This book probably falls on a spectrum for most creators and most professionals - depending on how much time you’ve spent in drama classes or at Toastmasters, the approach in this book could be anywhere from totally new to you, or advice you’ve heard before.
But wherever you fall on the spectrum it doesn’t matter, because Michael Port’s writing is fun to read and isn’t accusatory or pompous. He’s like a cool dad who wants you to rock the presentation, get the job, ace the keynote. He’s like your drama teacher without the drama.
The pieces of advice might be things that, deep down, we knew were true, but it’s nice to have Michael Port in your corner reassuring you. It’s fine to assume multiple personas, he says. It’s fine to rise to the role, in fact, it’s great! Yay.
Michael Port never pitches the idea of life-as-a-movie or life-as-a-tv-show, but instead he pitches it as life-as-role, and you can take multiple roles. In fact you should take multiple roles. It’s what modern life demands from us and we can rise to this occasion.
I used to spend time with people in entertainment and met a few indie-film actors. One might think of actors negatively in the same way that people think of artists: if they’re good at acting, what if they are good at faking, embellishing, manipulating?
Turns out none of this needs to be a concern. Actors are among the most genuine, sweet people I’ve ever met. They’re studying and creating, and sometimes they get chosen for roles and sometimes they do not. They’re doing their best for a job they’ve been hired to do, for a role they have been selected to play. This mode of thinking is well-communicated in this section about taking risk and stepping up to challenges below.
While casting directors and job interviewers and bosses can all-too-often be seen as antagonists or gatekeepers, deep down, they want you to succeed. They want you to wow them. It’s your job to make big, strong choices.
Michael Port tells us that if actors can do it for roles, non-actors can do it for the many performances of life. In this mode of framing life-as-performance, Michael isn’t teaching us how to become an actor or how to get famous (thank god). What he is saying in this book is “You already are an actor! Here’s how to get good.” The confidence in this book is infectious. I felt like I had just climbed a mountain with the coolest person I know.
Like a good keynote, the book didn’t drone on and on. At first I found myself wishing that the author had included a few more anecdotes of how he worked with his students to overcome their fear, then I realized he didn’t have to do this, it would have been too much.
For the introverted like yours truly, it’s probably true that just reading a book won’t help us perfect our public speaking goals. Along with Steal the Show, Michael Port has built an entire public speaking empire, a website, classes, and his own keynotes. This book is just a book, it’s just step one. Yet for being ‘just’ a book, it’s a well-voiced, active, stagelike read.
Like some kind of ride, I wished this book were even longer and I was sad when it was over, so I went back and reread several points. It’s the ‘Let’s ride it again’ at Disneyland kind of book. You’d want to lend this book to a friend that you care about, but also buy another copy for yourself just in case.