I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life struggling to achieve success in the entertainment industry but so far, aside from a few minor victories, I’ve failed to generate any real momentum. Not the kind of momentum that pays the bills. And not even close to the kind of momentum that would launch my career into the stratosphere, as I had so youthfully assumed would naturally be the case.
There were many near misses, close calls and moments of shining potential along the way. But for the most part it was one failed attempt after another to score my invitation to the cool kids club. The last straw came as I watched my wife’s and my life savings disappear while trying to turn my long dreamed of passion project Parallel Worlds into a reality.
The show was destined to be a hard sell by industry standards. It’s difficult enough to get a film, theater piece or music project financed – let alone to turn a profit. But when you insanely try to combine all three mediums into one hair-brained, mind-bending multimedia rock show? Your chances dry up fast.
So it was that my ol’ “buck the system” attitude reared its head. I figured if I can’t find anybody else to finance my dreams then I might as well just finance them myself. This was probably ill advised.
Although the universe has yet to weigh in on the ultimate fate of the show (I’m now turning it into a low-budget movie!) I have since been forced to sell my house in Los Angeles and move to the much more affordable state of Texas to pay off the enormous, soul crushing debt attempting four different live showcases of Parallel Worlds ended up incurring. So much for self-financed dreams come true.
It was after returning to my new home, tail between my legs, following back-to-back disastrous showcases in NYC and L.A. that I started to have serious doubts about my chances of ever truly succeeding in show business. I mean come on, if it hadn’t happened by now after 30 years of dogged, determined, obsessive effort – maybe it wasn’t ever going to happen. Maybe I’d simply been barking up the wrong tree for the majority of my life.
These thoughts and others just as defeatist led me into a what I can only describe as my “dark night of the soul.” But oddly, instead of delving into a serious depression or mid-life crisis, the strangest thing started to happen. I stopped asking why I hadn’t “made it” yet and started asking myself what “making it” even means and why I wanted it in the first place.
I began, as if by a some divine miracle, to realize that perhaps I’ve been approaching this whole success thing the wrong way. Maybe I wanted it for the wrong reasons. Maybe my obsessiveness was actually acting as a detriment to my goals. Perhaps my self-absorbed belief that I deserved success and recognition was blinding me to everything that was already awesome in my life.
And worse yet…maybe the desire for success was actually antithetical to my true spirit of creativity.
The more I contemplated these possibilities the more I started to realize that I’d had it all wrong all along. I’d spent the better part of my life believing that material success was something I needed to validate my creative work. I believed that recognition by an industry that is prone to celebrate the worst aspects of humanity was somehow going to earn me a sense of artistic worth.
Over the months that followed I came to some startling realizations. First of all, it became clear that it was time to put down Parallel Worlds for a season and do some much needed soul searching, healing and reevaluation.
As part of that process I decided to try an experiment. For the following year, if I felt the urge to involve myself with anything creative, I would simply enjoy the process for its own sake and not use it as a means to an end. Creativity would be an end in and of itself. I also decided to make things less about me and more about others. Less about my career goals and more about helping others achieve theirs.
This hasn’t been easy. My Ego has no interest in me denying it the usual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of self-centered thoughts. But the results have literally been life-changing. It’s been a liberating experience in so many ways and has launched me forward on a spiritual quest for true meaning. One that I hope will continue for the rest of my life.
Strangely, within days of starting the experiment – an idea for a project struck me completely by surprise. It was so compelling that I couldn’t resist the temptation to immediately put it into action. The idea was to reach out to the many talented people I’ve worked with over the past 30 years and ask if they would be willing to share their journeys with me, offer words of wisdom, epiphanies and lessons learned while chasing their dreams in the entertainment industry.
Most importantly, however, I wanted to explore with each of them this theme of creativity vs. success. What is creativity? How do we tap into it? Does it come from within or without – or both? And what is real, meaningful success? Is it obtainable? Or are we all just chasing the elusive carrot?
The idea was irresistible. What better way to take the focus off of myself than to put together a book celebrating the talent, awesomeness and insights of others – and to do so without any attachment to results. There would be no expectations of any kind other than to put forth my best effort and let the Universe take it from there.
This led me to write and publish my own book, a collection of interviews called How To Succeed In Show Business (Without Making It Big), which has been personally, creatively and completely satisfying.
Where will that lead? Who knows. It doesn’t really matter. I already accomplished what I set out to do.
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