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Michael Antonakos | Canada | Be YOU!!

I was born in Athens Greece. I relocated to Canada at the age of 3. My parents owned an Inuit and Native Art Gallery in Lake Louise and Banff, Alberta. I was performing since I was 9 years old, and I spent my youth with the Rocky Mountain Shakespeare Company. My mother was a ballet teacher/choreographer, where I had begun my dance training. My sister a now prominent opera singer got me into singing and I trained with renowned classical teacher Nicoli Kolesnikov. Man…I’ve always wanted to be an actor. It’s kind of one of those blessings/curses you get when you know what you want to do with your life. It’s a blessing because you’ve found it! You know deep inside there is nothing else for you on this planet/human experience that is going to fulfil you quite like this. And that is wonderful. The curse is that nothing else, no matter how many other careers, sports, life styles you try…and I tried many. None of them really filled that desire to be, in my case “An Actor”. What a crazy profession. Your life is spent performing for people, exploring other people’s lives and psyche’s. Messing with your own mind by pulling emotions out of you that one would never want to touch in their lifetimes. Why? Fame? Well, no. It has to be something more, at least for me. It’s a need to express myself physically, emotionally. I don’t know how else to put it. But I love embodying people, I want to feel them, what it’s like to be them, even if only for a moment. It’s exhilarating. I don’t know if I’d encourage one to attempt to make a career at this, you will most liking learn a whole new level of pain you have never imagined. Constant rejection, constant need for approval, constant need to perform and present yourself a certain way. Let me give you a quick example, auditioning for a role is like going to a job interview. Most people go for a handful of job interviews in their lifetimes. Imagine going to five a week for 15 years and not being paid for them. Being rejected, not because of your skill set, but because you look different, you’re not, white enough, black enough, brown enough, you have a big nose, or you just look like the ex of the producer. That takes commitment, and you have to build not only a tough skin, but a strong conviction towards your desires. It’s like any dream you have. See it, believe it, and go after it with the knowing it will come. The hardest parts is being patient and staying to it even when it’s all falling apart.

What ignited the spark in you to start your career or to make significant changes in an existing career?

At first it was all about me, I see that now. I needed attention, I needed to feel important in some way, I was the child of divorce, and my family life was in shambles at that time. This was my way of getting attention and getting praise. I loved it. I felt important. But that only has a shelf life for so long. I wanted to do this because I liked it, not to try and get praise and attention anymore, and that really made me have to shift the way I was thinking about why I’m doing this anymore? So, I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen and asked myself “ and kept asking why? Over and over again, and you keep asking to every response you get, even when you think you know answer, you keep asking. I’m talking pages and pages of responses too. It helped me make a significant change in myself. Once I knew my why, it became clearer.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your career and how did you overcome them?

When I was younger, I thrived when people told me “No”. There was this force that pushed me harder inside to do it, to prove that I could. That fire can be very powerful, if used wisely. My stepfather used to call me “Sleepyhead” because I was always off in the clouds daydreaming. I used to think it was a bad thing, I had to become more grounded and disciplined, and in some aspects, he was right, but you don’t want to get rid of the daydreaming. Now I see it as one of my best talents. My imagination is an amazing power that can do more than my hands and hard work ever could.

Over the years, career wise, I’ve had three major obstacles. One was the way I was perceived (physically), the other was my energy, and the third was my mind-set. I am a Greek Canadian, brought up primarily in Canada. I’ve been told I look ethnically ambiguous, that I have a handsome quality, but not the typical all American handsome; like the glorious Brad Pitt! (lol). So, what the heck do you cast this guy as? That has always been an obstacle for me. I am ethnic, but not ethnic enough, I am white but not white enough, he’s too good looking to be the sidekick, but we don’t know if we want him as the lead cause he’s different. So, what did I do? Diversified my portfolio. I practiced accents and voices, and I built my way into voice work, cartoons/animation and video games. I continued to do movies and television playing any role I could, from terrorists, to Hispanic gangsters, to cops, baseball players and warriors. Literally anything I could, pretending to be any race, I would paint my skin different tones, I would learn dialects. And then my weakness became my strength. People started knowing me as a chameleon, as a character actor, and video games started hiring me because I was so good at becoming other people/aliens/monsters. It didn’t matter what I looked like anymore. It was all about my talent and abilities.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

