Every actor plays the waiting game. Regardless of if you’re waiting to hear about a student film auditions, an agent offer, or whether or not your pilot was picked up, waiting is part of your job. I know, I know, you’ve been told this a million times, but it’s true. You must be patient while you pursue your dream. Patience is indeed a virtue and it’s one that ironically becomes more challenging to master the closer you get to the finish line.
Develop the Habit
It has been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. In order to increase your chances of success and avoid show business burnout, you must commit to habits rather than attach to any specific result. You must practice patience.
You cannot control when your agent will call, when you’ll get your big break, or how often those residual checks come in, but you can control your own daily activity. Commit to developing the habits of a successful and balanced lifestyle. This goes back to The Rule of Seven. No one thing you do will make or break you, but you can create success by consistently doing one thing each day.
Poet and writer, Ian Krieger, wrote the following about our friend, Mr. Habit.
I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half of the things you do you might as well turn over to me
and I will do them-quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed – you must be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done and
after a few lessons, I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of great people, and alas of all failures as well.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine though I work with the precision of a machine
plus the intelligence of a person.
You may run me for profit or run me for ruin –
it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and
I will place the world at your feet.
Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am habit.
My client, Marissa, really wanted to book a guest star role on a network television series. This goal seemed somewhat challenging to her, but the prospect of breaking out of her co-star rut and into the guest star level really thrilled her. Marissa created a plan and went all out in her efforts to achieve this goal within thirty days. For the first two weeks of her plan, Marissa did everything she could to make the guest star thing happen. She worked hard, she self-submitted, she told everyone she could about her intention, and she continued to feel excited.
Then week three came and with the looming deadline quickly approaching, Marissa began to feel discouraged because she had not yet booked her guest star role. Soon her efforts and focus slowed down and eventually crept to a stop. At the end of her 30-day deadline, Marissa decided she had failed. Period. No guest star for her. Bummer.
The mistake Marissa made was to cling desperately to the deadline and timeline rather than just commit to developing the habit of taking steady action everyday toward her desires. She became attached to extremely high expectations instead of committing to the vision of her greatest desires. She did not allow herself the opportunity to form the daily habit of work. She became impatient and distracted by perceived results.
Though deadlines do work to motivate you and create accountability, they can also become a distraction. Marissa’s deadline distracted her from her commitment to her acting career as a whole. She put so much meaning and pressure on her timeline, that it left her little room for error or exploration.
Marissa agreed to try something new. She dropped this thirty-day guest star goal and replaced it with the commitment to take five specific steps each day toward booking a guest star. The actions involved in both goals stayed the same, but with a shift in her perspective, Marissa focused on maintaining her momentum and creating the habit of working hard.
Wouldn’t you know it! Over the next four weeks, Marissa booked the lead in an independent film, she booked another co-star role on her favorite series and began auditioning for guest stars three or four times per week. Marissa now knows that regardless of when she books her first guest star, the only thing standing between her and that goal is time.
Most of the time, deadlines work to motivate you and keep you on track. But don’t be fooled by their importance. In truth, a deadline is just a mile marker or measuring stick. They’re something you decide on. They’re also something you can change. Use deadlines to stay in momentum, but don’t allow them to rule your life.
The only place of power is in the present moment. Marissa could not change the past, she could not predict the future, all she could do was attend to the situation at hand and embrace patience in that moment, on that day.
What’s happening right now in your career? What do you choose to do about it? How can you maintain your goals and action plans all while staying focused on the present day? The key is to notice when you are distracted by worry and impatience. Notice when you focus more on what might happen than on what’s actually happening. Pay attention to how often you regret past mistakes or decisions. You cannot know what you do not know, so stay present and open to what’s coming. You cannot change your past regardless of how much you worry about it. To control your career and develop your Tao, you must be willing to stay present and develop successful habits.
An easy way to set yourself up for success in this area is to create an accountability system to keep you on track and motivated. Here are a few fun suggestions:
Create a Tip Jar. Money talks, so reward yourself when you keep your commitment. Let’s say you want to book a guest star too, so you commit to devoting one hour of work toward this goal each day. Every time you keep that commitment, you can tip yourself three bucks. The dollar amount doesn’t really matter here, but I recommend making the amount small enough to afford but also large enough to matter to you.
Sounds fun, huh? Well, on the days you don’t keep your commitment you must remove three dollars from your tip jar and donate it to a charity of your choice. Not so fun. Knowing you must part with cold hard cash is a fantastic incentive to keep your word.
At the end of a month (or specific time period of your choice) you get to empty your tip jar and reward yourself by spending the dough on a lovely treat: a massage, a dinner out, a bottle of gin, whatever suits your fancy.
Pick a Partner. Accountability is a lovely thing, so invite a friend to help you stay on track. The two of you can commit to check in at the end of each day and report on the actions you took for that day as well as your plans for the coming day. Just knowing that someone will be expecting a report on your work will keep you going. I once had two students agree to hold each other accountable to complete three tasks per day toward their acting business – one before 10:00 am, one before 1:00 pm, and the last before 5:00pm. At each designated time, they sent a text message to each other just to say, “Yup. Got my ten o’clock done.” Over a very short time frame, they each made significant progress towards their career goals thanks to their buddy system.
Hire a Coach. As a coach, I understand the value of coaching. I myself often work with a coach of my own. A coach will not only create intense accountability for you, but your coach will also raise the bar and really push you to expand your personal realm of possibility. Also, there is something to be said about the power of financially investing in yourself. If you are paying someone to assist you in achieving your personal and professional goals, trust me you will make sure you get your money’s worth by following through on your commitments. Your coach will also present you with new ideas or methods to accomplishing your goals. Your coach will also empower you to take bold risks and encourage you to challenge yourself. Coaches assist you to break out of old, ugly habits and overcome other personal blocks. Coaches rule!
Celebrate Your Progress. With all this focus on your to-do list and what is left undone, it’s easy to forget about your successes along the way. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my to-do list, every time I check something off, I add even more things. My to-do list becomes the never-ending log of what I haven’t done yet. That’s fine and all, but come on! When do you get to celebrate those things you’ve actually finished? Where is the focus on the accomplishments? Don’t wait until you’re an Oscar winner to celebrate your life! Try keeping a success journal. Write down five of the day’s accomplishments each night before you go to sleep. Sometimes your accomplishments might be award-winning, other times they might be very simple. It doesn’t matter. An accomplishment exists when you are willing to own it and celebrate it. So celebrate the journey. It’ll make the ride a lot more fun!