HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
Let's discuss a very dangerous mindset a lot of actors have. Most of us have believed the lie that our success comes with quick moments of "hitting it big."
What if our acting success actually came from the simple day-to-day habits that we practice?
A few years ago, a mentor sent me a book and told me to start reading for at least 10 minutes a day to kickstart my personal development.
I'm not sure why I wasn't already practicing that habit. I love learning, and I've always been a good student, but somehow adulthood stripped that away from me.
Plus, crazy successful experts are literally giving us their answers word-for-word and helping us bypass their mistakes by taking us straight to the best practices.
Disclosure: Hey Actor Boss, I have affiliate links in this post, which means at zero extra cost to you, I make a commission if you purchase through my link. I made the decision to add affiliate links so I can keep this blog up and running, but I'm only linking to products I know, use, and trust and would recommend to you in face-to-face convo.
The book was Darren Hardy's bestselling book The Compound Effect. This was the first personal development book I read as an adult, and it inspired me to create my daily habits list. He teaches that our success is based on the (sometimes boring) day-to-day tasks we complete.
The habits of successful actors consist of any tasks they need to complete on a daily basis to reach their ultimate long-term goals. These can also be referred to as Habit Goals, a concept I learned from leadership expert Michael Hyatt.
Creating your daily habits list will require you to think long-term. What goals do you want to achieve in the next year? Visualize achieving those goals, then reverse engineer them into simple tasks that you can incorporate into your actor daily routine.
For example, I want to become fluent in French so that I can add a foreign language to the special skills section of my acting resume. That means I need to form a daily habit of completing three Duolingo French modules to reach that goal.
In this post, I will share seven habits that I think should be included in the daily life of an actor. Adjust these habits to fit your routine. I'll list examples from my own life to get you started.
These habits should be transferred to a checklist on your phone that you can look at daily. I use the Awesome Note app thanks to a suggestion by Chalene Johnson's 30 Day Push, now promoted as her Smart Life Push Journal.
1. START A SKIN CARE ROUTINE
What do actors do on a daily basis to stay looking so good on camera? For starters, they take care of their skin.
You can't afford to have a job that requires you to be on HD cameras without following morning and nighttime skincare routines.
Now you know that if you have blemishes in your footage, you're not going to use it in your demo reel, which you need to book jobs. That's assuming you can even get your footage, am I right? But if you do luck out and get your footage, you need something you're not embarrassed to use.
So the next time you think you're too tired to wash your face in the morning or before you go to bed, I want you to visualize how embarrassed and aggravated you'll be if you have acne the next time you're on camera.
Not all good skincare products are expensive, but you may need to splurge on a celebrity-grade product if you're really having issues. If that makes your stomach hurt, it's time to get your financial crap together with my favorite free budgeting tool. Read that post, then read this one to learn how to save for important acting expenses like skincare.
So, how do celebrities have such clear skin? What are their Hollywood skin care secrets? That depends on a number of factors.
Everyone's skin is different. If you want to learn how to get celebrity clear skin, you'll need to experiment with various products to figure out what works best for you. My husband can just wash his dang face with regular soap, but I have a 4-5 step routine.
Let's make this process a little easier:
Lastly, I want to discuss the possibility of laser hair removal. Before a shoot, I always need to prep my eyebrows. No matter what I do (tweeze, wax, shave), my forehead breaks out like crazy. This is not acceptable.
I'm considering having that unibrow area laser treated for permanent hair removal. Do you have any experience with that? Please comment to let me know if so! I'll keep you posted on my journey.
2. DEVELOP SPECIAL SKILLS
A lot of actors find themselves asking, "What goes on my special skills section of my acting resume?" If you want to know what successful actors have in common, you can bet they develop their special skills. Let's discuss your list of special skills and talents for your acting resume.
It's time to decide on a maximum of three special skills that you can start developing on a daily basis. If you really want to take your special skills to the next level, I highly recommend you implement Cal Newport's Deep Work technique.
If you've already decided on your special skills:
I hate to break it to you, but no one is paying you to knit on camera unless a breakdown specifically requests that skill. Even if it does, you should place that information on the notes section of your casting submission since it's not strong enough to place on your resume.
