I walked into the small, yellow audition room and stopped twelve feet in front of the cheap, plastic, fold-out table.
There were three of them sitting in there, bored, distracted, glancing at their watches.
The big heart inside my chest was pounding on the rib cage, hoping this was the one.
“Hi, uh … Mr. Bruise is it?” No. 1 said.
“Yes, it’s actually Bruce, but thank you, I …”
“All right, what do you have for us today?” No. 3 said.
He was looking down, rustling some outstandingly important paperwork into some sort of crucial order.
“Yes, thank you. I, I’ll be doing a short monologue from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and another from Sean Penn’s turn in Carlito’s Way.”
I heard one of them groan under his breath.
With sweat pouring down my chest and into the front of my new shirt from Ross, I began acting like nobody’s motherf***ing business …
“All right, thank you. That was beautiful, that was really well done. You’re beautiful Bruise, we’ll call you …” No. 2 said.
I walked out onto the street, and into six more years of small yellow rooms, fold-out tables, and “We’ll call you …” promises.
I’d gambled it all, and at 30 ended up humiliated, broke, and directionless.
Years later, after my time in Hollywood was over, I was sitting next to a very old man at a bus stop. We chatted for a few minutes. Turns out he’d been an extremely successful businessman in the midwest.
I told him my experiences, my many failures in work, and he listened patiently.
Then he uttered something that changed the way I looked at work, success, failure, and everything else related to human industry — forever.
“You know, those casting directors really wanted you to be the one they were looking for. They weren’t against you. They were waiting for you to nail it, so they could pack up and get back to their martinis.”
Think about this. Think about why you don’t start.
- You’re afraid, which wrecks your ability to execute.
- You’re full of excuses, which kills your idea before it’s born.
- You think buyers, or readers, or clients, or investors are against you, which makes you unfit for fighting.
You’re probably not a twenty-something trying to make it in Hollywood (neither am I, anymore).
Maybe you’re 65, and starting a freelance marketing shop.
Or you’re 43, and you want to teach your first online course.
You might feel that the world, your circumstances, and your past are all staring you in the face, mocking you. Telling you it’s no use, might as well throw it in.
Truth is, every person and company in this world wants you to rescue them. They’re just waiting, hoping you, or your product, or your service, is the hero that finally solves their problem or fulfills their desire. They hope you’re the hero they’ve been waiting for all this time.
You may not feel it, and they certainly won’t tell you, but it’s true.
“You know, those customers really want your product to be the one they’ve been looking for. They aren’t against you. They’re waiting for you to nail it, to solve their problem, so they can get on with their lives.”
You might fall flat, you might make an exquisite failure, but don’t let worry or nervousness about how your “thing” will be received stop you.
Do your research, know your lines cold, practice daily, and then ship it.
Go make it. Be the hero.
Reader Comments (82)
Randy Kemp says
Nice story. It reminds me that we can do more than we think we can.
Perhaps we been rejected by 12 publishers and decide to continue ask for The Fountainhead to publishers I.e.Ayn Rand).
Maybe we are 65 before we success in our fried chicken chain (i.e Colonel Sanders).
Or Andrew Carnegie suggests to us to learn about successful men and write a book about the experiences (i.e Napoleon Hill with Think and Grow Rich).
Or we are at an audition, singing gospel tunes with a band. The reviewer thinks the songs stink. You ask for advice. He says imagine you are dying and you had one tune that told the world about your life – what would it be? Then you sing that song. (i.e. Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash).
Or you had over a dozen dead-end careers or jobs before trying advertising (i.e David Ogilvy).
Could one of the above people have been you? What if Ayn Rand didn’t try for publisher #13…Colonel Sanders retired and collected social security…Andrew Carnegie decided to be a farmer…David Ogilvy went into acting…of Johnny sung another gospel song?
Kind of reminds me of the advice you got, Bruce:
“You know, those casting directors really wanted you to be the one they were looking for. They weren’t against you, they were waiting for you to nail it, so they could pack up and get back to their martinis.”
Randy Kemp says
I always call you Bruce, for some reason. Perhaps I’m subconsciously thinking of Bruce Banner – the Incredible Hulk and genius level scientist. Or Bruce Wayne – the famous superhero and detective. No offense intended.
