Surviving Waves of Rejection

There are few more difficult career paths than those through the various mediums of the “entertainment business”. For the extreme majority, they will face massive waves of rejection–more rejection that success.

The numbers are simply staggering. There are very few jobs and many people competing for those few opportunities. The market is over-saturated. Most artists who pursue acting face a huge volume of rejection in their career pursuits.

How does one maintain their spirit when constantly having doors close in their face? How does one preserver when faced with the potential (or reality) of living a life of poverty (literally–most union actors’ incomes in New York are below the national poverty line) while pursuing their passion and dreams? I had a chat with one of my dearest friends today. We were talking about the brutality of this industry. We marveled at how we have seen countless friends and colleagues rise up the career ladder, reaching phenomenal accomplishments (major movie deals, playing leading roles, long-running Broadway performances, series regular spots on television, etc), only to later find them collecting unemployment checks for long periods of time, forever looking for the next job, hoping that the previous one is not their last.

We have also seen friends sky rocket and work consistently for years. This year alone, we had one friend win an Oscar and another an Emmy. Last year, one won a Tony award. Success happens and does so often.

When facing your own waves of rejection, remember that if something has been done before, it can be done again.

If something has never been done before…there is a beginning for all moments and movements.

All adventures are about overcoming obstacles.

Adventures, too, are about going into the unknown to face those obstacles.

Adventures are a process of change.

Change is inevitable and there are no rights or wrongs, just choices and outcomes.

Most artists I know are multi-talented. Acting is the window into the business and many find that their visions and desires change over time. Sometimes their visions change and expand. Producing, directing, writing, etc.

I know a very successful film producer by the name of Doug. Doug climbed his respective career ladder, beginning as an actor (doing fairly well with his pursuits) and later developed a highly successful career as a producer, developing into the vice president of a major Hollywood studio.

He gave some advice on overcoming the rejection in the business. It was three-fold:

1. Have a hobby. For all but the very few, while pursuing the commercial path, there will be significant periods of little work or no work. If you define your identity around what you do for a living, you are in trouble when you are unemployed. Invest in other interests you have. Doug, while engaged in his acting pursuits, opened a floral design company…and with its success, then opened a second. That business success no doubt lead him towards producing success. After all, to run a business, one learns a lot about business. To be an entrepreneur, one learns how to adapt, see opportunity and develop vision.

2. Be willing to adapt to the winds of change. If Doug had hung onto his plans of being an actor, refusing to alter his vision around what opportunities life presented, he would have never found himself as a successful executive and producer, a process that he found makes him happy and has lead him to a feeling of career and artistic fulfillment.

3. Generate your own content. Create work yourself. If you wait for others to give your opportunity, forever having your hand out, forever relying on other people, you are forever giving your power away (creative and personal). However, if you are always creating, self-generating, your tools stay sharp. Work begets more work…and you never know where your original developed content might lead you…perhaps in any number of new and exciting directions and adventures.

Keep in mind that many people make their livings in the arts. It absolutely can be done and is done often. Where there is a will, there is a way…

Overcome your obstacles and except change as it comes.

Jim Hart is the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts. Both schools are accepting applications now.


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