There’s this actor. You know the one. It’s the person from your hometown who made it big. Or it’s the classmate a few years your senior who makes a living at this. Perhaps it’s your old college roommate who made the move to a major market while you stayed home to take care of an ailing parent, thereby putting your career on hold for a season… a season in which that old buddy booked a series.

It’s your pace car.

If you ever watch auto racing, it’s the car that drives out in front of the racers before we go to green, setting the pace at which everyone must drive for those first few laps (and any laps taken under a caution). There’s no passing him. There’s no passing one another. When the pace car is out in front, you just keep your position and drive.

Sometimes, I could say that Judy Kerr is my pace car. Luckily, she is also one of my very best friends. She has referred countless actors to work with me over the years, she has taken my classes herself, she has had me on as a guest of her TV show, and it is because of her that my books are internationally distributed (which is a key factor to them being available as college textbooks). But when I’m feeling like I’ll never catch up, I see her 11 editions of her top-selling book and say, “Who are you, Gillespie? Your most popular book is only on its 4th edition. You suck. You’ll never get there.”

Then I reframe it and remember that my journey is my own. It’s not my life’s work to catch up to anyone. And that creating my life — my unique, totally-mine version of this experience here — is up to me. Then I remember that what Judy and I have in common — aside from having spent many, many years creating content to help actors with their creative careers — is that we both constantly encourage those who do what we do. We don’t hoard our resources, we share them. We know we’re all stronger together than alone and that means we celebrate what all of us can do, here. We inspire one another to do our best for this industry we both treasure.

It’s like when you’re in the waiting room at an audition and “that actor” walks in. Not the one who makes you think, “Aw, crap. Not you. You *always* book. Dammit.” No, not that one. The one who makes you think, “Oh, awesome. Love your work. If I don’t book this, I sure hope you do.”

That’s not a pace car. That’s a fellow racer. And pros — no matter what the industry — are great about acknowledging when someone else is doing a really fantastic job out there. Pros love a good game, because it elevates every single one of us to do our best when we’re in the mix with other aces.

So, the next time you feel yourself observing your pace car — whether it’s your old friend from back home, the actor who made it big, your nemesis, or someone who mentors you — reframe it. Remember that the pace car may keep everyone at the same speed now and then, but there’s a moment at which the pace car leaves the track so the race can continue. Or, better yet, the pace car is no longer a pace car at all, but is instead now a fellow racer… one that just happened to be out in front for a few laps.

If you’ve spent too much energy focused on the pace car and how you’ll never overtake it, you miss the position you can jockey for, when the flag flies.

Use the visual of that pace car to help you understand the purpose of that person in your life. Their work is impressive. Their achievements are covetable. Their success is bright and shiny and really freakin’ cool. And so is the work you are doing, when you take your eyes off the pace car and put ’em on the road itself.

You’ve got a lot to do, and comparing your position with someone else’s for too long takes you out of the game, in the long run. If it motivates you to study others, great. Use that. But if you use another’s position as a means of beating yourself up for what you’ve not yet achieved, you’ve already left the race.

Get back in there. Control what you can (which is *not* the other guy, ever). And enjoy the ride.

PS — In support of the new edition of Self-Management for Actors, we’ve created a fun Facebook group filled with positive, proactive folks from around the world, coming together in the spirit of service to the community, sharing our toys and providing encouragement and advice along the creative journey. Please feel free to join us, introduce yourself, and stay ninja!

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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