Robert Bruce says
None taken Randy, that’s the risk you run when you sport two first names, Brian and Sonia know this very well…
Oh, and if I could choose between being Banner or Wayne, I’m the Batman 😉
Reading the post, the message was clear and the inspiration went straight to the soul. I felt it was pretty much complete but your comment Randy gave it further meaning. Yes, all these folks could have given up, and maybe they did several times. Only, they did not remain defeated. They gave it one more try and we’re glad they did.
Thanks Robert and thanks Randy.
Martyn Chamberlin says
Robert, this post makes up for the fact that you didn’t do a podcast. Like orders of magnitude. This article is the best blog post I’ve read since Adam Baker’s How to Suck at a Product Launch…and that was six months ago.
Too bad you didn’t make it in Hollywood. You’re certainly the best podcast hoster I’ve ever heard.
This completely changes the way I think about everything. Thank you so much.
Robert Bruce says
Thanks Martyn, that’s very cool man.
Shane Arthur says
Robert, I’d love to know what you feel you would have done differently had you met that old man BEFORE all those auditions.
Robert Bruce says
It certainly would’ve changed how I approached the whole thing. Specifically though, for an actor, that moment in front of the casting folks is often ruined for the stupidest of reasons. Your head is telling you a lie about the situation and that affects all the work you’ve done to prepare for that moment.
I would’ve told my head to shut up more.
Daniel Roach says
Damn, Robert, as an actor myself this post really hit home. I remember getting that very same advice from directors and professors over the years, but it never occurred to me to turn that same spotlight on my business. You have no idea how much I appreciate this piece.
Some of the best advice I got in my days as a theatre major in college, that I still carry with me into business, was from my acting professor who said (paraphrasing Martin Luther) “If you’re going to sin, sin boldly!” Now I have another gem to put with it.
Thanks again for this,
Robert Bruce says
Love that Luther quote.
And let’s not give away all our theatre secrets just yet 😉
You should be looking to be the hero of all people if you can..this will mean a successful company for the person who has the answers to the average person problems..
“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”
Robert, this is just stupendously good advice, especially the last part: “Do your research, know your lines, practice daily.” Most writers recognize quality and can execute it, given the freedom to enthuse.
Danny Iny says
Thanks, Robert – this is a great post. The really key thing is to GO DO SOMETHING! Thanks for driving that home. 🙂
What great advice for our writer clients: “Think about why you don’t start.”
And great advice for us to remember when speaking with our current AND future clients: ” . . . they’re waiting for you to nail it, to solve their problem, so they can get on with their lives.”
Thanks so much.
Thanks for the post..My daughter has been my hero for a while..she writes a song, practices it and performs it..at first people kept talking, laughing while she and her group played. What did she do..she just kept belting it out and getting through and finishing the song.
Sometimes it’s not the first step, it’s the 2nd & 3rd steps when you realize no one is listening, but then you just keep belting it out, or as you say….ship it…
Appreciate the post..
Olga Metzler says
I am new @ copyblogger and totally love it!… This is a fantastic post, I just started my own project and of course I feel scared and this post is just what I needed.
In other words: Do it and don’t let others “Bruise” you! 🙂
Love the concept: indeed everyone expects us to be their hero!
Ryan Critchett says
This is awesome. Ya know.. this is so true. It’s like we inherently think people are going to hate our guts and judge us to heck and back and that’s never really the case.
My answer has been to consciously seek out information like this, and deliberately train my brain.
This was great.
Sarah Arrow says
Thanks Robert, today you spoke to me! Only yesterday I was thinking that excuses are nice but they don’t actually grow a business, all they do is make you feel a little better. There is no cavalry, there is only you. So get on and do it 🙂
claudia kelley says
well it won’t fit on a tshirt but we need it daily!
Michael Key says
I was always told to stop worrying what others are thinking of me, because they are busy worrying what I’m thinking of them.
And your past doesn’t have to hold you back either, you just need to strive for excellence. TRY > FAIL > ADJUST is my motto.
Go be bold and Live Intentionally.
