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Backstage Experts

The Key to Sustainable Success: The Annual Review

The Key to Sustainable Success: The Annual Review

In Hollywood, there’s a lot of talk about overnight successes. The truth is, those are mostly just fabricated stories, and what’s behind them are decades of hard work and dedication. But even if someone gets a lucky break, it takes much more to turn that into a sustainable career. That’s what I want for each and every one of you: to still be doing what you most love five, 10, 25 years from now. And I’d like to share with you something that has been imperative to my success.  

You’re the CEO of your own company. I hope this isn’t surprising news. (If it is, congrats! How exciting.) One thing I’ve learned about show business is that if you don’t get the business side on lock, you are unlikely to have many opportunities to show anything. (See what I did, there?) And, one thing that all successful businesses do is constantly check in on their results and progress. And thus, I introduce you to…

The Annual Review
This will be the seventh year that I spend all 16+ hours of my drive back to Colorado (Go Broncos!) reviewing the previous year and setting goals for the coming year. I’ve been doing this with one of my best friends, and I can say that having a friend/partner/coach who knows you very well is extremely beneficial in this process. The primary goal every year is to look back from the 10,000-foot level, all the way down to specific details and examples of what worked and what didn’t work. We also explore the overall themes of the year and our 10 most significant/impactful moments. 

This is not an opportunity to beat yourself up or lament that you’re not famous yet. It is an opportunity to celebrate all you accomplished—believe me, you’ll be surprised how much you did in the last 12 months—as well as be honest about your results. 

Your Whole Life
In the interest of sustainable success, I believe that if you’re not living a full life, you’re missing out and missing the point. As you look back on 2014, check in on how you did with fitness, family, community service, finances, travel, romance, etc. 

How to Measure Success
I’m a huge fan of having as much actual data as possible, and measuring it year to year. For example, I look at the number of auditions I had (and break that down into student films, network television, etc.), the number of direct offers, how much money I made, and most importantly the number and quality of relationships I created. As soon as I started tracking my career based on relationships rather than bookings, my career took off. And remember, you are the one deciding what success looks like to you.  

Looking Ahead
Before I create my business plan for the coming year, I think it’s crucial to see how far I’ve come, and get clear on where I am. Having any semblance of reasonable expectations for where I am at any given point in my career has been a huge reason why I didn’t leave town after six months. 

If you want to get started on your own annual review you can download my template here

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Ben Whitehair is an L.A.-based actor and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Whitehair’s full bio!


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