7 Ways To Fail At Your
Bob Fraser, Author/Distributor
CD Rom Technology)
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I usually talk about success, but I
thought I'd take a little different
tack this time.
I have had the opportunity to observe,
up close and personal, some of the
most successful actors in the business
over the past four decades. I made it
my business to write down every
success strategy that I saw them use –
then try to adapt my behavior to those
By copying successful people (it
really isn't cheating to adopt someone
else's successful behaviors), I've
managed to have a fairly successful
Along the way I've also had a chance
to observe those poor actors who just
can't seem to get anywhere (many of
them very talented, by the way).
Those actors seemed to be using
different tactics. I noted these
strategies too, and every so often I'd
write down what I facetiously called
"a failure method."
Here are seven of those
guaranteed-to-work "failure methods."
1. Become a critic.
I'm sure you know other actors (not
yourself) who do this. They criticize
everything. "She can't act, I don't
know why they keep giving her the
Oscar." "They spend a 100 million
dollars and the scripts sucks." "Yeah,
I saw that show, they should have left
it in the basement."
There are two bad results from this
tactic. First, once your friends
realize that this is how you behave,
they will make darn sure you aren't
invited to any of their shows. Second,
you will probably end up becoming a
full-time critic (paid or not) and
your acting dreams will be left
behind. Remember, you will become what
you practice to become. Don't become a
critic. Do you like critics? Do your
co-workers? Has anyone ever given a
critic a standing 'O?' Don't become a
critic, I beg of you.
Beat on your own head with a
This is what I call the behavior we
see all to often, where an actor
cannot allow a compliment to remain
unchallenged. "You were great." "Ha! I
really stunk the place up tonight. You
should have been here Friday." This is
a very tempting behavior. No one wants
to look like a swelled head egotist –
but this is not the way to go about
proving that you are not.
In essence, when you judge your own
work negatively, you are practicing to
be a critic again - only this time the
target of your criticism is yourself.
Don't do it. I have seen actors of
real talent who, by poo-poohing their
own efforts eventually convinced
themselves that they weren't any good.
And they quit. Do you want to quit?
Then don't get down on yourself in any
You're human. (if not, you must be one
of those alien humanoids that's trying
to take over the Earth and I'm really
flattered you're taking the time to
read my little article) You will never
be perfect. Start to cut yourself some
slack if you want to be a successful
human. Accept compliments graciously
and move on.
3. Predict the future.
It can't be done. All of the people
who say they can predict the future,
do so to separate fools from money.
When you do it with regard to your own
life, you are in
The Twilight Zone
– and you could end up staying there.
I'm sure you've heard this: "I'm going
to be the biggest star in the world.
It's my destiny." (Or words to that
effect.) Now, some actors do this in
the mistaken idea that this is an
affirmation of their goals. But this
sort of blather is way too
non-specific to have any real impact
on your results.
If you want a real affirmation, try
something like: "I'm going to be a
professional, paid actor who earns my
living with my craft. I'm going to be
a nice person, a good collaborator and
I'm going to have a life outside of my
And for pity's sake don't predict
disaster. "I know I'm up against
incredible odds and I'll probably
starve, but I'm going to be an actor
anyway." This kind of prediction has a
terrible habit of coming true (in ways
that you cannot predict).
If you meet someone who blabbers
constantly about their "destiny" keep
your distance. Individual disasters
can often include those in the
4. Be competitive.
Acting isn't a sport. There are no
winners (or losers) at the end of a
show. Well, the audience has a chance
to lose if the show isn't worth the
twenty bucks – but among actors
there's no score at the end of the
The big downside of a competitive
personality in show business is that
others will feel you are trying to
"beat" them and they won't want to
work with you. Collaborate, don't
There are many who say this is a
competitive business and they are
partially correct. But the competition
is the individual aspirant's attempt
to be better every time. It's about
being good enough in the audition
process to be considered a "possible."
But after you get the part (or don't)
the "competition" is over. Move on.
It's the "win at all costs" mentality
that will get you heartily disliked (a
bad outcome for an actor) and more
importantly – it doesn't work that
5. Fill your life with pettiness,
bitterness and jealousy.
PB&J is not a sandwich - they are the
three horsemen of the apocalypse in an
The central element of any acting
career is the inevitable rejection you
must face. "I didn't get it." is a
phrase you will hear and say many
times in your theatrical career.
Reacting to this rejection as if it is
personal is a guaranteed way of
failing to reach your goals.
If you believe that other people have
an unfair advantage, or that you are
being singled out for rejection, or
that every rejection is proof that you
have made the wrong choice – guess
what? You're going to fail to achieve
When someone else books a job, it has
nothing to do with you. When another
actor gets a break, it's her triumph
-- but not your defeat. When you don't
get the part, life is not over and
there's no excuse for weeping and
eating an entire gallon of cookie
dough ice cream. There will always be
Is it easy to remain calm and positive
in the face of rejection? Nope. But
that is what you must learn to do if
you want to have a career as an actor.
Get used to it or get into another
field of work.
Do not put off until tomorrow what you
should have done three weeks ago.
People who procrastinate get in the
habit of procrastinating. When things
don't get done, hey – "Bob's your
uncle!" – it's failure time.
Some people quote Scarlett O'Hara on
this. "Tomorrow's another day." This
is a very bad summation of your
philosophy. Don't forget that Scarlett
is a self-centered, spoiled woman
filled with PB&J and she doesn't get
anything she wants. And "fiddle-dee-dee"
hardly compensates for a life full of
If you need new pictures, because the
one you have isn't working – don't put
it off until your bills are paid – do
it now. If you need to memorize a
monolog and practice it until it's
second nature, turn off that "Friends"
re-run and do it now. If they are
holding two days of auditions, make it
your business to be there on the first
day. Believe me, the habit of putting
things off will guarantee a less than
Those are six "mental" methods of
failure. Here's a practical one:
7. Spend more than you can afford on
Booking with an A-list photographer
and making a large investment in
make-up, hair, lighting, etc. is a bad
idea in the beginning of your career.
This is generally a hopeless attempt
to get a headshot that makes you look
like a movie star. Actually there are
two failure strategies at work here.
First spending a lot of money to get a
"session" with a top photographer and
all that goes with it. By and large
this won't work if the person in front
of the camera doesn't know what he is
doing. The person in front of the
camera is you. Do you know what you're
If you are still learning how to be
photographed (a process that will take
many photo sessions for most actors)
spending a lot is a waste of your
financial resources. (If your rich
Aunt Minnie is willing to "lend" you
thousands of dollars to keep trying
this method – well that might work.)
However, it's been my observation that
once an actor has spent upwards of two
thousand bucks for some pictures –
it's very hard for them to "toss them
out" - even if the headshot isn't
working. The more you pay for your
headshots (as a percentage of your
income) the less likely you are to
"cut your losses" and move on.
Flogging a headshot that does not work
(get you called in) is the number one
cause of most career doldrums. This
advice doesn't apply if you're already
a star. A star can use any old
The second part of this failure method
is the idea that "looking like a movie
star" is what it's all about. That
idea is wrong on many levels. You are
not a movie star. You are an actor.
Someday you may be a movie star.
That's what happens to some successful
actors. But until you reach that
point, you are better off working on
looking as much like you as you can.
Especially in your headshot. It
Of course, I've only scratched the
surface of the myriad "failure
methods" out there, but I'm sure you
see the pattern.
Being a successful actor is like most
other professional pursuits – there
will be ups and downs – but to
guarantee a life full of downs, just
use any of these methods I've outlined
They absolutely work.
By Bob Fraser
(Acting Magazine Contributor,
CD Rom Technology)