You can easily get bogged down in a list of cool special skills, but you should focus on becoming an expert at just a few things. If you're having an issue narrowing down a list of special skills to put on an acting resume, then check out my post 1 Crazy Useful Special Skill Casting Directors Love to get you started.
Try to group three skills together that paint a picture as well. For example, a foreign language, handguns, and martial arts would bode well for action roles. This isn't critical, but it could be beneficial.
continue reading below break
3. EXPRESS GRATITUDE
You've probably noticed that I post this tip a lot. I once thought it was a "woo woo" practice, but the science has spoken. I feel strongly that the life of a working actor includes expressing gratitude.
If you want to see the research for yourself, then read these articles from Harvard Health Publishing, Psychology Today, and UC Berkley (PDF).
Here are a few ideas on how to start expressing gratitude daily:
Expressing gratitude is also a great way to boost your confidence. You can read more about that in my post How to Build Acting Confidence ASAP. If you want a good laugh, you can also check out 5 Confidence Boosters for Actors.
In summary, expressing gratitude can have a number of positive effects that make you more likable. Set days can be long days, so likable actors just straight up get more referrals and work.
4. PERFORM VOCAL & STRATEGY EXERCISES
This habit technically has two parts. It's not imperative that you do them together, but I think it will make the exercise easier to implement.
This gist of this habit is to warm up your vocal cords (even if you're not a singer) and then perform one line of a script three different ways using three different strategies.
First, let's discuss the importance of voice exercises for actors. This is a crucial daily habit for you as an actor even if you're not singing or performing on stage. You can't perform without your voice. You don't want a shoot to get wrapped for the day because you lost your voice. What if a director wants you to perform the same scene 180 times? What if that scene requires intense emotion and you strain your vocal cords?
If you want a strong voice, you also need to practice breath control exercises and techniques. It's very possible you're not be breathing correctly. You can train your physical body to relax via breathing, which in turn will relax your vocal cords. I highly recommend the book Freeing the Natural Voice by Kristin Linklater.
I know you're taking your smartphone with you everywhere, Actor Boss. I recommend that you play vocal exercises on your phone and perform them while you're in the shower and standing. I do not recommend performing these in the car while you're sitting since sitting will change your posture and disrupt your breathing, thus damaging your vocal cords.
Now that your voice is warm, you should perform this strategy exercise to prepare yourself for a director saying, "Do something different." Essentially, say the same line(s) three different ways to start flexing your strategy muscle. I breakdown that process more in my post How to Run Scene Rehearsals with Confidence.
If you're an on-camera actor, I need you to understand something: the editor is going to piecemeal together your various takes, so you might as well give them something different each time. There's no point in worrying about what the final scene will look like because the hard truth is that the editor is going to decide, so make sure they have enough variation to keep your performance from feeling "one note."
5. PRACTICE PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
If you want to set yourself apart as a professional actor, you need to create a personal development plan. Starting personal development doesn't mean you don't already have strengths; it simply means you're learning new things to help you expand those strengths or grow in your areas of weakness, which everyone has.
Don't confuse learning something new with learning something better. Being an actor requires us to be relatable, multi-dimensional humans. Personal development adds new dimensions to our lives, not necessarily better ones.
Here are a few areas you can develop:
Listen, you have the ability to learn and grow, which not everyone has. Start practicing a minimum of ten minutes of personal development per day. I promise you'll get hooked and do more!
Here are various sources of personal development:
My favorites are books, podcasts, and educational apps. I'm about to confess something to you that will make incorporating books much easier: read while you poop. Yep. I said it. It makes both more efficient. Put that phone down, and leave a book in your bathroom. You won't be able to resist reaching for the book. Side note--I also highly recommend the Squatty Potty. That is all.
I'm not asking you to totally give up music, but you should try listening to podcasts while you're driving in your car. Experts are giving you their best tips and advice for free! It's an actor's dream. The trick is to save the episodes that have a ton of good tips so you can listen to them again-and-again or take notes later.
