Long term financial investors follow a set of a few simple rules: Develop a strategy and stick with it, focus on the future, adopt a long term perspective and don’t sweat the small stuff! As an actor, you are your own commodity and your career trajectory is very much like that of a stock.
Consider any enormously successful multinational company such as Apple (AAPL) Google (GOOGL) or Facebook (FB) and take a look at their stock chart. But don’t look at their five day, one month, three month or even one year growth. Look at their their five and ten year progress and beyond. You will unequivocally see hills and valleys, but also an overall significant rise in price.
Your acting career is no different. Resist the urge to analyze it every day. Not only will that drive you insane, but it is not smart investing. Don’t asses where you are at any given moment, but where you are overall. Yes, if after ten years, you are not further along than you were a decade ago, it’s time to rethink some things. But you have chosen a tough, extremely competitive profession that requires hard work, tenacity and perseverance. No young lawyer graduates from law school, passes the bar and expects to try a high profile murder case right out of the gate. No young surgeon graduates from medical school and expects to waltz into brain surgery. If so, they would be highly let down.
I moved to LA in 1991 and met a lot of young actors at that time who were expecting to “give it a couple of years…maybe a few” with the hopes of landing the next 90210. Over the years I’ve wondered what happened to many of them. When IMDB came along, I realized that none of them worked much past the mid nineties. Now, I did meet a few actors who were in it for the long haul. Some are very successful today. Some have turned to producing or directing, but they all continue to train and plug away despite the valleys between their hills.
A few years ago an enormously talented, hard working, extremely funny client of mine was frustrated about her career. She had been in LA nine years, had fantastic rep, done several guest spots and tested for bigger roles, but she had yet to land a series regular or that “star making” part. I pointed out to her that Jane Lynch had worked sporadically in her twenties and thirties, but her career did not really take off until the age of forty when she landed BEST IN SHOW. “You’re a lifer” I told her, “embrace how far you’ve come and work diligently every day, but don’t think short term.” Being a flash in the pan is one thing – crafting a long term career is another.
Acting is not for the feint of heart and not for those who aren’t all in. Expect that there will be ups and downs and don’t analyze your career every day. Look at it it from a much broader perspective. And if you’re feeling down, glance through the stock charts of the companies I’ve mentioned as well as dozens of other successful enterprises. Develop a strategy, stick with it (but be malleable), focus on the future and don’t sweat the small stuff!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Be a lifer. Be a long term investor.