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Backstage Experts

3 Things Actors Need to Shed on Their Journeys

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3 Things Actors Need to Shed on Their Journeys

There are endless amounts of knowledge and countless skills and relationships that you’ll have the chance to acquire and experience on your path as an artist. If it’s to be a lifelong journey, knowing what to shed along the way will be just as important as knowing what to add. Here are three things you may want to consider leaving behind.

1. Attachment to results. You are guaranteed nothing. Period. It’s the truth and the sooner you accept it, the more you can focus on the only reality there is: this moment. That doesn’t mean you don’t have goals, it just means that it’s unwise to focus on the exact manifestation of the goals at the expense of the present moment. Often we achieve our goals, but because things didn’t happen the way we wanted them to, we don’t see it. Your work will pay off in the way that it was meant to, which may not be the way you envisioned. Micromanaging results is an insult to the universe as well, because it implies that you don’t trust the wisdom of anything greater than yourself. By doing this, you’re cutting yourself off from the chance of things happening in a bigger and better way than you were able to imagine. You are negating the possibility of magic.

So, control the one thing you can control: Be present for every step of the journey. Don’t waste your precious time and energy on what is out of your control.

2. People. If there is anyone in your life who you feel you have to explain yourself as an artist to—who demands that you prove the legitimacy of what you do—get rid of them if you can. How can you take a positive, energized, and meaningful journey when people are riding on your shoulders telling you that you’re a fool for doing so? Sometimes it’s not possible to slough off all of these naysayers—for example, many times they’re family. 

You can, however, lay down some stronger boundaries as to what is on and off the table in terms and discussion and opinion. More importantly, you can work to make their opinions of you and your chosen profession less important to you. 

Many of these folks are jealous of the freedom that you have in your life as an artist and exert a negative pull to try to get you to stumble off your path and be as unfulfilled as they are. Misery loves company and all that. Get rid of them. When you do, you’ll be lighter and clearer and will have created spaced and into which can flow the people who will understand and support you on your journey. 

3. Self-judgment. Since you’ll experience a lot of rejection along your journey, you’ll also have a lot of opportunities to learn—and also to judge. Even of you are having a wonderful career and making a good living as an actor, the fact remains that you will still not get more jobs than you’ll get; booking five out of 20 jobs is considered a great ratio. It’s important to learn from all of those auditions: what did you do that people responded to, what fell flat, how you could have been more connected, etc. It is equally important not to judge yourself as a failure every time you don’t book the job. When you beat yourself up, you cease to learn. It’s like yelling at a screaming baby to be quiet—it doesn’t work. You don’t judge the child for crying, you find out why it’s crying and take care of it. Have a way of working that allows you to see clearly what didn’t work, and how to fix it. 

When you judge yourself, you also ensure that you will be more nervous at your next audition, as you are now trying to improve with a self-loathing and shaming demon watching over your shoulder waiting to pounce if you fail. Self-judgment is such a huge impediment to moving forward and as we have already discussed, there are already plenty of people who will feel free to judge you; don’t do it to yourself.

On any expedition, the more the merrier is seldom true. You need a sharp discerning mind and open heart to truly know what things will move your journey forward and what things will hold it back. 

I tell my students that in order to give a great audition, they don’t have to know 1000 things; rather they need to know three or four things really deeply. And so it is with the larger journey. What are the very few things that are truly essential to you? Find them, explore them, get to know them deeply and you will always have strong reliable companions as you travel your path. And leave the rest behind—dead weight only slows you down.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Craig Wallace is an acting teacher and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Wallace’s full bio!


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