Allow me to tell you a little story from my childhood. This does relate to your acting career – bear with me…..
Get me out of here!
One year, on holiday with my family, my dad bought tickets for an evening boat trip. We boarded the boat, but a quick look around revealed this was not going to be an idyllic family outing. A large beer area, lads in football tops and pumping bass indicated that this was more of a booze cruise.
Disappointed, my dad said we were getting off. As we did so, the lady organising the trip warned us that whilst we could get off, we couldn’t get our money back. To which my dad replied, “I’d pay to get off this boat!”.
Being from a thrifty, Yorkshire background, I was surprised at what looked like an extravagant waste of money. But, actually it ended up being one of the most important lessons my dad ever taught me. The money, my dad explained, had been spent. Whether we stayed on the boat or not, the money was gone. What hadn’t been spent was our time, we could still save that. My dad then delivered the key lesson – he said, “Spent money can always be earned back, time cannot.”
Tight on Time
And this is totally true. We have no idea how much, or how little time we have. But we can always earn more money back. Which leads me to another key piece of advice: to be generous with your money and stingy with your time. I once saw a talk where the speaker said most people are stingy about tipping waiting staff, for example, but will happily let someone waste their time. We should do the reverse. We think time is free, but it is finite and we are actually taking it for granted.
How does this relate to acting?
It took me eight years to get an agent. I didn’t get one at the showcase, and then, despite doing multiple fringe shows, I couldn’t seem to get seen. Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes. But, then I didn’t have anyone to advise me, I was making it up as I went along, and that ‘learning by failing’ was taking a lot of time. When I went to LA, I found (and hired) a coach specifically for actors and with her guidance I came back to the UK with a new strategy…
Six months later, I got an agent (whoop whoop!). Two years after that, I made my West End debut. Now, I can’t remember what that coaching cost me – partly because it’s so irrelevant to what I gained, and partly because the financial cost was nothing compared with the cost of wasted time. The pain of another year going by with the situation unchanged.
In this industry, as in life, time is precious. You aren’t going to remember the cost of doing anything, when you reflect on your life – you’ll remember the cost of not doing things. This isn’t a proposal to be casual with money or careless, it’s just to put money in its place, behind experiences and definitely behind time. To examine not just the risk of spending money, when we decide to invest in ourselves, but to examine the risk of not spending it and allowing time to pass you by. In short – spend the money, save the time, earn the money back!