Kim Sullivan says
Bravo! You nailed it to the core with this post. Thanks for the reminder that we must be the solution to the problem.
Rick Lapoint says
Speaking of Hollywood, this reminds me of that famous line from the Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
You completely nailed it with the philosophy that your Prospect doesn’t want to spend all day shopping. They want that one Solution that so jumps off the page that the choice is obvious. And of course, they would prefer to see it in the morning 🙂
Being that Solution takes a lot of work, but simply knowing what is expected is half the battle.
I’m startled, embarrassed, and offended that Bruce can read my playbook.
Is there nowhere left to hide ?
Sonia Simone says
“Bruise” is now Robert’s clubhouse name. I like it.
Chris "The Traffic Blogger" says
Awesome post, you nailed it 🙂
I just think this is is an awesome post. We all need to be reminded that when we look outward instead of inward the world is a different place. This advice works on so many levels I’ve lost count. Fabulous — you made my day!
Jean Burman says
Thanks Mr. “Bruise”… I needed that! [grin] How often do we think it’s about us… when in fact it’s all about [them]? Hanging in there through thick and thin… delivering the best of what we’ve got is the best thing we can do for ourselves and the world. Great post. Good reminder. Made me think… thanks so much for that! 🙂
Hello Robert, or ‘Bruise’ or whatever other people are currently calling you! I can’t repeat what other people call me, but thats another story…
Brilliant post, absolutely BANG ON THE MONEY!
And weird timing, because I am just reading a book, an excerpt of which I found on Gary Halbert’s site by accident the other day, (thats the second time that has happened btw) and which I have used for a marketing lesson in my blog post.
The book by the way, is Marianne Williamson’s A Return To Love.
(The other book I have recently found, and then, 2 days later, found Gary writing about, is E Haldeman Julius’ – “The First Hundred Million” )
Anyway, time I took my medication…:)
Allow me to clarify, the post what I wrote(sic) is pretty much along the same lines as yours Robert, although not as well written.
I was trying to illustrate the coincidence, but its been a long day, and alcohol awaits me…
Was that man’s name Eugene Schwartz?
“This market may consist of a desire shared by only a few thousand people, such as the urge to own fine antiques. Or it may be shared by tens of millions, as the desire to lose weight. But it is there, demanding to be satisfied, waiting only for the information that will direct it onto a particular product.” ~ Eugene Schwartz
Brian Clark says
I think we should say it was. That makes the story legendary.
Robert Bruce says
He kept talking about his contemporary art collection.
Claudia Guajardo-Yeo says
What a great post!! It’s such an important and great insight to keep in mind.
Thank you so much for telling this story. I really like your writing style. Brilliant!
Susan Eliot says
Thank you Robert. You spoke directly to me today. I’ve been afraid to “ship it.” But not anymore–no time like the present. I’m so inspired. Thank you, thank you!
Brandon Yanofsky says
Thank you Bruce for this. I just woke up about 30 minutes ago and read this. It’s definitely my inspiration for the day.
I’m going to go see whose hero I can be today.
Vince Skolny says
This reminds me somehow of America’s Got Talent or American Idol. The judges (well, not Hoff or Paula Abdul) seem imposing and against the contestants but when they find the one, the genuine pleasure and excitement is palpable. Especially from Hoff or Paula Abdul.
Having said that, I think we should consider three caveats:
1. Everyone is an overstatement. Just like there are those (like Hoff and Paula Abdul) that pretend anyone can be a hero, there are cynics that are against people and simply enjoy holding and using positions of power.
2. Not everyone recognizes heroes in the same way. To wit, Randy Kemp’s point about the Fountainhead– or Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Bible or Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week, ad nauseum.
3. Because of the first two caveats, it isn’t easy to be recognized as a hero, even when you are a hero. Among recognized heroes, the commonality isn’t fearless shipping. It’s fearless repeated shipping– shipping over and over until they found someone that recognized them for the heroes they are.
Among failed heroes, the commonality is believing the cynics or the well-meaners that simply failed to recognize it.
Chris Mower says
Love it, so true.
peggy braswell says
Loved your post + just what I needed this fine Feb. day!.
