Coffee N5 Podcast - Alex Isenberg
Episode 73

Behind The Scenes of Success

with Alex Isenberg

Episode 73 – Coffee N.5 – Behind The Scenes of Success with Alex Isenberg 

Today, we live in such a fast-paced world that many people think success can simply come from one viral, random post on the internet. This fast-paced nature of things is slowly eroding the importance of working hard from people’s minds.

On this episode, Lara chats with multi-talented entertainer Alex Isenberg about the importance of working hard to achieve success as they both share how hard work helped them achieve success in their various fields. 

Alex Isenberg is a talented actor, singer, dancer, and all-around entertainer. Alex is the resident choreographer and creative director for the musical group, Duelle.

He’s appeared in Vogue, Dance, and Cool (Singapore) Magazine as a dancer and model. In his spare time, he teaches workshops, choreographs dances, and serves as a competitive dance judge across the United States.

Despite coming from a solid background, Alex has put the work in to achieve the level of success he possesses right now.

How do you position yourself for success? Why should you be working hard? What happens when you put in the work, but it doesn’t seem to be paying off? Find out the answers to these questions and more when you listen to this podcast episode with Alex Isenberg and Lara schmoisman. 

Things You’ll Learn: 

  • The importance of putting in the work 
  • Maintaining balance in an omni-skill world 
  • How to deal with rejection and come out stronger in the end 
  • The danger of seeking instant gratification in the pursuit of success 
  • Why exactly does it mean to be resourceful? 

You can follow Alex Isenberg on Instagram.

Check out his website

Follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

LinkedIn: @laraschmoisman

Twitter: @LaraSchmoisman


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Lara Schmoisman  0:05  

This is Coffee N5. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman.  Hello, everyone. Welcome back this week is unique. Even though this is going to come out in the new year 2022. Yesterday, I got an amazing news. I was selected to be forbes next 1000, which is a huge honor. And it’s incredible. I’m really humble about that. But also I just want to acknowledge that I do work a lot. I do. I started from nothing. Everything that I have in my life is because I earned it. And I feel super proud of that. Today, I invited someone to talk about these things too, because I think that there is ethic in work and we need to be proud of our work. I mean, we can always give ourselves that privilege of feeling proud. So welcome, Alex Isenberg. I think I said right. 

Alex Isenberg  1:09  

Perfect. Perfect.

Lara Schmoisman  1:10  

 Okay. Thank you. I mean, you are entertainer, dancer,  musician, actor, you are from LA to Canada and back. And you have so much going on. So why you dont you introduce yourself?

Alex Isenberg  1:29  

Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you for having me. Also, Congratulations. That is a huge deal of the Forbes situation. So big congratulations. Yeah, my name is Alex Eisenberg. I grew up in a little city, an outer suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up dancing and playing sports. My mom owns a dance studio in the town that I grew up from, and my dad played professional sports. So it was a little ebb and flow kind of the sports competitive side versus the arts dance side. And, yeah, I think from there, I went to school to actually be a plastic surgeon because I have a bilateral cleft lip and palate. And that’s something that I equally advocate for, then decided I was going to move to New York City and pursue entertainment. Right. So that was a little bit of a shift in my life. trajection, but went there. And, like you said, really worked hard and trained and grinded, got some opportunities and was there in New York City for about four and a half years where I acted, danced, choreographed, then I moved out to Los Angeles. And from there, I was there for him still bouncing back and forth there, but seven years straight. And yeah, I’ve danced with some of the biggest names, some of the smallest names in front of one person in front of a million people, but everywhere in between.

Lara Schmoisman  2:52  

That’s what I love about the show, because I feel like we really have a lot in common there. Because I, I don’t care if I talk to one person, or 1000 people, because from that 1000 If one cares if I can make the difference in one person’s life. That’s what ‘s important. You know?

Alex Isenberg  3:12  

Yeah, that’s what it’s all about, though, right? Yeah, if you’re speaking in front of 1000 people, if one person is affected, or you have an impact on one person, then you’ve kind of done your job. And that’s all there really is to that.

