How to (Professionally) Put Yourself First

Last year, I had two experiences the really changed the way I view things:

Experience #1:

It was a shit day. And it was only 10:06 am.

My internet bill was unusually high. I had two emails informing me of projects I participated in that needed fixing. An employer was asking me to come in early. Oh, and then my bike got a flat….I wasn’t exactly feeling “authentically positive,” like I strive to be.

I got another call from the employer. They were requesting a new time change for the day.

“Oh sure! No problem.”

This wasn’t the answer I wanted to give. I don’t like changing my schedule. But I wanted this job. And I needed the money. After realizing the other things I needed to get done that day (not to mention a new thing where I had to fix my bike,) I realized this wasn’t going to work. I called back the employer, requested an alternative time, and worked out a compromise.

Experience #2

Different day.

I got a text before bed from a different employer. It said my weekend shifts had been reassigned and that I would now be working in the suburbs. Since I don’t have a car, I typically avoid these shifts. I replied back, respectfully declining the assignment. They answered with an offer to reimburse me for travel. I started to realize that not only was this a longer shift (aka – more money) but it could score me brownie points with the company.

I almost took it. But again, I remembered other responsibilities I had that day. I respectfully declined again….they offered me back my original shifts.

Putting yourself first

It’s easy to think we have to do what others want. I find this goes double when we’re younger and “working our way up” to some of our goals (particularly financial ones). We don’t want to upset or offend. We really don’t want to lose potential income. But in both these experiences, I realized that I could make double the amount of money I was currently making, but still go to bed stressed out with things like scheduling and less time on goals and personal projects.

I needed to take charge. Even if it meant earning less.

When you find yourself wanting to put yourself first – that’s okay. Remember to a) be professional, and b) be upfront with your communication. And c), realize that as you do this, you’re exercising a form of self care that will allow you to better serve others.

Go get ’em, friend.


Lake Michigan – my other form of self care #nofilter 

***   ***   ***

Have you checked out the Tony Rossi Show podcast yet? (I heard it’s good…) 

By the way, I’m Tony. I live in Chicago. (Duh.) I’m an actor and podcaster living right up the street from Wrigley Field. 

My blog is here to help others take control and live a more authentically positive life on their terms. Since working with a coach and learning more about personal development, I’ve started sharing my learnings with others. (I have a lot…)

If we’ve never meet – shoot me a tweet!  Would love to hear how you found this 🙂You can also find me on facebook, instagramYouTube, or check out my actor website

Oh – and I’m now on iTunes! #TonyRossiShow


GUEST POST: Eli Van Sickel

What is up, my friends?! 

Today you’re getting a break from yours truly to hear from a friend of mine 🙂 

Eli Van Sickel and I have a few things in common: A passion for the arts, engaging in uplifting activities, inspiring others, and most of all – baseball. I asked Eli to share some words for this week’s post. 

I tend to write on the side of, “Do what you love and make it a career.” But what about if you don’t want to make it a career? Is it okay to work a “real job” when you’ve been chasing a career in the arts all your life? Or is that considered ‘settling?’ 

If you’ve ever wondered that – this week’s post by Eli is for you. 


How I Learned to Stop Taking My Passions So Seriously

I was always career-minded. Whether it was a product of my upbringing, my culture, the expectations I assumed
people had of me, or the expectations I had of myself…I don’t know why but I grew up always thinking in terms of career paths and life plans. This was constant, regardless of how many times I changed my mind about what I wanted to do, which I did fairly often during my teens and early twenties. My brain would not allow me to just love doing something; I had to make it a serious career.

