I’m very much about discomfort.”
It is discomfort that can help us find our purpose; Tambor encouraged attendees to regard what makes them uncomfortable as their purpose and passion in life. “A purpose is not an interest. What grabs you around the neck and makes you want to throw up, that is your passion.”
Whether a passion or purpose, in pursuing these we strive to achieve balance between planning for the future and doing a good job of achieving it, something Tambor says can only happen by embracing failure.
“I try to keep the concept of ‘good’ out, and try to keep accident and improvisation, and getting lost on the page, ‘in.’ I love to do a thing in rehearsal and in performance where I come out and say, ‘Let’s just wreck it.’ And in wrecking it, one particle will come out and you’ll go, ‘There—there—there’,” he says. “It’s like a writer who writes a hundred pages, and he’s good, but on page 101 he goes, ‘What the heck is that? What is that, what is that?’ And if he’s a good writer he throws away the 99 pages and he begins his novel there.”
While promotional products business is so often about doing things right, Tambor says that to find happiness, we need to “do it wrong. Keep failing. The nerves, the fear … adore that. That’s your instinct.”
In doing something ‘wrong,’ people can find their true voice and their true passions. One volunteer found this out firsthand, by taking the stage to read a letter aloud—badly—for the audience. While the first attempts were not successful (Tambor assisted by bouncing the man up and down by his waist), the volunteer eventually found his voice, the voice that he should use in pursuing his passion and his purpose.
An authentic life is led with “enthusiasmos,” says Tambor, who finds inspiration in his children, such as his 10-year-old son, who plays lacrosse with true enthusiasm despite being “the worst lacrosse player in the world,” he said in a whisper over raucous laughter. “Enthusiasmos. Bring it to your life and to your work.”
And Tambor doesn’t want people to sacrifice enthusiasm for the sake of looking or being cool in the eyes of others. “Being cool is a losing proposition. The world doesn’t pay on cool,” he said. “The world pays on ‘I’m good, and I’m going to help you.’”
Moreover, Tambor wants people to find joy in everything. “Something that I tell people is adore everything, because this whole trip is a move from joy to sadness to acceptance to failure; there’s a lot of life that goes on,” he says. “And, being that we’re here for a finite time and things have a way of working out, I would say adore everything on the journey. Just know that you’re on the journey and be committed to the journey. The journey consists of finding yourself and changing yourself, being unafraid to disappoint others, finding your passion, not your interest, and leading an authentic life.”