This is part of a weekly dialogue with Performing Artists who have found more freedom, more control, and more purpose in their lives.

You can read the announcement page and get a sneak peak of some of the interviews here.

Yesterday, I shared more of the reasons behind Act II  and why this is a movement here

To watch the interview with Michelle, join us by clicking the badge below:


A Long Island native, Michelle’s love for the stage started at age six. By age ten she was “living the dream” in her first role as Snow White. It was during her theatrical debut she first recalls “feeling accepted and feeling like you’re with your people.”

Michelle was so excited to start auditioning professionally that she graduated early from NYU’s prestigious musical theater program. For several years Michelle hit the pavement, landing regional theater and cruise ship gigs. But, a few years later, in her-mid-20s, she couldn’t shake a growing voice that was saying all was not well in the Big Apple. This voice grew into what Michelle refers to as a “3-4 year long quarter-life crisis.”

Suddenly Michelle had to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up and answer the question “who am I if I’m not trying to get on Broadway?”

This story has a happy ending and today Michelle coaches other creatives how to turn their passions and skills into careers that fuel both their artistic nature and their bank accounts. Michelle’s own thriving career is, in fact, deeply rooted in her background as a musical theater actress. Thanks to her years in the audition circuit, Michelle learned that the secret to booking gigs was to “stop trying to blend in and to start figuring out how to stand out.”

This was really a lesson in branding!

Now Michelle specializes in helping people discover their own “uniquity,” a made-up word (she’s fond of those) which means all the stuff that makes each of us different from everyone else in the world.

Crediting her theater training for teaching her strong communication and relationship skills, Michelle believes that one of the most important transferable skills for any actor who wants to become a coach is “power listening” which allows her to listen to what her clients are really saying on a deeper level.

Now that Michelle has a profitable and stable career (she’s also an author and sought-after speaker), she’s started listening to her own inner voice which is telling her to start performing again. Having been mulling over the idea of a cabaret show for a decade, Michelle put on her first performance in the fall of 2013 (which I had the extreme privilege of going to see) and has plans to take it on the road. Her idea for the show developed while Michelle was recovering from stage one breast cancer (or “boob cancer” as she likes to call it) and with her pink ukelele in tow, she shares her story in song.

Though Michelle has no desire to go back to pounding the pavement, she has discovered that she doesn’t have to leave the stage entirely. “Performing is something that is still important to me. I kept telling myself my business was my creative outlet. Self-care is making time to do this.”

Because being a grownup is more than just getting down to business.

To watch the interview in full (Michelle is, in fact, AMAZEBALLS) join our growing community here (it’s totally free(!)):


Follow-Up Articles & Resources:

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are…

The Declaration Of You!: How To Find It, Own It, And Shout It From The Rooftops

An Effective Escape: Leaving Your Job Without Living In Your Parents Basement

Michelle Ward has 1 question for you: What do you want to be when you grow up? She’s answered that question for herself, and today she helps women transition out of soul-sucking jobs and into work that feels like play. You may have seen or heard her on Etsy, AOL Jobs, Newsweek, SXSW, Freelancers Union, Psychology Today, the Forbes Top 100 Websites for your Career list or 100+ other media outlets. Her first published book, The Declaration of You, was co-written with the artist Jessica Swift and can be found on real and virtual bookshelves everywhere. Discover what you wanna be when you grow up at whenigrowupcoach.com.



by Monica McCarthy on April 15, 2014


“Cultivate the habit of mutuality. Create with your peers, and you are building a true theater. When you desire and strive to rise from the ranks rather than with the ranks, you are creating divisiveness and loneliness in yourself, in the theatre, and in the world. All things come in their time. Cultivate the habit of truth in yourself.” ~David Mamet, True and False

When performers step onto stage we are bringing all of who we are. We can never truly separate ourselves from the characters we portray. Singing, dancing, acting… these are our innards reflecting outwards.

Some people don’t understand that desire to uncover, to lay bare, to connect instead of disengage. And that dichotomy leads to turmoil for the artist.

Because artists are believers. And we’ve been taught to believe a lot of things about our vocation that are, quite simply, untrue.

Here are a few lies actors are repeatedly told:

  • Only pursue acting if there is absolutely nothing else in the world you want to do.
  • If you don’t stick with it, you just don’t want it badly enough.
  • You are only as good as your last credit.
  • It’s a numbers game.

Not only are these assertions false, they cause much damage to the mental and emotional well being of the performing artist. We are taught from the beginning that pursuing a path in the arts leads to scarcity, turmoil, and submission.

