Okay, okay, okay, I said I wouldn’t write a blog this week. And I didn’t.
I’m this week’s guest blogger for Stage 32. Enjoy!
You will hate this blog.
Not the most inspiring of beginnings, but bear with me…
I struggled as a voice talent for almost 15 years. Before that, I went to college and graduate school for acting. It turns out that while I was pretty good at acting, I hated the lifestyle. I hated the competition and how it brought out the worst in people. I hated, well, other actors. Their insecurity, their need to act as a form of therapy, their love of Ramen Noodles. I hated actors because I saw too much of myself in them. I didn’t eat Ramen, though. I’m a Chef Boyardee man.
I discovered voiceovers after I dropped out of graduate school. It seemed to suit my disposition and I got to act as well. I worked with a coach for six months, cut a demo, and started cold-calling. I had no idea what I was doing. No sense of self. No plan. The majority of my decisions were made out of insecurity & fear and I had the audacity to be surprised that I was getting nowhere.
After 15 years of trial and error (more like error and error), I learned three things that changed my career:
I learned how to be not just an artist, but a business. Everyone wants to be the artist, but no one wants to be the business. Artists dream, businesses envision. Artist have vague goals, businesses have specific goals. Businesses write it down. Businesses execute. You have to think and act like a business to give yourself the opportunity to express like an artist.
But Tom, I hate spreadsheets and cubicles and stuff. I just want to dance!
That’s nice. The reality is that if you can’t or won’t do what it takes to be a working, learning, and growing self-employed entrepreneur, may I suggest Community Theater?
This blog is getting worse and worse, isn’t it?
I learned that I deserve to be successful. This happened when I attended my first voiceover conference. I didn’t think I belonged because I assumed everyone else was more successful & knowledgeable than I. I set out to prove that I belonged there. I put together a presentation about how to set goals as a voice talent. About 50 voice talents packed the small hotel meeting room I was assigned to. When I finished, I was shocked by a standing ovation. One of the audience members gave me a big hug and said, “You are a ****ing rock star!”
This experience taught me that I deserve to be a success. It may sound silly, but I didn’t think I truly deserved it. I thought I was faking it, or fooling myself, or trying to live a man-child’s life. And guess what? You deserve to be successful, too.
I learned to give back. I started blogging about eight years ago to get my name out there. For the first few years, my blog was nothing but a “me me me” show and nobody read it. Eventually, I changed the format. I talked about what I did right as a voice talent and more importantly, what I did wrong. I added a “Tip of the Week” to share what I learned from my successes & failures (and you always learn more from your failures, right?). I also added a “Quote of the Week” because, well, I like quotes! My readership increased almost overnight.
By doing this, I was giving back to the voiceover community. I was helping to spare people from the pain and mistakes that they could have made by sharing my war stories.
So why should you hate this blog entry? Nobody likes to be told things they don’t want to hear. Especially artists like us who thrive on creativity, freedom, and individuality. Your creativity, your desire for freedom and individuality are what make you special. What make you, you. Those qualities and desires are also what cause many to struggle and often fail as artists.
To be a successful artist requires more than talent and getting “discovered”. That’s an antiquated way of thinking. It takes business acumen. It takes self-discipline. It takes consistency.
If I could go back in time 15 years and give my younger self some advice, it would be:
Surround yourself with the right people.
There’s nothing worse than being trapped within the blast radius of people who love nothing more than to tear your down, keep you scared, and prevent you from moving forward. Misery doesn’t love company, misery loves misery! Seek out people who can help you be the best version of yourself.
2. Have a plan, write it down, and stick to it.
I now have a Mission Statement, a list of Annual Goals, and a Monthly Action Plan. These documents are the foundation of my voiceover business. They reflect my values and my Systems of Thought. They allow me to withstand change by maintaining a changeless core. Every time I’m not sure what to do next, I just look at my Action Plan and it gets me back on track. Writing down goals and attaining them are what grownups do, what professionals do, what businesses do.
Get out of your own way.
You are your biggest obstacle to achieving your goals. You know that feeling in your stomach, the one that stops you from losing weight, quitting smoking, and breaking up with that jerk of a boyfriend? Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance. Resistance is a killer. It loves the path of least resistance. It feeds on weakness and self-doubt. Its favorite food is fear. Don’t feed the beast! The cure for Resistance is work. I don’t necessarily mean paid work, though that is a great thing to have. I mean setting your alarm, exercising, eating right, planning your day, then sitting your ass at your desk and working. Whether it is to write or audition or sing or whatever, just sit down and work. When you work, you will find your Muse. That’s when good things will start to happen.
There’s an old saying: Many are called, but few are chosen. I say: Many are called, but few make the right choices.
Still hate this blog? Good. Now get to work!