“I’m just waiting for my big break!”
Really? Well, I hope you’ve got a good book to read. Because with a passive attitude like that, you’ll be waiting a looooooooooooong time.
HERE’S THE REALITY: You can’t sit around waiting for your big break.
You’ve got to learn how to manufacture your own big breaks by making yourself more “breakable.”
1. Define the word. The word break seems (almost) too simple to look up in the dictionary. Which is exactly why I looked it up. And I discovered a few fascinating insights about a word that we use every day. For example, the term “break” derives from the Old English brecan, which means, “to disclose.”
Interesting. Guess you can’t manufacture your own big break if you’re not sticking yourself out there. Secondly, the word break contains over one hundred definitions in the dictionary. I’ve pulled a selection of these to get your brain boiling, along with questions to challenge your thinking:
• To interrupt the regularity. Which of other people’s patterns are you willing to break to be noticed?
• To divide into smaller units or components. How many small breaks are you willing to manufacture so your big break becomes an inescapable likelihood?
• To run or dash toward something. Are you willing and able to move quickly on new opportunities before they pass you by and break someone else?
• To begin uttering a series of sounds. Do you have five difference versions and lengths of your pitch down pat, ready to go at a moment’s notice?
• To change abruptly into something else. What type of person will you need to become to handle the big break once you get it?
• To be admitted into. What price are you willing to pay to be granted admission into your chosen field?
Remember: Five letters notwithstanding, “break” is a BIG word. Learn it. Know it. Live it. What does “break” mean to you?
2. Accept that there ARE no big breaks. Only a progression of small breaks that nobody sees or cares about, the sum of which eventually carries enough weight to be noticed. A big break is nothing but a small break amplified by the right timing.
And that’s hard part: That nobody sees the 90%. The grunt work. The late nights. The extra hours. They only see that crucial 10%. The performance. The final piece. The end product. Which means that your 10% better be damn good, or else that 90% is going to feel like a big waste of time. Are you willing to manufacture a series of small breaks first?
3. Suck it up. In a an article with Wrestling Digest, WWE star Jeff Hardy’s best strategy for becoming more breakable was simple and powerful, “Just take the spectacular bump.” Now, keep in mind that Hardy was specifically referring to getting thrown out of the wrestling ring by his opponent and crashing down on a table in the audience. I’m not suggesting you do that. (Although, that WOULD be kind of cool...)
Rather, I urge you to embrace the metaphorical angle to Hardy’s comment: Take the spectacular bumps. Of rejection. Of failure. Of setbacks. It’s all part of the deal. If your perception of (and response to) failure were changed, what would you attempt to achieve?
4. Prepare to leverage. In January of 2003, CNN Headline News interviewed me about my first book, HELLO, my name is Scott. Unfortunately, I screwed up BIG time: I didn’t have an agenda for the segment. I never strategized how to convert the subsequent web traffic. And I didn’t consider requesting a clip of the interview for my blog.
As a result, that media spot was highly underleveraged. In fact, it pains me to even think about how many opportunities I missed because of that mistake. So, my best advice for you is to have your finger on the leverage button at all times. Because it’s not how big the interview was – it’s how far you can stretch it now. Now that you have this, what else does this make possible?
5. Expertise isn’t enough. In an article on www.ehow.com called, “How to Break into the Video Game Industry,” I learned a valuable lesson about networking as it relates to becoming more breakable.
“Any time you’re speaking with a video game professional, your passion for the industry can be your greatest asset your biggest downfall,” explained the editor.
“So, work hard to disprove that your interests start and stop with video games. Emphasizing your love of games, but also your ability to be social and personable, will help you stand out from the pool of candidates."
"Remember: Not every person who works for a video game company is a die-hard gamer. Be sensitive to that, and try not to freak anyone out with your vast knowledge of Final Fantasy lore, or Dungeons and Dragons trivia.”
Therefore: Even if you’re not a programmer, this is a helpful reminder to combine industry expertise with interpersonal skills. That way you have more to offer than just your brain. What else do you bring to the table besides skill?
6. Work at adjacent positions. Maybe you can’t secure the lead role. Or the opening act. Or top billing. That’s OK. Don’t allow short-term hardship to deflate you. Instead, see if you can secure a part-time spot, entry-level position or internship for a related capacity. Assistant, security guard, customer service, mail room, all of these are acceptable starting points.
The point is, if you’re only going to work part time, you may as well do so where you can be seen. Kind of hard to get your big break as a comedian working at Starbucks. For example, Nike employees, often get their big break at the retail level before ascending into the corporate sphere. And screenwriters often get their big break working as production assistants. Where could you put in your time?
7. Remember that you’re on display. Everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance. And you never know who’s in your audience. So you better be good and you better be ready. That’s it. What do people think when they hear your uniqueness speak?
8. Longevity causes breaking. In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, John Mayer explained his philosophy about big breaks. Specifically, the (crucial) first three projects of any artist. “With your first album, you get their attention. With your second album, you earn your stripes. And with your third album, you blow them away.” What’s your “first three” game plan?
9. Find the catapults. Success leaves clues – all you have to do is listen. My suggestion is to ask your mentors, colleagues and other experienced professionals in your industry how their got their big break. Take notes. Look for patterns. Watch for lessons learned and mistakes made.
Caution: Just be sure to inquire with an attitude of curiosity and admiration, not a “can-you-give-me-the-name-of-that-producer-you-worked-with-in-2002-so-I-can-drop-your-name-and-get-my-big-break-too?” attitude. Bad manners. Bad karma. What existing path of success can you follow?
10. Go small first, but shine big when you’re there. If you follow the career trajectories of successful musicians, actors and other creative professionals, you’ll notice a pattern. Many of them took on smaller roles/gigs/markets in the beginning, just for the chance to shine.
And more often than not, if they excelled in their minimal role – and if their performance was so memorable and powerfully THEM – they ended up stealing the show. As a result, new opportunities came their way. So, don’t overlook the opportunity to serve as the opener for a larger act, volunteer contributor or pro-bono worker.
Playing a minor part alongside an already established professional or attaching your name to the periphery of a project is a powerful tool for boosting credibility. In short: Say yes more. Grab the opportunity and do the job impeccably. In what small role could you shine big?
11. Keep a watchful eye on industry information. What do successful people (who do what you want to be doing) read? Listen to? Subscribe to? First, find out by listening, asking or, if need be, sneaking into people’s dressing rooms, stealing their IPods and burning all of their podcasts onto your laptop.
Then, as you accumulate these resources, build in dedicated time each week to study and expand industry knowledge. It’s a perfect broad-based introduction to your chosen field and helpful fodder for showcasing industry expertise during conversations with key people. What’s your learning plan?
12. Never forget where you came from. Especially when you finally DO get your big break. Here’s why: Gratitude is the great gravitator. When you give thanks to the people and organizations responsible for assisting in your big breaks, they’re more likely to support your future efforts. Whom have you thanked TODAY for helping you get where you are?
REMEMBER: You can’t just wait around for your big break.
You’ve got to become breakable by helping success seek YOU out.
It’s about creating a pervasive atmosphere of opportunity so the big fish can jump right into your hands.
Execute these strategies and you’ll start manufacturing your own big breaks TODAY.
LET ME ASK YA THIS...
Are you breakable?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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Thursday, December 10, 2009
12 Ways to Manufacture Your Own BIG Breaks as an Artist, Entrepreneur or Creative Professional – Even in a Recession
“I’m just waiting for my big break!”