Lara Schmoisman  3:24  

 it’s about it’s not even, it’s of course, everyone wants to make money in this world and live comfortably, but I, it’s about making a living and legacy and for what you were telling me, it’s like you have a work ethic that you learn from your family. I mean, if your dad was in sports, I mean to be in sports, you have to have such a strong work ethic. And also you need to be so good to your body.

Alex Isenberg  3:51  

Yeah, I mean, the inner workings of it, right? You see it from far, and everyone you know, to make it as any profession. It’s not just sports, or the arts or business or anything in between, if you don’t put the work in to get there. It’s not that you might get opportunities because of who you know, or who you are X, Y and Z. But if you don’t, you aren’t able to back that up. It’s transparent people can see right through that. 

Lara Schmoisman  4:18  

absolutely. I mean, it’s so funny because sometimes we put ads with everything that is happening globally right now. But we need someone to be fluent in English. And you can find out that really easily if someone is not learning English. Sure, it is the same if you say that you’re a professional dancer, and they can test you at some point.

Alex Isenberg  4:43  

Yeah, if you’re walking into somewhere and being you know, oh, I can do this. And then when it comes time to do it, and then all of a sudden people over the working parts that got you there got you that opportunity. And then you can’t do it. That’s just kind of like ooh,

Lara Schmoisman  4:58  

I’m totally like Fake it until you make it. But you need to know your limits because yeah, otherwise you burn bridges.

Alex Isenberg  5:06  

Definitely, if you get like in my situation, if there’s a stunt or something, and oh, I can do that. And then usually they test you before you get to set or something like that. And they get on, they’re like, Okay, now it’s time, you’re like, Well, I haven’t done it in about 10 years, we’ll see how it goes. On ever. Yeah. And then just everyone’s going, Oh, how are we gonna make this work, you just put a lot of people in hot water. 

Lara Schmoisman  5:33  

then it was and you put a lot of people at risk, there is a domino, this domino effect for everything we do in life. Even if you have a nine to five job, I don’t care. I mean, if you don’t perform what you need to perform, you’re, you’re always part of the team. And if you’re not doing your part, you’re affecting others

Alex Isenberg  5:55  

100%, then the team aspect I think is brushed over a lot. Because not in every situation like you yourself, just based upon what little I know about you, you’re very much in a leadership role all the time. But that didn’t come from always being that 

Lara Schmoisman  6:12  

I pair my ideas, I serve more coffee that I drank, probably.

Alex Isenberg  6:18  

Definitely. And if you don’t know how to be, like, follow and be a part of the team, then I don’t think you can be an effective leader.

Lara Schmoisman  6:25  

Absolutely. And also, I mean, I also studied drama for so many years, and I worked as a producer, I worked in radio and television and that’s what I love about the arts because it’s always an ensemble. And in an ensemble, you need to know how to work together. And that’s for me training a work culture and teamwork is so important because it’s an ensemble. It’s like putting a puzzle together. And if that puzzle doesn’t work, one piece doesn’t fit right. Perfect for the other. It doesn’t work

Alex Isenberg  7:04  

totally Yeah, like the whole thing comes crumbling down and then all the other puzzle pieces even if they are gelled perfectly like that one piece it ruins the whole thing, right? The puzzles are not complete. 

Lara Schmoisman  7:16  

and that happens in any part of life. How do you feel about this success that is immediate right now with the influencer world.