When I fulfilled the fantasy of my childhood and became a sportscaster for my college radio station, I had to add a double major in communications and start planning a career path in radio sports. When I rekindled my love of professional wrestling, I had to look up wrestling “schools” in the region where I might receive training as a referee. My fascination with politics (and, let’s be honest, my love of The West Wing) led me to focus all of my energy on becoming a political campaign operative…for about a month and a half. It was not enough for me to be passionate about playing music and writing songs and self-recording my own albums; I had to try and figure out how to make it as a touring musician! And I cannot tell you how many times I changed my mind about what my niche in theatre would be. But the whole time, I was always looking at graduate school, and I was always making five or ten year plans. And I was ABSOLUTELY going to reach a level of success by the time I turned 30. That was a must. It was more than a must. It was a given.

But then the rest of my twenties happened. I moved around a bit. I was unemployed for a bit. I did some things I had hoped to do and I did some things I had never dreamed of doing. And very few of the plans I had made came to fruition. I wound up taking a risk and going back to school for something totally different: college student affairs. What started out as a possible “day career” has turned into my primary focus for awhile (at least for the next two years as I finish my masters degree). And now that I’m almost 30, and now that I’ve spent some time removed from the creative/artistic/showbusiness/theatrical life that I’ve known, I have a newfound perspective: I have not given up the artistic, passionate side of myself. Now I see it in a different way.

Having the guts to pursue a career in something you’re passionate about is a blessing. But I am finally at a point in my life where I can allow myself to pursue my passion without making it my career. I find it incredibly freeing and joyous to be able to go to perform for the sake of performing. I am happy to sit in a living room with friends and play my guitar. I can write a screenplay not because I want to make a career as a screenwriter, but just because I’ve got an idea that I want to try and put on paper. I no longer have any expectations of myself as a theatremaker, which means that I am open to whatever experiences might come my way.

As an artist, it will always be easy to blame yourself for not being rich and famous. It will always be easy to compare yourself to your peers and your colleagues. It will always be easy to hate the prospect of having a “day career” and it will always be easy to look down on the artists who do. And, if you are like me, it will always be easy to take something you love too seriously. But I’m here to tell you that it is easier still to just create your art. However you can, just create your damn art. Or better yet, find LOTS of things that you’re passionate about and PURSUE them however you can…and don’t feel like you have to devote your whole LIFE to it!

As Tony will tell you, so much of the pressure we experience is actually self-made. Once you give yourself permission to experience the joy that your passions bring you, free from apology or expectations, it will make a lot of things easier.

Eli Van Sickel is currently pursuing a masters degree in College Student Personnel at Western Illinois University. He previously spent years as a professional theatre maker (primarily sound designing) in Chicago, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and throughout Indiana. He holds a masters degree in Theatre Studies from Illinois State University and a bachelors in Theatre from Indiana State University. He shares Tony’s passion for positivity and personal development.

***   ***   ***

Got questions? Want Tony to give an empowerment talk to your group or school? Email me: 

***   ***   ***

Thanks for reading!

By the way, I’m Tony. I live in Chicago. (Duh.) I’m an actor and blogger living right up the street from Wrigley Field. 

My blog is here to help others take control and live a more authentically positive life on their terms. Since working with a coach and learning more about personal development, I’ve started sharing my learnings with others. (I have a lot…)

If we’ve never meet – shoot me a tweet!  Would love to hear how you found this 🙂You can also find me on facebook, instagramYouTube, or check out my actor website

If you’re uncomfortable – say something

Quick announcement!! 

I’m going to be doing my first ever Empowerment for Actors workshop! 

Location: Next Door Chicago, 659 W Diversey 

Date: Sunday December 18th, 7:30PM 

Cost: Free

Check the bottom of this post for more! 

It was day two of the RSNA conference at McCormick Place. I was working. As a live model. 

And let me tell you folks – while yours truly weighs 140 and is tall and lanky – he is a killer live model! Many a doctor have raved about how clearly Tony Rossi anatomy comes through via ultra sound.  


Disclaimer: We all do this as willing participants. We get emails asking if we want to participate. We then get a booking email. Upon arrival, we sign a form agreeing to participate and recognizing we can withdraw at any time. So if we later decide, “Nah, I’d rather not expose my anatomy to a bunch of strangers today,” we get to do that. 

