Ask almost anyone whether those who pursue a career in show business are a special breed and you’ll get the same answer: “Oh heck yeah!” One of the elements of “special” that I’ve noticed, the longer I’ve been at this — especially among those who are the most successful at navigating this business — is the ability to straddle two different worlds in at least a half-dozen areas, knowing when to shift from one mindset to the other, in order to handle the specific challenge on tap at that moment.
You must be vulnerable so that you can freely access your emotions, yet hard-shelled enough to deal with the criticism, rejection, and exhaustion of pursuing this career.
You must care enough about a role to prepare with gusto and have confidence in the product you’re offering up, but care so little that it’s easy to forget you were on avail, had a pin in you, or booked the gig before the money fell out or they cut the role.
You must be both creative and business-minded and know when to switch from one to the other, as creatives scare the bejeezus out of suits, but people who don’t know how to negotiate because they’re so busy dreaming get eaten alive in this town.
You must know how to spin the projects you have coming up without stealing focus from those you’re promoting right now, your enthusiasm for the latter having been at its peak months or years before you’re being asked to give good mic on the red carpet.
You must be encouraged by love and adoration from the fanbase you worked so hard to create, but not so tied up in whether anyone gives a crap about what you’re doing that you give a crap about the hate some will spew, the more high-profile you become.
You must be able to hear endless advice about “how this works” and both take the advice that will help you and throw away the advice that doesn’t apply, wouldn’t help, or simply isn’t right for you right now.
No wonder some people say we’re crazy.
But what’s cool is, this business is a wonderful fit for those who were labeled as “ADD” in school. The Ritalin Generation actually has a really good shot at success, because show business exists. Were you an outcast around all of those “normal people” who went on to succeed at “normal lives” with “normal careers”? Awesome. That means you actually have a chance at making it here.
Now, I’m not saying that gives you a free pass for being scattered or unfocused or non-specific about your brand. You don’t get to use dichotomy as an excuse to leave out the focus on any of the elements required to “make it.” I’m saying that your ability to straddle two worlds simultaneously — to live a dichotomous lifestyle — will be to your advantage, here. This actually requires intense focus on the fact that there are (at least) two mindsets needed in order to find success in this business.
Yes, there is craft. But there is business. Yes, there is art. But there are numbers. Yes, there is vision. But there is product. And if you can ping-pong back and forth between each world, you’re well on your way to enduring all of the “stuff” that confounds the rest of the world (those who watch entertainers and scratch their heads — both because they’re in awe of the talent required in what they do and because they’re confused as to how they can be so irresponsible as to hang a career on a dream). That’s gotta be okay with you. If you are one. If you really, truly are ONE. And, hey, you may not be!
How can you know for sure?
Well, start with 100% Accountability. Meet with a power group that helps keep you in check. Whatever side of the dichotomous existence includes weak muscles for you, make sure those muscles get a regular, hearty workout in a safe place. Spend time with people who help you develop yourself fully, not those who only make you feel comfortable for the “safe place” that you occupy most of the time. Understand the difference between YOU staying in a safe place and your SPACE being a safe place. Challenge yourself and Just Get Better at every turn. Stay balanced so that you can easily step over the line in one direction or the other, at any of the above-mentioned turns, without it throwing your whole psyche out of whack. Be aware of who you, at your core, are and always look at What Is vs. What If with an eye toward balance.
Enjoy that you actually have a shot at being something really amazing, simply because you’re possibly “too broken” to be in all of those other worlds. Great. There are enough people with “real jobs” out there already. (And, they won’t show it, but they’re broken too. Just not in fun, creative ways.) You — if you’re broken at all — hopefully are the fun, creative kind of broken. The kind that makes you creative and brilliant and expressive and awesome. And possibly amazingly successful at this crazy career. Embrace that. Expect others to do so too. We will.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001053.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.