When people hear that I was on the set of my favorite TV show or that I worked on a movie with an actor I adore, their first response is usually “wow, you’re so lucky”.
Not really. To me, luck means it came to you without any effort on your part. You might have bought the lottery ticket or pulled the handle on the slot machine. But that was the extent of your effort. Winning there is luck. Finding a quarter on the ground is luck. Becoming a best selling author, the star of your own TV show, the inventor of the next big thing – that’s not luck. That’s hard work. It seems like luck because in most cases it appears that the person has gone from zero to hero overnight. Rarely is that the case. Usually, there’s a trail of wrong turns, missteps and almosts before they found the path that worked, but that doesn’t make a good story.
But what about The Secret? What about all those times you were thinking about a person or a concept and bam it turned up right in front of you? That’s the power of positive thinking. Yes and no. Those things were always out there, it’s just that you didn’t notice them because you had your eyes closed or you were looking somewhere else. That’s the real secret behind The Secret – you have to open your mind to the possibilities and when you do that, you find the opportunities you need to succeed. From there, it’s up to you to make those most of what you find.
Okay, this is starting to get all “woo woo” and that’s not me. I am the girl who used to read tarot cards and cast success spells but neither of those led to a part on a TV show or a book deal. What did work was purposely being in the right place at the right time.
Note the word “purposely”. Being in the right place at the right time goes back to our old friend Lucky. He happens to be standing on the right corner when the prize patrol drives by and hands him a million dollars. Purposely maps out the prize patrol winners, drives around town to spot the van for a few weeks then calculates the odds of where the patrol will stop next. Blam. A million dollars.
I have dozens of examples of how this worked for me. I’ll give you a couple of my favorites.
Interviewing my favorite stars
I went from wishing I was an entertainment reporter to becoming one by putting myself in the right place at the right time.
I was on vacation in Los Angeles with a friend and because we’re TV fanatics, we were purposely scouting for stars. We stopped by a memorabilia store and found this huge book of celebrity addresses. It was expensive but I thought – if I’m going to conduct interviews, I’ll use this book every day. (Pre-internet, folks) I bought the book and we sat in the car on a side street in Burbank and began looking up names. Normally, when I tell this story I say a huge coincidence happened; the agent for one of the stars of Land of the Giants (a show I adore) was just a few blocks away. What luck! We went there. I asked for an interview and I got it. My first celebrity interview. A real wow moment.
Wow, but not exactly luck. It’s not that Don’s agent’s office happened to be close by. It’s that every other person we looked up wasn’t near by. We were in Burbank near Warner Brothers and Disney studios, so statistically there was a good chance of finding a celeb in the area. I suppose it was lucky that the agent was in and that she was open to making a phone call but I still call that good business.
Paid to watch TV
My second example comes from my Buffy the Vampire Slayer days. I was a huge fan. I’d already conducted a few interviews and then I saw a news item that said a magazine publisher in the US just got the rights to print an official magazine. I looked up the publisher and saw that they didn’t print many entertainment mags so I did a crazy thing. I called them up and left a voice mail detailing my experience and my connection to the series and I suggested they hire me. They did and a few weeks later I was on the set with access to everything and everyone and I was getting paid for the privilege.
Good timing for sure, but not luck. I was reading the trades every day, gaining nothing until that story popped up. That just happened to be the one that worked.
My name in the credits of a movie
I’ll tell you one more story for good measure. During my Supernatural fandom phase, I heard that the series star, Jensen Ackles was going to be filming a movie in Los Angeles. I found this out because I was a good fan girl following every mention of the show on the web. It was significant because Supernatural films in Vancouver so, unlike Buffy, I never had access to the set or the actors.
I searched the Hollywood trade papers and found that the movie was being shot in San Pedro. That was a bit of luck because San Pedro is a small town which made searching for the film crew possible. I found them. Watched them film for awhile then went home thinking about how great it would be to work on another movie. (I’d already worked on a few small films) Jazzed about the idea, I checked out the crew calls on Craigslist and saw a call for PAs. Filming in San Pedro, indie movie with CW stars in the cast. What?!?! That had to be Ten Inch Hero. (I’ll admit there was some luck involved in this story). I called the number on the ad and the next day I was working as a PA on the film.
Note, I was working a “normal” job back in those days. I had to take a week’s vacation so I could work the movie for nothing but mileage. But that’s what you do when an opportunity arises. I put myself in the right place at the right time and it paid off in an amazing experience.
Each one of these adventures became another line on my resume. Interviewing Don back in Burbank helped me get the job at Buffy mag. Working the movie was an experience I used to help me get more film work. You build and you build and you build.
Taken all together, this looks like a pretty sweet path but if I told you all the times I wished and it didn’t work, it wouldn’t be so amazing. Like the fact that I put in the legwork to get a background roll on Jared Padalecki’s Friday the 13th movie but was told no. And you should see the huge notebook full of rejection letters I’ve received over the years from magazines and book publishers.
If you want what you want, there’s no cosmic shortcut. You can create wish boards and mediate on it – that’s all fine because it helps you focus and open your eyes. But even The Secret teachers will tell you that you have to put yourself in the right place to make things happen.
Are you in the right place, mentally? Physically? Are you following the people who do what you want to do? Are you learning something new every day? Mr. Lucky is a fair-weather friend. Don’t count on him to get you where you want to go. If you’re ready to move forward, hook up with Mr. Purposely. He’s the guy who can make all of your dreams come true.