What we aren’t taught is to ask questions.

I was never asked why I wanted to act. I never wondered what defined art. I didn’t ask why creative expression mattered.

I just did what most of us were taught to do: Go to the audition and cross your fingers you land the gig. Plus the plethora of souls-sucking day-jobs, mixed with daily angst of waiting for the phone to ring. Existential crisis was the new normal.

One day I got tired of waiting. So I quit. I gave it my best shot. I’ll do something else.

But the gnawing feeling didn’t go away. I had nowhere to put my creative voice. Believe me, I tried to find it in every other way possible: Travel, starting a business, classes, meditation. Nothing worked. I was a creative person without a creative outlet. I couldn’t imagine a worse way of living.

It turns out I wasn’t alone in this crisis. Far from it, in fact. I started looking around at my peers, at the few who “stuck” with performing as a career. Even with their successes, their lifestyle and level of personal and professional fulfillment were not what they had anticipated. I also thought about my friends who had successfully transitioned into other vocations. I wondered how.

So I decided to throw myself into uncovering their stories.

Last month I started a project called Act II. I was excited about the project but didn’t have a clear vision of what it would become. I just knew that I was a crossroads in my career, that I was friends with plenty of other people who are in the same boat now or had been previously, and that there wasn’t a resource out there to tackle this conundrum.

Most of all, I wanted to help performing artists understand they do have a voice in their vocation. We don’t have to wait for permission. We have plenty of transferable skills, should we choose them. It takes courage to change. It takes courage to stay. There isn’t a right or wrong choice. But it is a choice.

What’s Next…

I initially planned to offer Act II as an online informational product. But throughout the process, I’ve discovered Act II isn’t a resource so much as it is a movement. It’s a call to create a community of people who resonate with the arts as a way of changing the world.

Since dialogue is the foundation of what we do, it’s appropriate that this project centers around conversations. I’ve been interviewing performing artists who have either found a successful and non-soul sucking side job, or changed career paths altogether.

I truly had no idea what to expect, but I’ve been blown away by the honesty and integrity of the artists involved. Each person has his/her own unique story and scenario and yet they all feel familiar. Every single one is teaching me a valuable lesson and truly serving as a guide as I work out my next steps. I know, I just know, this will resonate with many of you as well.

And I want this information to be available to anyone whom it might help.

So I’m committing to creating a post every Wednesday for the next twelve weeks that features a lesson learned from one of performing artists I’ve interviewed. This is available to anyone who wants to read it.

For those of you who want to watch the interviews in full, I’ll be sending them out each week to anyone on the list. The list is free and you can unsubscribe at anytime should you not find the information pertinent.


Zoom Out

My ultimate goal with this project is to help form a community of people who believe that personal and creative expression can change the global conversation.

You can expect announcements about online and in-person opportunities in the coming weeks as well.

I am ridiculously excited to share our first ACT II dialogue tomorrow.

We are not merely players making our entrances and exits. We’re shaping the story in which we live.

 And that’s the Truth.


 Image: Manuel Vason

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All Will Be Well

by Monica McCarthy on April 8, 2014


Your beliefs become your thoughts, 
Your thoughts become your words, 
Your words become your actions, 
Your actions become your habits, 
Your habits become your values, 
Your values become your destiny.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Four years ago (almost to the day) I completed my holistic health coaching certification.

Three years ago I realized I didn’t want to be a health coach.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro being healthy, but I was not the person to be espousing advice. It was a lesson in not-everything-you-want-to-learn-about-needs-to-become-a-job.

And for a few years I had some really healthy habits. I ate a plant-based diet, did yoga, and had few emotional stressors in my life.

Flash forward, and let’s just say that I was no longer operating at prime. The problem with good habits is they can snowball out of control if we start breaking them.

And before we know it, those snowballs can transform into an avalanche.

Over the past few months I noticed my energy levels decreasing. I chalked it up to the world’s worst winter (ok, well, in NYC at least), getting older, life changes, etcetera.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, after a bout with loneliness, a move, crazy weather, life stuff, yada yada,  my body started shutting down. I was exhausted by noon, and could only accomplish one or two small tasks on my to-do list before I felt worn out. This led to more stress since I was behind on important work deadlines, and I was completely unmotivated to create anything. The next step was a fever that lasted for almost a week. And then last Thursday night, my vision became blurry. Within a few hows, my motor skills decreased,  I got a migraine more painful than I’ve ever experienced, I was nauseous, and my entire body ached. Fortunately, it turned out to be a strange 24-hour virus (unrelated to the previous fever) so I just had to wait it out.

