Actors: Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel

I meet many, many people through my journeys as an actor and a coach, and a lot of those conversations revolve around business, marketing and motivation (I guess I’m a magnet for that kind of talk!) I have seen people at all levels of success and achievement, and everyone’s story varies – where they grew up, how much support they had from their families, whether or not they went to theater school, what city they chose to ply their wares, etc, etc… Along with all of these differences, there’s one element that was evident in nearly every successful person I’ve met:

The willingness to ask for help.

When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have money to spend on dance classes or drama camp- the training I received was through the public school arts programs. After choir concerts or school plays, people often asked me where I had gotten my training, and they seemed shocked and enthralled when my parents said, “Nowhere- this is just her natural talent.” I began feeling like my natural talent made me something special, in a way that training since the age of 5 could not. “After all,” I thought to myself, “ANYONE can train, but not everyone can have natural talent.”

But once I got to college, things got turned around a bit. All of the sudden, I was surrounded by people who had the same talent as me, and even (gasp!) MORE. Raw talent was no longer something that was unique- it was a given. People were now giving reverence to those who had solid training and industry references. So I, like every other good little college student, trained and studied and worked and walked away from school with a degree AND raw talent. And armed with my shiny diploma, I stopped asking for help. After all, I Had Made It.

Why do we stop asking for help once our formal training is done? Is there a rule that says we must figure everything else out by ourselves?

If you ask a successful businessman how they achieved their success, most will have gone to business school, yes. But most will also share a story of a mentor who guided them through their journey. Sure, they also read books and taught themselves through observation and practice. But the foundation of their careers was based on the support they received from the people around them. They asked for help.

They recognized that other people had paved the road with their mistakes and their discoveries. They understood that you can never truly achieve greatness without the help of others. They asked smart questions, eagerly gathered copious amounts of information, and were not afraid of appearing dumb.

I am here to challenge you to ask for help. No one said that you had to figure out this business all on your own. There are no medals to be awarded for, say, figuring out the perfect cover letter or building the best contact database from the ground up. So why martyr yourself that way? Someone out there has charted the course and if you authentically seek support, most people will give openly. That’s not to say that you should leech off of people and steal their ideas without putting in the work. Instead, create a network of people you can trust and solicit advice from those above you whose position you are striving to match. Ask to take people out to lunch so you can “pick their brain” and think of ways that you can help them in return. Above all, make yourself available to those who are just starting out – mentoring others will give your career a little more shape and purpose.

As human beings, we are never done learning – and it is the same in our work as actors. You owe it to yourself to compete fully in this wonderful industry- so get out there and get the help you deserve!

 

Erin Cronican‘s career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and regionally. She is the founder of The Actors’ Enterprise (TAE), a fun and inspiring one-on-one coaching service that provides incredibly affordable business training to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. With an approach that is hands-on and customized for each person, TAE helps actors set goals, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level, no matter where they are starting from. TAE’s focus includes coaching on marketing/career development, business skills, and audition techniques that help actors work SMARTER, not HARDER.

Actors who are interested in coaching can receive a free 30 minute career consultation (by phone or in person.) Learn more at www.theactorsenterprise.org or www.erincronican.com.

3 Comments

  1. Andrea (BwaySaint)

    May 13, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Gosh, you are so on the money, Erin!!! It’s funny, but I found myself in that same dilemma (not asking for help)a few years ago. For some reason, whether pride, vanity, or insecurity, I didn’t feel like I COULD/SHOULD ask for help. After all, isn’t that what I went and got my BA for? I didn’t want it to seem like I didn’t know what I was doing. But the industry changes and we have to remain flexible – constantly shifting our focus and consistently training to be ready for any part at any time.

    What did I do? I threw all caution to the wind, flew back to NYC, and did a professional intensive at NYU. Yep. I went back to school. By being back in the academic/learning mindset, I retrained myself to ask for help. I learned through that process that even if you reach your professional goals, no one is completely perfect! So now, I consistently ask for help and make a point to point out when I am unclear about something or want to learn more about myself/my craft/my industry.

    Thanks for this awesome post! This is definitely a “must read” for any actor at any stage in their career!!! xoxo

  2. Erin Cronican

    May 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Hi, Andrea! I am so thrilled that this article resonated for you – I was exactly the same way as you described and it took a lot for me to reach out to others. But now that I’ve learned to lean on those around me, there is no going back! (This trick is to lean UP so you are always moving forward…)

    Cheers!

  3. David M Beach

    May 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Excellent points.. and yeah.. we do forget to ask for help.. and to keep training.. and seeing styles.. and reading plays.. and scripts. Thanks for the reminder..

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