Are you competitive? I used to call myself competitive. I can play cards or word games or board games or any other games of the mind for hours on end (I would rock on Big Brother), and as my producing partner said recently, “When you do anything that Bonnie Gillespie also happens to do, it is — whether you like it or not — a competition.”

Yes, I enjoy getting the high score. I love the win. But what I really adore is the game. And I realized that when I was doing two things: exchanging chats during a very good game of Words With Friends and listening to an actor talk about his competition on a recent project.

He was passionately reviewing the series of auditions — preread, callback, producer session — and while this process is tedious, it is certainly more exhilarating than submitting and never hearing anything, or just having the preread and then not advancing. He was complaining quite a bit about this particular actor — his nemesis — who was with him at every stage of the audition. In fact, it may have come down to these two actors (if not one other, making it a “final three”) at the very end.

“I hate that guy!” he said. “Why?” I asked. The actor went on to explain how this actor “always gets my parts” and other observations (real or imagined) about the ways in which this other actor consistently prevents him from booking work. Uh… no.

With all the love in the world for this actor and his perception of what’s actually happening, the only thing that is truly blocking him from work is that attitude. Sure, another actor may be more talented, be closer to the look that the creative team had in mind, have better-suited skills for a particular project, be simply more right for it, but because there are not a fixed number of roles available for a fixed number of actors in this business, it’s likely that the biggest obstacle is that competitive mindset.

While it may be true that you are “competing” for a role, focusing on that aspect of your pursuit is like focusing only on one play in any other game. ONE PLAY. Not the game itself. Not the season. And certainly not your career as the player, with years of ups and downs, with kabillions of plays over the course of your lifetime.

Where this all came together for me was in the “smacktalk” chat area of Words With Friends (seriously, I’m addicted, I’m very good, and I will unapologetically post photos of my 131-point words when I slam them down on you from time to time). A friend played a ridiculously obscure and well-placed word late in the game, earning 68 points and putting his score out of reach for me, when I had been ahead all game long. “Nice!” I typed into the chat box.

And I meant it. It was a brilliant play: well-timed, well-placed, and therefore high-scoring. He deserved the kudos and he deserved the win. When I see comments from other players like, “You took my spot! I had a huge comeback planned!” or “Damn you, Gillespie! That was my triple word tile,” I am always amused by the reaction (believe me, I’ve had that reaction too), but aware that the best players are studying the moves, learning obscure words, thinking strategy, and making plans for future moves in future games. (They’re Just Get[ting] Better, basically.)

There is no “your role” any more than there is “your tile.” (Per The Social Network: “If you… were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.” If it’s your role, you book it. Otherwise, it wasn’t your role.) If you love competition and are healthy about it, use it. Let it fuel you. Let it inspire you to be your best self. If you have anxiety over competition and are spitting tacks over how much you hate your competitors when they do better than you do, find a way to reframe it, or get ready for Bitterville.

I prefer seeing this all as a lifetime of moves, of auditions, of near misses, and of huge wins, pulled out at the last minute. This worldview inspires me to believe that success is possible, anytime I see anyone succeeding. Trust that yours will come. Even sooner, if you’re in it for the love of the game, excited to see every project come to life.

Next time you see someone do great work, pretend you paid to watch them. “NICE!” becomes much easier kudos for someone else’s brilliance when you’re not obsessed with how that brilliance might keep you from “your role.”

Let’s be one another’s fans. Then we all win! 😀

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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