There’s a saying that “Life is life," which essentially means everything is the same. There are universal principles to success. Unfortunately many actors forget that anything worth having usually takes a lot of time and effort including—and maybe especially—acting.
Since I got an MBA long before I got into acting, many of my friends work in more traditional business areas like marketing and finance. Not surprisingly, to get a high profile job at one of the more prestigious investment firms requires doing all the right things in the right order. What might surprise you is that investment bankers are a lot like actors. When they are young, they think money comes fast and easy because they see someone hit the jackpot. So, of course, they think they should try hitting the jackpot too. All too often, we see the results of all that short-term thinking such as the mortgage crisis, traders losing billions overnight, and entire nations in crisis.
Even if someone hits it big quick, they are prone to lose it all because of that short-term gambling mentality, i.e. take big bets with very low odds. The big winners in life are usually the ones who settle in for the long haul. Warren Buffet, who is generally considered the greatest investor of all time, takes an extremely fundamental approach to investing. He knows what his goals for growth are. He educates himself on companies he is interested in. He gets to know the management at these companies, and above all, he seeks out synergies with his existing portfolios. Only after exhaustive study and consultations, he makes an investment decision, and then that’s when the real work begins.
Since he now owns a company, Buffett puts even more work into nurturing it and growing it and bringing all the expertise from his other companies to bear into helping this new addition to the Berkshire Hathaway family. Warren Buffett is over 80 years old, drinks a six-pack of coke a day, and never misses a beat. He also lives and works in Omaha, Nebraska—nowhere near any financial centers or stock brokers.
What can actors learn from a guy like Warren Buffet or any astute investor? There’s no such thing as easy money, and you can succeed at whatever you do wherever you live. The same principles to success apply anywhere and at any time. All the social media and actor websites in the world are meaningless if they are not used in the right way at the right time.
If you want to live your dreams, you have to do the work and you have to stick at it. You have to decide that you are going to treat your acting career like you would treat an investment career. Many actors expect exponential returns on their investments. Think sending out some postcards will make you a series regular? You might as well speculate on some uncharted arctic tundra while you’re at it. To have consistent returns, you have to do consistent work. You have to hone your craft into a razor’s edge. You have to know who the players are who you want to work with and then you have to meet them and get to know them. Do you think people are going to trust you with the keys to the mansion overnight? Would you?
The good news is that if you take a long-term approach and do the right things in the right order like setting goals, making a plan, constantly working on your craft, studying the business, and gaining industry professionals’ trust, you are almost guaranteed success. How can I make such an outlandish claim? Because only a tiny percentage of actors will take this approach and only a tiny percentage of actors ever succeed so don’t you think that the ones who succeed are doing something differently? Most actors do it all backwards. They show up in Hollywood or wherever they are, and they immediately focus on getting jobs. They are ready to buy stock before they have done any of the leg work and research an astute investor would do. They throw their money at penny stocks, i.e. headshots, workshops, websites, and demo reels before they even know what they are doing. They don’t even know what they don’t know because they never considered that maybe they should know something about the business before entering it. If they did, they would see what it actually takes to succeed as an actor or anything else.
So before you decide to gamble yourself into acting jobs by betting your money on gimmicks and magic bullets, try investing in yourself. Your annual returns may seem small but don’t underestimate the power of compound interest. Year over year, you will be far richer and wiser, and you will have a career, not empty pockets.
David Patrick Green is a professional actor and the founder of Hackhollywood.com, a membership-based website dedicated to empowering and educating actors around the globe on how to become a professional actor. His simple, five-step approach inspires actors to be ruthlessly creative in their approach to the art and business of acting and life in general. Mr. Green has an MBA from the University of Southern California and was an international management consultant before realizing Platinum frequent-flyer status had few rewards other than boredom, bedbugs, and beer. His earlier reincarnations include working as an advertising account executive in Warsaw, Poland and he is still kicking himself for leaving the French Alps where, among other things, he taught skiing to European royalty and often simultaneously) tasted fine French wines. He has lived and worked as an actor in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto and coaches/consults to actors and businesses who want to get on the short path to success while maintaining a sense of humor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.