Millionaire Decisions

I’m pretty sure I’m probably the only person old enough to remember this but in the late 70’s-early 80’s when women were entering the workforce in droves, an entire cottage industry sprung up advising them how to look and be successful in this new endeavor.  And since this was new territory for women, they had no role models to look to for guidance.  The only examples available were men who dressed in suits and ties. Before long, there were entire battalions of women in blue suits, white shirts and floppy ties around our necks.  My first interview suit was much like this only it was brown and the shirt was a high-necked plaid one.  By then, women were breaking loose a bit from the IBM mold.  Wow, what creativity I showed!  All kidding aside, the overwhelming credo was to dress and act for the job you want, not the job you had.  So if you wanted to be an Executive Vice President at a bank, you dressed the way they did.  You made decisions they way they did.  You comported yourself the way they did.  That way people didn’t see you as you are currently but how you would be several jobs down the road.  And they felt confident in rewarding you with a promotion that you would be able to do the job and not embarrass them for promoting you.

Fortunately for me, those arcane dress codes have fallen by the wayside.  I still have a few suits but the last few years of my life, I dressed pretty casually and creatively.  I was starting to dress for the job I wanted, which was as a full time actress, and not as a Sales Manager anymore.  I was also starting evaluate and make decisions from the perspective of a full time actress and not as a Sales Manager.  This evolved recently into the next step in my decision making although I didn’t identify it at the time.  I began to weigh opportunities that were coming my way against the direction I wanted my career to go.  I was given a chance to audition for one of the top theatres in Chicago but as an understudy.  I decided even before I went in that I wasn’t interested in being seen as an understudy, that I would audition for them when an opportunity came up for a principal role.  I didn’t want an understudy career.  I also came to the decision that I was not going to do any more extra work.  I’d done 2 stints in the past, the Break-Up and Flags of Our Fathers (which got me on screen front and center at 45 minutes-Mom timed it-and made my parents faces light up when they saw me) but I learned what I needed to from those stints and didn’t see the purpose in doing more of them.  I felt the same way about doing plays for free.  You can work every night of the week in this town for free but what does it get you if you are interested in a film career?

A newsletter I get from acting career coach Dallas Travers coalesced all these beliefs into a philosophy I’m adopting as my own.  She says she’s not a millionaire yet but she makes decisions as if she is.  I’m not an Oscar winning actress yet, but I’m making decisions and evaluating opportunities as if I am.  Reading scripts before saying yes to a role.  Doing my work so I’m prepared when called to audition.  Taking care of myself as I am the product.  Targeting the job I want, not the job I have.  Things really haven’t changed in 25 years.

Parking lots

I ran across a quote the other day, which really resonated with me.  The author Harriet Mears said, “It’s difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving.”  It made me think about how I was approaching my work and how diligent I’d been.  I have to admit I wasn’t the most disciplined in my undertakings and if I was being kind to myself, had to also admit I had much room for improvement.  So I started asking at the end of each day, “what have to done today to earn money?”  At first I didn’t use the word money, but instead said, “…earn something”.   But then I realized this wasn’t specific enough.  If I wasn’t more specific I could earn respect or points or karma.  All worthy in-and-of-themselves.  But the yardstick we often measure our success by is a financial one and since the bank does like to have its mortgage paid on time with a check that will clear, this is the yardstick I am using for the moment.

A funny thing started happening.  I goofed off less, wasted less time reading email or online following bunny trails going nowhere or on message boards doing the virtual water cooler thingy.  I started holding myself more accountable.  I have an accountability person I report to weekly but sometimes I view this in a screwy way.  Like my friend, who is so kind to be there for me, is a parent or a teacher whom I have to report to.  And I’ve really never been good with those in authority.  I have the unsatifactories on the report cards to prove it.  Anywho, because I shifted the responsibility to someone else, I wasn’t holding myself accountable.  I wasn’t buying into my own progress and eventual success.  Now how screwy is that?  But by simply asking myself a simple 8 word question, I got my a—-er, car, out of park and started moving forward.  And I started making some progress.  It’s miniscule at the moment, but the ground is starting to feel a bit more solid underneath.

29 months

As I’ve been known to say, Holy Macaroley.  I was talking the other day with my career coach, Kristine Oller , whom I’ve been working with for a while.  I started with her when I wasn’t happy with the way my acting career was progressing and some of the things I’d heard her say at a conference really resonated.  As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  So I contacted her and on my next visit to Los Angeles sat down with her.  Her forte is organizing but one of the things she said that struck a chord with me is her favorite space to organize is the mind.  That really hit me.  I felt so helter skelter in my career planning.  I was going at fits and starts and really not gaining any traction.  It was at that first meeting that we started to map out the transition I could make from full time day job/part time actor to full time actor.  That day was was pivotal to me as it was the first day I really considered acting as a full time career.  It was the first time I’d allowed myself to entertain even the possibility of giving up the career I had worked at for over 2 decades to take on a new challenge.  Over the months that ensued, she and I reviewed my progress and set new targets for the next steps to take.  That arrangement continues to this day.

But purpose of our conversation on this particular date was a coffee date she was recording for her new venture and she wanted me to tell my story for those that were contemplating the switch to a full time creative.  In her introduction she mentioned that we’d begun working together in October 2007.  That stopped me cold.  We had only been working together for 29 months.  29 MONTHS! I couldn’t believe how far I’ve come in so short a time.  I was amazed at my progress.  All too often I bemoan the fact that this or that hasn’t happened and certainly nothing was happening at a pace that was fast enough for me.  I am so grateful Kristine happened to mention that date.  If she hadn’t I wouldn’t have taken the time to look back and see how far I’ve come.  I know I have so very far to go but I am so encouraged by my progress. And proud of myself.  Who knew I had it in me?!!  And who knows what lies around the corner?