Failure: Are You a Victim of It?

In order to have the career you really desire, you must be willing to practice imperfection. Let Dallas Travers tell you how!

Go With the Flow & Keep Truckin’!

It was Albert Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Every action you take produces a result. Your job is to take an objective look at the results you produce and make the necessary adjustments before taking the next action.  If you audition countless times without producing a callback, it’s time to adjust how you approach auditions.  If your current headshots look great, but don’t produce auditions, it’s time to re-evaluate your photos. If you’ve been with the same manager or acting coach for years yet your career hasn’t changed, it might be time to shake up your team a little.  If you can’t seem to catch a break doing what you’re doing, it’s time to do it differently.  It’s not time to quit, but it is time to avoid insanity.  In order to create the career of your dreams, you must be willing to take action, to try new things, and to make some mistakes along the way.

Let me be crystal clear here. I am in no way suggesting that you jump around giving up on things before they have time to develop.  I am also not suggesting that you quit when the going gets rough.  I am simply reminding you to stay alert and open to making changes.  Be flexible in your actions and willing to adjust the plan as things unfold.  That’s all.

Flexibility can help you to avoid failure. Please know however, that failure itself is not actually real.  Dr. Wayne Dyer discusses failure in his book, Ten Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.  He writes, “This may come as a surprise to you, but failure is an illusion.  No one ever fails at anything.  Everything you do produces a result.”

Failure is only a concept.  It’s just a judgment.  Failure is a concept you create whenever you apply a particular value to an act or an event.  It’s impossible for you to fail at anything because everything you do simply produces a result.  So then, what will you do with the results that you generate?  Will you quit or beat yourself up when an audition goes south?  Will you tell yourself that you aren’t cut out for this business after your first rejection?

Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar for his film, The Departed, in 2007.  Does that make all his other films failures?  Does it even mean that The Departed was his best piece of work?  Michelle Kwan entered the 1998 Olympics as a World Champion Figure Skater and the gold medal favorite.  But the gold slipped through her fingers and she won the silver instead.  Does that make her a figure skating failure?  Babe Ruth holds the Major League baseball record for most strike outs, yet he is known as one of baseball’s greatest legends rather than a failure.  You see, failure is just an idea.  It’s only a judgment, and it doesn’t have to exist in your acting journey.

A client named Grant was a full time commercial actor who had worked consistently over the course of about fifteen years.  One day, Grant fell flat on his face during an audition.  Not literally, but he may as well have… it was that bad.  After slinking out of the room, Grant hopped in his car where his friend awaited him.  Feeling like a failure, Grant complained to his friend, “It’s just not worth it.  I’m not any good at this.  I guess I’m not really meant to be an actor.”

Luckily, Grant’s friend was much less dramatic and quickly knocked some sense into Grant.  He said, “Excuse me, but if I am not mistaken you’ve already won at this acting thing.  How many more people do you think move to a city where an acting career is possible, but go home after a short time?  How many other people live here and say they’re doing this acting thing, but don’t study or workshop or attempt to improve their craft?  You’re already successful.  You’ve already won.  Everything from here is just part of that.”

Thanks, Grant’s friend.  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

[pullquote]Failure is a fake out. It’s just a tricky form of resistance. Don’t fall victim to it.[/pullquote]Just like Grant, you, too, have already made it.  You’re here, you’re doing this, and you’re getting better.  Most importantly, you’re willing to move through setbacks and perceived failures along your journey toward acting success.   Failure is a fake out.  It’s just a tricky form of resistance.  Don’t fall victim to it.

If failure isn’t actually real, then neither is perfection.  They are both ideas about good and bad or about right and wrong.  Neither concept really serves you.  Perfectionism can distract you from taking action and being happy with your career.  When you strive for perfection, knowing it isn’t real, you simply set yourself up for disappointment.

I worked with an actor named Emma who had hit a plateau in her career.  Emma felt stuck and unmotivated.  She knew what she needed to do, but for some reason couldn’t manage to ever get it done.  You see, Emma suffered from a little thing called perfectionism and it paralyzed her.

Emma needed new headshots, but wanted to lose ten pounds before re-shooting.  She wanted to find the perfect agent, but didn’t know who that person was yet.  She wanted to complete a postcard mailing, but didn’t know what message to write.  She wanted to join a networking group, but couldn’t decide which one would be best for her.

I asked Emma what stopped her from pursuing representation.  She told me that she was afraid of signing with the wrong agent.  I asked her what prevented her from testing out the networking waters.  She replied that she felt overwhelmed by too many options and didn’t want to end up at the wrong place.

Emma’s desire for the perfect career, the perfect agent, and the perfect networking group prevented her from taking any action. Her belief in perfection and failure wasn’t working for her.  She was so afraid that she might make a mistake that she didn’t do anything.

I decided that Emma needed to free herself from her need for perfection.  Perfection, just like failure, isn’t real. It’s just an idea about how things should be or what they could look like.  But it doesn’t actually exist.  When you attempt to attain this thing that is completely unattainable, you guarantee disappointment and often, paralysis.

Perfectionism is shrewd.  It’s the ultimate form of resistance.  It’s just a fancy way to avoid being truly accountable.  When you insist on perfect results, you provide yourself with an out.  Why take any action if it can’t be perfect, right?

In order to have the career you really desire, you must be willing to practice imperfection.  This is precisely what I encouraged Emma to do.  So, for the next several weeks, Emma began to practice imperfection.

Playing with imperfection opened Emma up to new possibilities.  It also transformed her career.  She began networking.  Yes, she found a few networking groups that weren’t her style, but soon enough she found the “perfect” group for her.  She discovered it only because she was willing to find some wrong groups first.

Emma decided to mail her imperfect headshots out to fifty agents whose names she literally drew from a hat.  Two days after the mailing went out, she received a call from a top commercial agency and had a meeting set up for the following week.

Emma busted out of her rut when she practiced imperfection.  She learned that the more willing she was to make mistakes, the more easily she found what was right for her.  She understood that the path to a “perfect” career included some rather imperfect steps.  She realized that perfectionism only kept her stuck.

You can eliminate failure by practicing imperfection. In order to take your career to the heights you are capable of, you must release any need for perfection and get used to making mistakes.  The only way to really succeed at something is to be willing to be bad at it first.  That’s how you learn.  That’s how you get better.

The next time you are paralyzed by ideas of failure or perfection, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to find out if I’m right?”  Then be open to finding out.  If you fear your postcards won’t work, what do you need to do to find out if that’s true?  You must mail your postcards.  If you fear that your headshots are bad, what do you need to do in order to find out just how bad they are?  Show them to people and get some feedback.  If you fear that you’re horrible at improv, what do you need to do in order to find out?  Well, try some improv.  The cure to perfectionism and to a fear of failure is to do it anyway.  Take action, practice imperfection, and grow from there.


Dallas TraversRespected as one of the entertainment industry’s leading experts, Dallas Travers teaches actors the career and life skills often left out of traditional training programs. Her groundbreaking book, The Tao of Show Business, has won over five awards including first prizes at The Hollywood Book Festival and the London Festival along with the National Indie Excellence Award. She has helped thousands of actors to increase their auditions, produce their own projects, secure representation and book roles in film and television.

If you’re ready to jump-start your acting career, get your FREE Thriving Artist Starter kit now at

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top