Actors are always told that if they want to survive in this industry, they have to learn how to deal with rejection. That’s absolutely true, but I would argue there’s another demon out there that demands your attention too. And that demon’s name is failure.
We live in a country that places a high value on success. This is America. We’re No. 1. Failure is not an option. It’s a quaint thought that ignores our recent military and economic blunders, but if you ask me, it’s an ignorant concept that gets in the way of true success.
Failure is healthy, normal, and necessary.
Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985. It was a very public failure. And as we all know, the man went on to change the world. As he said in his 2005 Stanford address: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life…. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.”
Those last three lines could apply to every successful actor you’ve ever seen perform.
So never, ever look down at failure. When you hear someone failed, it means that person took a chance. It means that person was brave. And that’s a good thing. Cowards never fail because they never try.
About 10 years ago, one of my clients decided to jump-start his career and sank all his money into producing a play. It was an obscure piece that hadn’t been staged in the L.A. area for several years. The lead role was perfect for him.
What most impressed me about his decision was that he went out of his way to do it right. My client rented a fantastic theater, hired an experienced director, and paid a skilled designer to build an impressive set.
When all was said and done, his savings were gone, but this venture wasn’t about money. He really believed the show would launch his career.
Unfortunately, another theater company opened the same play three weeks earlier. The lead was a popular TV star, and his presence attracted a ton of press. The show was a hit. When my client’s version opened, no one cared and no one went. He lost everything.
I think we can all admit this was an epic failure. But you know what? My client was smart about it. He realized that he had blinders on during the whole process. A little research would’ve tipped him off about the other production, and he would’ve had time to bail on his own personal money pit.
(For the record, I saw both shows and liked my client’s version better.)
There were a lot of lessons to be learned from that experience, and he learned them well. One of them was that he really enjoyed wearing the producer’s hat.
So a few months later, he raised the money for a low-budget movie that made it into Sundance. He was both the producer and the lead. Since then, he’s balanced his time between acting and creating his own projects. The guy has never looked back.
Failure is an essential part of every success story.