How being an ultra sound model works: You lay on a table, much like the one you would see in a visit to the doctor’s office. A doctor then performs an ultra sound on you on whichever body part is being examined that session. 

Now typically, my least favorite day of the sessions is abdomen day. In order to see our abdomen accurately, we’re asked not to eat before arriving. I. DO. NOT. LIKE. NOT. EATING. But this year, I found myself with a new session to dislike: Pelvis day. I had never done this one before. 

“Ah,” I thought. “So that’s why the email told us to make sure we were wearing boxers….” Still, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I’m comfortable with my body, and I didn’t mind them moving the probe a little lower. 

The session began. I didn’t like it. The session continued….and I really didn’t like it. These guys were getting the probe right up there. “HEY!” I thought to myself, “I MIGHT BE SINGLE AGAIN BUT THAT AREA IS RESERVED!” 

All joking aside, I was very uncomfortable. And I didn’t know how to express this without upsetting people or compromising my paycheck for the day. Fortunately, my doctor was a very nice person with excellent bedside manners. He continued to ask me if I was okay. He reminded me that we could stop if I wanted to. I nearly did. I nearly spoke up. Inside, part of me was screaming to say, “You know, I really would actually like to stop. I’m sorry for being an inconvenience when I know this is what you’re all here to see, but I actually was mentally unprepared for this particular session. I’d feel comfortable if we stopped.” 

But each time I thought this, another voice chimed in. It had some other thoughts: 


Tony. These doctors flew in from around the world to get hands on experience for this. They need you to participate.

You’d be causing a major inconvenience if you asked to stop. You know you’re going to really upset them if you back out, right? 

Remember you’re getting paid for this? You need the money. And besides, you woke up at 5:30am to be here….don’t blow this. 


Now, had I realized what this session was going to entail before signing up, I probably would have declined. Now I know I should ask what body parts they’re scanning if I participate in the future. It was the sudden “Hey, we’re about to stick this stick really close to some intimate areas! You ready?” that caught me off guard – so much so that I didn’t have the courage to speak up. There was all this imagined pressure and it was easier to keep saying I was fine. But the truth was I felt very uncomfortable and trapped. 

Another disclaimer? Sure! ONE MORE TIME! This was a very safe space. I was in the room with respectful people. I’m grateful that I learned this lesson in such a safe space. 

I still wanted to share this story because we’re living in a time where a lot of people are coming out with stories of being physically abused in inappropriate ways. I can see how very easy it would be for someone to not speak up when caught with a sudden, “Hey, you’re cool with this, right?” when working as an actor in a play or a film. If I hadn’t had this experience, I probably would have gone along with whatever the director had asked me to do if I was thrown a curveball on set. 

I hope that everyone gains the courage to speak up. Our respect for ourselves speaks more volume than any paycheck can provide. 

Feel free to pass on if this would be helpful for another friend to hear. And if this resonates with you, I’d love it if you would leave a quick comment saying so, or to shoot me a tweet

Let’s be brave. 

Let’s go get ‘em, friends. 


***   ***   ***

Hey acting friends….

Have you ever said the following?? ( I have…)

“I’m stressed and can’t enjoy myself. I thought this was supposed to be fun?”
“I’m getting discouraged with the amount of rejection I keep getting.”
“I want to get the part, but I feel like everyone is angry at me when I audition. I don’t want to feel like I’m not wanted.”
“Paying the bills is just draining me…”

NEXT WEEK I’ll be doing my first ever live workshop!

Some things we’ll cover….

-More empowering ways to view auditioning
-What to do when you feel like people are upset at you for being in the room (auditions, rehearsals, etc)
-Start seeing networking as something fun
-I’ll give you a “start doing” and “stop doing” list for when it comes to an acting career
-I’ll share some exercises on “how to be happy without the fluffy BS” that I came up with myself

Sunday December 18th @ 7:30pm
Next Door Chicago – 659 W Diversey


(Oh, and it’s free)

Email for questions or to RSVP

***   ***   ***

Thanks for reading!