It was a rough end to the week.

But by Saturday, I was feeling starting to feel normal again. The Brooklyn flea market opened for the season, and I was thrilled to find the perfect desk that made me want to sit and write and write. On Sunday the weather was beautiful and I went for a run along the Brooklyn waterfront. And it was during that run, I knew I had to make some changes in my life. Beginning immediately.

The obvious starting mark was by reclaiming my health, whatever the cost.

The first step was to build strength so I bit the bullet and signed up for a month of classes at Pure Barre. I had my first class yesterday and I was on cloud nine from the endorphins all day until I fell into my first deep sleep in weeks. If our bodies are our temple, a strong foundation is a good place to start.

The second step was to refuel. Grocery shopping isn’t easy or cheap in Brooklyn, so I ordered “clean” foods from Fresh Direct. I have a juicer again for the first time in a year, and made my old go-to (kale, romaine, celery, carrots, apple, and cucumber) this morning. Annie’s Mac & Cheese or frozen pizzas, no matter how tasty, are no longer acceptable nightly meals.

The third step was to replace some of the toxic products I’ve been using on my skin. Sure, they’re cheaper, but I felt like I was watching my face age before my very eyes. That’s because most commercial skin products actually strip your skin of essential oils. Fortunately, my friend Hannah (who has gorgeous skin) insisted I invest in higher quality, natural products. Even after one use, I swear my face feels and looks happier.

None of those three things (exercise, diet, products) are breaking news, and you don’t need a health certificate to improve your health.

The real challenge was making the decision to change and to trust that by investing in my health, abundance in other areas would flow.

Where you invest your love, you invest your life. ~ Mumford And Sons

Not your life tomorrow or six months from now or five years from now, but now. Right now.

The same goes for your time, your money, and your energy.

And I don’t mean that every moment need be #carpediem//#YOLO//#epic.

But every moment is still a gift. And I want to cultivate more awareness around how I take ownership (as much as humanely possible) of those gifts.

This, of course, is a never-ending journey.

There is no there there. ~ Gertrude Stein

That’s fine, because we have plenty we can do here .

Along with working on building a stronger physical foundation, I’ve realized I need to change up some other habits as well. Again, these are basic in principal, but, for me at least, had gone off course.

First, I have to stop using social media for anything other than building and maintaining community.  I said once a few years I ago I needed to learn to keep my eyes on my own paper. In many ways, comparison is not only the “thief of joy” but my own achilles heel. There is no reason to worry about what so-and-so is doing. Life is abundant. I had no idea how massive a habit I’d formed looking at other people’s social media feeds. Often specifically seeking out those I knew would hurt my feelings!  It was like a drug! The actual looking didn’t take much time but the residual affects lingered long after. This is going to be a tough one for me to break, but I do notice a change simply by being aware when I do it (and how it makes me feel).

Second, I have to seek peace if I want more adventures. I miss traveling. But if I only feel at peace when I’m away, then something is wrong. Travel is not a catch-all. Fortunately, I’m loving my new environment. I love my reading chair. I love my desk. I love the glow of the twinkle lights above my bed. I love the neighborhood. I love running into people I know on the street. I’m not done traveling (not even close!) but equally important, I want to feel there is no place like home, even an impermanent one.

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. ~ Henry Miller

Last but not least, I need to be a better editor. Not in the cinematic or pictorial or literary sense of the term (though based on the length of this post, that would be helpful as well!), but of my life. This is a topic I’ve been mulling over a lot lately. It’s ok to want everything. But not all at once. We have to “kill our darlings” if we want to create something worthwhile. In any given chapter of life, this can mean projects, relationships, goals, hopes, fears, anything that doesn’t move the story forward. If it doesn’t further the plot, it doesn’t belong in the story. There is no middle ground.

If you’re brave enough to say ‘goodbye’, life will reward you with a new ‘hello’. ~Paulo Coelho

Phew! That was a lot to express.

And I have a lot to work on! But progress begets progress.

Even in this short time, I can sense things are shifting.

When in doubt, I return my thoughts to this sign I came upon at the start of Sunday’s run:


Focus on what matters.

Let the rest go.

And be well.

Do you have any tips for forming healthy habits (or breaking unhealthy ones) you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Sharing is caring;)


P.S. One of the things I’m excited to invest in is helping people stand up and be heard. I’ve opened my doors for one-on-one sessions for people who want to make an IMPACT. Read all about it here.