How To Avoid Acting Career Potholes

by : Bob Fraser

One of the downsides of choosing to earn our living as actors is the number of people who want us to give it up. Quit. Throw in the towel.

You know, when your friends look at you like you're nuts, or when your family or significant other starts talking to you, quietly, about considering another line of work. There are even teachers, coaches and authors of 'helpful' books who eagerly tell you, that what you are doing with your life is a 'crazy dream' (as if they knew you well enough to have an opinion).

Believe me, if you listen to these people - you are not going to get where you want to go.

Here are a few folks you should listen to instead:

"Don't tell me not to fly, I've simply got to. If I take a spill, it's me and not you. Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade?" ~ Lyrics from Funny Girl

"How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says - or does - or thinks." ~ Marcus Aurelius

"Life is short, but it's long enough to ruin anyone who wants to be ruined." ~ Josh Billings

This is what these pretty smart people are saying about listening to other people with regard to your dream: It's me, not you. Who cares what you think? You can only ruin this if I let you.

Those people, the ones who are telling you to give it up, may be perfectly well-intentioned - they don't want to see you get hurt, let's say - or they just want to make sure that you are safe and secure in the challenging world of retail shoe sales.

Or, it's possible they are just mean-spirited bozos with nothing better to do with their time. Their life is a disaster and they can't bother trying to fix it, so they have plenty of spare time to give you the 'facts of life.'

But this is YOUR decision.

This is YOUR life.

YOU are the one who has to DO what has to be done.

I hope I've convinced you that you should never, ever, substitute someone else's beliefs (sometimes erroneously called thoughts) for your own.

Okey dokey, now that we've gotten past all the people who are standing in our way - we're ready to 'go for the gold' -right?

Not so fast. There is one other person who simply refuses to get out of your way. I think you know who I mean. I think you know what I'm going to say next ...

Oh yeah ... it's YOU!

The only person who can actually stop you from realizing your dream is you.

Do you know why you're the last person standing in your own way?

Psychiatrists have loads of different answers to that question but I only have one: We tend to stand in our own way because we're afraid.

What are we afraid of A lot of things: Failure. Rejection. Finding out we're not talented. Success. Finding out what other people think of us. Showing up our family or friends. Not being accepted by our peers. Being embarrassed. Being wrong. Being laughed at. Being the goat.

All of these fears and many others are out there waiting for us, but, in my not so humble opinion what we're really afraid of - what really keeps us from the success we want - what builds these seemingly insurmountable walls of fear is ... CHANGE.

Human beings don't like change, so we try to play it safe.

For instance, we actors often fall into a comfortable routine of classes, showcases, mass mailings, networking opportunities and relationships where our predetermined outlook is not examined, questioned or challenged. To be blunt, our careers fall into a rut. Our headshots are three years old. We hold down jobs we hate to pay for our 'habit.' We've seen the inside of more dingy little theatres than a 100-year-old fire inspector. And we keep doing it this way because we don't like change.

But, if we don't change, guess what? We end up like Wile E. Coyote, constantly buying into the latest "Acme" product and hoping that this new gimmick will work. And like that crazy coyote, we generally end up going over the cliff - ker-floop - onto the canyon floor.

It gets old, real fast.

We all know, instinctively, what our behavior really means: Actors who keep doing the same thing over and over again - expecting to get different results - probably need the help of a mental health professional, not another pay-for-play showcase.

As an example, many of us obstinately keep using a headshot that doesn't work (get us called in) and insist that the problem lies in the behavior of agents and casting directors. The facts elude us because we have the sympathetic ear of other Wile E. Coyotes. No matter what you've been told, it's NOT a numbers game - it's a face game.

Or we attend workshops religiously without any forward progress, network like insurance salesmen at a retirement village, hoping for the brass ring - do unpaid gig after unpaid gig, hoping against hope that Spielberg will show up in the audience, one lucky night, and carry us away to the stardom we so richly deserve - because we want it so much.

After a couple of years of this merry-go-round, we get weary. And, unfortunately, sometimes, we get cynical. It's the path of least resistance.

The irony is that this weary cynicism, which we adopt without complaint, is ... CHANGE.

Unfortunately, this kind of change will cost us our love of what we do, our commitment to our goal, our self respect, and, worst of all, the company of other actors who know that cynicism is the career killer.

My opinion? If you want better (different) results, get comfortable with change.

Because it's going to happen, whether you like it or not.