“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death.” – Robert Fulghum
As I stepped into the casting office for my first professional audition as an actor, I was overwhelmed. The reception area was filled with gorgeous women and sharp-looking guys – and (unlike me) all of them had the air of confidence that comes with knowing exactly what they were doing.
Uncertainly, I caught one young man’s eye and asked if there was a place to sign in. He directed me to a table in the corner.
That was the easy part! I tapped my foot anxiously as, one by one, people were called into the back office for their auditions. I silently wondered if it would be obvious that I’d never auditioned before. “What am I doing here?”I thought. “I don’t belong here. I have no training, no experience. All of these other people are clearly professionals. How do I stand a chance?” I momentarily entertained the thought of dashing out the door.
But the same determination that drove me to that casting call took over. Being an actor had been a secret lifelong dream of mine. I’d wanted to audition for a role in a movie or TV show for years, but hadn’t gotten the guts to try until I reached my 30s.
Finally, my name was called.
Once in the audition room, a casting director gave me a scenario about being a crazy truck driver on a wild drive, and I was told to improvise some lines as they shot some footage.
After some still shots, the action began. It was quick and painless. Certainly not the best performance the casting director ever saw, but likely not the worst. I left without any fanfare.
I’d love to tell you that I received a call the next day, and the job was mine. But that’s not what happened. What did happen was that I turned that first day of overcoming my fears into five years of auditions. And along the way, I actually landed some parts.
I’ve had a few speaking roles in small films and a few brief moments on screen in a blockbuster titled Bad Boys II (where I had the good fortune to briefly hobnob – and actually exchange joking comments – with Will Smith, who was as nice as I’d heard he was). I’m proud to say I’ve got a listing on IMDB.com (the bible of the entertainment business) as an actor… which is not easy to come by.
The truth is, being an actor was never my main career goal. Sure, I’ve made money from it – but, more important, acting has added a layer to my life that has been emotionally rewarding. I certainly hope I achieve more as an actor – but even if I don’t, I have accomplished that lifelong dream.
The point I want to make here is that I achieved this goal without any formal training. Admittedly, I was intimidated by my lack of experience. It took some serious determination to follow through with it. But once I took that crucial step to overcome my fears and doubts, I was able to achieve a dream I’d had for years.
Perhaps you have a dream. Maybe you want to own your own company. Maybe you want to finally publish that novel you’ve been writing. Maybe you want to usher your garage band into the mainstream. And maybe you haven’t yet pursued that dream because you feel you’re missing something – the “right” kind of education or insider knowledge of the industry.
But I strongly urge you not to let “not knowing how to do it” stop you. You can learn all you need to know by simply going after what you want.
In my case as an aspiring actor, I hired a professional photographer to take head shots, and I put together a resume highlighting every relevant credential I could think of (and minimizing my lack of experience). I sent those things to local talent agencies that I found in directories. To my pleasant surprise, a few called me to come in and sign up. Shortly thereafter, one of them sent me on that first audition I described at the beginning of this article.
Enough about me…
Jenny T. recently made her dreams come true, even though she got a late start. Jenny, in her mid 60s, has had a secret ambition since she was a little girl to be a glamorous show dancer.
Her chances of making it to Broadway were slim to none – but that didn’t stop her from making a different version of her dream come true. Although Jenny never had any formal training as a dancer, she began to perform show routines for live audiences.
Along the way, she took lessons to improve her dancing skills. After a few years, Jenny is now a local celebrity. She’s performed dance routines for audiences of up to 500 people more than 25 times… and admiring fans frequently stop her on the street.
Another fellow I know who recently began daring to live his dream has been nicknamed “Doc,” because he is a medical doctor. In his 50s, he realized he had a yearning to become a stand-up comic. His wife and friends thought he was nuts. But he went out there, got himself immersed in the local comedy scene, and now performs regularly throughout his home state.
Whatever your dream is, you can pursue it – by doing the following:
1. Identify your dream.
2. Research the steps that will be needed to pursue it.
Taking a leap into an industry you don’t know is fine – but you don’t want to go into it completely unprepared. Every field has accepted norms, rules, requirements, or (at a minimum) information that would be useful to know. For example, if you wanted to start a seminar business, you should study both public speaking techniques and how to market yourself. If you wanted to become a fishing guide, you’d study local licensing requirements and maybe take a job as an apprentice with a captain to learn the ropes.
3. Create a concrete plan of actions to take… with a workable timetable. Breaking your goal into easy-to-complete steps is one of the best ways to avoid being overwhelmed by it. A timetable is a critical component of any plan. The key to success in any field is to actually take action – and a timetable forces you to do that instead of procrastinate.
4. Execute those steps, no matter how intimidating they may seem.
5. Refine your plan as you learn and continue to pursue your dream.
6. Keep pursuing your dream… even when you hit bumps.
I’ve been able to make my dreams come true… and so can you. All you need to do is make the decision to go for it![Ed. Note: Paul Lawrence is a produced screenwriter who has written a multimillion-dollar film and is the president of a successful direct-mail company. Learn about Paul’s “Dare to Live Your Dreams” program here.]