Getting what you want in 2021
It’s almost the end of the year. Hooray! Finally, an end to 2020. Who isn’t hoping that 2021 will be so much better? It certainly can’t seem to get much worse. Well, of course, it can ALWAYS be worse: war, natural disaster, economic calamity … but after nine months of living within a pandemic, the hope of a better – and dare I say, NORMAL, year looms large in our collective psyche.
With a new year comes new resolutions, most of which will be thought up, written down, considered seriously for perhaps a day or two, and then quietly abandoned. Part of the problem is that people usually make such lofty goals for themselves: lose 25 lbs., get in great physical shape, learn a new language. Part of the solution is to break those goals down into smaller, reasonably attainable steps, or reimagine those goals to something more realistic like losing 10 lbs. by year-end, going for 30 minute walks three times a week, or learning a new simple conversational phrase every week in the chosen new language.
I use this time to visualize where I’d like my voice over and on-camera acting careers to be a year from now. And then I think about what’s realistic and write it down, figuring out what steps I have to take throughout the year to get there. It’s less a list of resolutions than a business plan that I resolve to follow.
I know where I’d like to take both of my careers. I like to call them my twins, because I’m nurturing both simultaneously, they complement each other beautifully, and one supports the other. Yes, I’ve decided that they’re twins who get along rather well together. In my mind, there’s no competition, no fighting or choosing between them. And since it’s all in my mind anyways, I’ve decided that they enjoy a strong and positive sibling relationship and that it will remain so from here on out.
And so, as we shutter 2020 and kick it to the graveyard where we’d like it to keep it buried, I’ve thought long and hard about my goals and written down business plans for each of my twins as to how I’ll achieve them.
Eww. Business plans. A lot of people don’t like those words and what they represent. A lot of work to prepare, involving drudgery and a bunch of dull numbers, and the fear of failure. Well, a negative attitude usually creates negative results. So I don’t go there. I see a business plan as a roadmap to manifest some of my dreams. Not that the dreams will emerge fully realized within a year – I tend to dream big – but that I’ve taken steps to move myself farther down the road, thereby getting that much closer to reaching them.
Dreams and goals. Conceptually, they’re fairly similar, though the dream is usually much rosier and a lot less well-defined than the goal. The dream is the right brain’s creatively-imagined vision. The goal is literally the brain child of, well, the left brain, and analytically and methodically constructed. Experientially, the goal often leads to the person realizing the dream, but very seldom is the dream realized without the person first putting in the effort to define, pursue, and attain the goal.
The dream is the aspiration, the pinnacle achievement that we hold as indisputable success. For my acting career, one of my dreams is to become a series regular on a popular TV show. For voice over, one of my dreams is to become the voice of a well-known brand. Will either happen within twelve months just by writing it down on a piece of paper? Probably not. In this life, wishful thinking alone doesn’t generate concrete results. When the dream requires the agreement and support of other people, like in the examples I gave above, I know I’m going to have to put in quite a bit of effort just to plan and prepare the way for the dream to manifest.
For that, I need specific goals, something that I can work towards and measure as smaller accomplishments. For example, I need to understand what it takes to realistically attain my dream of landing a role as a TV series regular. Most actors spend many years building their skills and proving their talents before they get to that point. And it’s not easy work, just considering how quickly the actors have to learn and master scripts and create compelling characters that grow and change during the life of a series. Additionally, TV scripts especially can be changed at the last minute, even while the scene is being filmed, and actors have to quickly adapt, learning the new lines and blocking with very little lead time. So, knowing all that, one of my acting goals may be to learn how to successfully prepare and self-tape two very different takes of a three-scene audition within a short 24 hour turnaround. That’s not an easy task and will take quite a bit of practice and experience, so I know that I’ll have to budget plenty of time to work on it.
The equivalent voiceover dream needs specific goals, too: training with well-respected commercial coaches, researching the companies whose commercials I’d like to voice one day, and getting on the talent rosters of agencies and production houses who are called upon to create and cast those kinds of opportunities. Time and effort that needs to be budgeted throughout the year.
Budgets for all goals consist of time and money. Specific times to work on them, scheduled into the calendar. If it’s for a class, then you’ll know the schedule and what work is required before each meeting. If it’s just your sweat equity, then you might want to block out a given amount of time in regular intervals on your calendar, like an hour three times every week to research and contact companies you’d like to work with. Budgeting money is pretty well understood. You’re allocating funds for all that it takes to work towards meeting your goal. In my examples, that includes expenses for classes and private coaching. And I budget both time and money because I know that flying by the seat of my pants won’t get me to where I want to be by year-end. I’ve tried shrugging it off, figuring that I’ll find the time to work on these tasks here and there as I go about my daily life. Sometimes I do, more often I don’t. And good luck getting other people to donate their time and talents if you don’t have the money allocated to pay for their classes and advice. People are funny about those kinds of things.
The budgeting of time and money goes hand-in-hand with breaking the goals down into smaller tasks that are very focused: Enrolling in the advanced on-camera class next month. Reaching out to two dozen agents for representation within my target market every quarter. Updating that commercial voiceover demo by the end of the summer. Coaching once a month throughout the year with a respected teacher known for developing top talent in the commercial world. The goals become practical when each task is specific and can be achieved within a given time frame – and checked off when complete. It’s like the joke based on an African proverb, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I see the whole process as a handshake deal between my inner artist and businesswoman. The artist dreams up the vision and gives voice to the goal. The businesswoman figures out how to make it happen.
The trick is to give the plan life by making it REAL. That comes from writing it down, scheduling each commitment of time on the calendar, setting aside the money needed, and even creating a vision board of what you’re working towards. As a type A person, I also like to check off tasks as I complete them – what a sense of satisfaction that is! So I make daily, weekly, and monthly to do lists. (I told you I’m a type A!) Whatever motivates you, that’s what you do. And don’t forget to reward yourself when you can cross something off your list. Each task completed is another step towards meeting your goal, which is a huge leap towards realizing your dream. And before you know it, there’s nothing left but elephant dust.