Loss, Acting, and Connection with Darrell Stern
Acting is symbiotic with human life, culture, and how we interact with others.”
– Darrell Stern
I had the delight of speaking with Darrell Stern, who is known as the digital marketing Jedi, supporting experts, speakers, and authors to create impactful, emotionally driven video marketing and beyond. He has 30 years of experience in digital marketing and is a master storyteller.
- Thriving through loss and unlocking talents
- The relationship between acting and authenticity
- Transforming challenges into strengths and assets
Thriving through loss and unlocking talents
Darrell’s life started with a loss. When he was born, he had a grand mal seizure and lost hearing in his left ear. As a result of this trauma, he was late to speak and tended to retreat into himself. His mother, dedicated to his development, put him into a musical theater class to see if that would help him access his voice.
It did more than that. For Darrell, theater was the key that unlocked his potential and showed him a new way of being in the world.
“The other cool thing at the beginning [besides musical theater] was I got marionette puppets,” he says. “My first one was Mickey Mouse. The puppet isn't that tall, maybe about two feet, I can hold it up and operate it. I would march around the house with my Mickey Mouse talking to my mom.”
Soon enough, he was putting on shows and directing the neighbor kids on what to do, creating stories from a marionette stage built by his uncle.
“I think we're acting from the day we're born. We cry, and we have a fit until Mom gives us some milk, right? So acting—people think of that as theater, but acting out is something we do from the day we're born, we learned how to act to get a certain response,” he continues.
Babies are masters of the call and response, learning what behavior earns which reward and when to do it for the best results.
“To me, acting is a much more powerful word that is symbiotic with our human life and our culture and how we interact with others, as we act something out in our voice and our tone,” he explains.
The relationship between acting and authenticity
Everyone has different modulations of their personality. We act differently when having dinner with our family than we do in a business meeting or while reading a book. We take in our environments and act accordingly. Does that mean we’re being inauthentic? No. It means we’re responding to life and adjusting our frequency accordingly.
To “act” is not simply to “pretend,” it is to adapt and respond. To reach into ourselves and access memories, information, and what have you to show up in the way we’re required to.
“Stanislavski and the Russians came along—the Russians had been through a lot of tragedy—and Stanislavski came up with this method of acting where when I'm going to be a character whose brother just died, I’m going to go back into my mind to a time when I lost someone and pull up those feelings,” Darrell says. “So that in the moment of being this person whose brother died, I actually feel the sadness, I'm in the sadness.”
If we take that principle into business, it takes the form of manifesting. Somewhat of a buzzword it may be, but no less effective for that fact when done correctly.
Manifesting—simple language shifts, acting as if our main goals are already being fulfilled—creates a momentum that the world catches up to the more we lean into positive tonality.
“You're not faking anything. You are a gift to the world. The world needs your gifts, what you can teach, what you know, and what you can demonstrate,” he says.
To do that, we must have the confidence to step fully into our ambitions and believe the right people will find what we’re doing. That the world will catch up.
“Just like the Jedi with the light side of the Force and the Dark Side of the Force. We can use this towards the light and towards Abundance and our gifts that we know are our gifts, or we can go in the opposite direction,” Darrell warns.
As long as we’re choosing to focus on authentic gifts, we have nothing to fear from using the power of manifesting.
Transforming challenges into strengths and assets
Honing back into the world of theater, Darrell has no stage fright. He can walk out onto a stage and perform in front of 5,000, or 7,000 people, and not bat an eye beyond determining how he’s going to act everything out. That has remained consistent throughout his life.
However, when it came to meeting new people or engaging in everyday interactions, he struggled as a child to connect with his peers and still battles anxiety around making new acquaintances.
“As a kid, I would go and be in this Broadway off-Broadway show, and then come back to fourth grade, to kids making fun of me,” he explains. “But at the same time, I had my escape mechanism—getting to be with all these actors and be with all these adults, and we're doing this craft—so I didn't care.”
The theater was and continues to be a safe space, somewhere he was free to express himself and work on his art form among other artists. He could channel those feelings into his performances and continues to do so.
An actor has the unique capability and delight of using personal experience to heighten performance in real-time, with visible emotion and reactions, that most other art forms are without. Acting exists as one of the most straightforward forms of turning challenges into assets.