Do you remember that game Mastermind?

It’s a strip of wood or plastic with different-colored pegs, obscured from view and lined up in a certain order by one player.

The other player tries to line up pegs in the same order as those he or she cannot see. They’ve got several opportunities to do this and in a bit of “warmer, colder,” the player who set up the obscured pegs can let you know you’ve matched a color, put a color in the right order, or struck out completely.

You then guess again.

You’re then given another bit of feedback.

And so on.

The amateur move is to pull out all the pegs and start over for your next turn. The ninja move, of course, is to be told you have two pegs of the right color, one of them in the right position — and change ONE to test out whether it shifts the feedback in the right direction, shifts in the wrong direction, or has no effect. And then make new choices based on that feedback.

Okay, so you either know this game or have a good enough idea of its premise to leave the board and head over to your online actor submission profile.

You’ve got a headshot, maybe two, possibly even three or four (God help you, please don’t have a dozen; if you do, you’re either spending too much money to tell the same story multiple ways *or* you’re talking us out of how to understand you by having too much variety).

You’ve got a few clips of your work, hopefully meticulously labeled and well-edited. If you have a linear demo reel, it has been tightened and optimized for your current tier and your latest targets, always with your big-picture trajectory in mind.

Your resume of course is all nice and laid out, on-brand special skills highlighted beautifully, important training front and center, all proper billing and with a good amount of Resume Feng Shui having been done so you’re not telling the story of everything you’ve ever done (instead, you’re providing a recipe for how to cast you next).


And if skill clips or slate shots or specialty items are on-brand for you, you’ve got these all looking great and — more importantly — you feel great about having them out there.

You’ve got a website you love. Your social media presence is right in line with BRAND YOU (and for some of you, that means having no social media presence at all).

Wow! That’s a lot of multi-colored pegs on your board!


So… something stops working. Suddenly you’re not going out as much as you once were. What happened?

You start to doubt everything. You get twitchy about what you might need to change. You’re not sure. No one is sure. Your reps say maybe it’s time for new headshots (NOT AGAIN!) and your coach says you need a specialty intensive. Or more improv. Or a nosejob.

You get all in your head about what you need to change because CLEARLY something is wrong or else that great run you had where you were going out all the time wouldn’t have *ever* ended. Right?

Well… no.

Sometimes everything is just great and just right and things go cold for myriad reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you.

But what actors tend to do when this type of dry spell happens is, well, pull out all the pegs and start over. They change headshots and clips and resume and website and social media strategy and hairstyle and fitness routine and, and, and… that’s no way to get good feedback on what’s working and what’s not.

Now, I know you’re not getting direct feedback with every submission, “This time, we didn’t call you in because your headshot no longer appeals to us,” or, “Sorry ’bout it, but today the clip you submitted bored us,” because that would be like someone telling you “the blue peg is correct” rather than “you have one color right.”

What you DO know — if you pull out all the pegs and start over with everything — is that you cannot possibly figure out what the ONE thing was.

Psst! Again, you’ll note I said just a bit above, “Sometimes everything is just great and just right and things go cold for myriad reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you,” right?

But sometimes you just CAN’T sit still. You just CAN’T trust the branding, tools tune-up, and strategizing you’ve done. You feel like you HAVE TO do something.


Pick one peg. Change it out. Then get more data. A lot more data.

And the next time you feel like pulling all of those dang pegs out and starting over from scratch? Remember you’ve started a whole new game in the process. Momentum you had based on data you’d previously collected about what was working? All gone. You’re brand new.

That only works when you’re actually ready to start all the way over.

So be really sure.

How are your pegs lining up? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Any of the above areas snagging you? I’ve put together my best tips on all these tools right over here. You’re welcome!

LA actors! Grab your spot in our pilot season RETREAT before we fill up! (And yes, we will. We always do. *Especially* in January. As of this moment? We are HALF full.)

Cannot wait to jam with you!

Let’s have a great weekend, shall we? 🙂

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

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  1. Heather Alexander November 17, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Mastermind is MY game. I always guess in 4 or 5 tries. UNLESS the person mismarks my answers & makes a mistake. That can happen in this situation too. They may tell us one thing that they liked or didn’t like and it really doesn’t help us adjust our pegs. So, make sure the response you’re getting is from a valuable and reliable source. Verify the data.

  2. connor muhl November 17, 2017 at 9:38 am

    I agree with you, Bonnie, that I think this is wise to only change one thing at a time if one feels a change might be needed… because of what you said, a lot of momentum has been put into getting you to the place you are now…it makes perfect sense…rethinking everything can be compared to reviewing one’s life since birth and all the choices you made to see if you are on an authentic path… that is a waste of precious time, is crazy making, and stops momentum. I like the idea of coming from a place of being grounded. That way, when a question comes up, one is able to keep one’s own personal power in tact; energy flow remains stable.

  3. Sean Frost November 17, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I really like this because, lately, it’s been there for sized either by thoughts that come to me or whatever method, but if you’re experimenting and something doesn’t work, change one thing and try it again. Don’t change everything, or you will never find out what didn’t work. You may have only needed to tighten one screw, but you changed out the engine the chassis and the tires. And you still may not have solved the problem. Does not seem very efficient, or ninja, to me. 🙂


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