Thursday, 19 April 2012

'Get Bitter or Get Better'

Wise words, I'm sure you'll agree.
I've always hated failure. Ever since the tender ages of primary school - more particularly a certain netball competition and a certain boy who most certainly got in my way of scoring a goal - I've been made aware of a competitive streak within in me, whether it be sport or academics or absolutely anything where there is the possibility for failure or success. When I was younger, psychologists would probably call it an attention deficit. Now, I would say I'm just an actor.

Competitiveness is not always a bad thing, mind you. Sure, it can make you seem brash, arrogant and obscenely obnoxious if you exploit it. However ambitions are much easier to achieve when you've got that driving force behind you to push you further, never mind the skill you've obtained or the talent you were blessed with. Take my sister for example: she was an incredibly talented gymnast but with an even more incredible ability for nonchalance when it came to competitions. Of course she competed and she competed well; she frequently won medals of all verying metals and maintained this sporting stamina for over ten years. But she could have been better and one reason for this is she could have had more competitive confidence to give her that defining edge and resilience that would have pushed her to gold everytime. Nervertheless, a very successful gymnast.

Sadly, just a few weeks ago, my competitive ego received some bad news. After auditioning for the prestigious NYT in March, I recently understood that I was an unsuccessful candidate. For me, this was heart-wrenching. Not to mention the fact that I had already had a pretty tough week, this piece of news was just the cherry on top. I was more than upset - I was mortified. I could see my future as an actress crashing around me; I had visions of people pointing and laughing in my face; I was hating every single lovely person I had met on that audition day for potentially achieving something I hadn't. Until I realised, here's little old me in my bedroom, contemplating accountancy, along with the other 4500 rejectees around the country. Here's me, denied entry on my first attempt at a worldwide organisation based on the opinions of three people, when there are others who have been trying for three years or more and have still not been successful. What was I complaining about? I realised I was being selfish and that nothing was going to change if I sat wallowing by myself like a three year old for the rest of my life.

But what one must understand is that failure, like competitiveness, is not always a bad thing too. Thomas Edison once exclaimed 'I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don't work.' Good for him. That's the spirit. My failure was simply an idea that had to be altered, a problem with a solution to be found. There were hundreds of possibilities as to why I hadn't been successful at gaining entry that day: personal dislike of my monologue by the auditioner; the organisation already had a hundred other people that look exactly like me; I hadn't prepared enough prior to the audition; the lighting was wrong etc, etc... The list is endless. But optimism is the order of the day that has an endless list also: there's always next year; next time I'll be more prepared; now I know what the audition process is like and can use that to my advantage; the lighting will be better next year etc etc...

The most important lesson that I personally learned from that audition is to not let pride or an over-competitive nature get in the way of things. My first mistake was not asking for help during my preparation time before the audition because I didn't want everyone to find out I was auditioning in case I failed. Big no no. ALWAYS ask for help. My second mistake was that I was trying to live up to the inspiring standards of a guy I was friends with who had been accepted on his first attempt the year before. Again, big no no. Everyone is individual, both yourself and the auditioner. Each opportunity is unique and momentary and can't be replicated. He was himself, I was myself - sometimes it's luck... and a little bit of talent and charisma.

In life not everyone gets everything they want. If they did, we'd all be the same and that would be boring not to mention inconvenient. This is a particularly important piece of advice for actors everywhere as rejection is part of the job description and the sooner you learn how to overcome it, the better. Just because something doesn't work out for you once, it doesn't mean it won't happen the next time and it certainly doesn't mean you should become an accountant. I didn't get into NYT this time. That does not mean I can't be an actor. It doesn't mean I can't try again and be successful that time. So you can either get bitter, or get better. Simple.

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