L.A. is a tough town to live in. Show business is a tough as fangs business to work in. We know that. But one aspect that makes both of these arenas particularly difficult is the fact that this city has a Never-never-land element to it—one where actors refuse to be happy or financially responsible in the now, but chronically push such elements off into the future when they’ve achieved some tabloid-worthy success.
Below is some of the most classic shit actors say that gets in their way and some of the most destructive. If you can overcome it, you’ll be happier than you ever imagined.
“If I get this job, I’ll never ask for anything else…”
“If I book a ___, I’ll know I’ve made it!”
“I’ll be happy once I’m a series regular.”
“I’ll start saving money once I’m making six figures.”
It’s really great and important to have such goals, but if your goals start getting in the way of your day-to-day happiness and your ability to act like a human being by being present in your daily life, your goals have now become obstacles.
How to make your ambition your friend and not your enemy. Essentially, you need to put your ambition in check, be happy now, and stop hedging all of your happiness on outside forces that you can’t control.
How many times have you let the entire day pass you by as you waited for your phone to ring to find out if you got that part, that call-back, that agent, or manager?
You are at the mercy of so many external factors as an actor. An unfathomable amount of decisions are out of your control. Despite your very best efforts to book a role, you might be too short, too blonde, or not a close enough relative to the producer. Many key details that stand between you and your desired outcome are out of your hands and it can leave you feeling very unsteady.
You have a responsibility to take control of your inner world. Not to bemoan how unfair the industry is or to push your happiness to some pie-in-the-sky day. Your job is to be centered. How? Stop waiting for your “real life” to begin and enjoy, relish in, find all the peace and pride in the life you are living in, right now.
Take a break and enjoy the sunset. Take time to fall in love and have your heart broken and to very creatively plot revenge on that jerkface. Being happy now is your responsibility as an artist. We forget that.
Ambition is the obsession with the end result. Tenacity and grit is the moment by moment. While ambition may have planted the seed of where you’d like to go, you don’t let it drive you there—you don’t hand over the responsibly. Ambition will eat you alive. Center yourself so that your ambition doesn’t take over the show.
Easier said than done? Whether you’re a beginner or an Academy Award winner, the same series of questions plague us all. What if I fail? What if I never work again? What if I made the wrong choice to work on this or that film and it ruins my brand? What will happen to my career now that I’m aging, now that I’m larger, now that it has been three years since I’ve been on a series…? Believe it or not, there is no top of the mountain, there will always be peaks and there will always be valleys.
As Julianne Moore memorably said at the SAG Awards this year, “As an actor, you’re always surprised when things work out.” This means that even established, lauded, and award-winning actors experience a profound sense of what-ifs and wrenching amounts of uncertainty—particularly if that’s something Moore felt compelled to say on the red carpet.
One of my clients is currently in the process of creating an original series for HBO. As exciting as this sounds, he is absolutely terrified. He feels that it could all go away in the blink of an eye. He’s right. It could. He’s also always extremely grateful and excited, as this is a huge career milestone. The lesson to be learned is that once one mountain is conquered, the view unfolds before you with a vast valley of new mountains which all need to be conquered.
What you have control over. You have control over delivering the best performance you possibly can. I help my clients book their roles by making fun and impactful choices in the room. Wherever you are in your career, love what you are doing. Wherever you aim to end up, be grateful for where you are at and what you have right now.
We often hear amazing performers recount their experience of their best performances as such: “I genuinely can’t remember what happened on stage, I was completely lost in the moment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the performance.” They were living in their performance as it happened. Chances are, they weren’t 20 minutes ahead of themselves, removing their make-up in the dressing room and planning what to make for dinner. They weren’t thinking to themselves as they recited “To Be or Not to Be…,” “Yeah, this speech is gonna win me that Tony award…I wonder what I should wear…” The future doesn’t belong to any of us. All you have is this moment.
This article was originally posted on Backstage