NATURAL SELECTION: An Interview With Renaissance Man, Stuart K. Robinson on Talent, Magic, and Personal Power

Stuart K. Robinson is the CEO of Brady, Brannon & Rich Talent, aka BBR, a talent agency that offers to support and create commercials, theatrical/bi-coastal legit, print, digital design and personal appearances.

Stuart is nationally known as a motivational speaker, revered as one of Los Angeles’ top acting instructors and author of the book, “It All Begins With ‘I’”; a monolithic scripture that summons readers to step out of their own fear and into the dreamy world of possibility through action— hitting the pavement with a plan. 

Sound like an oxymoron to you? Dreams meeting Pavement? The ethereal nature of desire, that supernatural fire you’ve always felt you couldn’t quite capture? While speaking with Stuart, I felt immediately that he contained multitudes; warmly commanding his own expertise and gravitas while also possessing a kind of mystical persona. So what is his secret? His lightning in a bottle? In the Official Blog of Stuart K. Robinson, in which he speaks directly to each reader (I honestly thought it was addressed TO ME, to me, thank you very much) he starts with these beautifully haunting words: 

“Listen to me.” 

“Listen to me. Please. I hear the way you speak to yourself – saying things you’d never say to others. I see you approaching opportunities as though there’s no chance you’ll succeed. Listen to me. You CAN do this. It’s not mystical. It’s hard work. ACT. Take action. DO.” 

Suddenly, everyone in their own cave-dwellings, offices, and the rest of us— twisted in a tabernacle of sheets mixed with lost Cheetos on a Netflix pause, all stand to attention and put our hands over our hearts. “

Out of pure & innocent curiosity, I must ask. Where on earth did you come from?

I was raised in western Pennsylvania in a 99.5% all-white community. I grew up on a farm, and it was in the time where if you were Black, the rule was speak when spoken to, keep your head down and don’t make trouble. But I was an outstanding student, and my teachers loved me. So to protect me, they would pull me aside and say, “You need to tone it down ’cause the world is not ready to hear from you.”

My family moved to California when I was eleven. I had a serendipitous encounter with a sixth grade teacher who, after a few days, called me up in front of the class and said,

“Boys and girls. This young man is magical. He can do anything.”

And I realized at that moment that it was the first time anyone had ever spoken to me that way.

It was the first time anybody suggested that I had unlimited possibility. It had a tremendous impact on me— and from that moment on, I made it my business to be great at everything.

 

How did your seemingly spiritual commitment to greatness get you to where you’re standing now?

To this day I am one of those people that see a college brochure and want to take every class because it all looks so fascinating to me. The downside is that people in the entertainment industry, which is my chosen business, kept telling me, “Well, so what do you really want to do?” Because I was saying I’m an actor, director, writer, composer, singer, dancer, author, speaker, etc. and they said, “NO, you’ve got to pick one.” And I said, “I want to do them all.” Their answer? “Well, you’re not going to make it.”

I refer to myself as a hyphenate. Meaning I can direct your film, I can direct your play, I can write it, I can light it, I can edit it, I can act in it, I can score it. I can play all the instruments as I score it and sing the title track. I can cast it. I now own a talent agency. I can get you actors. I own a management company. I am a CEO of a company, but that’s not really what I do. That’s not who I am. I got to where I am because I didn’t invest in titles — racial titles and gender titles and ALL OF IT. I invested in myself and what I know I can do.

 

How would you describe the kind of folks you want to work with?

We love talent. Our goal is always to make the relationship more important than the transaction. The business I’m in tends to be very transactional, but those transactions are hollow if there is no relationship. People think I’m always trying to come out on top and make a deal for our clients. In truth, I’m trying to serve the project in the best way possible, and I’m trying to honor the relationship because I believe that if you and I establish a relationship, you’ll continue to do business with me and we’ll find the best possible outcome for everyone.

 

If you were speaking directly with students — really anyone who has dreams to capture their own lightning in a bottle and one day build a Renaissance model of business success, what would you say?

Three things:
Goals. Strategies. Tactics. 

A lot of people have goals. I want to win an Academy Award. I want to make $1,000,000. I want to be president of the company. That’s great. It’s a wonderful goal. And a lot of people say, oh, that’s unrealistic. You’ll never win an Academy Award. Well, not without strategies and tactics. If you want to win an Academy Award, what are the steps that have to happen in order for you to get there? You’re not going to jump from here to the Academy Award. There are steps. But strategies are no good unless you have tactics that are going to make them actually happen. I’m going to enroll in an acting class. I’m going to make friends with a writer and learn everything they do. I’m going to meet every casting director on the westside of Los Angeles.

 

What’s the difference between a tactic and a strategy?
A strategy is a plan. A tactic is active. It’s the thing I’m going to do. I’m going to attend five film festivals and make it a point to exchange information with ten directors. That’s a tactic. That achieves the strategy of building a network of filmmakers that I can call on and pitch my stuff, which serves the goal of becoming a working film actor.

 

What kind of people do you want to hire?

It’s always amazing to me when people interview at my company. People don’t ask for what they want. They wait for me to lead them in the conversation. When the truth is, I’m looking for people who have something to offer, who can proactively present themselves and their ambitions.

 

We aren’t here to teach successful people to achieve more success. At MediaU we’re here to show folks how to get off the Rez, out of their small towns, either imagined or real, and their perceived low expectations— to stand up, get to work and break free. How did you do that?

I did not have it easy. I grew up dirt poor on a farm. I was a struggling actor for a long time. I lived in my car for months. Every time I had a job opportunity, I treated it as if the company were mine. So in my mind, I was already a CEO even when I was working the french fry machine at McDonald’s, my first job. I took care of everything that I could take care of to make it be the best that it could be. On my break, instead of hanging out and doing whatever everyone else was doing, smoking cigarettes, I watched video tapes on management.

Treat the company like you own it. And one day you will.

 

How do you handle rejection? How should anyone handle rejection?

There is no rejection. Especially in my business— the entertainment industry. It’s not a business of rejection. It’s a business of selection. Someone else got chosen for the job. No one’s trying to reject me. They simply didn’t buy my choice. Fortunately for me, I have a million choices that I could offer you. So it’s not going to kill me if you don’t select me on this particular job. When I go to a department store, there’s 100 garments on the rack. I choose one. Should all the other garments fall off the rack and quit being sold? No, I didn’t reject them. I selected this one. There is no such thing as rejection.

 

What is a lasting comment you’d like to make, if it could echo across the water to the person who is waiting on the shore for answers?

All I’m trying to do is inspire YOU. If I can inspire you, then the people who read this will see they can, too, be inspired. You teach one person— you can teach them all. You can do anything. Show up. Make the call. Say YES and bet on yourself. It will work.

 

***

Be the CEO of your own backyard. Be the owner of the clover. Mop the floor like you’ve never seen a mirror. Sing in the shower like you’re at Carnegie Hall.

Applause, applause, applause.
And bow.

Photo of Stuart K. Robinson by Mark Rodriguez. Links to learn more about Brady, Brannon & Rich Talent and the Official Blog of Stuart K. Robinson.