IDENTITY (Weathering the storm…without losing yourself)

All year we’ve been weathering “the perfect storm” in the entertainment industry, referring to the convergence of multiple labor strikes with the rise of artificial intelligence and its effect on creative careers. Little did we know that those of us in Los Angeles would literally be experiencing the storm of the century, not to mention a Hurriquake!!! For all affected, I hope this messages finds you well (and your homes above water).

Regardless of whether you are literally or figuratively in the middle of a perfect storm, if there’s one lesson we’ve all learned the hard way since 2020, it’s the following:

“The only constant in life is change.”

Given how this entire year has brought endless amounts of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety for all of us, this week I’ll be sharing with you a free 5-part email series on How to Master Your Mindset & Unleash the Warrior Within so you have the resilience necessary to weather all present & future storms.

Ready to discover who you really are?
👉 Unlock Your Inner Spartan
(FYI: Enrollment only opens once a year)


How to Weather the Storm (Without Losing Yourself)

I believe the “fear underneath the fear” we’re all experiencing right now goes far beyond the current economic crisis. We’re collectively experiencing an identity crisis. When not only our livelihoods but also our entire identities are wrapped up in what we DO, it’s easy to lose sight of who we ARE.

If your identity is largely tied to your job, it’s been a rough year, to say the least. Not only is there no work out there, we’re not even confident our jobs will be necessary anymore when the work returns! (P.S. I’m not even remotely worried about AI taking our creative jobs…here’s why).

While I can’t speak for everyone, what I’m largely seeing from reading the various industry Facebook groups and the reader comments on Deadline (Warning: For the sake of your mental health, DO NOT read the comments on Deadline) is the prevailing notion that we just need to “wait it out” until we can “get back to work.”


Unfortunately, if you largely define yourself by what you do and you’ve lost a sense of who you really are, going back to work doesn’t solve anything. If anything, it will only make the problem worse as you become even further enmeshed in your work identity.

To be clear, there’s no shame whatsoever in everyone’s need for a reliable source of income. And reading about so many people losing their houses and moving away from the city to transition to a more “stable” industry is absolutely heartbreaking. Going back to work is absolutely the checkers move that solves our most urgent problems. Supporting you and your family is always the top priority. Never look down upon yourself for saying ‘yes’ to a paycheck job.

But if you have the financial space (or alternate sources of income) to weather this period of uncertainty for a little while longer, I see tremendous opportunity in all of this disruption. And the chess move is using this time to redefine who we are beyond our résumés.

Eight years ago if you asked me what I do, I would’ve answered with “I’m a television editor. Have you seen Empire or Burn Notice?” Now the work I do as a television editor is a very small part of my overall identity. Last week my daughter’s 6th grade teacher asked what her dad does, and her response says it all: “It’s complicated.”

The short list of how I answer what I DO when asked today is: Creativity coach, career strategist, podcaster, author, editor, ninja warrior, husband, and father.

Sounds pretty scattered and unfocused, like I’ve simply become a “Jack of All Trades,” right? Yet underneath all of my wide & varied job titles and passions there is a “master of one” who specializes in connecting seemingly random story points and ideas and communicating them in an easy-to-understand, entertaining, and emotionally engaging way.”

Beyond my specialization, I no longer define myself by what I do, I define myself by the values & character traits that comprise the larger mosaic of who I am. The short list of character traits that collectively define me include (but are far from limited to):

  • Resilient
  • Bold
  • Gritty
  • Courageous
  • Consistent
  • Determined
  • Focused
  • Committed
  • Inspiring
  • Confident

I was not born with any of the character traits listed above (although I no doubt learned several via osmosis thanks to my wonderfully supportive family). As a self-proclaimed extreme introvert who spent much of his life afraid of his own shadow (and getting beat up incessantly because of it), I had to relentlessly push myself to earn the right to describe myself as any of these – much less all of them.

And a single decision to step outside my comfort zone is what changed everything.

My ‘Sliding Doors’ Moment

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘Sliding Doors Moment,’ it’s a seemingly inconsequential event that ends up becoming a major fork in the road for the future trajectory of your life. The term was popularized by the (mediocre) Gwyneth Paltrow film of the same name. (The concept is way better than the film, trust me.)

What has completely defined who I have become for the last decade of my life – and not just actions or events but what has defined who I am at my core – all boils down to the single moment I was asked if I wanted to run a Tough Mudder.

…and I responded with “Yes.”

If you had told me 10 years after running my first obstacle course race (and roughly 30+ races later) that I’d confidently be giving the motivational speech at the starting line of a Tough Mudder, I would’ve laughed you out of the room! Yet I recently I found myself on the starting line giving the motivational speech to countless racers.


(Scroll to 3 min for snippets of my motivational speech)

This impromptu speech might appear simple at first glance, but it took me 10 years to develop the ability, the experience, and most importantly the confidence to give a speech like this in front of a bunch of strangers.

And no matter what changes or unexpected challenges come my way because of strikes, artificial intelligence, mega storms, or (who knows what’s next on the 2023 Apocalypse Bingo Card?), I’m not concerned. The reason I’m not concerned is because I no longer define myself by the credits on my resume.

I define myself as a person who has the ability to figure things out.

Ready for a Once-In-A-Lifetime Challenge?

I shared all of this because I know transformational change is possible for you too. I realize that an obstacle course race might not be your version of discomfort, but how do you know until you’ve given it a try? The good news is if you do want to give it a try, you don’t have to do it alone.

Over the next four months I’m assembling a small group of creative minds just like you willing to embrace discomfort who want to train for their first (or next) Spartan Race.

Interested in unleashing the warrior within?
→ Click to learn more about training with me

Choosing to click this link above could become your “Sliding Doors Moment” that defines whether you go for yet another round on the hamster wheel of life versus you becoming a completely different person.

No matter what happens with the current labor strikes, the rise of artificial intelligence, or a myriad of other unexpected changes to come that you cannot control, there is one thing within your control:

Who you are and how you define yourself come January 1st, 2024.

You can either be somebody afraid of what’s to come as you stand at the starting line of the new year. Or you can be someone who has conquered your fears, mastered your mindset, and crossed the finish line of your very first Spartan Race.

Which person do you want to be?

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”