An actor friend called me asking for advice today. Honored. I was simply honored!
Me? Giving industry advice? I often forget exactly how far I've gotten because I'm too busy being ungrateful and hopelessly unsatisfiable. As an artist, I enjoy being depressed and unsatisfied. I find any excuse to linger in it. I'll be having the best day and when someone asks me how I'm doing I instantly revert to my rote, "Meh, I've had better days..." like some dry old lady. It's pathetic. My acting career has taken me to 35 states and Mexico, bought me my first car, allowed me to have deep spiritual experiences on stage in front of hundreds of admiring eyes, took me to Harvard to study with the faculty of the incredible Moscow Art Theater and put my cute little mug on national television several times a day, every day. And yet I still don't feel like I've done enough. But today I got the best medicine for the aching actor heart; VALIDATION from another human being. You're always further along than someone else in life, and hence, you're kinda always someone's role model.
This friend of mine is battling the graduate school audition circuit right now. Graduate school auditioning is a soul-sucking experience that transforms actors into quivering slabs of meat stuffed with exasperated soliloquies and pedantic personality quirks. When you take it as a no-strings attached dance with destiny, it can be quite fun. When you take it as, 'I'm going to die if I don't get into one of my top five,' you're going to be mortified...and also very likely disappointed. After several auditions with several universities, my friend has received zero callbacks and is feeling angry and weary.
He asked me: At what point do you just stop caring and do good work?
You stop caring and do your best work after you release yourself from your expectations and learn to embrace failure.
You gotta have the proper relationship with failure. As an actor, you better have a love affair with failure. I would say that the ability to persevere in the entertainment industry comes from understanding and accepting that 90% of the time you are going to be rejected. You are going to "fail." It is simply how it works. It's cool. That 10% success rate is all you need and everything you hope it will be. You have to LEARN TO LOVE IT. You've really already won: You booked an audition AND you got the chance to do what you love AND every time you do that, you get better.
I never expect to actually book a job. I know that I'm fabulous and should book them all. But I realize that there's hundreds of reasons why I won't book a job that have absolutely nothing to do with my talent. Therefore, when I go into an audition, I see it as just that: an audition; an opportunity to show what I can do and have fun doing it. Hopefully I show them what they need but if not, I always know that I showed them something good because I am confident in my PREPARATION. In the end I don't care whether I will book that job in particular because I know that if it's not that one, it'll just be another one. There's always another audition, another job. No audition is the end all of my career. As long as I went in there and did what I said I was going to do and had fun, I succeeded.
So after a few years of "failing" in Hollywood, I have officially stopped caring. I don't care whether I book this job or that. I don't care whether I was too pale, dark, skinny, fat, short, tall for whatever job. I care whether or not I went into that audition and kicked the teeth out of it; I care whether I truly had fun. Hollywood is a place where you have to find all your strength from within; you have to truly believe in yourself and be loyal to yourself. Be OK with things not going as you planned. Release yourself from the dreams and expectations you have for your life and commit to simply doing what YOU planned to do, not what you planned for other people to do for you. You're not going to get any validation from this industry. You have to learn how to validate yourself. Be your own role model and you'll be someone else's too.
After basically saying all that to my friend, I told him not to give a crap whether or which graduate school he got into; his life would be a success no matter the outcome of the auditions because he'd know how to persist proudly even after "failures."