“All of us have bad luck and good luck. The man who persists through the bad luck—who keeps right on going—is the man who is there when the good luck comes—and is ready to receive it.” ― Jenna Fischer, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide
I just finished reading Jenna Fischer’s book The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide. Which may seem like an odd choice for a consultant and author to read during a pandemic, but the book offered much needed distraction, a healthy dose of perspective, and some delightful insights.
The distraction came via stories from Jenna’s career — like how Pam and Jim’s first kiss was filmed and how she got her first agent. From student, to starving artist, to the star she is today, her story has both drama and comedy and delivers some delightful images of her co-stars on The Office. I was indeed entertained.
The thing about the book that I found even more valuable than the entertaining stories is that it also provides some perspective on our current stressful state. It’s wonderful to remember that life was challenging before the pandemic started and will be challenging again after it’s gone. Her stories of the difficulties she faced and overcame on her path to success remind us that a meaningful life is hard no matter whether times are lean or lush.
And the book really shines via the perspective and the insights it delivers.
While the stories alone made the book a worthwhile read, I found myself again and again realizing that her path as an actor has similarities with anyone working to create a meaningful career. Especially now.
One lesson she repeats — and that’s especially illustrated when she interviews Derek Waters, the creator of Drunk History, a show that you might also find delightfully distracting right now — is that “The single best thing an actor can do, both professionally and personally, is to create their own work.” I love this idea, especially now with economic conditions so uncertain.
Jenna tells a delightful story of creating her own comedy magic show, and while the act itself was a failure, it kept her busy, gave her an outlet, and led to some important relationships. Interestingly, the act came to her while she was working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, an important milestone for many aspiring creatives. I’m now working my way through it myself thanks to Jenna.
An essential part of thriving as a human being is doing good work. At the tail end of the dot-com boom, I worked for an agency that had a budget to pay us but no work for us, which meant we sat around all day trying to figure out what to do.
The hardest part of that time wasn’t economics (we still got paychecks) but was feeling useless. Jenna’s story reminds me that during these challenging times, just finding a way to be useful and to do good work is of value to our souls — and our careers.
And as she reminds us in the quote I kicked things off with – we all have bad luck, but its the people who persist that are there when good luck comes. So let’s persist. Find a way to create your own good work. And if you’re looking for a book that is both distracting and enlightening, give The Actor’s Life a try.