I'm gonna bet you have a smartphone, especially if you're self-taping. Try downloading free apps with brain teasers, puzzles, or word games. If it's been a while since you practiced math, you can seriously go into the app store, type in the word "math," and find a free app to work your brain. We need to fire different parts of our brains to keep us sharp, which can improve our improv abilities at auditions and shoots.
Here are a few benefits of personal development:
All four of these benefits are important to an actor. Self-awareness and confidence always look good on you in an audition. Mental focus will help you listen to your scene partner. Stronger relationships will create better sense memories and life experience for your scenes. Motivation will push you forward even when you've been rejected a million times.
6. EXERCISE OR STRETCH
There are a hundred million different articles on how to get into shape, each one attached to a different diet it seems! Our goal for this habit is daily movement for overall health, not weight loss or muscle gain. While those are both valid goals that can be incorporated into this habit, neither are the primary focus.
Your body is your instrument. If it's not working, you're not working. I suggest you exercise or stretch every day simply to keep your body primed for basic functions. Focus on moving your body for at least thirty minutes a day.
You must ultimately decide which exercises are best for you based on your preferences and medical history. If you have a pre-existing condition, then definitely discuss your ideas with your doctor and a trainer.
Here are a few reputable resources to get you started:
This list isn't comprehensive. If you know of another great resource, please feel free to post it in the comments.
Let's chat more about stretching. It's crucial to do this after performing any physical activity, even walking. I personally need to stretch more on my rest days. Stretching helps relieve tension and is actually a crucial relaxation technique to adjust your breathing before you perform. You can literally do it anywhere with zero equipment. Even if you only stretched for thirty minutes a day to implement this habit, you'll be doing your body a favor.
It's obvious that our bodies were made to move. Imagine that your body is a car. If you left that car in the yard and didn't crank it or drive it for years, what would happen? It would stop moving! It was made to move and needs to move to keep moving.
I want to mention one more thing for anyone who has a physically demanding job. I know what it's like to be on your feet all day working various part-time jobs and only have time to sleep, work, and eat. If that's currently true for you, you're already moving your body a lot, but you should still incorporate stretching, especially for your feet and legs.
7. REHEARSE OR MEMORIZE SCRIPTS
While I still think it's worth scheduling a fully focused once-a-month rehearsal, I started working through my monologues every single day. Holy crap. It has made such a huge difference.
Listen, most film actors may never be asked to perform a monologue at an audition, but you do not want to be the one actor that gets asked and not have one ready to perform. You can learn more about having monologues ready in this post.
Memorizing lines is our job. That means we should adopt the practice of memorizing or rehearsing scripts every single day. You may seriously get cast over someone who has more experience than you just from being more prepared.
My first professional job was for an industrial gig, and the head honcho producer kept asking us actors to swap lines--entire paragraphs of lines. I was so nervous about embarrassing my friend who got me the job that I ignored everyone who talked to me, plugged my ears, and stepped to the side to memorize.
Guess what? I hit every freaking word every freaking time. The director was impressed, and he cast me a few more times because he knew I would be good for the money. It also greatly built my confidence that I can handle multiple pages of dialogue with last-minute changes, which is a basic requirement of a professional actor. I want you to feel that same confidence.
"Memorizing lines is 99% of your job." This is what the head of my college theatre department always told us. He would also drop us an entire letter grade if we weren't off-book by the deadline. The reason was simple--you can't think on your feet or make different choices if you're worried about the lines.
What if you were given 30 pages of dialogue to memorize in a day, every single day? That is the life of television and soap stars.
I worked with an actor who doubled as the script coach for the show Good Behavior. He told me that the lead actors would immediately come to him after a scene cut to run their lines for the next day's shoot. Could you handle that, Actor Boss? If you start memorizing lines every day, you'll be way more confident when the time comes because it will come. How you respond could make or break your career.
Are you already incorporating some of these daily habits? Comment to let me know which ones and which ones are new to you.
The only way you'll remember to practice these daily habits is to log them on a checklist on your phone that you'll see every day, so go make that list now. Your phone is always with you, and a digital list will be easier to checkmark over-and-over again.
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