Every hero shares the same superpower: The ability to improve.
Their commitment to getting better is one of the biggest reasons we root for them.
From Rick Blaine in CASABLANCA to King T’Challa in BLACK PANTHER, we cheer for characters as they go on journeys of growth, constantly working towards bettering themselves.
So is the case in real life: we always want to be a better version of ourselves. But the people who succeed in this quest, who improve the most, are those who do so deliberately.
This holds true for actors or anyone in the entertainment industry.
You must always be actively improving yourself, no matter where you are in your career.
The second you stop improving, that’s when your growth as an actor and a person stops … and it’s when it gets harder to root for yourself to succeed.
To that end, I recommend that you ask yourself these five questions that will help you hone in on what you want to improve, why, and how you’re going to do it.
1. What are you trying to improve?
“Talent” is somewhat of an abstract idea, so I hope didn’t just answer that. When you’re thinking about what you want to improve in your life, you should be thinking about clear, actionable things.
When you think about improvement in a purely abstract sense, you risk overlooking the gradual positive steps you need to take to get there.
Identifying action items like “I’ll read two scripts/week” or “I’ll go to one networking event/week” allow you to appreciate the progress you’re making and not get bogged down by feeling you’re not moving as fast as you’d like.
Maybe you want to be more aggressive about networking. Maybe you want to work on your auditioning skills. Maybe you want to cultivate a different skill that could help you in your acting career, like learning how to edit together a reel for yourself.
Whatever it is, it’s got to be something specific, concrete, and actionable. And most of all, it must be something that you truly want to work on.
The more motivated you are from the get-go, the more likely you are to succeed.
2. What is your current process for trying to improve?
This ties in directly with the last question.
It’s more valuable to look at the contributing pieces to your end goal rather than the goal itself. You can improve in your field through practice and training, certainly, but how are you going to practice and train?
Get in the mindset of thinking holistically about the process it will take to reach your goal, and write that process out. Compare it to what you’re currently doing and be honest with yourself. What’s easy to do, what’s a little more difficult?
It’s important to take stock of where you are so that you can chart the logical next step. You may, in your current process, already have a layer of foundation that you can build upon in your journey to self-improvement.
If, for instance, you want to network more, and you’re already making a new contact every week, you have a base to work from.
On the flip side, it’s OK if you’re starting with nothing — as long as you know where you’re coming from, you have nowhere to go but up.
3. What are the biggest roadblocks to your process?
There are a lot of obstacles on the road to success.
When you’re continuing to think about the building blocks of the process, you can more easily identify the roadblocks, too.
Night shift keeping you from your prime thinking hours? Look into trading shifts.
Identifying the practical roadblocks to your process is the first step in eliminating them entirely.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to dream of something, but it’s a whole lot harder to turn that dream into action. And what stops more people than anything is an unexpected obstacle.
Just think about how many New Year’s resolutions fall through the second someone’s schedule fills up so they can’t go to the gym, or a break-up happens so it’s too stressful to quit smoking.
But if you plan ahead and think through what the roadblocks will be, you’ll be able to work against them before they even show up.
4. What could you do to eliminate or improve those roadblocks?
Some things will always be outside of your control so focus only on what is.
The amount of time you can devote to reading, studying, learning new skills, meeting new people. Maintaining a positive attitude.
You’re not going to be able to rework an agent’s schedule so she shows up at your one-man show but you can put in the hard work and treat the people you meet well.
When you can identify the roadblocks that are within your control and take steps to overcome them, the ones that aren’t in your control may just work themselves out.
Let’s say you want to work on your audition technique, but you have no way to talk to a casting director about how you perform in a room. It may seem like an impenetrable roadblock, but why not invite some actor friends over for a mock audition?
Everyone gets a turn auditioning, and then everyone else gives them feedback following.
You may not be getting that feedback directly from the source, but you will be getting plenty of notes from other people working in the business.
And just like that, you’re back on the road to improvement.
5. What ONE area will you focus on eliminating/improving next year and how specifically will you implement it?
This echoes the prevailing theme of keeping it simple and actionable. Nobody has the time or energy to completely overhaul their life at the drop of a hat.
Rather, zero in on one action item and devote yourself to it. Break down the process further.
When you’ve committed to improving that one area of your overarching process, other good things will follow.
Be specific. Don’t just say, “I’m going to have a better reel,” or, “I’m going to go on more auditions.”
Know how you’re going to get there, and layout specific steps.
Create manageable goals for yourself that you can work towards over the course of the next year. And then, once the year’s up, take stock of how much you’ve improved … and find something new to work on for the coming year.
The greatest heroes of film and television always work towards improving themselves and achieving their goals. That’s what makes them compelling, more than their looks or talents.
It’s the unflinching need to do better.
Model your own careers on that and you’ll always be working towards success.
Now that you know how to improve, the next step is to learn how career-making moments happen.