What The *%#@! Are You Waiting For?!

What the *%#@! are you waiting for?!
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Maria Ross

What you call yourself matters. How you define yourself matters to your mindset, commitment and drive.

I’m a brand strategist, author and speaker by day, but I’m more than that, as we all are more than just our work. I’m also a mom, wife, Crossfitter, trivia addict, football fan, red wine lover...and an actress.

Yes, actress. And, no you have likely never heard of me. But I claim that as a role. And here’s why you should claim all your roles, too.

Having been a child actress, I rebelled against my parents’ artistic dreams for me and got a business degree. In Marketing, but still....

But a successful corporate life and now my own consulting business could not quench my thirst for performance and storytelling. I crave bringing characters to life, creating empathy by embodying another human experience and sharing it with an audience. So I act in my “spare time”–put in quotes since the concept is a charming fantasy for a business owner, author, speaker and toddler mom.

Since I’ve been an actress, off and on, since the age of six, trained in voice and film work (including at the prestigious American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco) and starred in several independent theatre productions and short films as an adult, I can truthfully call myself an “actress.”

On the set of a student film a few years back, I met an adorable young makeup artist. While she dusted blusher on my cheeks, she confessed, “I would really love to get into acting.”.

So what had she done to make this dream a reality? She got involved behind the scenes instead.

Her plan was that she’d “fall into” being on-camera by understanding the behind-the-scenes operations. Luckily, one time she did get asked to be a stand-in on set–a pretty cool paying gig that helps you get experienced to how being on set works.

Bless her heart. How comfortable to want the rewards without taking the risk. And how easy to put the risk of failure on someone else (“But no one ever noticed me back there!”).

How heartbreaking to put your dreams under the whim and control of a “happy accident” or someone maybe taking notice of you.

To achieve your dreams, you have to commit. That’s the price you pay for success at anything from being a master dog trainer to curing cancer. If you’re not willing to commit, maybe you don’t really want it.

I see this so often with many of my solopreneur clients who are just launching their businesses. They are afraid to fully take on the mantle of their new business identity because they don’t think they’ve earned it yet or they feel as though others will think they are a fraud of their business is brand new. I have to gently emind them that their years of experience still count and that, yes, if you’re starting a consulting business, then you are, therefore, a consultant!

If you want to act, act. Don’t just be an extra, don’t be a production assistant….take some damn acting classes, get professional headshots and start auditioning for any and every role you can. If you want to start a jewelry line, start a jewelry line. Take a course, experiment with some designs, and see if you can start throwing living room parties or snag a booth at your local farmer’s market. If you want to launch your own consulting business, launch your own consulting business. Leverage the skills you’ve spent time, sweat and money developing, package them up into some irresistible offerings and start hustling and networking.

The commitment all starts with claiming your identity.

Don’t say, “Well, I do this but one day I’d really like to (BLANK).” Start with “I’m a (BLANK) at heart, but I pay my bills doing X.” Half of being something is owning that identity. Once you start leading with that, you’ll be surprised at the referrals or opportunities that come your way.

I am a writer, a speaker, a branding consultant and an actress. That is what I am. That is what is in my blood. Do I get the occasional, “Oh you’re an actress! Have I seen any of your work?” Sure I do. But my answer is, “Probably not. I do a lot of theatre and the occasional short film project.” But you know what? I am in plays. I am in short films. Ergo, I ACT! Just because my face is not plastered across tabloids or I don’t have a multi-million dollar movie deal with Scorsese (um, how sweet would that be?!), I still act.

I don’t need to sell all my belongings and move to L.A. to do something that I love. I have managed to keep “actress” as part of my identity while making my living doing other work with my talents. Doesn’t mean I can’t still claim that title as part of who I am.

Being famous for something is not the only justification that you can do something. I’ve never been to the Olympics either–does that mean I’m not “really” a skier, despite years of hitting the slopes?

When I started my brand consulting business, I had to consciously stop defining myself by what I had been and start embracing who I had become. No more, “Well, I used to be a Silicon Valley marketing director but now I’m doing my own thing.” I started leading with, “I am a branding consultant with almost 20 years experience with clients large and small.” That’s when folks starting paying attention. It was a shift in mindset: my own mindset.

No one is going to cast/hire/buy jewelry from someone who doesn’t own that identity. Why would they spend their money on someone who is not really quite sure they can deliver?

Confidence and moxie attracts. Please don’t misunderstand: Don’t pretend to be expert at something you know absolutely nothing about. But don’t stand on the sidelines hoping fate will intervene either. Get after it! Get educated. Get trained. Get the work. Experience the failures. Get out there! If you don’t claim your space and identity, who is going to do it for you?

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