How Actors Set & Achieve Goals

An actor’s career is doomed for failure unless they ask themselves and then informatively answer a vital question for success:

“What’s my professional goal?” That larger-than-life ambition I quietly covet; the ambition I share only with myself as I lay pondering in bed? The same lofty aspiration(s) whispering only to me while I patiently wait outside yet another audition room’s door? A dream that I fear family or friends will jeer? A destination kept so secret so as to side-step snarky observations from peers and professional nay-sayers. Come on; you know you have a professional fulfillment yet to be sated. That sparkle of idealism that exploded in your imagination when first you dreamed of being an actor; an artist. Perhaps you don’t have a goal… or you do and you have no idea how to seize your career’s wheel to steer your work away from careening into a ditch. Either way—goal or no idea of a destination—how’re you to get where you desire your career to flourish?

Recently, I was counseling an LA actor via Skype. He was lost in finding an answer to whether he should remain career-locked in LA, which hadn’t uncaged his desires, or should he bolt to New York? Chicago? Somewhere… anywhere that would offer him wider avenues of work. The actor’s problem, like for a percentage of actors (my past former actor-self included), was that he was aimless. He was seeking solutions not objectives. He wasn’t setting goals. “Plural, not singular,” I informed the actor. To reach his destination city several goals must first be set. He disagreed stating he’d only one goal, “I want to be a working actor making money at what I love to do so I can eat and pay bills.”

AA“That’s not a goal,” I replied. “That’s life. That’s everyone’s hope.” I further explained that if survival—which is what he was describing—were his goal then where are the actors with the goal of being a working actor who don’t want to make money at what they love to do so they can eat and pay bills; actors against earning income? “What’s your first goal?” I pressed him. He was silent; possibly pondering: You’re the one I hired to tell me Paul Russell. He restated his desire for my advising of which market (LA, NY or CHI) he should next set root to nurture and grow his professional life. I refused to give him a location. I advised what the varying markets have to offer an actor. I then added, “Your first goal is to set a deadline for deciding on your next goal. A deadline for when you must decide whether or not you’re serious about abandoning LA. When you meet that goal; then the next goal is to set a deadline for setting upon your city of choice after you have made the decision to alter your career’s path.”

In the actor’s profession he may or may not want awards, mansions, and pick of projects. But should he want the golden trifecta of acting acclaim then mini-goals must be first set. Meeting and passing each goal like risers on a staircase. There is no end goal. There are only goals. Plural. For if your goal is like one of my past students who wishes to win all three major acting awards I ask you this as I prompted him; “Then what? But before the ‘after’ what are you doing with your ‘before?’ What goals are you setting for yourself to arrive at; claim; and then continue onward to other goals that eventually lead you to your penultimate goal(s) and beyond?”

The LA actor wrote me afterwards that he had set his first goal; a deadline for deciding. But what he didn’t realize was that he already had met a goal; a riser met and passed on his career’s climb. He reached out for help. He contacted me.

Like destinations on a globe mapping Earth we can choose discovery—goals—arriving at a desired city, continent or geographical feature like the Grand Canyon. But the globe’s circumference will taunt the traveler with additional discoveries beyond each point met. More goals to explore. But first; you must traverse points of interest to reach your Grand Canyon. To maintain career momentum: set multiple goals that you must visit in order to get you where you wish your career’s love to flourish. Only by setting mile-marker goals will you reach a desired destination. Remember though—there will remain a horizon beckoning beyond what you believe is your final goal.

My best,

Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors

Love the Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!

AMIYB_Amazon“Humorous and witty…
Actors everywhere who are trying to succeed in the business, young or old, on stage or on camera, anywhere in the world, take note:

This is your roadmap!”
BERNARD TELSEY, casting director – CSA
(NBC’s Peter Pan – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked, Sex & The City)
“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
SUZANNE RYAN, casting director, CSA
(Law & OrderUnforgettable)
“I love this book!
Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
DIANE RILEY, Senior Legit Talent Agent
Harden-Curtis & Associates
“Paul’s book made me proud to be a part of this community we call ‘show!'”
KAREN ZIEMBA, TONY & Drama Desk Award Winning Actress
“Paul Russell’s words are not only blunt & accurate they zero in on all the questions every actor wants to know but is afraid to ask!”
KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“I had my Business of Acting, BFA Seniors, class do book reports on a variety of “business of acting” books and ACTING: Make It Your Business came out a clear winner—considered to be essential for their bookshelves!
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.
Chapman University

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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Elon and Wright State University. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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