And thanks for reading! I’ve been reflecting lately on getting older and what that means for …well…life in general. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about major life changes, not just due to aging and things like retirement, but also changing locations, losing a job and having to find a new one; basically redefining ourselves and how difficult that can be. This week I want to tell you a secret to success I call: Do it now!
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.
We all have them – major life events. We graduate school, get married, have kids, lose people we love, get, and lose jobs, retire. You name it, it happens to all of us. Some life events like having a child are happy ones. Others, like losing a loved one, are not happy. And sometimes they come in multiples; getting divorced coupled with losing a job and having to relocate. Whether good or bad, many (most) of these events cause us to have to “redefine” ourselves. That can be an uncomfortable thing to do.
It’s not easy.
Let’s be honest, redefining yourself is not an easy (or quick) task. We humans tend to get into routines. We get comfortable where we are and when that changes due to things out of our control, we suddenly feel adrift and lost. Heck, even when these things are IN our control. We know we have to decide on a new path and start down it, but can’t always figure out which way to go, or even how to get where we want the new us to be. It can be (and likely will be) overwhelming.
The problem with being overwhelmed is it often leads to burnout, which can lead to depression, which causes us to not want to do things. And not wanting to do things keeps us from moving forward. Here’s the rub; If you are standing still, you are not going anywhere…your situation is not going to change.
Since I mentioned depression I feel I have to say: Depression is a dangerous thing; it requires a doctor’s care. I am not a doctor, and I am not suggesting anything I write in this little blog can help you treat or overcome depression. If you suffer from depression, call a doctor immediately and seek treatment. I am also not suggesting that you can “achieve” your way out of depression. I am suggesting that it may be possible to avoid getting to depression by your own actions. Seriously, if you are depressed get to a doctor as soon as possible. Quit reading this and call now. If you don’t know who to call, here is the number for the National Mental Health Hotline, it is someplace to start and is available 24/7/365: 866-903-3787 .
What I write in this blog may be able to help you feel less overwhelmed and maybe avoid depression that is caused by feelings of being overwhelmed. Again, and I am being careful here, nothing in this blog should be misconstrued for medical advice. Here’s what happens to me when I feel overwhelmed; there is so much to do I can’t figure out how to move forward. Since I can’t see a clear path forward, I simply do nothing. It’s a recipe for disaster.
And here is what I learned in my 63 trips around the sun: Overwhelming circumstances are like trying to “eat an elephant”. I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I know, it sounds trite, and to be sure it is easier said than done…but it can be done! And no, I don’t think you should actually eat an elephant.
I’d like to park here for just a moment. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to eating the elephant in a moment, but first let’s discuss procrastination for a bit. And yeah, I also promise I’ll tie this all back to acting before we’re done.
I am a procrastinator. It may not seem like it if you know me, because I am always busy with something, but believe me it is true. I was having a discussion with my son this weekend and we were talking about procrastinating. We didn’t use that word, but it was definitely the topic. I won’t go into details why, but I will tell you that what I told him was that one thing I learned about myself was that if I didn’t do “the thing” (whatever the thing was) right away, I didn’t do it for a very long time. I’m a procrastinator. Well, maybe a recovering procrastinator.
The message is:
Do it now. For me, I sometimes look at a task and decide it is going to take so long or be so difficult I can’t get it done…so I put it off. Typically, I find that when I finally get around to doing it (I mean, it HAS to be done after all) it was easier and quicker than my mind made it seem, but even when it IS long and difficult, I still wind up having to do it eventually. So, if it is going to take me a week (or a month or a year or whatever) to do and I wait 6 months to start…guess what? Now it’s taken me 6 months PLUS a week to do it.
What about things you don’t HAVE to do?
The things you should do but don’t have to are killers. Learning an instrument, starting training for a new career field…there are tons of things we know we should do but don’t start because it will take too long or be too difficult. Instead, we stay where we are and dream about doing those things. But the time will pass anyway, and waiting isn’t going to make it any easier. The only solution is to Do It Now. Start, or you’ll never finish and 60+ revolutions around the sun later you’ll still just be dreaming.
What does this have to do with acting?
I’m glad you asked! Deciding to start down the path toward an acting career can seem overwhelming. Kind of like eating an elephant. See I told you we’d get back to the elephant! Between head shots, acting reels, coaching, training, resume’s, agents, managers and all the rest, it seems like too daunting a task sometimes. But here’s the truth: you eat this elephant one bite at a time just like all the other elephants in your life. Oh, and be sure to prioritize which elephant you eat first too…but that may be for a different post.
While “one bite at a time” is a cute soundbite, it’s not really helpful. What I mean by eating this elephant one bite at a time is that every large overwhelming task is made up of a bunch of smaller, more manageable discrete tasks. If you can break down and identify those tasks, then prioritize them and do them one at a time…you can “eat the (whole) elephant”. Even the act of breaking down and prioritizing can be broken down into discrete tasks. Each one of those discrete tasks likely have some discrete tasks as well. And if you don’t know where to start, that’s OK. There are books, websites, and Facebook groups (among other resources) all dedicated to helping you figure it out.
You can’t do it…
Ha! Gotcha! You CAN do it, just not all at once. Becoming a successful (and YOU define success for you BTW), working actor is not easy (although it really is kind of simple), and it takes time. Sometimes a LOT of time. Just remember that if you don’t start down the path (any path really, not just acting) that time is going to pass anyway. The sooner you begin, the sooner you “finish” (you never really “finish” growing as an actor).
So…Do It Now!
Research what it takes to be an actor, get some help breaking it down into manageable steps and get started. And don’t forget that On-the-Job-Training is some of the best training. Submit for background roles in big projects, submit for principal roles in some local Indie or Student projects. You may be surprised how easy it is to book roles, and time on set is invaluable even if you just learn this career is not for you before you spend too much energy on it.
Do It Now!
Yeah, I know I repeated myself, but it bears repeating. Maybe you feel you don’t have enough talent, time, or money to pursue this dream. OK, fair. If this is your dream, invest what you can. It’s said there is no better time to start than right now, and I believe that’s true. You may not move forward as quickly as someone who has more resources to invest, but you will be moving forward! You simply cannot eat the elephant until you take the first bite! So, don’t procrastinate…Do It Now!