Growing up I never wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer; I didn’t want to be a teacher or an astronaut, a ballerina or a pro soccer player, all I wanted was to be an actor on General Hospital. In case you aren’t familiar with GH, let me give you a brief summary. It is only the greatest Soap Opera in the history of the world with the most amazing characters, the most absurd storylines, and some pretty incredible actors. I recorded every episode on VHS tapes (back in the day when we had VCRs and no DVR), so that when I got home from school I could catch up with the Corinthos, Quartermaine, Cassadine, and Spencer families while I did my homework.
When I was in college, I made it my goal to intern on GH. I networked and I interviewed and I pushed myself, and I landed an internship on All My Children—another ABC Daytime show. While there, I showed up early, stayed late, tried to outperform and outshine in every area, and only then did I get an internship on the greatest show on TV (ok, maybe I’m being dramatic, but I love this show). I would not give up on my mission of working for General Hospital, because I saw that as an avenue for my fulfilling my ultimate dream of being on the show.
When I officially moved to Los Angeles to pursue my Soap Opera career, something shifted. I panicked. I started doubting my talent and my abilities to be successful as an actress on GH. I also started to feel shame about the fact that what I wanted out of life was to be on Daytime television. Is that a noble aspiration? Is that feasible? Will I be proud to tell my future children that “all” I did was act on a Soap Opera? I found myself drowning in skepticism, cynicism, and self-doubt. Which is absolutely no way to live. I started to listen to people who said I should aim higher, and that I was too smart to be an actress. I started working in investment banking and then moved into business development for a venture capital advisory firm. Which is not me—at all! I don’t know anything about finance, and I loathe networking. But it felt like a sensible, adult thing to do. However, I started to lose interest quickly and found that I could not be satisfied, no matter how much I was succeeding in this new career path.
Last week, I went back to an acting class. In the class, the instructor asked, “Why are you here? Not here in this room. Why are you in Los Angeles? Why are you wasting your money on acting classes? Why are you wasting your life sitting in the lobby of casting directors’ offices?” It was an interesting series of questions. Why was I here? He asked us to write down the first thing that popped into our heads. Without hesitation I wrote: WHY AM I IN LOS ANGELES? I am here to be on General Hospital.
And then I stopped myself. I thought that dream had died; I thought I had decided that was a trivial pursuit and that I would never get there and that was the dream of a 13 year old girl who had no idea how difficult it would be to land a contract role on GH. But here I was back in acting class, still wanting to pursue my original dream.
So I ask you, as I have recently been asking myself:
What do you want??? What is it that you truly want to do with you life? Do you want to run your own company? Do you want to build clean water wells in Sub-Saharan Africa? Do you want to get married and have four kids? Be honest with yourself. What do you really want? Don’t answer with what you think is the “right answer.” Don’t answer with what you think is realistic. Answer unabashedly and unashamedly.
What are you willing to do for it? What steps are you taking to make your wildest dreams come true? What steps are you willing to take? Yes we are not all going to be billionaires, but we are all capable of achieving great success if we put in the work. Yes, luck is crucial. But (as every acting teacher I’ve ever had has stolen and claimed for their own): luck favors the prepared. Don’t let an opportunity pass you by simply because you didn’t do your homework. Push your limits. Know what you are capable of. Learn your unfair advantage, what sets you apart. Figure out all the ways you are going to succeed.
What are you doing that is counterproductive? Are you overlooking opportunities? Are you disregarding direction or mentorship from professionals or advisors in your life? Are you doubting yourself? I refused to believe that success was attainable for me in my dream field, all the while pushing myself and succeeding in career paths that were less interesting for me, and therefore had lower stakes. Failing at something I didn’t really care about was easier to swallow than failing at something that meant the world to me. But ultimately, I had resigned myself to defeat before I’d even tried. Don’t talk yourself out of something that is completely possible if you were to dedicate yourself to accomplishing it. Don’t give yourself excuses or reasons to fail.
Ultimately your success will be a result of the ripple effect. Every single thing that you do matters. Nothing is inconsequential. Who you choose to spend your time with, how you choose to spend your money, what you are reading, what you are eating, if you are working out, if you are meditating, if you are traveling, if you are taking the time to put others before yourself, if you are making sure that you have sufficient alone time, if you are dating the wrong person, if you have completely isolated yourself. So start asking yourself the right questions. Start making your dreams a priority. Don’t waste your life away, because you are so, so incredibly capable.
Until next time,