By the way, I’m Tony. I live in Chicago. (Duh.) I’m an actor and blogger living right up the street from Wrigley Field. 

My blog is here to help others take control and live a more authentically positive life on their terms. Since working with a coach and learning more about personal development, I’ve started sharing my learnings with others. (I have a lot…)

If we’ve never meet – shoot me a tweet!  Would love to hear how you found this 🙂 

Wanna see more? Check out my actor website or YouTube channel!

Wanna make sure you never miss a post? Click the “Follow” button in the right corner to enter your email and subscribe! 

BIG NEWS! (And a post….I promise…)

Hey TonyinChicago readers!

For those of you who have hit that “subscribe” button below – many thanks 🙂 I love seeing that others are resonating with the idea of being a more authentically happy person.

Because I want to spread the word of how much control we have over our own happiness, I’ve started applying to other websites.

(Fear not – TonyinChicago isn’t going anywhere 😉 )

In the meantime, I’ve started contributing to a new website called One of my favorite posts just got uploaded and I’m happy to share with you all today….

“The Journey To Happiness”

(This one’s for you, actors with day jobs!)

When I first got to Chicago, I wanted a job. Any job. I had moved to pursue acting, but I couldn’t be an actor without money. So I applied anywhere and everywhere.

My first gig was at a toy store. I made $8.50 an hour. The staff and customers were kind, but the job didn’t excite me. Between the pay and my desire to do a bit more exciting work, I needed a change.

I got an office job. I was a receptionist. (I know. Not very exciting.) I made $9.00 an hour and worked 40 hours a week. With a few exceptions, both the staff and the clients here were not too kind and caring….I very much needed a change.


Click here to read the full post! 

***   ***

Tony is a theatre and film actor living in Chicago, just up the street from Wrigley Field 🙂 He loves helping others to become the happiest version of themselves so that they can live more fun, fulfilled lives on their own terms.

He also loves to blog on how to do this. 

Contact him for a free one-on-one to see if he can help you with your own mindset and happiness in life, or to inquire if he can do some writing for you!  You can reach him at

PS – Rumor has it that he loves when you hit that “share” button for friends and family to see 😉 

Treat Others Well. Or Else…

Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve worked my share of “survival jobs” – work that pays the bills, while you pursue the work that you love. As I look back at some older jobs, I recall several unpleasant experiences.

As you know, this is a blog that promotes positivity, healthy living, and creativity… allow me to share.


What happened: I once found part time job with a flexible schedule. Despite lots of time invested in training and studying, it didn’t pan out. I made the decision to leave before receiving my first paycheck. I never got it. I later learned from several others that the same happened to them.

Where they are today: I just learned last month that the company went under well over a year ago.


What happened: I worked for a company with a verbally abusive boss. Don’t get me wrong – I was not exact stellar in this position. Yet I’ve had important mail placed in the wrong mailbox, and I know not to tell the mailman that he’s an F-ing idiot…see where I’m going with this?

Where they are today: They fired the boss. Shortly after, he sued them for a reason I was unfamiliar with. A bit after that, the building got torn down.


What happened: I had a great job that fed me creatively. Great boss, great coworkers, great location. There was an employee appreciation dinner every year. Excellent food. Open bar. They even let me come back for a shift on Halloween after I moved.

Where they are today: Last I heard they’re still doing well 🙂


It’s possible outside circumstances affected the first two companies that had nothing to with their work either. Looking at it from the outside, it seems that karma got the best of them. At the third employer? They’re pretty great. And I hope you give them lots of money.


I mean, what’s NOT to like about working at the New England Pirate Museum??

I’d be sad if anyone read this thinking it was about revenge and satisfaction. If anything, I think once we leave a job we don’t like, we should put all our focus into the ones we do like. Holding grudges is a great way to drain your mental and emotional energy. (Example: Anyone who has ever held a grudge over an ex.)

Treat others well. Be happier yourself.

Go get ‘em.