“Luck” Photo by Erwin More of More Medavoy
When I hear people talk about actors, I often hear “luck” referenced as a reason for their success.
“Sure,” I say. But then, I define luck as being prepared when opportunity arrives. You may not create it exactly, but you sure as hell execute it.
There are always going to be things outside of your control but, as an actor, it’s imperative to see “luck” not just as a random whim of the universe, but as a foundation that can be built upon. That’s one lesson I’ve learned over the years, and one I’ve been thinking about recently.
As such, I was inspired to put together a collection of thoughts that I feel may be valuable to actors searching for success — or at least in need of a pick me up. These 11 guiding principles will give you the best odds to achieve success, at least professionally, by helping you improve your outlook on life.
1. Figure Out Your Purpose
Many people spend the majority of their life trying to “find” their purpose. Unfortunately for them, they don’t realize that all they had to do to understand their purpose was to look within and ask themselves:
– Who am I?
– What do I care about?
As an actor swimming in the Hollywood ocean, you’ve probably already discovered your life’s greatest passion. If acting isn’t it, then this may be a bumpy road.
Knowing this passion puts you one crucial step ahead of many people out there. The secret for you, however, is to remind yourself of this passion. Everybody needs a refresher on who they are and what they stand for — but it’s not always going to come from outside. You have to be your own best advocate.
Reflect on what you enjoy doing, working on, and keep a list of all that inspires you. Read that list. Believe in that list.
The most direct and fulfilling route to success is to define the specific characteristics of your purpose, and then work on executing strategies to achieve it.
2. Find Your Motivation
I ask this question to clients and potential clients all the time. I learn so much from the answer. You have to know what motivates so you can see it – If you can’t see it, you most likely won’t achieve it.
There are times when we all need to reach down deep and pull something out of ourselves that we didn’t know was there. There are early mornings, late nights, and stressful situations when we ask ourselves the question – what are we doing and is it really worth it?
Whether it’s getting out of bed to go for a run in the morning or going in to read for a casting director who has never hired you, getting motivated is tough, but finding this motivating factor is crucial to any kind of success.
Think about what motivates you to achieve your life goals, and it can’t be money. Being driven by money will only leave you dissatisfied, because you will never have enough, and it comes at a severe personal cost.
Challenge yourself to find your personal source of inspiration – a child, a lover, or whatever makes you go that extra step. Think of these things when you feel ready to give up.
3. Never Stop Learning and Helping Others
What did I learn today? I ask this question to myself every night on the way home from work.
You may have completed your formal education, but it’s incredibly important for everyone to ALWAYS seek education and continue to learn. This is because consistent learning brings out more fun in life.
It doesn’t matter what you are learning about, as long as you are challenging your brain – questioning why and rebuking negative preconceived notions. So learn about dog breeds, how to make paper, the history of toast, renaissance art. Just learn!
Knowledge should be stockpiled, loved, and then shared with those around you.
Information is not only power, it is the currency to self-fulfillment. The more you know about the world, the more you can use that knowledge to better yourself and seek additional opportunities.
You never know when that knowledge may come in handy for a role, or a shared interest may score a role in a film.
4. There Will Always be Problems
Twenty-five years in the entertainment business and X amount of years in life (I know I look 29, but I am a little older than that) have taught me that life is a never-ending circle of problems. Aspiring actors new to Los Angeles will know this intimately. They are as consistent as death and taxes. You can always find stress and anxiety, even in happy moments and joyous occasions.
Yet, once you actually appreciate the beauty of the problem, life becomes a hell of a lot easier. When you’re just starting out, yes, finding the time to nurture your craft is difficult when the bills are piling up and rent shoots up every year. But you’re not alone. And it’s not all for naught. There are lessons to be learned in the struggle.
Accepting that disorder and unpredictability are elements of life can help you finally attain some Zen. Knowing that problems are going to come (and there is nothing you can do about it) is empowering. It gives you a sense of control so problems don’t seem so scary after all. It teaches you lessons, and it gives you life experience that influences everything you do and every role you play.
You are always going to stumble into roadblocks throughout your career in this industry, it’s how you deal with them and move forward that makes you who you are.
5. Own Your Mistakes
This one is short and sweet. You made them, and now you get to learn from them. If the lesson is more valuable than the pride and shame of making the mistake itself, then it wasn’t truly a mistake after all.
6. Honesty Counts
Superficiality may rule in Hollywood, but the lessons you learned about telling the truth in grade school still reign supreme. Always go for the cold hard truth.
Work to build your reputation as someone who is known for being consistently honesty. That’s a brand you can carry into any business, no matter where your passions take you.
A fudge here, a bent truth there, all add up to a string of lies that can quickly spread out of control. In a business where people share information like Buca di Beppo entrees, there’s a good chance you will get caught in your lie.
