Acting Class. Photo credit: Monkey Business Images /

That which hinders your task is your task.”Sanford Meisner

Setbacks are part of acting and, indeed, a part of life. Just as there are times for advancement and celebration, there are moments of pause and reflection. Acting instructor Jim Jarrett encourages his students to seek balance during tough times. As Sanford Meisner’s last teaching protégé, Jarrett has taught the legendary instructor’s acting approach since 2005. He founded The Meisner Technique Studio in San Francisco, later branching out to Hawaii and Idaho. Jarrett is also an actor who played both Vincent and Theo Van Gogh in Leonard Nimoy’s one-man show “Vincent” over the course of a decade to rave reviews. When Jarrett’s student asked how to navigate discouraging thoughts that prevent actors from pursuing their dreams with vigor and purpose, here are some of Jarrett’s thoughts and advice:

You know its all right to be wrong, but its not all right not to try.” Sanford Meisner

Have a daily routine

Jarrett shared he’s had times when his spirits have been down to the point of calling it an artistic depression. “The real answer, for me anyway, is I do have a daily routine. Picture it like a workout, and I’m consistent with it. I think that if you’re going to go after something that feels very difficult, intimidating, overwhelming, you better be rock solid. I say this all the time … You’re going to get scared, you’re gonna get overwhelmed—you are! And that’s why on a daily basis you need to be able to balance that out. So that’s my answer. What do I do? I have a daily routine, and when I say ‘daily,’ I want to underline the word ‘daily.’ I’m consistent with it. I really am. And I know there’s times where life is such that I’m not able to be as consistent, and when that happens, I can feel it start to skid; I can feel myself starting to be less patient and graceful and fearless and all the things that I need to be to go where I want to go and be who I want to be while I go after where I want to go.”

Being an actor is a religious calling because youve been given the ability, the gift to inspire humanity. Think about that on the way to your soap opera audition.”
Sanford Meisner

Find your heroes

Jarrett encourages actors to learn about individuals who overcame significant challenges. “Whatever your dream is … I think it’s really important to find your heroes—those people that are ahead of you, that have blazed a trail, that can inspire you, that can light the way, and show you that [dreams are] possible,” he says. Choose the hero that most inspires you whether it be a famous athlete, fellow thespian, entrepreneur, cultural icon, or a family member. “You’ve got to be a warrior; you’ve got to be so disciplined, so strong; you’ve got to be so mentally tough; you gotta have both feet in the boat,” Jarrett asserts. “Wherever you are in your dream, my hope and prayer is that you can get both feet in, in spite of the fears and the insecurities and the doubts.” 

You cant learn to act unless youre criticized. If you tie that criticism to your childhood insecurities, youll have a terrible time. Instead, you must take criticism objectively, pertaining it only to the work being done.” Sanford Meisner

Be your biggest fan

People are works in progress. Not everything attempted will go as planned. “If an audition can crush you or a comment can crush you or a review can crush you, man, you’re not in the boat. You gotta believe, you’ve got to be in. You have got to be your biggest fan. You have to or you’re just going to get steamrolled,” Jarrett warns. “You’ve got to believe in you because you’re going to have so many naysayers and so many doubters and so many moments of doubt.” Of all the indicators that measure if someone is to succeed in their field, whether it be talent or experience, there’s one thing that can’t be measured—what’s in a person’s heart, Jarrett insists. “The thing they can’t measure is this commitment to your dream. And I say it all the time: Passion and hard work are impossible to ignore.”