I can’t lie, the night I missed out on winning the Daytime Emmy Outstanding Younger Actress for the second time I was bitter.
At 19 years old, I gave everything I had that year. During front-burner stories I would wake up at 5am, rush off in a car service to the studio, fly through hair/makeup, rehearsals, and wrap in an hour material that would take any movie set months to complete. Often due to New York traffic, I’d get back home by 7pm to an empty apartment sacked with another 40 pages of script I needed to have memorized by the next day from my 5am pick up call. This combined with the endless emotional toll required, my character commonly thrust into dramatic situations that forced me to bring a 110% every time.
In retrospect it wasn’t the losing that made me bitter, it was that I had thrown everything I had into that job and mistakenly believed that, for all my hard work, the Emmy was the end goal. If I couldn’t achieve that, what was I working toward? What did I want my life to look like?
A journey for purpose
I set off on a search for satisfaction, from filmmaking to writing. Achieving a Masters in writing from the University of Southern California, going on endless auditions, producing a variety of small projects and short films.
On the acting side, I was constantly in the “final two” choices to be cast in many hit television shows and feature films. I would commonly get “they loved you, but they went with someone else.” I’d see others’ careers blossom and say “that could have been me.” But it wasn’t, and thank God it wasn’t.
Shifting my head out of the awards driven, celeb-obsessed idea of success I met my husband who couldn’t have been further from “The Industry” and the deeper questions of what I wanted in life bubbled up into answers.
The beginning of “my term” success
In my journey I discovered that I didn’t want to be beholden to others for their idea of achievement. I yearned to define success on my own terms. I took a cerebral approach to career and saw two things, 1.) the web industry was booming and 2.) I could do it from home. I concluded that if I could run my own business and have the flexibility to be with my future kids, that would be success.
I jumped in full force, teaching myself website design online and formed my own website development business in 2009, just one year before my first son was born.
Seven years later…
Surprisingly, now, my days look similar to those old New York acting days:
I still wake up at 5am, pick up my infant (child #3!), feed him, then transition right into my three-year-old and five-year-old. While my kids are distracted by their morning cartoons I check my business email, itemize out tasks for my assistant and developer before they start their shifts at 8am. When I have a moment, I pop into Facebook to answer questions as a business coach. By 9am the babysitter comes to relieve me as I rush into the home office for calls I can never take with children in the room. I finish just in time to pick up my son from school. The rest of the day will be balancing all three kids, answering emails, prepping dinner and cleaning the house (yeah right). If I have any moment to myself by 8pm, it’s a win. Often times, though, I’ll hop online for only time I can talk with my Australian business partner as we grow RockStar Empires.
On the surface, I’m making the same salary I made while on the national soap opera (huge win), but money aside, the success that I feel today is triple what I felt then. The pride I feel for my career is better than any row of shiny trophies, glossy magazine front-covers, or free award-show swag (although I do often go through free swag withdrawal).
“You were on a soap opera?!”
Whenever I run into people who find out about me from a “Google,” they always want to talk about the television show:
What was it like?” “How did you do that?” “Who do you know that is famous?”
I want to scream back at them:
I just closed a 5k contract while changing a dirty diaper!”
“I got booked to speak at a conference while emailing over my qualifications from the Disney Store!”
“I secured a 5-figure revenue check from a product launch while in the backyard playing soccer with my kids!”
The success I feel today from running my own business is immeasurable and the fact I did it on my own terms is deeply satisfying. No canceled TV show can take that away, no casting agent’s lack of a callback, no producer saying if I didn’t bend to what the role emotionally called for I’d never work in this town again (of yeah, that’s a true story).
Channeling drive into the right place
I work hard. I also work hard to only work 20 hours a week and still consider myself a stay-at-home mom. I hustle for opportunities and I fight my way to becoming more valuable to my clients and customers. Most importantly, I’m not bitter, my purpose is clear, I love what I do and I’m rockin’ it.
Gen Z and Millennials may not know who I am. I’m not walking the red carpet in a couture dress anymore, but I certainly have the life I always wanted. Being a business owner, productizing, working from home and balancing it with family and travel. To me, that is true success, success on my own terms.
For the upcoming workforce who have been saturated with a celeb-obsessed idea of success, my best advice is to invest your hard work in the right place.
If you have a strong sense of “hustle” inside you, throw that energy into running your own business, creating your own products and calling your own shots. It takes the same amount of hustle in Hollywood, but the payout for investing in yourself will be more rewarding, provide greater longevity and allow you to fashion the life you’ve always dreamed.