My wife recently had coffee with a very successful entrepreneur, and he told her he wakes up every morning “wanting to hear ‘no’ at least ten times by the time I go to sleep.” This took her by surprise, so she followed up, and he expanded: “For me to hear a ‘no’ from someone, it means I had to have an idea or proposal or something, get it in front of someone else for them to evaluate it, and then they thought about it, even if for a second. That represents a lot of good work done. And it’s just ‘no’ for now. Maybe it’s ‘yes’ later on. Eventually, from someone, I’m gonna hear ‘yes,’ but it’s the same work done either way. The main thing is to do the work, that’s what lets me sleep.”
Soon thereafter I met with yet again another of the fifteen bazillion actors I know who display immense talent and who do pretty much nothing about running the business of getting that talent out there. So I drew a far messier version of this diagram:
Over on the left-hand side is “Not Much Going On.” I think many actors may enjoy sitting there in “Not Much Going On,” because, while they know they’re completely slacking, there is this very hopeful future out there that will no doubt make itself apparent. At some point. When they choose to start working. But not now. No. Too soon. After all, they have to “get their shit together” first. And then, dude: look out!
Moving rightward, tailored for the subject of my meeting, but no doubt universally applicable, are these targets:
1. Video games removed from all devices.
2. Stop smoking pot.
3. Reduce number of loser friends.
4. Admin is actually a functioning part of your day.
And after those targets are met, and you hustle up for a while, you hit a wall. The Wall of No. That’s a great place to be, hearing ‘no’ all day long. Because that means you’re out there, you’re being evaluated, you’re getting auditions, there’s some action, etc. And yet hearing ‘no’ sucks to an actor, who, like all performing artists, are sensitive creatures seeking validation. I’ve known many to hit the The Wall of No and they take off. They quit. Too much “No”! Too depressing. And yet to my thinking, that’s exactly where you want to be, because at some point it will be a “Yes,” and you build on that. Each of those “No’s” represents someone you met, other people who are associated with that project, a whole list of names to contact a few times a year (See previous post A Universal Career Sortout). You just have to learn to ignore the ouch of hearing “no” and stop taking it personally. Not easy – but that’s what you have to do. And if you can survive the Wall Of No, you’ll find more regular work coming your way.
Frankly, I wish the problem was that of too many actors quitting at the Wall of No. The biggest problem I see is that too many are sitting idly at “Not Much Going On,” smoking pot, playing Angry Birds, and hanging out with other people who think this is productive behavior that will eventually get them a career. Because, you know – they’re gonna get that agent who will make it happen. Uh huh. As Milton used to say, with some amusing accent, “Fantasyland!”
So get moving. Work your ass off in a class, remove the video games, the smoking pot, the loser friends (or insert here your own particular form of slacking). Make admin a functioning part of your day, and drive headlong into the Wall of No.