Alex Isenberg  7:27  

So I’m on the cusp of what is like between generations of like the idea I didn’t grow up with the Internet. Like it came whenever I was in middle school. But it wasn’t a I didn’t wasn’t born into it. I didn’t wasn’t pacified with an iPad. And this idea of instant gratification, which I think alludes to a lot of what you’re talking about, it’s if I put up a picture, Instagram, for example, I put the picture, instantly, I get likes, and that is they have proven it with science, right? There’s a chemical reaction that comes with that, and a, like a scientific support that it does something to you. So you put value into something that realistically fit people on the internet, if you don’t believe me,

Lara Schmoisman  8:16  

then like his heart many times, so someone who you feel loved, right, 

Alex Isenberg  8:21  

it creates this fake sense of, of people that care about you, right? That it’s like, these, this thing. So if it’s hard to kind of shame it because these kids and these young people don’t know much different. That’s what they were brought up on. And that’s like, in like, it’s very inherent for them, which is weird, because I teach a lot of dance as well. So I get to work with a lot of young artists and young people and seeing that manifest in the idea of hard work versus not getting the instant gratification because if that’s not there, then it’s kind of like for a lot of people I won’t speak for you know, everybody but if you see it, I feel like more now than you have in the past. Because there is that idea of if I’m not getting the likes, if I’m not getting the deals if I’m not getting the influencer situation. It’s kind of like, well, you know, jealousy rather than Oh, I see that person working hard for the one that’s the route that I should take.

Lara Schmoisman  9:22  

Well, what scares me more about this is that it’s the fantasy that you can make money as an influencer. I know influencers that make a lot of money and which is great, but I also know that they put a lot of hard work into it. Oh, yeah. And they have other degrees and I’m honestly scared. I have teenage kids and I see in that generation that there are a lot of people. Why would I even go to school? Why would I even do that when there are kids that are making tons of money?

Alex Isenberg  9:53  

Yeah, I think it’s still the 1% and that’s what people do because it’s so accessible, right? Have you seen people in a film or silver screen? You’re paying money to go to a theater to watch someone in a movie? Right? That’s still far enough away from you that it’s okay. I can’t just snap my fingers and do that. Whereas an influencer, just like you said, I have an iPhone, I have a mic. I can do that. I can do that. But that’s not that hard, right? And you don’t see the hours of production of editing, of marketing and branding, that there’s so much that goes into it that people don’t see that makes it feel right there.

Lara Schmoisman  10:34  

Yeah. And I have to be honest, I have conflicted feelings about this. Because as a person, I think it’s great to give everyone a mic and that everyone can speak freely. But as a marketer, I have a conflicting feeling, because people think that oh, because I have the tools I can do my own marketing.

Alex Isenberg  10:52  

Yeah. So with our music, that what we’re working with right now, and things that the bumps in the road that you find and what you see behind the scenes have said things such as placement, you might have, I’m not saying that our music is best, well, but if you have a great song, just because it’s a good song doesn’t mean that it’s going to do well. There’s so many things like behind the marking the having people able to

Lara Schmoisman  11:21  

 I always compare this like, yeah, I can go and get a surgical kit, but that doesn’t mean that I should be doing surgery. . And it’s the same. I mean, Instagram, Facebook, all those things are tools.

Alex Isenberg  11:36  

 Yes. Agreed.

Lara Schmoisman

And but by no means is what I called my home base, my home base, there are other things. Yes. keep in consideration, what is your home base

Alex Isenberg

Home base for me is just tenacity, the idea that something that I’ve really found at the baseline of things. I don’t believe that you’re going to outwork me. And that’s something that can’t be a measurable quality. But if something doesn’t work with my version of success, if I’m able to achieve this goal in not an outward thing, like some people might not look at it, like oh, you’re not the 1%. But if I’m able to have a career and sustain myself with, again, unfortunately, money has to come into it because you have to have money to live, of course, right? So am I able to live off of my art, my dance, my choreography, these things? Then going back to do I have a support system that is a healthy support system, are the people around me like minded enough, and especially with my fiance, she is very like minded, she’s going to find a way. And that’s why we work so well together, because it’s a team of it being just problem solving. Life is critical problem solving, right? I have this thing that I have to do, how am I going to achieve and get where I need to get with ethics the right way, but still be finding new ways to propel what I love.

Lara Schmoisman  13:09  

 That’s being resourceful. 