Oh yes, quite a bit. I lived in small town growing up, and big ideas are easily laughed at. But I was determined to see if it could be done. My family didn’t really think I could do it, I think they thought it was just a lofty dream and that I needed to wake up to reality. I will give credit to my mother for doing her best to get me the support I needed, with schools and teachers, but I could tell she was scared. She was worried I would get hurt in life and have nothing to fall back on. That I would have a more stable life if I became a doctor or a lawyer, or at the very least a dentist! They were afraid. And that was okay. I wasn’t, and I knew that. I put all my eggs in one basket and I didn’t give myself an excuse to fall back on if things didn’t work out, it was do or die, and I did! If there was one thing I would have added to the experience growing up, it would have been to find a mentor, a life coach, or someone to apprentice sooner, it probably would have saved me a lot of time.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your career success?

Learning, everything I could get my hands on. But not just about my profession. Learning about life, people skills, positive power of the mind. Books like Napoleon Hill’sThink and Grow Rich, and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People were huge for me. Anthony Robbins has been a Guru for change in my life. Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay were massive in helping me learn to love myself more, and Ester Hicks (The Teachings of Abraham) gave me the belief that anything was possible if I could get myself on the frequency or vibration of having my desire before it manifested . There are so many wonderful teachers out there if you start looking for them. The other guy I’d like to give some credit to is Robert Scheinfeld. He wrote very worth a read, Busting loose from the money game. The thing that I learnt from him, is that even though I may think I am on the frequency of my desire, I still may not get it, not because of my determination, but because I have inner blocks of resistance that I need to address and release. He gave me a really cool process to help do that. Now when I know I have resistance towards anything, I work on releasing its power over me.

The other element that I feel I don’t mention enough, is the power of meditation and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping) Man, life before it sucked, and when I don’t do it enough, I can feel myself getting scattered again. It is one of the most useful practices you can do for just slowing down and focusing clearly. To get more done by doing less. It sounds like a contradiction but it’s kind of this strange paradox. If you become centred and present, you make clearer decisions, you don’t do things that waste your time, and you’re less distracted in the mind. Plus, you have an easier time envisioning/imagining and feeling where it is you want to go. The EFT helps you remove unwanted feelings and thoughts and helps you implant new ones at a much more rapid pace than just doing affirmations by themselves. Look it up, give it a shot. And remember it takes about a 23 days to build a new habit and see its effects, so be patient.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

That it’s not about me. The whole world is filled with people, animals, nature, and then there’s me. I am here to enjoy this wonderful life with so much to offer. Make something, do something, be someone amazing. And do it, by giving. You will become so successful by making the people around you successful at the same time. Lead the way and encourage them to do the same, show them and guide them to their highest. The day I started going to work and started making the work environment a great place to be, encouraging everyone around me to be there best while at the same time being an example of my best, the work started pouring in, and it was more enjoyable. People want to work with people they enjoy working with, not just people who are gifted or talented. Here’s a good thought, I’m sure Steve Jobs probably faced. You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t get the room to feel as smart as you, they’ll feel small, and you’ll have a challenging time working with them because they won’t understand your genius and you’ll both be frustrated. To clarify, be great at whatever you do, and be a great person while doing it. What does it mean to be a great person? Well, that’s a question for you to answer.

What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?

No dream is too big. You have been gifted with ‘you’ in this lifetime, so make haste, for one day this too shall pass. Your gifts deserve to be shared with the world, don’t be afraid, fear is just and illusion of the mind. Be you, be different, it’s okay, we’re all so caught up trying to be the same, it’s nice to see someone being themselves. And lastly, make friends of like mind, and create together. A mastermind is the fastest way to help you get where you want to go. You may want to do it all alone, but in the end, you will be alone. Success is about all of life, not just career and financial reward. So, work at improving the lives of those around you as you go towards your dreams.


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