I’ve worked with a lot of creative people throughout the years, and I’ve also listened to interviews with probably hundreds of people that work in film, acting, and the arts. Almost every single person cited one thing that they thought could be the biggest reason that artists and creative types get frustrated and burn out–something that many of them had suffered from themselves at some point in their lives.
Do you know what that one thing is?
The never-ending feeling that they need to please someone.
Have you felt it before? Probably. I know that I have. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt this at some point in their life, but it seems like creative people especially feel like they have something to prove.
Have any of these thoughts crossed your mind?
I can’t be successful if I’m not working in Hollywood.
If I don’t get this next gig then I’m a failure.
If I don’t make xxx amount of money from doing this, then what’s the point?
I’m embarrassed to tell my friends and family what I really want to do because they think it’s a dumb idea.
Why should I even try when there are so many people that are better than me–I’m a complete failure!
Trust me, you’re not alone. This industry in particular is really trying on people’s egos. It’s tough to put yourself out there to make your dream film or audition for a big role, only to get rejected.
I’ve been a victim of these thoughts myself. I went to school for acting. I pushed myself so hard that I would get paralyzed with fear thinking about going off into the world to try to do this for a living.
So I didn’t. I never pursued acting after college. I decided to “settle down and get a real job” instead (HUGE mistake). I watched my friends and classmates go on to work on Broadway, in Hollywood, and get booked on amazing acting gigs all around the world, while I got up every day and went to my “real job.” It made me sick to my stomach to even think about.
Each time I heard about another one of my friends that got booked on some amazing job, it made me hate myself even more that I never tried.
I won’t lie, I went through some very dark times.
I completely broke down. I burned out of my “real job”, my relationships, and a lot of what I thought was important in my life.
Eventually I turned my life around. I came full circle and started working in the industry again–as a talent agent, a photographer, a producer, and sometimes as an actor. And my life is much better for it.
But I didn’t turn my life around on my own. I had a lot of really great friends and family that helped me along my way, but the best thing I ever did for myself was to change the way I think. And there was one way of thinking in particular that helped me to completely shift the way I thought about not only my career, but my life in general–an ancient philosophy called Stoicism.
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy founded in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It was most famously practiced by Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. One of the central ideas of the philosophy is that we can’t control and can’t rely on external events–only the way we react to them. Ryan Holiday has a great explanation of Stoicism on his site, Daily Stoic.
Stoicism has been practiced by kings, presidents, artists, writers, and many different leaders throughout the years. There has been a surge of new Stoics (people who study Stoicism) in more recent years, particularly in the world of entrepreneurs.
So how can Stoicism help someone who wants to work in the film industry?
Stoics practice different “spiritual exercises”–these aren’t religion, and they’re not some woo-woo mumbo-jumbo magic B.S. These are some pretty serious mindset shifts that can really change the way you think and act.
Can you imagine your life if…
- you could just make the film that you wanted to make, without worrying about whether or not people would like it?
- or if stage fright was a thing of the past because you were truly just comfortable putting yourself out there in front of the camera, without worrying about the outcome?
- or if you didn’t feel that twinge of embarrassment or anxiety introducing yourself as a filmmaker, or as an actor, because you really didn’t care about anyone else’s expectations of you?
Stoicism can teach you to think and act with a calm indifference. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care–it means that you understand that you have done everything possible to put yourself out into the world, and that you have surrendered to the fact that the outcome is out of your control.
This may sound far fetched, but believe me when I tell you that this way of thinking has changed my life.
And I’m not here to lecture you on Stoicism or any other philosophy, but I do talk about it from time to time because I think it’s important. And I think it has the potential to change your life, and make you more successful working in this industry.
If you’d like to learn more about Stoicism, there are many, many resources out there. One of the most recommended books is Seneca’s “Letters From A Stoic.” The book is a collection of letters that Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius to “unburden his soul” and extol the virtues of the Stoic philosophy.
I won’t lie, I bought this book for my Kindle over two years ago and have yet to finish it. I’ll pick it up from time to time and read a chapter, but I have some trouble really connecting to the text.
What has worked for me is Ryan Holiday’s book “The Daily Stoic: 365 Meditations On Wisdom, Perseverance, And The Art Of Living.” Ryan has been a long-time student of Stoicism, and he frequently talks about the philosophy in his books and other writings. His book is basically a daily devotional for Stoics, and he has done a really great job of breaking down the Stoic practices into bite-sized chunks that are very easy to take in.
Every morning I read that day’s chapter (usually a page or less) and try to keep the lesson in mind as I go about my day. For me, this has been an excellent way of really adopting the Stoic practices as I go about my often crazy days.
However you decide to go about it, I do hope you’ll at least look into Stoicism and try out some of the exercises. They’ve helped me become immensely more successful, as I’m sure they could for you as well.