Stories of seemingly overnight success abound in show business. From living out of a car parked on a Hollywood side street one day, to headlining the biggest action film of the year the next; from sharing a studio apartment with six people in Brooklyn one night, to making a Broadway debut the next.
These rags to riches stories are popular with the media, and daydreaming actors everywhere, because they make for great entertainment. However, the expectation of overnight success is no way to approach an acting career.
As with any career, actors must take control of their own destiny by setting goals and striving to accomplish them. Most overnight success stories don’t include any details about the hard work that successful artists put in before they hit it big.
Truthfully, overnight success is a myth. It is the result of a series of accomplished goals that lead to new breakthroughs and, eventually for some, a life changing role.
Why Actors Should Set Career Goals
Acting is a difficult enough business for someone with direction, let alone someone who doesn’t have a target in mind. Specific, attainable goals give an acting career structure and focus. This is important because of the ebb and flow of acting work. It can leave actors overwhelmed with memorization or with nothing to do for months.
Having a goal in mind provides a consistent motivation and gives actors something to strive for, even when auditions aren’t coming in. There is always something that an actor can do to improve their chances of success.
Networking, taking classes, researching, and planning are all productive activities that an actor can do during dry periods to increase their chances of success when the next opportunity arises.
Specific, Possible, Planned
Anyone who sets a goal might as well do it the right way. Most importantly, a good goal in acting (and other walks of life) must be specific. Without specificity, an actor will fail to ever reach the goal, or they will not take the most efficient steps to accomplish it. Specific goals should be targeted at one industry, and be comprised of series of steps.
Another ingredient of a proper goal is that you should be able to accomplish it. There should be an appropriate amount of challenge involved, but it shouldn’t be uncontrollable. Once you accomplish the goal you will reevaluate and set newer goals to make new advancements.
A goal may be specific and possible, but actors won’t reach their goals if they don’t have a plan in place. Make a plan complete with a timeline, and checkpoints or “mini-goals” along the way. These steps should be things you can control and track rather than things that depend on the decisions of others (i.e. “getting cast” is not under your control).
Hold Yourself Accountable
Your goals are in place, and now it’s time to work toward them. One of the main reasons people fail to accomplish their goals is they do not hold themselves accountable for their efforts. Write your goals down and put them in a place where you will see them every day. A goal list on the fridge will give you a reminder every time you get a bite to eat.
Finally, a great way to hold yourself accountable is to share your goals with friends and family. Making goals public knowledge allows actors to discuss their goals and progress freely, and seek help if needed.
Overnight success is a myth. Now that you know that, go and pursue your own “overnight success story” by setting goals and striving to attain them. A little thought and planning can go a long way in an acting career, and make sure to involve your friends and family in the process for support and guidance.