In case you were wondering… yes, I’ve made mistakes in my career!
Some really big ones actually! I’m not ashamed of those mistakes. In fact, part of why I created The Organized Actor® is to help others NOT make the same mistakes I did.
But I’ve also made some really smart moves that set the foundation for my pursuits in the early stages of my career and have continued to work for me now.
Remember, a career in the arts in a living, breathing thing.
You will grow and transform. You will have high times and low ones. You will work a lot for a while. Then you might not work at all for a while.
But through it all, know that you will make some mistakes along the way. And that’s okay. One of the things I love about what we do is that we always get another shot at something. We can always keep auditioning. We can always keep going to class and seek to learn more. We can do a re-take. We can do another performance tomorrow night and be better.
But there are some key things I did RIGHT in the early stages of my career that set a foundation for loving the pursuit of my dreams. Maybe they can help you too!
1. I became obsessed with musical theatre. I invested time every single day to learn about every director, music director, choreographer and Broadway star. I dove deep. At one point in my career, I could tell you who played Peggy Sawyer in the 2nd National Tour of 42nd Street and the song that was “lost in Boston” from any hit show (and this was LONG before the internet existed). Maybe knowing all of that doesn’t seem very important. But what it did was keep me immersed in the world of theatre. Since I desired to play Peggy Sawyer someday on Broadway, I wanted to know every actress who had played her at that level. Whatever your focus is (TV, Film, Shakespeare, Musical Theatre, etc.), study it, know the players and immerse yourself in the world. #getoutyourtapshoesfrancis
2. I was always in class and studying. It makes sense to me that I am a teacher and coach now, because I also happen to be a perpetual student. In my early career, I was in dance class, acting class, voice lessons, etc. every single day. And remember, I did not major in theatre, so all of my classes were outside of school. I sought out the best coaches and classes and made sure that I worked daily on getting better at my craft. I even remember tap dancing for hours on the the concrete patio we had in the backyard because I could see my reflection in the sliding glass doors. (Hmmmm… maybe that’s why I fractured my feet four times.) Ha! Are you in class right now? If not, find one now… but maybe not one on concrete. #marleyfloor
3. I always kept track of everything I did. Since I came from the business world, tracking my progress came naturally. That’s how/why I created The Organized Actor®. It was really my own journal I’d created to keep track of my auditions, my progress, my goals, my income/expenses… everything about my career. A fellow actor saw me writing in it and asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he said, “That’s a great idea. Maybe I should do that!” And the light bulb went off in my brain to create the book. But the basic ritual of tracking your progress is the core of all successful people. Actors are like athletes, so to be great, track your results. If you don’t have your copy yet, click here to buy the latest edition of The Organized Actor®. #trackyourprogress
And now onto the things I did WRONG in my early career. I must admit I got a little emotional writing these because they are real. They were super real for me back then, and they had an effect on the trajectory of my career. However, we all have our own path, and I’m super proud of mine. But, nonetheless, these were some BIG WRONGS that had their impact. Don’t let them affect your career.
1. I didn’t believe I could really make a living as an actor. Because I suffered from extreme audition anxiety as a young performer, I didn’t trust myself enough to know if I’d be good in the audition room. Therefore, I couldn’t say out loud that I wanted to be an actor for my career. I kept it as a “hobby” as long as I could, because I didn’t want the pressure. The truth was, I wanted to be an actor for a living for as long as I could remember, and I was afraid to say it until I was 28 years old. Then when I did, the universe opened up and said, “Thank GOD you figured it out!” And that’s when everything started happening. If I had believed earlier, maybe I would have moved to NYC earlier. You can’t change the past. But bottom line… believe in yourself. Believe in your craft. And believe that you can make a living as an actor. And you can! #believeitspossible
2. I was too worried about being perfect. I always wanted to please the people on the other side of the desk. I wanted to do it “right.” That alone caused more audition anxiety than I already had, because I thought that you had to be perfect to book the job. Because I came from the dance world where being perfect is the baseline, I didn’t know how to really play in the audition room and bring myself fully into the room. The more I learned the importance of being yourself, being human and being open, then I started really booking a lot of work. As for you… “perfect” doesn’t exist. Just be yourself and you will succeed. #beyourself
3. I turned down the help people offered me. Early on, I had many people believe in me and wanted to help me get an agent and take my career further. But because I didn’t believe in myself and my desire to be perfect, I was afraid I wouldn’t live up to their expectations, so I played myself much smaller than I should have. In fact, I was terrified when I’d audition for someone I actually knew, because I knew I’d fall short of the “image” they had of me. Don’t do this. When help is offered, take it. That person obviously sees something in you, so embrace it! #accepthelp
Now, ask yourself: What are you doing right? Do you even know? And what do you think you are doing wrong if anything? Explore these two ranges of “right” and “wrong” and see what you discover. It actually might surprise you!
Leslie Becker is an award-winning Broadway actress, writer and creator of The Organized Actor® and is passionate about inspiring, entertaining and educating others. www.OrganizedActor.com.