And thanks for reading! This week I’d like to talk a little bit about what I’ll call “overcoming inertia”. What do I mean by that? I mean, (to use a few cliché phrases) – getting the ball rolling, a rolling stone gathers no moss, you can’t get where you are going If you stay where you’re at, if you never start, you’re already finished…and other equally cringy things people say. What I want to talk about this week is pursuing your dreams instead of just dreaming about them.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. Yeah, I know I say this every week, but it falls under the heading of “The things that go without saying are the things that most need to be said”. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
Several years ago, I was speaking to one of my in-laws and he was lamenting the fact that he was almost 40 years old, unmarried, childless and without a clear direction in his career (OK, simple truth is he had a job and not a career). He moaned that all of his friends were married, with children, had a good career and owned a home. He was living in a sibling’s spare room, single and working at some entry level job (I don’t recall what it was). He expected to be in the same place as his friends by this point in his life.
In response to his whining (did I say that out loud?) I asked him: If you expected to have these things by this time, what steps have you taken to get them? He looked at my quizzically and just said: Huh. Truth is, he just expected them to sort of, happen. When I explained to him that these things don’t just happen, but we have to pursue them he seemed dumbfounded. I don’t take credit for it, but now several years later he has a career he loves, a wife, three kids and owns a home. He didn’t get them overnight, but once he decided to start taking steps to achieve what he wanted…he did. He stopped letting life “just happen” to him.
A different conversation
Not bragging, but I am personally pretty well off. I am retired with two pensions and a fair amount of money set aside to carry me through this last phase of life. I made some good decisions early in life and am now reaping the benefits of them. Many of my family members over the years made comments about how “lucky” I was and how “unfair” it was that I had more than they did. I finally got fed up and told them: If you want what I have, do what I did.
Social media is a wonderful thing. I recently had a distant friend post something about how “lucky” veterans are to have VA benefits. And, yeah, the VA benefits are great, but the 20 years of active duty, while it had some great moments, were not always so great. The VA benefits are deferred payment for all the birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other important family events we got to miss because we were deployed in some far-off place. The only response to something like that is: The recruiting office was open for them too!
Some recent events got me thinking about this, and it occurred to me that there are people in this world who just let life happen to them. They look at other people and think about how lucky they are or blame past events or other people for their “lot in life”. They do this without ever considering what actions they should take to change their situation. Here is what I have learned in 63 years of life: No one has a “lot in life”. Nothing is pre-determined, and you can ALWAYS do something about it. Granted, nothing happens overnight…but if you don’t take steps to change things then…nothing changes (at least not for the better).
Maybe that sounds insensitive.
Look, I recognize everyone’s situation is different. Some people have health issues or disabilities that hold them back from pursuing a dream. Some have financial issues that limit what they can do right now. Some have responsibilities that reduce the amount of risk they can take. Not everyone can become an astronaut, or a pro basketball player, or President of the United States. Everyone’s situation is different. It may be necessary to let go of one dream and pursue another more attainable dream. I maintain there are steps you can take to begin improving your situation and move you toward the pursuit of a dream.
And here’s the thing…
The time to start pursuing a dream is NOW, not LATER. It doesn’t matter what your situation is, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long it will take to get there. I will caveat the, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past with: What happened in the past matters only insofar as how it informs what you do now. What happened in the past is useful only for how it informs your future (my kids hate this saying of mine).
It doesn’t matter how old you are…
I want to park on that for just a moment. Many people will think it is too late or it will take too long to achieve that dream. To that I say: poppycock! (OK, I just wanted to write poppycock). Seriously, think about this: If it is going to take 5 (or 10 or 15) years to achieve some milestone in your life, those 5 or more years will pass whether or not you pursue it. Whether or not you actually achieve it, at a minimum you’ve given yourself a goal and a purpose to focus on. And you’ll be a lot closer to the dream than you are now too.
What does all this have to do with acting?
If you’ve made it this far into the article, you may be wondering what this has to do with acting. Well, I’ll tell you. Everything, assuming your dream is to be an actor. Or maybe nothing if it is something else, but hey this is an acting blog, right?
How many people…?
I wonder how many people watch a show or movie, or listen to an audio book and think: “I could do that!” (This thought is EXACTLY what got me started) …and then just watch another show or listen to another audio book. I’m making an assumption here, because I doubt any studies have been done, but I am going to assume a fair number of people.
And you know what?
The truth is, you’re right. You COULD do that. But many times, you don’t. But you SHOULD. If it is something you dream of, and desire you absolutely should! Will you be the next big A-list star who makes millions and is a household name? Probably not (but it is remotely possible – I mean hey, SOMEONE has to win the lottery). But you CAN become a working actor. The simple truth is you’ll never know if you don’t try. Sure, there will be obstacles, there will be difficulties, there will be failures even. While it’s not guaranteed you’ll reach the level you dream of, one thing is certain: If you don’t try you are guaranteed not to achieve that dream. And, of course, if it turns out you are just a terrible actor, or acting winds up not being what you thought it was…discard that dream and find a new one.
But I have no idea how to pursue an acting or VO career!
Yep, I get it. None of us knew how to go about it at the beginning, so you are in good company. It took me two years to figure out how to start narrating audio books – 0/10 I don’t recommend THAT). And the way to do it is different for everyone, there is not one fool proof way to go about it. But there are a lot of people out there who have traveled the path and can help. If I was going to tell you exactly how to pursue the dream to be successful, I’d say: find someone who is doing it and ask them for help.
But I don’t KNOW any actors!
You may know one or more without realizing it. It’s not like we wear a name tag or special T-shirt or something and we don’t typically go around announcing it (unless we’re asked…then we can talk about it for hours). You can, however, head on over to social media and find groups that have actors and ask them. Almost every actor I know is MORE than happy to help someone just getting started. If you run into one of the rare ones who isn’t, leave them behind and find another who is. You just have to ask. And of course, I am also happy to help, feel free to reach out with questions.
Don’t just let life happen to you.
No matter what your dream or passion I encourage you to pursue it. Find people who can point you in the right direction, find a local community theater to get some experience…do SOMETHING to “get the ball rolling”. Remember: A rolling stone gathers no moss. Get rolling!
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