Thoughts on Patience (how kids eating marshmallows can teach you the key to success)

Oct 10, 2009 by     No Comments    Posted under: Attitude, Thousands of Stories


My acting coach says that the word for this week is “patience.” I heard Casting Director Bonnie Gillespie speak earlier this week and she too echoed the importance of patience. In an industry where it takes about a decade to reach the top, it seems obvious that patience is indeed of the utmost importance. At the same time, I found myself coming back to the idea that a healthy dose of a certain impatience is crucial to success. More specifically, there needs to be something inside of you that is constantly striving for more, to do bigger and better things, to move yourself up the proverbial ladder. You have to wake up every day–or at least most days–with a vigor and energy to continue progressing.

Now dissatisfied with patience as a goal, I did what any nerd would do: looked it up in the dictionary. Webster gives this as one of the definitions of patience:

steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

Well that sounds very much like what is needed to succeed: constant drive in the face of hardships. My concern, though, is that patience is often confused with complacence, and if you become complacent you will never reach the lofty goals you have for yourself…fail. At the same time, if you are too future-focussed you will lose your ability to live in, and enjoy, the present…epic fail. Being a staunch advocate of balance, I believe there is a happy medium here.

I suppose the goal, then, is to be perpetually content with yourself (more on how that is the key to auditioning later) while maintaining a persistent drive towards future goals. The trick? The ability to delay gratification:

And you thought I was kidding about the kids eating marshmallows. So yes, patience is indeed a virtue, but perhaps more useful is to practice delaying gratification. This is a business where things pay off in the future. Remember staying up late to work on that audition for the casting director who was coming to class the next day 3 1/2 years ago? Probably not because it’s just your way of being you smart actor you, but they do. And now they’re back in Los Angeles ramping up their casting, remember you fondly, want to “do lunch,” and have already sent casting opportunities your way. True story. (Welcome back to LA Cathy!)

Be patient. Remain vigilant in pursuit of your goals. And know that hard work today, every day, will pay off…it just might be a little while before you recognize it.

As always, I welcome your comments and discussion.

Ben Whitehair is the Los Angeles contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.