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Secret Agent Man

The 9 Spokes of Your Career Wheel

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The 9 Spokes of Your Career Wheel
Photo Source: Pete McDonnell

The key to success is balance. I learned that when I was a kid studying martial arts, trying to become the next Bruce Lee. I learned it again as a man when I took my first yoga class. Balance is everything.

I want you to try something. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a wheel with several spokes. It should look like this:

This wheel represents your acting career. Each spoke is a different part of your training. In order for the wheel to roll smoothly, all the spokes have to be of equal length.

Without balance, the wheel will not work. It will fail.

Now label each of the spokes. Use these categories: overall talent, scene study, audition technique, improv, movement, voice, networking, business knowledge, and meeting skills.

Feel free to add more categories that apply to you as an individual. For example, if you want to sing and dance on Broadway, you should include musical skills.

The next step is to tag each category with one of the following three words: strong, average, and weak. Be honest. No one’s going to see this sketch except you.

Are you done? Good. This is usually the moment when most actors have to pour themselves a stiff drink, especially if they’ve been completely truthful.

When you’re ready, take a long hard look at your wheel. The facts should be staring you right in the face. You have a lot to work on, don’t you? Don’t worry. You’re not the only one.   

Right around this time last year, I signed a graduate from one of the top schools in this country. It’s a famous place, the kind that drains your parents’ bank account when you’re accepted.

This kid was full of promise. Her grasp of craft and technique was impeccable. But she tanked on her first audition. And then she continued to tank, over and over, until she was ready to have a mental breakdown.

Why did this happen? The answer is she didn’t have the right balance. If you put this girl onstage, she would knock it out of the park. No problem. But she didn’t have any audition technique. They didn’t spend a lot of time on that at her fancy school. So she had to learn a whole new skill set. A few months later, she booked her first job.

Balance is everything.

The same is true for talented actors without business sense. You see them all the time. They always stand out in class but they never seem to be working. The reason is they’re ignoring their weakness, which is learning the business side of acting. Give them a two-page monologue and you’ll see an award-worthy performance. But shove them into an industry party and they’ll end up standing in the corner, clueless, not knowing a thing about how to network.

I’ve also taken meetings with gifted actors who have no idea how to behave in my office. This is depressing because I know they have the goods. But if they can’t handle 10 minutes with me, how are they going to behave when I get them in the room with major casting directors and other industry professionals?

There isn’t a lot about this industry that’s certain but there’s one thing you can count on: Without balance, you will fail. So take a close look at your wheel. Study your strengths and weaknesses. Then get to work.

Balance can be achieved. All you need is a little self-awareness and the desire to succeed.  

Like this advice? Check out more from Secret Agent Man 

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