Alex Isenberg  13:11  

I think that’s yeah, exactly what it is not doing anything to step on anyone else’s toes or, or put anybody else down in the meantime, but all my do that with ethics, and then hopefully be able to bring others with me to hopefully get to a position where I can hire my friends or see people that aren’t getting other opportunities, because simply things that I went through coming up that I can unlock those opportunities. Those are the foundations of what I think my home basis is to the big things.

Lara Schmoisman  13:45  

I want to ask you something because I don’t know if many people know this. But being in the entertainment industry means learning how to deal with rejection. Every day, every day. It’s a huge factor in that industry. I’ve been in that industry. And I know how hard it is mostly for dancers, actors. I mean, I was in the production side and I had to deal with my own two which are maybe different. But

Alex Isenberg  14:12  

you know, for you know based on like art, right is usually a reflection of yourself. It’s vulnerable to put something out there and like you’re coming in there as a producer, right? And I couldn’t and I couldn’t imagine being in for women, you have to work twice as hard to get half the opportunities.

Lara Schmoisman  14:31  

Oh, believe me at my age even back then. 

Alex Isenberg  14:37  

Yeah, that’s exactly like the skew of being taken seriously or getting opportunities and things like that. That is something that’s still there today. And you watch it and see what is going on. But like the rejection part of it no matter what it is, this hurts right here.

Lara Schmoisman  14:57  

I have this thing I don’t know if you’re saying that that took Lately, there is all these girl boss movement. And they are female. I’m happy to be part of that. But to me business marketing has no gender. We live in a new era of gender, they have no gender, no age businesses business we should be not looking at. And that’s why I love the voice that they can’t have to pick based on quality.  But I think rejection is really hard. And how do you deal with how you learn how to deal with that rejection? For was it a shock that this is something that I need to learn?

Alex Isenberg  15:38  

 It was interesting,  getting to the amount of what was coming, because, you know, back whenever I was auditioning at like the peak of my auditioning season, I might be going to make two, three to five auditions in a day with this tape is sending, so which I mean, that opportunity, the fact that that was a chance, I couldn’t be happier than I was getting that opportunity to have a yes happen out of that. But looking at what really helped was I took a class and the teacher is perspective, right? I’m going in to give my best effort of what I interpret the dance as what I interpret the sides and acting or put my best foot forward as a choreographer. Not looking at it that they’re saying no, to me in the fact that it’s like, oftentimes, it’s out of my control, it’s just not the right fit. And back to the puzzle, the puzzle piece analogy, we just want a great fit.

Lara Schmoisman  16:47  

Exactly. And it’s the same even though I learned something from a friend, she is very well known in her space, and she taught me something really important, I might love you, I may really love you as a person, I think we can even be friends outside of work. But if my company doesn’t love you, if you’re not a good fit for my company, I’m sorry. Because again, I’m praying that if you’re not a good fit, you’re creating a whole space of disturbance, you know?

Alex Isenberg  17:22  

Absolutely. And it’s so and then they are still interpersonal, like you’re still dealing with people, right. So having a thick skin and not letting those things affect you had to come in earlier, I don’t think I would be here talking to you today in terms of being an artist still. Because if you’re not proud of what you’re doing, and able to hold that confidence in it, that I know that I’m talented enough that what I bring to the table is still somebody who’s going to see it and enjoy it and want it and to hang on to the ladder long enough that someone’s going to give you a chance and opportunity and then or you create your own.

Lara Schmoisman  17:59  

 I know a lot of people are auditioning, they are under, they’re not taking it that way. And this creates an anticipated feeling of resentfulness. They are eager and I think it’s really important to see the other side that sometimes it’s not about you. It’s like, if I’m walking on the street, I go to buy coffee, and someone is in a bad mood. It’s nothing that I did to have a bad day. And it’s thinking why we will take it personally. You wouldn’t take that personal but you will take personnel that someone says no to a job. Yeah.