Lois Kubota says
Thanks Robert. I really really needed that!
Sheila Atwood says
The genius of Robert Bruce….simplicity.
Vaclav Gregor says
Genius post. You really drown me in your story, love that.
Genius points as well, I just realized even though I consider myself, action oriented and confident I’m in certain things still afraid. And the statement at the end of the post:” “You know, those customers really want your product…” is amazing!
Brilliant inspiring article. I like these kinds that veer a little away from the ‘teaching’ kind of posts and tell a story that move worlds.
Rory Wood says
Great article, Bruce. I’m always appreciative of reminders that life is an ever changing, shifting, evolving amalgamation of “failures” and eventual successes.
Stories like yours really can charge others with the next jolt of motivation they’re looking for.
Thanks for sharing.
Jen Gresham says
Frankly, I’m very disappointed this didn’t include a video of the short monologue from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, with Mr. Bruise sweating down the front of his shirt. Now that would have really crushed it.
No, seriously, this was a fantastic post. I think there’s something buried though in your “do your research” that’s important. It means being honest with yourself about your own performance, about knowing what really constitutes excellence. Both of those are so easy to miss. Perseverance and passion are terrific, they’re prerequisites, but honing your talent is pretty important too.
I have found that hubris, or as it’s better known, fear, often prevent us from that honest assessment, and thus erase any chance of future success.
Steve Averill says
Well said and timely for me as I have just taken on a big project for a great new client. I think the main thing is that we ARE fearful but pretending like we are not a lot of the time. And if you can accept that, if you can accept that deep down you are scared as hell, THEN you can see the dumb stuff you are doing that is getting in your way and preventing high level execution. We fool ourselves. We whistle in the dark. It’s not about being a fearless risk-taking entrepreneur, it’s about managing that pounding heart and still moving forward, making gains, succeeding.
Amanda Snodgrass says
Great insight into marketing! Very empowering for students such as myself gearing up to enter into the massive world of marketing. Perseverance, passion, and commitment are all a lethal combination.
Okay, so I read this post this morning and I almost cried.
It’s so true – people want us to succeed, they want us to be the answer to their prayers. I remember reading a blog post about being calm when going to interviews because the interviewers are not out to get you, but they really are just looking for someone to fill the position as soon as they can…(I can’t remember where I read it)
Anyway thank you so much for sharing. It really encouraged me to plan to succeed instead of wondering whether I will make it (like Mark McGuinness wrote in his ebook)
Loved your story and yes, I believe the majority of people can probably relate to this. I know I sure can. I think we are all held back at some point by our limitless beliefs but it’s up to us to pick ourselves up, brush all the crap off and move full steam ahead. I don’t let anything stand in my way and I go after what I want.
Not everyone will like what we have to offer but that’s okay. Most of the things that we are doing online won’t suit everyone. And that’s okay too. As long as we believe in ourselves and never give up, that’s what is really important.
Thanks for this reminder. Really great post.
John White says
>I’d gambled it all, and at 30 ended up humiliated, broke, and directionless.
Is this true? Do you think you wrote better before then, or after?
Robert Bruce says
Bruise, that was very inspiring. Thank you. It reminds me of what I tell people when they are going on a job interview.
I basically tell friends that when I’m on the hiring side I’m hoping that I find the right candidate so I don’t have to keep interviewing and can get back to the fun stuff. It’s easy to lose sight of this though when you are sitting on the other side of the table.
Thanks for the encouragement, Robert. I just launched my blog a couple days ago, and I’m super pumped about it. However, I’m also scared! For some reason as soon as I hit the Publish button for my first post I got all nervous. I think I was focusing on the back lash I would receive instead of the potential of genuinely offering hope and encouragement to the people I know need it. Thanks again.
Alison Golden says
This was a very cool post. Short, storytelling and to the point. Thank you I’m off to go do something.
Mike Lopez says
I can totally relate to your story. Me and my offer have been rejected multiple times and there were times I wanted to buckle in and quit. Like you, there was someone who pulled me out of the situation with a short chat and on I went to success.
