Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest”.
Bear with me…
This week’s topic seems like a doozy to write about, and probably no less a doozy to read about. But bear with me, it is pertinent to VO and acting, and we’ll get to that.
First things first. If you’ve been reading the last 33 blog posts, you already know that I selected 38 topics (here’s the first one if you care) from a list of 100 wisest words. There was no attribution, so I try to figure out who said it. And this week I didn’t find ANYTHING, so my guess is it was coined by the anonymous teacher mentioned in the original Facebook post. But there is a close second, where most people think it came from (THINK).
I love the Darwin awards, where people wind up dying because they did really stupid things. It makes me feel a little less stupid, likely just because I haven’t died yet. Evidence to that is the fact that I am writing this blog. Anyway, many people think this phrase evolved (see what I did there?) from something Charles Darwin said which is often quoted as: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”.
The problem is, Charles Darwin did not say it, this was adapted from a quote in a textbook written by Leon C. Megginson. Yeah, I never heard of him either. And it’s not exactly what he said, which was: “According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”.
All that to say…
I can’t find an origin for the quote (other than the Facebook meme). But I DID try! And anyway, not being able to find the origin doesn’t make the idea of it any less true.
There is always someone…
Growing up my mom used to tell me all the time that no matter how big, fast, smart…whatever…I got, there was always going to be someone bigger, faster, smarter…whatever…than me. From a philosophical standpoint, if I really think about it, I’d say that’s true from my perspective…but for SOMEONE out there it isn’t true. There HAS to be a biggest, fastest, smartest…whateverist…person out there. There I go digressing again.
The thing is…
While it is good advice and keeps people (me) from getting a “big head” about myself, the truth is this: It doesn’t matter. Look around, the biggest, fastest, smartest…whateverist… (are you tired of that yet? I kind of am) person is not always the one that is successful. I’d venture to say if they are successful, these things are not why. Surely, they help. Maybe give some people an advantage. But they are not the why. I posit it is how tough they are.
What does it mean for a person to be tough? Well, Merriam-Webster defines it as: the quality or state of being tough. Not helpful. But they do list a bunch of “such as” examples. I won’t paste them all here, even though it would help me reach my self-imposed 1500-word target for this blog, but here is the one I am thinking of: “physical or emotional strength that allows someone to endure strain or hardship”. You can read the other ones at the link above.
Honestly enduring strain or hardship is an inescapable facet of life for, well…everyone. And if you think the rich and famous don’t have strain or hardship, then I am guessing you are not paying attention. There are many examples of celebrities going through tough times, the most recent is probably the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial happening right now here in Fairfax Virginia. EVERYONE struggles.
Some folks don’t weather the struggles very well. I think we all know people who have been crushed under the weight of hardship. Some with good reason. Even though we all struggle at times, some people wind up with more hardships than others. Toughness, in my mind, is the ability to face hardship and not give up. To keep charging forward.
In a lot of ways, the entertainment business is a series of hardships back-to-back with an occasional “win” interspersed. We audition, get called back and audition again…and then never hear anything. Honestly, I find that if you are an analytical, numbers person you’ll discover quickly that the odds of booking a given job are very small. And there is nearly always going to be a better actor or VO artist than you. Even if you ARE the best performer to audition, you may still not get the job!
It’s so random!
I’m finding there are so many aspects of a given role that are completely out of our control. Maybe you are too tall, or too short, or too young, or too old, or your voice is too high or too low. Maybe you have the wrong hair or eye color. You could have the BEST performance, but if you just don’t fit the vision of the role they want…you won’t get it. It can be very discouraging…especially if you are fond of eating or having a roof over your head. Not many actors these days don’t require a “survival job” to pursue their passion.
Easy to give up
It can be so discouraging, that many people give up their dream because of it. The simple truth here is if you are doing this (whatever “this” is in the entertainment industry) for money, GET OUT NOW! It’s a trap! The only sane reason to continue working in voice over or stage acting or screen acting or any of the myriad behind-the-scenes jobs HAS to be because you love it. You CAN support yourself doing it, and many do, but the ODDS of being able to are pretty small. Especially at first!
And the survival job?
Well, that just adds another layer of hardship on you! It seems your choices are to live on the street and starve for a while, or struggle to juggle the schedule of a full-time job with auditioning and then sometimes getting booked. It just isn’t easy. You must be TOUGH. Now to be fair, simply being tough isn’t enough all by itself, but without that toughness you are doomed.
Remember that it is said that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. For you numbers geeks like me, that is 416 2/3 days. Which is 1 year 51 2/3 days. Of trying to master something, not consecutive (unless you work at it 24 hours a day 7 days a week). That’s a long time. And Thomas Edison tried 1000 different ways to make a light bulb before he found the right one. It seems an important ingredient to success is being tough enough to not quit.
And that’s the rub
That is very likely the point of this week’s topic. It doesn’t matter if you are not the best actor, best VO artist, best cinematographer or best…whatever…(there it is again!), what matters is that you are tough enough to face the hardships and not give up. What matters is that you will juggle the schedule, take time to drive to or record that audition, accept the small roles and take the time off work to do them (and do them to the best of your abilities). To persevere in the face of hardship because to quit means you already failed.
The really funny quirky thing is: Being tough doesn’t guarantee success, but not being tough virtually guarantees failure! I’m sure there are one-offs to that idea, people who hit it big on their first outing, but generally I believe that’s true. And being fastest, or strongest without the toughness can’t really get you over the line.
When you send a perfect audition and don’t get selected? Be tough and send the next one. If you are going through a dry patch booking jobs. Be tough and keep auditioning. Because you know, you won’t always be the strongest or the fastest, but you can be the toughest. And that gives you a much better chance to succeed!
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