Alex Isenberg  18:38  

And there’s so many one of my favorite things that I’ve ever heard was somebody casting a person at that. They spoke very candidly about it and things. Did I eat lunch? Am I hungry for lunch? Am I when they’re evaluating people, you might be the best candidate, but you look like their ex. And they’re just putting you into the no pile because of things. Again, nothing to do with your talent, nothing to do with you as a person, just little things that you don’t even think about in terms of being hired for a job. So do I have somebody that looks like me in the dance thing? Right? Do I have a book and that makes sense of how my hair works? Do my eyes, the wrong color, things like that, that you just don’t even associate to

Lara Schmoisman  19:31  

And also what I know also many times we’re not looking at that ensemble that we talked about before because sometimes it may be great here, but you just want to work with the right fit for that and sample.

Alex Isenberg  19:45  

Yeah. And that’s if you can have that mindset truly and there’s jobs of course I’m not going to sit up here and say that I’ve just every time I get rejected, it’s okay because there’s jobs several times that I’ve gotten even like to test for and then didn’t get the job or you been, I’ve had called back six, seven times, and you’re like, Oh, I gotta be, I gotta be in contention. And you don’t get it like that. That hurts because you’re so close.

Lara Schmoisman  20:12  

What I love about you is that also you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. Sure, you’re an entertainer, but you’re okay saying I teach too. And that’s also something that probably supplements yourself, knowing calm, and it’s because you cannot put all your eggs in one basket.

Alex Isenberg  20:31  

No, and especially as a dancer, because your career is going, it’s very comparable to playing sports, right? You can’t play, you can’t play as a professional sport forever. That’s just unrealistic, your body’s gonna break down. And most people aren’t hiring the 50 year old dancers just you know, for a tour with so and so that’s just not going to happen. Now,

Lara Schmoisman  20:52  

not everyone is rita moreno know.

Alex Isenberg  20:55  

Exactly. No, for sure. But yeah, and what I’ve found that really works for me personally, is one is a great break from the other. So whenever I get an acting job, it’s like so nice, because then I’m away from dance for a while, then I’ll come back to dance. And it’s like a reinvigorated fire. Your love for it kind of returns because once you’re doing it eight days a week, and you’re just burnt out 12 hours a day, your tunnel is tired anymore. And that kind of thing. When you get to be on the other side, especially with the music, one thing I found and speaking of eggs in a basket, having experience in all these different realms, really brings a different thing to our music for our videos. Now we’re working on our live show, and things that I’ve discovered or experienced in the dance realm, in the acting realm, in filmmaking and things like that, that are kind of all colliding. 

Lara Schmoisman  21:52  

What happened to me today? When I went to school, the internet didn’t exist. Yeah, it’s something that I had to learn on my own and with the time but combined with my experience experiencing radio, and television, in film, in distribution, in advertising, then everything I was able to come up together. But you know what, for example, if I put everything in a resume, I wasn’t a good fit for any job. Sure, because I did so many things. That’s too

Alex Isenberg  22:21  

 You’re too well versed. Exactly. Not specialized enough, 

Lara Schmoisman  22:25  

exactly which I think is completely wrong. I think people need to learn through the lines and see because right now, like I always talk to my clients, we work in an omni channel world, but in also you need to work in an omni skills world

Alex Isenberg  22:46  

which is also going back full circle, but I think when I noticed just a lot of the younger people coming up, they’re not told to be good at everything. It’s to pick one thing and try to be really good at it. But how much of a disservice is that to a person not only

Lara Schmoisman  23:07  

totally, I mean, everyone who listens to a podcast knows that I have these issues with education. I feel like my kids are being taught not to think outside the box, shall we one more than to level up. And also they are taught to work in a cubicle without the big windows. Television.and I’m completely the opposite. I like to encourage them to speak up and they got in trouble for that a lot. And I like to think outside the box.

Alex Isenberg  23:39  

Yeah, there’s a big world out there and like dealing with other people and communicating with other people is something that I really enjoy because I like to hear what you think and not only what you think but why you think it. Why do you feel that way? Why do you have that mentality of approaching things like that? Because if I can understand more of myself then that makes me better and more understanding of other people too at the same time.

