Almost 20 years ago while working in radio sales in northern New York state, I started setting a lot of goals on the job. The company owner, Pat Tocatlian, wanted to see sales goals for the year and each month. In addition, she wanted to see my personal and professional goals for 5 years, 10 years, and even 20 years. At age 24 I had no clue what 20 years into the future would even look like. I’m know I could have neither predicted the changes in technology nor seen myself living in Texas. But a bigger problem existed.
I couldn’t see myself 20 years into the future because I couldn’t see myself in any future. I lived in the moment. I thought about the past a lot, prepared a little for the present, but devoted no time to where I was going. Because of it, I didn’t get far.
Geographically, that’s not true. I moved. A lot. I changed jobs at least once every 1-2 years. I shifted from radio to TV news to TV program producing. Between 1995 and 2001, when I arrived in Houston, I worked for six different broadcast companies. I didn’t ever have a plan during that time either.
Jump ahead 13 years and we’re on the verge of seeing 2015. That’s the time when I should be measuring my progress towards those initial 20-year goals yet I can’t even remember what I wrote down way back when. So it’s obvious to me that I have been moving in a lot of different directions and making no real progress towards a concrete goal.
The lesson here is obvious. Set no clear goals early on and you will have no way to measure progress. So I can honestly say I have neither succeeded nor failed after 20 years, but that’s not worth anything.
Back to my radio boss for a moment. Pat said the 20-year goals could and would likely change over time. They weren’t set in stone. The important thing is that they were established, allowing me to move in one direction and make decisions based on those goals. If I had any question about whether or not to do something, I could just look at its relationship to my goals and whether or not it fit what I ultimately wanted.
Now I’m at a point where I can commit myself to creating new goals for 5, 10 and 20 years from now. I can make a plan and follow the plan to achieve those goals. I can learn from the failure to achieve a goal by a specific deadline and make the necessary adjustments to aim for it again.
What might be preventing you from setting long-term goals as an actor right now? Maybe it’s indecision or perhaps it’s due to a lack of awareness of the kinds of roles in the industry. If you’re living in a small town without many professional opportunities, it could be a limited imagination not yet telling you to move or begin creating work for yourself right where you are now.
I welcome you to comment below and share what 20-year goals you want to set for yourself. It’s helpful to start with a realistic view of where you are today. Then, let your mind explore what’s out there for you and what might be just enough to fuel your passion every single day between now and 2035.