It’s About Getting Better, Not Booking

Recognize in your despair you will be vulnerable to tricksters and hucksters who will sell you false hopes.

Remind yourself no one beat you out for the part. There were intangibles greater than that. If you believe you could’ve done or handled it better, then get back to work at getting better.

Do at least one thing every day that allows you to express yourself. Write, sing, dance etc.

Do at least one act of kindness towards yourself, someone you know, and a stranger.

After a long day, when you crawl into bed, ask yourself “Am I a little better and/or more fully realized than when I woke up this morning?” If yes, smile and say well done. If not, then commit to being a little better tomorrow without beating yourself up.

Express gratitude. Pet an animal.

Stretch and meditate for at least 5 minutes twice a day.

Work out or at least go for a walk every day.

Turn your phone off when with friends or when working on a script.

Call people to express emotion, don’t text it.

Grow as a person and you will grow as an actor.

The more human your interactions the more humanity you can bring to the role. To get better. Be better. 

I believe that it is a fool’s errand not a hero’s journey to pursue and analyze artistic success by the number of bookings or likes you get. Creativity thrives best in a nurturing, collegial, supportive environment. When actors perceive themselves as gladiator’s playing in a benign version of The Hunger Games, they cannot produce their best work and tend to burn out quickly. Ultimately, if they achieve some success, it is as a foot soldier in somebody else’s war. Does competition create better artists or gladiators? I admit there is room for considerable debate here and we can all be right differently. I’m just tired of the militaristic approach to acting. “You’ve got to own it!” “Go kill it!” etc. 

If you need to compare yourself to others, then compare yourself to their work ethic. Don’t sit in the psychological battery acid of jealousy and envy. 

Recovery from “defeat” is as important, if not more important than anything. We must be vigilant and attentive to our inner thoughts. We must learn:
1. Winning or losing are ephemeral. They last only if your memory clings to them and your ego attaches undo importance to it.
2. People don’t fail. It is what they do that fails. If we follow the narrative that it, WAS you, then what can you do? You’re a loser! If it is what you DID, then you can figure out what you did and be better the next time.
3. We learn: defeat is part of it. Life is real, not a fairy tale.
4. Although painful, losing is an ego attachment to the RESULT not the process of getting better. The content of your dream can take on many forms. A dream cannot be contained by the role we assign it. (i.e., actor, writer/director/ etc.)
5. The fulfilment or the arrival of your dream does not come with a guarantee like an Amazon delivery date. You might have to be patient. Don’t cancel the order in a pique. 

“No one can construct for you the bridge upon which precisely you must cross the stream of life. No one but you, yourself, alone.” Fredrick Nietzsche 

Competing with others or oneself is not the only legitimate way to measure one’s life. Nor is it de facto always the best way to achieve success. It is critical that you become more cognizant of how you are defining your success. There are many ways to locate and measure ourselves in the world. They can be based on the quality of the experience, not just the quantity of the achievement. Not all of us are alpha players with psychological bloodlust. I believe this is particularly true of artists where subjectivity plays a disproportionately larger role in success than in other more quantifiable professions.

I am not sure who said this but “luck is just probability taken personally.” Success and failure are often built on random events that can tip a dream into a reality or a pit of disappointment. We strive to be better. We strive for perfection. There is nobility and courage in this pursuit. There is honor in trying your best and falling short of the mark if you can get up and learn from it. We are like Sisyphus rolling that boulder of determination up the hill only for it to slip down the other side at times. Sometimes we book a role, maybe even 2 back-to-back. We soar like Icarus towards the sun and bask in the joy of success. It can be fleeting and at times we come crashing down. We must find a way to balance it out and achieve a sense of joy and purpose in the work itself, not in the result we wanted to achieve. If we don’t, it puts us on a path of diminishing returns. Life is not binary. It is fluid and multi-faceted. 

“The secret of life is to be completely engaged with what you are doing here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Alan Watts
Threading the needle, running the gauntlet or being tossed between the horns of doom and glory requires the discipline of self-awareness, courage, focus and honesty to keep you on your path.
Sometimes, all the effort in the world will not supplant the stubborn matter of taste and luck. The truth is not everybody succeeds at what they set out to do in the way they first envisioned it. (Mine certainly didn’t, but I’m still here and working at it 50 years later). I am still tilling the same soil, navigating the ups and downs of this industry, and trying to follow my own advice. I’m not going to pretend that if you don’t succeed at what you first set out to do, that it won’t hurt like hell. It does. However, the measure of us is that we can get up, learn from our mistakes and do it again. If we don’t panic or get despondent, we will find something that will not betray the essence of the original dream.
As I said at the beginning, we can get too hung up on the form our dreams must take. We can lose sight that the experiences we have can be more important than their outcomes. 

In the final analysis, you do what you love, and you don’t do it for fame or fortune. You do it because there is something deep inside of you that needs to be expressed. You may think that’s because you want to be an actor, director, producer or a writer etc. The goal is to express yourself as fully as you can throughout your life, and if you do, some level of success will follow.

There is also a high probability that it will be a pleasant and satisfying surprise.