Too Much Humility Can Be A Bad Thing

Most of the people I know in the acting/writing/performing world are super talented and in most cases, pretty humble. Unfortunately, I think that sometimes we’re too humble and that’s getting in our way. Like me, most of my friends will intentionally downplay their chances at achieving a certain goal. Here’s an example of me downplaying an accomplishment from six months ago:

Friend: “I heard you booked a commercial.”

Rich: “Yeah. It’s my first one. It’s just a non union  spot, so nothing to get too excited about. Maybe one day I’ll get a national, but this is still good.

I may have not quoted myself exactly, but the gist is dead on accurate. I couldn’t help but respond in a way that downplayed something huge. Why would anyone do that? I can’t speak for others, but for me this habit stems from 1. The reality of the business and 2. The desire to not sound like a douchebag.

But I don’t think it’s helping anyone. And maybe we need to own our desires more than laugh at them. In other words, I need to not feel bad about saying, “I want to be a television actor.” What’s more is I should not feel bad about going further with that and saying, “I will be a television actor.” And here’s how I plan on ditching this habit by debunking my good reasons for keeping it.

Let’s start with #1 – The reality of the business

It’s true that there are only a tiny fraction of all the ‘actors’ in the world who make any money with their craft whatsoever. And it’s true that of those of us who make any money at all, most of us can’t even pay all the bills with it let alone live a comfortable lifestyle. And my response to that is, ‘so?’

Of course not everyone’s going to make it. But those that do make it probably never devoted a lot of time to thinking about how bad the odds were. Thinking about how difficult the task will be is hindering my ability to accomplish the task. Sure, I may work hard the next ten years and never book a single TV show. That is possible. But that’s a reality I need to deal with one time only. And that time is now – looking at the super tall mountain in front of me and deciding whether or not to climb.

You could make the argument that I’m already on the mountain since I’ve been doing this my whole adult life, but it doesn’t really matter either way. The point is that I have to make the decision whether or not to try for the top. If the answer is ‘yes’ then I get to climbing. And I don’t think about it again. I can still quit later if I want to. I’m not committing to this mountain for life. But I am committing to not caring about how big the damn thing is anymore.

If the answer is ‘no,’ then I hop off this mountain and find a different one to tackle. And if I do that, I’m not allowed to feel bad about abandoning my acting career. But that’s for another blog post on dealing with regrets. The point is that the odds are terrible. But I’m still going to play the game. So, stop talking about the odds and start playing the best game you can.

What about reason #2? No one I know wants to sound like a douchebag. No one wants to sound off putting to others. So, is there a way to not sound overly humble, but not tread into eye rolling disdain from others? I think there is.

Just be honest. Most people probably aren’t going to say things like, “You don’t really think you’ll be on TV, do you?” That’s way worse than than over confidence. That’s just mean. So, I doubt you’ll have to defend your position too often. But the real fear is that people are hearing you talk about your career and smiling politely while thinking you’re an asshole. What about that?

Three things:

1. Your real friends should feel close enough to tell you if they think you’re acting like an idiot

2. If you’re a truthful, sincere human being then you should feel confident in knowing that anything you say has no intent to make anyone else feel bad. So, the only thing you have to worry about is a misunderstanding. And those are easily rectified.

3. You talking about your career does not affect someone else’ career. A quote I love is “Other people’s success takes nothing away from me. My success has nothing to do with other people’s success” And of course, you can invert that to say that others shouldn’t feel anything I do will take away from them.

So, the next time I book something (fingers crossed that won’t take ten years) I’m not going to couch it in humble terms, but rather just celebrate it:

Friend: “I heard you booked a commercial.”

Rich: “Yeah, I’m super excited. One step closer in the journey.”

No matter how small an accomplishment is, it’s still something to be proud of. So, forgive me if I start to sound slightly less humble. Or don’t forgive me. Either way, I’m doing it.

Thanks, y’all!