Homeostasis: Once a system is in balance, it tends to stay in balance because experience has proven it’s safe. It’s a fairly simple concept that governs all living organisms. Yes, even actors. It basically means most people choose routine over change. But that’s a recipe for disaster.
The word “homeostasis” is taken from the Greek words for “same” and “steady.” For the purposes of this column, I would also throw in “safe.” The point is: We’re all hardwired to resist making the very changes it often takes to get what we want.
I recently had a telling conversation with one of my clients. This guy has a lot of potential, but we’ve been working together for over a year and he hasn’t booked a thing. To be clear, there have been a ton of opportunities during that period, so it’s not on me.
We sat down for a chat, and I asked how he prepared for auditions. The guy answered, “Well, if it’s something big, I use a coach to help me get ready. And if it’s something small, I just do it myself using all the stuff I’ve learned in those coaching sessions.”
On the surface, this is an excellent response. Working with the right coach can make all the difference. There are major stars out there who still use one to prepare for roles.
I decided to dig deeper. I asked if he had been using the same coach since we started working together. His answer was yes. Boom! There it was. The problem. If you coach with the same person for every major audition during a one-year period and have nothing to show for it, it’s time to find a new coach. I suggested this to my client and he freaked out. “Oh, no. I could never do that. I’m very comfortable with her. And she’s really close to where I live.”
That, my friends, is homeostasis in all its destructive glory.
I tried to get him to change his mind, but he refused. So I dropped him. Life is too short to work with actors who don’t make me any money and won’t listen to my advice.
Over the years, this resistance to change has reared its ugly head in many ways. I’ve worked with actors who refuse to change their management even when that person has contributed nothing to their career. I’ve also known actors who stay in the same class for years because it’s become a safe space where everyone knows their name. I even had a client who wouldn’t get new headshots because she was so attached to the one she had. None of these choices are conducive to a successful career.
This is a lesson I had to learn, too. During my 20s, yours truly had a successful career in Chicago working in postproduction, but I was inert and thirsty for change. It took me six months to build up the courage to make the move to Los Angeles—and that was the hardest and smartest decision I’ve ever made.
The safety in routine and the danger in change are both false. They’re constructs of your own creation. They only exist in your mind. As historian Leonard Sweet once said, “Stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple. It’s that scary.”
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