My wife, Meghan, told me I needed to start writing again. And I’m practicing listening to my wife. Seems like an attribute that will serve me well in my married life. I need to practice because it doesn’t come naturally to me.
My excuse is I was unmarried for 42 and a half years…so the only person I’ve ever consistently listened to…is me. Listening to myself, “trusting my gut” is something I’ve probably done a little better than the average guy. It also struck me that listening to yourself means purposely not listening to what others say.
Coming out of my senior year in high school, no college recruiters thought I should be playing Division 1 football. Not even Division 2. But I wanted to play for my beloved Wisconsin Badgers football team. So, I walked on, tried out…and made the team.
Then, when I made the team, a coach told me I probably wouldn’t make the team the next year. I decided not to listen and worked out harder…and made the team the next year…and the following three years all the way until we won a Rose Bowl championship for the first time in school history.
So, I’m glad I listened to me and not to others.
If you want to read more about this experience, I wrote a book about it. No Bed of Roses. I’d give you the amazon link…but heck, I’d rather you just contact me and I’ll sell you a signed copy for half price. (Please! I have 3 boxes full in my basement!)
When I graduated with a Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and said I wanted to try to be an actor, I listened to myself. So did others. And many didn’t think what I was saying was very wise.
“That’s no way to make a living.” “What? Are you gonna be a waiter?” “Everybody wants to be an actor.” “That’s the most competitive field there is!”
With those sentiments echoing out my ears, I moved to Chicago anyway.
After a few months working at a newspaper, and as a waiter, I booked my first professional acting gig–a Hardees commercial. My girlfriend in the spot, Michelle Monaghan, was also making her TV debut. One of us went on to star opposite Tom Cruise in a couple Mission Impossible movies and headline several other major studio films including Made of Honor, The Heartbreak Kid, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
I will let you decide whose career was really launched that day.
While stardom may have eluded me, I was able to snag a film role and a TV show pilot while in Chicago and armed with a few lines on my acting resume decided I wanted to go to Los Angeles and try my way onto some more shows and sets out there.
My Chicago acting friends and even my agent told me I was making a mistake. “Too green, too soon.” “You’ll be swallowed up out there.” “You will be back here in 6 months, penniless and broke.” Not sure why she had to add the “…and broke” part…feel like that was covered with “penniless.”
I’m proud to say I didn’t listen and ended up on the set of the hit show, “Party of Five” within eight months of moving to LA.
And when I say “on the set” I mean, literally, I was knocked down on the set, shoved by lead actor, Matthew Fox’s character, Charlie, for making a pass at his girlfriend!
Welcome to Hollywood!
I picked myself up, dusted myself off and starred in quite a few commercials, films and shows over the next 9 years. The One with Joey’s Fridge is The One I Will Be Forever Known For amongst my ‘friends’, former classmates, and family, as I was cast as Patrick in the Friends’ episode as a potential date for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).
While Rachel and Patrick didn’t make it as a couple, I could say I, Chris, had “made it” as an actor.
What I’d ‘made’ was my own path, without direction from anyone on how to do it. Not only did no one make it for me, “they” told me the path I imagined wouldn’t be possible.
Just like “they” said about me trying to play college football. Just like “they” said about my wanting to be an actor. Just like “they” said about me moving to Los Angeles.
When I first pitched my book, every agent I sent it to told me no. “There are too many college football books out there.” “Oh, that story has been told.” “If you played at USC or Notre Dame, that’s different. Nobody knows about Wisconsin.”
But, I found a publisher, without an agent, and…I had my book published.
So, listening to myself, and blocking out others, served me well and allowed me to accomplishments I’m still proud of to this day. Listening is a good practice.
In the past few years, I’ve neglected my writing. There are excuses, some I would consider great ones. My marriage and my son, Cash.
Some, like being too busy or my own general lethargy, not so great.
Other than be a great husband and father…when asked what I do, or what do I want to do, I say “write.” For awhile now, I haven’t been listening to what I keep saying. But someone has. Meghan has. And, now, she’s telling me to write.
After 43 years, it’s nice to know, there is one less person I have to block out.
And one more person, to practice listening to.