By Valerie Young
Starting out, what kind of career did you want? When PBS’s Charlie Rose put this question to Helen Hunt, the actor replied confidently, “This one.”
Can you say that?
Sure she’s a famous movie star at the top of her career, but Hunt’s success was neither quick nor easy. She began acting at nine and spent two decades working in television, film and theater before landing her co-star role on the hit sitcom Mad About You. Hunt finally made her mark on the big screen with an Oscar for Best Actress for As Good As It Gets opposite Jack Nicholson. Her next role paired her with mega-star Tom Hanks and she is now one of the top-paid women in Hollywood.
Mad About Making It
Here’s how Helen Hunt says she got the career she always wanted – and how you can too.
Move toward what scares you. Early in her career Hunt was living and working in Los Angeles. What scared her then was the idea of auditioning for stage parts on Broadway. For most people fear is a showstopper–not Hunt. “If I started to feel too safe doing anything, I would move toward what scared me.” So she headed to New York City to move both literally and figuratively toward her fear. After going on what she called “a lot of bad auditions,” she landed a role with Spaulding Gray. If you’re staying in a job or career you’ve outgrown use your fear to positively spur you toward an exciting change.
Create a vacuum for fate to fill. When you’re in a highly competitive industry it’s tempting to grab whatever comes your way. Yet, around this same “pre-star” time in her career Hunt began turning down been-there-done-that film roles in “hopes that something better might come along.” The idea, says Hunt, was to “kind of create a vacuum to make room for what hopefully, fate has in store.”
Sometimes you need to tempt fate – or at least give it a little space. Make room for new and better opportunities by saying no to commitments that don’t support your goals. Then have enough faith in your dream to wait for the right pitch.
Swing at the ball and enjoy the game. When long-time idol Woody Allen tapped Hunt to be his co-star in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hunt’s initial reaction was a combination of awe and anxiety. Had this opportunity come along earlier in her career, she admits fear may have gotten the best of her. Instead she decided “to just take a swing at the ball.” Once at the plate, she didn’t let the fear of striking out keep her from having fun: “I thought if I don’t do well, he’ll fire me. So, until that happens, I’m just going to enjoy this experience.”
When the opportunity to realize a long-held dream presents itself, draw courage from your past experience to help you step confidently up to the plate. Once you’re in the game – have fun!
Have a grateful heart. For Hunt, the four Emmys, the five Golden Globes, the Oscar and all of the rest were but icing on an already rich cake. Reflecting on her years as part of the Mad About You creative team, Hunt told Rose, “If none of these other things had happened and I’d had only that, I would have been a very, very lucky actress.”
Don’t focus so much on what lies ahead that you fail to appreciate past and present blessings. Taking stock of how rich your life is right now will make any future success all the sweeter.
You don’t have to be a Hollywood celebrity to reach for your own career star. Just take a page out of Helen Hunt’s book. Follow these simple steps and soon you too will be able to say with confidence that the career you have is just the one you always wanted!