10 Career Rules to Change Your Life Forever

#1 Your role models don’t have to look like you. Mine don’t.

Society places too much pressure on us to exclusively have role models of the same thing. Gender. Age. Color. Sexual orientation. Nationality. The fascination with basing everything on outer characteristics is ridiculous. Quit feeling pressured to admire so and so of your sameness.

When I was growing up, when I spoke about people whose film and music careers I admired hearing from people telling me I instead should grow up to be an actress, I knew people were really thinking, “You can’t be like that person. He is black. Male.” Or, “That guy!? A middle aged male filmmaker! You can’t grow up to be like him!” I know so because at times, people downright scolded me. Example. A publicist in my 20’s was giving me her information trying to get me to hire her as she verbally and harshly told me I couldn’t be like the men I want to be like. Men of different colors, ages, nationalities, financial upbringings, higher education levels, and yes, heterosexual and LGBT. Lana and Lilly Wachowski are amazing women I admire thanks to my love for The Matrix, but when their first of the trilogy wowed me as a young person, both Wachowski sisters were probably pressured by a less understanding society to live as men. Can I admire their work through their masks pretending to live as men and their authentic selves living as women, or am I not allowed to do so!? And with the rest of the men, what is so bad about admiring people who don’t look like me?

No, I break the rules setting my own rules.

The career role models I have had all my life are predominantly men. The only female role models I ever saw who I wished to be in as a kid? All fictional characters. Am I supposed to apologize for this? Absolutely not. To do so is erasing who I am.

You can admire anyone you want AND grow up to be like them! True equality is seeing past people’s physical appearances into what they accomplish and how much that aligns with your life dreams. All my life, I pick and choose who inspires me because of their work and what they as individual people represent to me. If I would not want to emulate that person’s career path choices if she were a man, I don’t throw her in my role model basket because she is a woman.

You can take it farther being inspired by people from other time periods. Lifestyles. Anything!

#2 Prove people wrong like an obsession.

When you are finished proving one group of people wrong, prove another person wrong, and another, and another, and another, and another.

Ignore everything, and everyone, telling you to quit, or people blabbering on that your success is limited to something tiny. A couple of great examples. My whole life story has thousands if not more things like this happening.

Last year, a man told me, based on his ex girlfriend’s experiences as a journalist, I would never get a high profile freelance article again so I should focus on other work. One month later, a major magazine hired me for an article in which I had total control over all of my sources and brands I wanted to work with!

When I was young, I met some big deal fashion people who told me they thought I was very beautiful reminding them of a popular female celebrity they recently worked with but I wasn’t 5’9”+ to work a runway “so too bad!” Insert a fabulous high brow The Devil Wears Prada fashion laugh giving you a whiff of eau de loser. I proved them wrong working with several NYC modeling agencies. No, I was never a supermodel in my youth. Yes, I did model beside the then standard Amazonian 2000’s era runway models.

A publicist when I was young told me, “Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame!” about one super tiny photo appearance in print with some reference that I could someday tell people about it. My reaction within: getting really upset that in my whole life, she actually though this trivial downright stupid thing was going to represent my entire life on the planet and she actually thought I would be happy with that?! One blink and miss it thing in your life is not a success story.

Your career will have unpredictable ups and downs. You might not make it yet. Nonetheless, you will in time succeed if you don’t quit because someone else told you this was all you were ever going to do.

#3 Never make plans.

No five year plans. One year plans. Next week plans. You could get sick. Your chronic illness has bad days(!). The office printer quits working the day you need to print a bunch of stuff. Someone in your family dies. Someone changes their mind about hiring you. You pick up a new skill you want to incorporate into your film project. You want to rewrite a scene. The film set lost power at night, whoops! Whatever it is, your life will not stick to the plan. Any plan I have automatically fails when the universe laughs at how it successfully tears down my plan. I don’t bother anymore. It’s almost like the moment I have a plan, the universe forces my plan to go wrong!

#4 What works for everyone else won’t work for you.

You today may hear your industry’s people say, “We only hire people who climb Mt. Everest on a pogo stick.” The day you climb up Mt. Everest on a pogo stick descending in back handsprings all the way down and back flip onto a motorcycle, your industry will say, “Mt. Everest? Times are changing. Now we want people who swim underwater without stops from London to New York with waterproof resumes in Spider-Man wetsuits.”

Half of the time, these are fake excuses not to hire you. As I have learned, when people with the power to hire you run out of fake excuses disqualifying you, they ghost you. The other half of the time, these are five minute long industry trends. You’re too young. We want older people. Oh, haha! You are 30 now. We now want people 18-25! Screenwriters get this often. We want vampire stories. Oh, you wrote one in a month!? Sorry, screenwriters now are writing ghost makeover romcoms!

So and so found fame posting on Instagram? Good for her. You could post the same photos she does under your own name and not get anywhere.

Living your life according to industry rules will backfire on you in the century’s greatest waste of time. Or, the old rules could be around for decades until you shake things up. Don’t be miserable following the rules!

#5 You are a human being, not a brand, not a product. Live a little doing stuff you actually care about!

Do you know how many people put on a mask to impress others? People in the public eye obsessing over being in tabloids thinking the world revolves around them. Social media pressures to be perfect at all times. Corporate employees‘ expectations placed on them. Students fitting in with people at college who have zero hobbies outside of studying to tears. Having a personal brand is important because it’s the amazing YOU! But we confuse that with the personal brand overtaking your life. Where do we draw the line?

Must I say you shouldn’t do anything in your career you loathe with a passion? I have and, OK, taking on a freelance job you aren’t crazy about because you need it is one thing. Doing something you hate is another. Never do that. You will be so miserable, you’ll want to throw hot coffee in your face because you can’t take it.

#6 Anything you learn, you can learn on your own with strong will power.

The desire to learn overcomes any obstacles. Read up online. Buy digital books on skills you want to improve. Take classes outside of university settings. Learn by doing. Learn from failure until you get it right. Watch YouTube videos on how to’s and interviews with people in your profession. Go to the library. Learn from people you meet.

I did the whole four year college thing. Most teachers didn’t care about making an effort. We as students were pressured to get good grades never caring if we learned anything. I learn more on my own and love it. We are never done learning. The best learning is affordable. Don’t be embarrassed because you picked up your knowledge and skills on your own.

When you doubt yourself, remember that some slaves in America taught themselves how to read and write against society’s wishes. You can do anything.

#7 Never befriend, date, or marry someone because the world says you “should.”

Read any magazine and notice how everyone is paired up with people according to their respective industry and their status within an industry. Don’t you think it’s weird how supermodels fall in love with the same types of really rich men and A-list film stars all fall in love with strings of A-list actors? The poor B-list actresses who couldn’t get that A-list man’s heart! People in other professions outside of Hollywood with the same types of people everyone in their professions marries and befriends? Notice them too? Date and befriend whoever you want. Be single. Be a loner with few friends. Be a party animal with many friends. Marry someone very unlike you. Do life on your own terms. Misery at home will cross over into you losing with your career.

#8 Always ask directly for what you want.

People aren’t mind readers. They can’t give you opportunities if they don’t know you want them. Have a meeting, send an e-mail, call that person, have a pigeon drop a letter off at their office. Get the message to them! Don’t believe those stories about people being discovered. They are usually fabricated fairy tales because the reality of “pure who you know: I was hired for a big job by my boyfriend’s former college roommate” doesn’t sound glamorous, nor does “I dated so and so to get the job.”

If you don’t have that chance yet, be open with the world about what you want to achieve. People who can make that happen have a way of finding you in time.

#9 Never settle!

Always have high standards. When you try for things you aren’t supposed to believe you can do but seeing it from a view of “I can do anything because I said so,” you actually do whatever you if you had lower standards might have thought were impossible.

#10 Never have the foolish motto, “Money isn’t important.” Money is important!

“Money isn’t everything.” “I don’t need money.” “I would do this for free.” “Why do film studios (or corporations) only care about money?” Because, without money, everyone working there will be unemployed. How many times do you hear creative types saying this? If you wrote dumb stuff like that online where people can read it, go delete it right now or people will not want to pay you for your work.

Don’t believe those people because the same people freak out about rent money every month. When I see people of means giving public statements on how money means nothing, I cringe. When I many years ago wrote articles about mental health for a publication, I learned a lack of money is one of the leading causes of depression and a leading cause of divorce. Legitimately. I get it. How can one be happy worrying how they will afford basic food?

You need money for quality healthy food, medical care, medical supplies if any, a place to live in a safe part of town, office needs, and well, what don’t you need money for? If you are in the position of being blessed with great wealth, you need money to keep your high power business/career afloat, any huge expenses like a major hospital stay, better the world with charitable donations and/or a charity of your own, take out ads to promote your business, it’s almost come on, what do you mean money doesn’t matter?

Money is a basic non-verbal professional agreement between you and an employer. You could be paid $50 or $50 million. The employer is showing you a sign of respect with the expectation, “You now need to do this job well, on time.” There is a difference between you writing an article for free for your best friend’s new website he has zero funding for, or acting in a pal’s tiny park stage play bound to be a financial loss for him he does bettering his resume...and a corporation with plenty of money to waste on wining and dining people, lavish parties, corporate gifts, and expensive trips to do absolutely nothing relevant NOT paying you to write an article. You need to be paid if people have the means of paying you and the work done is going to rake in money for them.

Insist on being paid. Never tell a big corporation you will work for free. If someone is being disgusting, you know the usual arrogant silent treatment when you ask what you will be paid, move on. They don’t deserve you. You can do better.

Be like Gumby.

Gumby believes anything is possible. Can he jump into a storybook? Absolutely. Because he never used rational thinking, “I could hit my head and go to the hospital riding a talking clay horse into a storybook.” He rode his horse wherever he wanted.