Lara Schmoisman  24:08  

Yeah, absolutely. If you’re one of those guys who is in a line and always talking to people. 

Alex Isenberg  24:14  

Oh, absolutely. I like your shoes. Those are really good.

Lara Schmoisman  24:20  

shoes are a great icebreaker

Alex Isenberg  24:23  

or make it like making them really average jokes. Like I like to think I’m semi funny, but I’ll make a really average joke. And then if you want to chat, we’ll have a good chat. And if you don’t, then I’ll just leave you alone and probably make a few more terrible jokes on the way but you know, yeah, why not? 

Lara Schmoisman  24:40  

you never know what can happen. Our time is up. But before that, I want to ask you the same question that we asked everyone every guest in Coffee number five, because I do believe that we learn from mistakes or things that happen in life and that we say oh, we should have handled I should have handled that better. frankly, and our audience can learn from you. So what’s your lessons? Tell us your story? And what did you learn from it?

Alex Isenberg  25:09  

The biggest biggest thing I think, was actually 100% knowing exactly what it was I was doing a job in New York and it took, I booked it New York, and it got to see a lot like a tour going to see a lot of different countries got to do this whole thing. And found out that some of the other cast members, like the pay scale was different for everybody. And young, brash me reacted, my reactivity at the time was not as low level headed as I am now. And went and made a little bit more of a scene than I probably should have. Because I mean, it wasn’t about me getting paid more, it was about some of my other cast members that were basically getting pennies on the dollar that I was getting paid. And I went to it and was like, What is this like? That is not right. That’s not cool. But not that I did. But the way that I did it, because then it was embarrassing. Somebody that was older than me, it had given me an opportunity and these things. But the way that I did, it was something that I really worked on myself, I was reactionary, and off the RIP bit of I felt some way, word vomit, here it comes. But that is something that again, I’ve worked on to listen, take a second, take a breath before I’m ready, no matter how it makes me feel, how it makes me think like what emotions that elicits. Take a site, collect my thoughts, and then weigh the options then deliver my response, my feelings, and if it needs to even be talked about in certain situations, but that was one thing that kind of really flipped a switch for me that I needed to work on that of myself.

Lara Schmoisman  27:06  

That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing, and for being so candid about it, because that’s something that I think everyone can learn a little more to analyze how we react, because we don’t need to know how things I mean, now you’re running your own businesses, and you know that from running businesses, it’s a completely different perspective. Definitely, yeah, it’s your thing. So you never know what the situation is. So maybe it’s important to learn to ask questions, instead of being reactive

Alex Isenberg  27:40  

100%. And just to do it in the appropriateness Because if I have something to say to you, right, in a public forum, it’s never going to go well.

Lara Schmoisman  27:50  

Yeah, I mean, there are places and places like others is something that I see also lately a lot, which is people not acting well, to create criticism. Criticism needs to be done on the side. I’m sorry, I’m not talking to you as a person. I’m criticizing work, right? And it’s not that I’m asking you to do something unique. I’m not asking for something extraordinary. I’m just asking you to do your job.

Alex Isenberg  28:21  

Yeah, it is important, because if you don’t have, if you don’t have that no one’s doing, not everyone in the world is doing their job to the best of their ability. That’s just a fact. But if you are in front of people, but like you said, pull aside to be like, Hey, this is kind of what’s happening. Thought for me to get defensive and reactionary right there to sit, understand what you’re saying, Look at what you’re saying, and then make an approach as well. Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman  28:50  

Sometimes I mean, when you’re criticizing work is part of our data and samples. So you need to understand that you’re affecting other people’s work. And he’s, like, the other part of the team doesn’t notice that you’re doing something wrong. So for them to acknowledge and to say, hey, you can do better. Also, maybe your team can help you. Definitely. And, anyway, thank you so much for being in coffee number five. It was a pleasure talking to you today.

Alex Isenberg  29:18  

Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. And again, congratulations on the Forbes 1000!

Lara Schmoisman  29:24  

it was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao.

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