I looked at my situation from the point of rejection and learning it whilst you looked at it from the angle where someone is hoping you to solve their problems. I think both are two sides of the same coin.
Beautiful. A round of applause for such an amazing story Robert! The gentleman at the bus stop pretty much nailed it on the head with that comment!
P.S. Remind me never to call you “Mr. Bruise” 😉
Lunar Hine says
I’m thinking this works on small scale too. If you can be the hero for each client in each interaction, your heroic reputation will raise the game of your entire company.
Maria Killam says
Awesome post, I love this blog and always save it to read for last when I see it in my in-box. Never fails to inspire and teach!! Such a great story Robert!
Adventurous Wench says
Well said! Beautiful words and very empowering if not inspiring. Instead of dwelling on the “could-have-beens” and regrets, the better way is “I will be because they need me to be”. Thank you for sharing splendid insights and I am looking forward for more!
Jef Menguin says
You are the hero that the world is waiting for. Stop complaining and whining. Stand up. Walk. Run. Fly!
I have nothing of substance to add that other people haven’t already said. I just wanted you to know I really really liked your post, both the writing and the advice. I forwarded to a few people I thought would really benefit from it.
A good advice is always welcome!
Ronald Grey says
Thank you for your inspiration! Competence & Character: #Grey2012
Larry Lourcey says
So true! Its all about perspective. We never get snow here in Texas, but last week we were “snowed in” for most of the week. As an adult, you are distressed about missed business opportunities. As a kid, you are thrilled at the chance to play in the snow instead of going to school. Same situation… just two very different perspectives!
Ashleigh Dean says
Wow, that is awesome!
This article encourages me to just GO for it when I come up with an idea. It also shows that you really need to know your market so that you can make whatever it is that people are dying to have. This also tells me that we, as marketers and creators, have a lot to live up to. But it is a good challenge. We need to always strive to be the best instead of just pushing random products out into the marketplace.
One thing we are talking about right now (in one of my marketing classes) is the importance of content in all that you do. When we, as marketers, have good content, we need to just act on it and get it out there for consumers to love and enjoy.
Brandon Yanofsky says
It’s so awesome that your marketing class Is teaching you the importance of content. You’re getting a great education.
Mary E. Ulrich says
I agree people need to step up and become their own hero (which this post is about).
Personally, I’m rather sick of others wanting me to be their hero and solve their problems. Don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm, but there is too much work to be done and I’ve too many bullet holes already.
Each of us need to get involved. Join that committee or board, write that letter, speak up at the meeting…. Too many people have excuses of why they can’t–and someone else should.
I’m hoping the people at the audition table want a success story, but many times I think they just want bootlickers to reinforce the status quo. “Hope springs eternal” (groan).
Very powerful message! Thank you guys for all the sharing of knowledge. As a newbie, I’m benefiting greatly from all of you. I look forward to the day when I can become just like you guys and contribute value to the market place.
Bill Simmel says
This is a great post. I feel most people who have been in the own business for any period of time can fully related to this.
As a side note, this is a true example of great content.
Matt Mansfield says
GREAT message, thanks! Really turns the tables on your fears and insecurities.
broken streak says
im weeping . . . that mans words . .
damn! my elder bro just popped in the room!!! feeling so embarassed!
Loren Feldman says
For the record his name is Robert. Bruce is his last name,
Sonia Simone says
Loren, always nice to see you. 🙂
Apparently it’s helpful to join the Copyblogger crew if you have two first names. An acceptable alternative is to have two last names (Taylor Lindstrom).
Penelope J. says
I know I’m adding my voice to the chorus but this piece must be one of, if not the, MOST MOTIVATING POSTS I’VE EVER READ!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you from a try, try, try again and not yet successful writer and book author. Yours – or the old man’s – words have given me fresh hope.
nic eddy says
An article that gave me pause, thank you … a salient reminder of the power of focussing on the other person’s problem and offering a solution … focussing on what I can give in the moment rather than what I want from it …
And finally finding a site where we, with 2 first names, can give true understanding and support as in,
“I am sorry, Mr Eddy, we don’t have a reservation.”
“Try under Nicholas …”
“Oh, yes Mr Nicholas here we are …”
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