How to Read Your Success Meter

How to Measure Your Success Meter by Dallas Travers

What if you reach your goal, achieve your wildest dreams and you still feel the same? Shouldn’t you feel differently? Better? Awesome? Well, that’s not always the case. Just because you booked the part, shot the scene, got some recognition or a great new agent, doesn’t mean you will suddenly feel like a whole new person. But, the goal is to feel confident inside no matter what happens in your career.

Speaking of confidence, there’s a Martha Graham quote I love that always comes to mind when I’m working with a disheartened actor. It’s a conversation between Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham after Agnes’ big debut in Oklahoma on Broadway from her book “Dance to the Piper”. This is a long quote, but bare with me, the best part is at the very end! (Martha’s words are bolded):

“The work wasn’t good enough. All changed, all passed. There was no way of ensuring lasting beauty. Verily, I wrote in water and judging my work with a dreadful dispassionate vision, perhaps it was as well. I spoke to Martha Graham on the pavement outside of Schrafft’s restaurant. She bowed her head and looked burningly into my face. She spoke from a life’s effort. I went home and wrote down what she said:

‘There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open….’

‘But,’ I said, ‘when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.’

‘No artist is pleased.’

‘But then there is no satisfaction?’

‘No satisfaction whatever at any time,’ she cried passionately. ‘There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others.’”

So what do you do with this, as an artist? How do you accept and learn to live with the “divine dissatisfaction” of being a creative person? I have some suggestions for you to try out:

1. Know how you react to success.

Do you know how your body feels when you are confident and satisfied? Where do you physically feel those emotions? Imagine getting the big phone call that you booked your dream role. Hear the phone ring. Watch yourself get the news and jump up and down. Now, how do you feel? Is there a buzzing in your chest? Do your feet feel jumpy? Pay attention to learn your “satisfied” feeling so the next time you have it, you can really acknowledge it and enjoy it.

2. See how others react to success.

Oftentimes, if you know you’re not alone, you feel better. I recommend you do your research and learn about the actors who came before you and what they went through to turn pro. See who else is a lucky member of this club you’re in called “acting” and find someone’s story that inspires you to keep going when you’re feeling down. Then you can wear that knowledge like a badge of honor and be proud to be among the company you keep. Why not rent a Bio Pic and feel some camaraderie with your fellow artists? You could also interview your friends who may be further along in their process or reach out to a 3rd Circle person. There is confidence in simply reaching out and taking action. 

3. Celebrate your successes.

When you take an action in your career – no matter how big or small – pat yourself on the back. Or, better yet, plan rewards ahead of time and make a date to meet your best friend for a walk or coffee after a big audition. Then you have something to look forward to no matter how it goes and your life is not just about your career.

Feeling better already? I hope so. Once you’ve tried some of these tips, it should be a little easier to swallow the bittersweet pill of success. Remember, ‘No artist is pleased.’ but with a little investigation, you can learn how to read your success meter to make the journey a bit easier. To your success!

 

4 Responses to “How to Read Your Success Meter”

  1. This was quite encouraging because so often as a perfectionist actress I have everyone around me saying “wow rach your career is really taking off your really making some big jumps” and somehow in my mind I’m thinking no I still need this and I haven’t gotten this or I am not there yet.

    Being an actress that is always striving to be better and grow is absolutely wonderful.
    But the important part is that we remember were here because we love the journey we need to remember its fun and we may not have met our big goal yet but each little victory we are one step closer so we need to take the time to enjoy and feed our souls on the little steps. Because how else will we put the best version of us out there if we aren’t completely filled and content.

    Thanks Dallas for the encouragement to feed our actor souls!

  2. “No artist is pleased”. So true. For me, I try to avoid what some call the “Lottery Mentality”. Which means thinking that once you get that one role, gig, payday, mate-or whatever it is-that you will suddenly be happy and fulfilled and have everything you need, happiness-wise, financially, or creatively. And in watching the recent Oscars ceremony, I wondered why some of the people nominated-even though they have achieved accolades, fame, and money-still have the need to have that little gold statue in their hands? Wasn’t the fame and fortune enough? Nope. They still need more, to validate themselves. I guess that they still need a reason to get out of bed and “achieve”. Where do you go once you have arrived? May we all get to that plateau someday…and have the wisdom to enjoy it whilst there. Thanks, Dallas, for all you do for us. Your observations let me know I am on the right track.

  3. Cary Johns says:

    I so appreciate this story and quote and thank you for passing it along. I am a beginning voice over artist contacting and recontacting recording studios. Today, I mailed out introductory packages about my ‘business’ to training companies who employ voice over for e-learning projects. And, then thought “what if they call me, then what?”

    I am an experienced, successful corporate trainer and public speaker. Still, when applying these talents to voice over, I am almost never fully satisfied with the final product even though others tell me it’s quite good. Your post today reassures me that I am not alone in my pursuit of “but it could be better”.

    So, than you again Dallas putting it all in perspective!

  4. Cary Johns says:

    I so appreciate this story and quote, and thank you for passing it along. I am a beginning voice over artist contacting and recontacting recording studios. Today, I mailed out introductory packages about my ‘business’ to training companies who employ voice over for e-learning projects… and then thought “what if they call me, then what?”

    I am an experienced, successful corporate trainer and public speaker. Still, when applying these talents to voice over, I am almost never fully satisfied with the final product even though others tell me it’s quite good. Your post today reassures me that I am not alone in my pursuit of “but it could be better”.

    So, thank you again Dallas for putting it all in perspective!

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