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You Are Never Ready

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As you know, Lauren and I are about to have a baby. It’s due on June 30, and it will be our first. Even though Lauren is much younger, I am 52 years old, so you may be saying to yourself what we’ve been saying for the last nine months: “What are we doing?!”

The other night we had a scare, right before we going to turn the lights out and go to bed. Lauren thought she was going into labor. I was like, “No! You can’t be having the baby now. It’s supposed to come on June 30!”

I felt I wasn’t ready. I still had to clean the garage and put a shelf in the laundry room. My wife explained to her blockhead husband that “at this point, the baby can come at any time, if the garage is clean or not.”

This response on my part is such a pattern in my life: When I am scared, I want to control the outcome. But I realized I have another pattern, too: Whenever an opportunity presents itself, I always tell myself I’m not ready.

I have been doing this my whole career. I have been cast in major TV shows and featured films, and in some cases had to audition three times to get the part, and on then on the day of shoot, I really believe I am still not ready. Even though the director, producer, the casting director and my agent had all said I was ready, my head would say something different. I would think, “If only I had taken one more on-camera class or had gone through a formal acting program, I would be ready.”

I have turned down auditions or interviews for potential paying jobs because I was felt I was not ready.

But today, I’m finally realizing that I don’t think you ever know if you are ready for something or not unless you do the thing that you don’t think you are ready for.

Just a couple months ago a real estate broker contacted me and asked if I would coach him on his sales presentation. The first thing I thought was I had never done that sort of thing before, and even though I have done a ton of corporate improv trainings and have worked with actors individually, I was convinced I was not ready. So, after shutting up those voices in my head, I said rather timidly, “Yes, I can help you.”

A week later, I helped him. And it turns out that all of the improv concepts that I use in my classes and workshops and all of my experience of working with actors individually over of the years applied. I was ready, I just didn’t know I was ready.

Two weeks later, another real estate broker called. He had been referred by the first guy, and even though the voice in my head was still saying, “I’m not ready,” it was softer. “Yes, I can help you,” I said more confidently. A week later, I was helping him, too.

In terms of having a baby, the advice I get from my friends who are parents is that you can read all the baby books in the world, but just know when you daughter comes out, you will know what to do. Your instincts will kick in.

Usually, I want to do everything perfectly, so unless I feel 100 percent prepared, which we have established is impossible for me, I will keep putting off doing new things.

The beautiful lesson I have learned about having a baby is that she doesn’t care how hard I am trying to put things off. She is still coming. It doesn’t matter how hard I want to control things. This is the start of not feeling ready and doing it anyways — from changing a diaper, to helping with her math, to taking her to college (I will be 70 by the time this happens). So, that little baby has already taught me so much and she is not even here yet.

Have you ever thought you weren’t ready for something and did it anyway? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

5 replies
  1. Matthew Fahey
    Matthew Fahey says:

    First, Congrats! Big Love is headed your way.

    Second, thanks for this post. I am always fighting that voice. Any reminder to keep up the good fight is welcome.

    Finally, yes our little one (7 months old now – I am an older dad too and truly glad to be) came a little early. The thing I would add is that in addition to being mindful of not trying to control things that don’t require the control, is to let the people around you help. The hospital is full of helpful professionals. Kind of like letting your teammates and scene partners carry their weight in a scene. Because they can and should.

    Let the folks who offer to “have your back” actually do what they say they will do. I suppose it’s another way to be generous on stage and in life.

    Thanks again for this great post.

    Good luck and congrats!

    Reply
  2. Sally Smallwood
    Sally Smallwood says:

    Love this post, Jimmy! I thought I wasn’t ready to become a copywriter. I was a secretary at an ad agency (yep, just like Peggy from Mad Men). One day as I typed a radio script for KFC, I thought, “I could write better than that.” So I started bugging the other writers to help me put together a portfolio. One year later I was hired as a junior copywriter. And yet, as I got briefed on my first project, I was terrified. I thought, “If I’m lucky I’ll make it to the next payday, and by then my boss will have figured out he made a terrible mistake, that I was just bullshitting and really I’m not qualified to do this job at ALL.” I felt that way for a few years. Eventually I found out it’s common, so common that it has a name: Impostor Syndrome. I even had it after I started winning awards for my writing. It wasn’t until my sister told me “If you ever take a job you’re already completely qualified for, you’re overqualified” that I was able to relax. It finally sunk in that no one really knows what they’ve signed up for until they do it. Look at POTUS. You can’t really train for that job; you just have to do it.

    Reply

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