Professionally or personally, your word is your reputation. Your reputation is your livelihood. Being honest will endear you to the people in power, sure. At the same time, it will also endear you to yourself because you’re not selling out or stressing to remember what you said to whom.
7. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Challenge yourself to do something that is uncomfortable every day. That goes double for pursuing roles.
If you’re an overachiever and really want to push yourself, complete three things each day that are uncomfortable to you. Why you ask? Because getting out of your comfort zone is a verifiable psychological concept that can assist you in making changes in your life. These positive changes can lead to tangible personal growth and success.
In acting, getting outside of your range and trying a method or genre that is completely baffling to you obviously strengthens your craft. Work a muscle you don’t use very often and it starts to get stronger.
Even though stress is generally avoided, a little bit of stress is actually healthy for us. Stress actually motivates and pushes us to finish things that we have been procrastinating on. Research has even shown that those who are willing to take risks (i.e. step out of their comfort zone) will reap the biggest rewards. It’s the same as working out to get in shape.
You can’t do the same thing day in and out and expect to see change – challenging yourself is the only way to see results!
8. Confidence is Key
When you’re confident in what you’re doing and your abilities, it will sting a lot less when things don’t go your way. Sure, it will still hurt when you’re passed over for a role, and may even doubt your abilities. But if you maintain confidence in yourself, your passion, and purpose, you will have the courage to continue and the assurance to know you will reach success.
Without that confidence, it’s much easier to get caught up in what others tell you to do and waver from your principles. When you start doubting yourself, it shows, and nobody is going to cast someone who doesn’t know who they are. How would they possibly know who this character is?
9. Surround Yourself with the Right People
Surround yourself with people who have strength in areas that you know nothing about.
Listening and learning about other people’s backgrounds fuels your creative stimulation and gives you perspective. If you need inspiration for a new role or project, you may not need to look any further than your friends. Knowing a diverse group of people is a gift; use it to your advantage. Don’t just hang out with actors.
Your success later on depends on the friends you chose as ultimately you are betting on each other. I am not sure WME (William Morris Endeavor) would be around today if it were not for the close relationship Patrick Whitesell had with Scott Stuber and vice versa. Maybe someday you’ll be one half of a great comedy duo, but I’d bet anything on you both being empowered by people with different skill sets.
I get asked all the time what kind of company are you going to build. My answer is always, if I surround myself with people I like, trust, laugh, learn from and could teach, the rest will take care of itself.
10. Define Your Goals
Dreams with out goals are just dreams.
Look at yourself honestly: who do you want to be, and what are you willing to do to become that person? Not just as an actor, but personally as well.
Once you have clarified your goals, you need to write them down, so that you can look at them to see if you are on the right track to accomplishing them. Taking the time to define what you want to accomplish is paramount to actually accomplishing it.
There’s a lot of research and helpful tips available online to help you write your goals in such a way that they are SMART (specific, measurable, realistic, attainable, and trackable). Do a little research to set yourself up for success by concentrating on developing your goals.
11. Prove Things to Yourself
There’s a great moment in RUDY when Charles Dutton’s character tells Sean Astin, “In this life, you don’t have to prove nothing to nobody but yourself.” If you take this into your rooms and auditions, I promise you will see amazing results.
Easier said than done, sure. At some point, all of your ideas, goals and time spent need to add up to results. First for yourself – then your results should create value – value for others.
It’s in this notion that I always ask others what your drive and motivation are.
How do you watch award shows? Are you rooting for your peers or pissed that you’re not up there? Give love and you will get it back in spades.
The second best use of your time, other than with your family, will be pursuing the dreams that have been planted in your heart – doing the work and creating whatever it was you were put here to design. Finding yourself is the beginning of the journey. Through faith, hope and perseverance, you’ll continue on your journey toward your purpose, which is your unique why that only you have been given.
When we are brave enough to act, put things in motion and keep moving, we begin to realize the pursuit of the life and career that we’ve imagined is intoxicating. Assuming we give maximum effort with a positive attitude, and plan things out intelligently and thoughtfully, the best bet in life is always the one we place on ourselves. It’s experience that backs up our bet or words – you now have that. It’s living in the moment that gives meaning to everything.
You have the opportunity to blend your unique talent with enthusiasm, spirit and moxie, creating things and helping others, like nobody else ever has in history. There’s a tremendous amount of power in that. There’s pride in that. It’s a lot of responsibility, and equal parts exciting and exhilarating. I can assure you — you need to desire and want this more than anyone else to achieve success, respect and accolades.
Success, however you define it, will always require that you care and that you work harder, smarter and more efficiently than anyone else. This is especially the case when the value that you create is for others. That’s how you create beautiful work, thrive in your craft, and deliver exceptional value to everyone you encounter.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments below if you have the time. If you found my blog helpful, please share: