Are The Bright Lights of Hollywood Calling You?
If you’re sure you’ve got what it takes to be the next Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, or other media heartthrob, and you’re currently selling insurance in Topeka, Kansas, you’ve got a problem.
Episode 8 - Are The Bright Lights Of Hollywood Calling You?
Ready for the big time? Is becoming an international success as an actor or singer on your list of objectives?
If you’re sure you’ve got what it takes to be the next Mick Jagger, Leo Decapria or other media heartthrob, and you’re currently selling insurance in Topeka, Kansas, you’ve got a problem.
Hey, welcome back, This is Roger Reid with another episode of SuccessPoint 360.
You’d be surprised how many believe they’re the next Garth Brooks, or Taylor Swift, just waiting to be discovered, because they can sing a little, or play an instrument, or maybe they had the lead role in the high school production of Hamlet.
The truth? They’re suffering from a common malady – addiction to a fantasy.
And it’s not just those who aspire to success in the entertainment industry.
It also includes folks who are sure they’re going to invent the next Pet Rock or Beanie Baby, and are just waiting for inspiration to strike.
Another example is self-proclaimed authors, who are planning to write the next run-away bestseller. But when you ask them how much of the book they’ve completed, they reluctantly admit they haven’t written anything new in years.
Typically, these folks describe themselves as being in a holding pattern, waiting — for conditions to be just right, or for circumstances to change, or for fate to magically transport them to the life they were “supposed” to live.
And I want to make it clear that I’m not talking to young graduates just out of acting school or a music academy, the ones who live in New York or Los Angeles, and are working two part-time jobs while showing up for a dozen auditions a week.
No, I’m talking to that forty-year-old insurance salesperson in Topeka, whose built a strong client base, makes a comfortable 150K a year, and yet, believes his real life –the one he was supposed to live – is still in the future, and when the timing is just right, when the opportunity falls in his direction, then the doors will open, and he’ll assume his rightful place on the stage of success.
If you ask the typical “Dreamer” why they continue to believe in the probability of achieving life-changing success without really having taken the first step toward its attainment, and you’ll likely hear something like this:
“I can’t turn back now. I’ve invested too much time thinking about it.
Or . . .
I’ve been getting myself “mentally ready” for the last twenty years. And if I give up now, I’d lose the one thing in my life that keeps me going, because someday, when I’m financially able to start my own business, or finish my book, or get my professional license, then I’ll . . .” (fill in the blank)
This is when self-talk turns into self-lies — misrepresenting the truth because it hides the reality of an unrewarding life.
Holding on to the idea that a new and better life is waiting in some vague future that is years — or even decades — away is the worst kind of self-sabotage.
It not only wastes time on wishful thinking, it prevents the assessment of more realistic opportunities—opportunities with a more likely probability of success.
Sooner or later, reality eventually rises to the surface, but it may take the better part of a lifetime until some dreamers finally allow themselves to realize the truth.
Those who suffer the most disappointment — especially in their later years — are those who believe their pie-in-the-sky fantasy is actually bankable. And because of the money associated with their dream career, they decide it’s okay to “coast” in their current job or occupation. They rationalize their intentional detachment from their current career by thinking it of little importance compared to the success waiting for them in their imagined future.
And so, unmotivated to contribute beyond the required minimum, they seldom do the quality or level of work that is associated with promotions and advancement.
I thought it might be interesting to unpack this idea of pursuing a fantasy career, especially one in the entertainment industry.
I choose it because it’s one of the most common fantasies out there—it’s the self-illusion of seeing yourself on stage, entertaining fifty thousand screaming fans.
And those who’ve hypnotized themselves into believing it’s a viable option also tend to believe that they’re entitled to that level of success because of their talent.
So let’s talk about the idea of “talent.”
Maybe you do have some above-average ability in the arts. You may have won a local or regional talent completion, or received some form of recognition for your singing voice, your acting ability, or some other creative pursuit. Maybe you’ve even developed a hundred or so fans who come to see you perform at a local club.
Regardless of the source, others have told you that your talent and ability is better than most, and that you have what it takes to make it as a professional.
And so you believe it, too.
And you’re sure that if you get the right break, meet the right people, you could carve out a future in show business.
Let’s get realistic.
First, the odds of actually becoming a “star” in the entertainment industry is about 1 in 110,501. I looked it up. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning – which is about 1 in 3000 over the course of a lifetime.
Those odds are pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re dead-set on a Hollywood career.
And that means the majority of those who do show up, who do put themselves in the middle of the industry, and who do their very best, giving it everything they’ve got, are still going to wind up as extras, talent coordinators, agents, grips, sound technicians, and yes, secretaries and janitors.
But let’s look beyond the odds, beyond the mathematical probability of success and failure. Because some people do make the cut. They do become successful singers, musicians, writers, film-makers, and play-writes.
And they’ve left us clues.
One of the most useful clues is what I call a litmus test, a simple indicator of the possibility, the probability, of being discovered, of receiving that all-important, first break into the business. It’s also an objective indicator of your dedication and desire to getting your shot in the limelight.
It comes in the form of a two-part question: Here’s the first part: How do you currently make your living? And the second part? Is, simply, where do you live?
Your current occupation and the place you call home may not seem like useful metrics to measure the probability of success in the entertainment business, but how you make your livelihood, and where you live, are definite indicators of whether or not you’re committed, if you’re on track, if you’re in the process of actively competing for what you want, as opposed to standing on the sidelines, wishing your life was different.
It also serves to separate the want-a-be’s from those who make the commitment to do the work, to put everything they’ve got toward earning the opportunity to show the world what they can do.
Let’s take these one at a time. First, let’s look at the type of work you’re doing and what part it plays in predicting the likelihood of finding success in show business.
I think the take-away will make a lot more sense if I begin with a list of well-known celebrities, and then add a brief description of the type of job they held before they became famous:
Actress Megan Fox wore a giant banana suit and waved to the traffic as she stood in front of a smoothie shop in Florida.
Sylvester Stallone, the actor who made the name “Rocky” synonymous with overcoming challenges and winning over adversity. He worked at the Central Park Zoo, cleaning the lion cages.
Brad Pitt, worked at an El Pollo Loco restaurant, standing outside to greet customers while wearing a chicken costume.
Madonna worked behind the counter at Dunkin Donuts.
Jennifer Aniston worked as a bike messenger.
Tom Cruise was a bellhop at a hotel.
Did you recognize the obvious and consistent theme that’s common to these jobs?
It’s not by accident.
These actors, musicians, and entertainers purposely chose jobs with very short learning curves, jobs that offered flexible schedules and required very little mental investment. These jobs were not career opportunities.
By definition, they were temporary work, representing entry and exit level positions.
And as employees, the entertainers on that list didn’t expect career engagement because they weren’t looking for it. They purposely choose this kind of work because they needed income, and these types of jobs allowed them to pursue their show business career as a first priority. If there was a conflict between an important audition and their work schedule, the decision was easy. They went to the audition, because it might be the one that makes the difference. And from a big picture perspective, their pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry was a much higher priority than showing up on time to wave at traffic while wearing a chicken suit.
Here’s the take-away I mentioned earlier: People who have created a successful career in the entertainment industry typically avoided becoming invested in any kind of work that would distract them from pursuing their dream career.
Now ask yourself this: How does your current job compare with those who were held by the celebrities on the list? What does that say about your intentions, and how serious you are about achieving what you’ve told yourself is your true life goal?
Serving two professional masters is very, very difficult.
And for those who try? They typically become seduced by the imagined security, the money, the feeling that they have an established identity within a business, an industry, and even the social structure their job provides. They rationalize their job as a fall-back position, in their mind, it’s a plan B, when in reality, it’s the only plan they’re using.
The best they can do is to tell themselves their current job or career is a nice bonus. And they rationalize the time investment they have to make to keep that job by telling themselves it provides them with a comfortable life while they’re in a holding pattern, waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
How many folks who are working a career-oriented field actually make the transition from conventional employment to a successful career in show business? They’re few and far between. And how do they fare in their proxy career? The so-called plan B that keeps them comfortable? They typically never rise to find the intersection between their true potential and the opportunity that is right in front of them.
Remember the second part of the question that leaves clues—Where do you live?
