This week I stepped way outside of my comfort zone. And in doing so, I experienced a mix of feelings and thoughts that I’ve not encountered since my big shift in perspective back in Austin. I was met with disappointing results; I had what felt to me like a setback.
The thing about momentary setbacks is that they are fleeting. They cannot extend further without our continued pondering of them. How long do we continue to stew over a setback? It’s up to us. We can choose to jettison the pain of that moment as soon as it happens, and to focus instead on the good – the inherent lessons contained therein. Trust me, there were some.
Anything one does outside their comfort zone involves massive feedback on what and where you can refine and improve. And it is that massive feedback that can be too much for so many, especially for those people who couple this feedback with thoughts of not being good enough. At times it seems those feelings are so strong that they can keep us from wanting to leave the feathered nest of our comfort zone. But that is not where real living takes place. Sometimes we must put ourselves out there, and experience the cacophony of mental noise that can let us know we are truly living, that we are truly taking risks in life. It is the only way we grow.
One of the basic ideas of my mentor’s successful path to becoming the working actor he is – with the primetime resume to prove it – is that of building relationships from the ground up with those in the industry who are in a position to cast you later. He managed to do this through working as an intern.
I’ve come across many others along the way who have also achieved success in their field – and in this industry – who have done so in this way. And if I’m honest, every time I have come across this suggestion before, I have outright rejected it. Taking on an unpaid job working behind the scenes in an office does not – on the surface – seem to be in line with living as an artist, or acting in front of the camera.
But that swift dismissal was not from a place of seeing the big picture. It was not from a place of knowing that the payoffs down the line would be astronomically greater than continuing in a “needs of the moment and damn the rest” vantage point. “But what about my bills?” “ How will I pay for this, that, and the other thing?” Again, these are the echoes of a scarcity, fear-based perspective that I have consciously decided to let go of – permanently. And in order to bring about new results, new successes, new experiences in line with my goals, doing things I’ve never even considered before is par for the course.
So I found myself putting together a plan of action on this path – this brand-new path that I know is aligned with the greater vision of what I want my life and my career to be. I went to my first few offices, and met with not what I would call rejection, but more appropriately, my first few potholes along that road. It was disappointing. But as I thought about the experience more deeply, I began to see it from that broader perspective. The life of an actor involves constantly auditioning for jobs we very well may not ultimately get hired for, and this situation is really not all that different. It wasn’t everything I had hoped would happen, but from where I sit right now, I’m thankful things happened exactly as they did.
We are, throughout our lives, called upon to play many roles – child, sibling, co-worker, parent, et cetera. And it is within these and all our relationships that we get the wonderful benefit of experiencing the many facets that make us who we are reflected back to us.
In helping another, we sense the appreciation reflected back to us in their eyes, and we feel, in that moment, that kindness and compassion are part of who we are. In doing our work to the best of our ability, we feel the essence of camaraderie from another, and they reflect back to us a knowing that we are someone worthy of trust. In surprising another, we see in their eyes that look of inspiration, or thankfulness, or awe that reflects to us, in one delicious moment, that we just might be that person we always wanted to be.
And in this experience of not achieving the exact results I had set out to attain, I was given the blessing of discovering myself even further. I learned that I am no longer someone who gives up. I learned that there is truly nothing that can stand in my way. I learned that I am someone that can get knocked down over and over and over again and will still, beyond all rational thought, beyond what some would see as a hopeless, futile struggle against impossible odds, beyond all well-meaning cries from others to throw in the towel, that I am someone who will still pick myself up off the canvas and keep going.
I learned that I am someone who will achieve the success I’m after, or die trying. And that, to me, is a far greater reward than any instant success I could ever have hoped to achieve.