The folks who are determined to make it in the entertainment business move to a cross-roads or gateway city. The three offering the most exposure to industry gatekeepers are Los Angles, New York, and Nashville. Yes, there are others, for example, Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver, B.C., but the core infrastructure is located in those first three cities. So if you truly want to have a successful career in entertainment, why would you live anywhere else?
And that’s the point. If you aren’t in a place where the decisions are made, where the auditions take place, where the industry gatekeepers live and work, you’re not serious. You either don’t believe in yourself to the point that you’re willing to take the risk, or you’re not willing to make the sacrifice, to pay the emotional, financial, and psychological price of exposing yourself to the competition, to being judged, to being compared to others that will no doubt be better than you, and to face the constant rejection that is part of the process.
So if you’re still in Topeka, Kansas, selling insurance, the chances of ever living the dream of being a well-known, successful entertainer is about as unlikely a possibility as you can imagine. The fact that you’re still in Topeka tells me you’ve already made your decision. Yes, it’s by default, but it’s just as real, and whether you admit it or not, you know it’s true.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in Topeka. You’d be living in L.A. or New York, or Nashville, working at a job that gives you the flexibility to meet influencers in the business and put yourself in front of the gatekeepers who make the final decisions concerning who will be the next megastar.
So, before you dismiss what I have to say as rhetoric from another naysayer who wants to rain on your parade, here’s some advice:
Earlier in the podcast, I mentioned the role of talent, and its importance in finding real success in an alternative industry. The reality? Talent only goes so far. Making it in a business where there are thousands of more applicants than there are positions, is less about talent and more about attitude, and persistence, and smart personal marketing.
So before you quit that ten-year career in sales, or marketing, or manufacturing, and hit the road to Nashville, make a realistic assessment of your ability to persist in the face of adversity. Because that’s what counts, that’s what’s going to make the difference. And that means having a long, serious conversation with yourself. It means asking the hard questions, imagining what it’s going to be like to continue to knock on doors when the last fifty have been slammed in your face. And if you truly believe you have the tenacity to stay the course, to persevere, even after receiving constant rejection and negative reviews, you may have what it take to find work in that exclusive business.
I’ll leave you with this:
Success seldom happens accidentally. You have to show up and do the work. And the clock doesn’t start when you decide to make the transition. It’s already running.
So honestly, if you believe your future is in another industry, or with another employer, or with you at the helm of your own business, begin putting together a plan to market yourself. Begin to cut ties with anything that could prevent you from completing your transition.
Continuing to use our entertainment industry metaphor, if show business is your future, move to where it happens. Put yourself out there. Learn more about the business. Make the sacrifices. Go to the auditions. Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone. And if that means giving up the income and future opportunity that is a part of your current job, then you have a decision to make. If you don’t see it that way, or still believe you can maintain the status quo of a convention career, because the money or the promise of future opportunity is just too good to give up, then you’ve made your decision. Your desire to work in an alternative industry, whether it’s the entertainment business or something else, is just a pipe-dream, a fantasy that distracts you from having to face the reality of doing work that deep down inside, you really don’t like.
Conversely, I urge you to avoid spending years –in some cases, the best years of your life— in a state of frustration, continuing to work at a job that keeps you comfortable, while you could have been doing something else, whether it’s a world-famous movie star, a singing sensation, or a less visible professional, such as an architect, a teacher, a medical technician—if you’d just had the right breaks.
Because no matter how old you are, it’s time to get realistic. Either your actions reflect your priorities, or they don’t. As I hope was obvious in this entertainment metaphor, those who make a living in any business that has a high barrier to entry deserve their status because they made the choice to do whatever it takes to become successful.
The guy still selling insurance in Topeka has not.
Hey, that’s it for this episode. If you’d like a transcript, you can find one in the show notes at www.successpoint360.com Just click on the link under the appropriate episode. And yes, I want to hear from you. Your comments and questions are important to me, and I’ll do my best to answer them. We’re in the process of installing voice mail on the website, and by the time you hear this, I’m hoping it will be up and running, assuming no glitches or compatibility problems. If you don’t see a voicemail icon on the landing page of successpoint360.com, it means we’re still working the bugs out, so please use the contact link located in the main header at the top of the landing page.
Again, thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
© 2020, Roger A. Reid