As entrepreneurs, we may not technically be actors. But we are always on stage -- communicating, presenting ourselves and our ideas, and trying to connect with our customers, partners and teams.
That means there's a lot we can learn from someone like top Broadway actor Sandra Joseph. Joseph is the longest-running leading lady of the smash hit Phantom of the Opera. Her more than 1,300 appearances as Christine helped not only launch her to stardom, but also taught her key lessons that fuel her continued success today. Since stepping down from Phantom in 2006, Joseph has kick-started her entrepreneurial engine as a performer, keynote speaker and co-author of Your Creative Soul: Expressing Your Authentic Voice.
Joseph recently shared with AES Nation her best Broadway-honed advice for achieving huge entrepreneurial success.
Lesson #1: Fight through the fear. Joseph's journey from a self-described introvert to a Broadway star required her to confront her greatest fears at nearly every turn. At her first ever performance -- a small role in her school's Christmas concert when she was just a kid -- Joseph was overcome with fear and backed out at the last second. "That was really a pivotal moment for me," she says. "I felt so much regret and embarrassment that my fear of failure and humiliation made me stay silent and hidden in the crowd."
And as an emerging actor in New York, Joseph had to confront the fear of failure on a daily basis. After all, Broadway is a cut-throat business. Hundreds of actors may try out for a single part in a highly competitive process. But Joseph was passionate about acting and theater; she made the decision that the failure she encountered was just another step on the road to success.
The takeaway: Everyone encounters those moments of fear and potential failure. But standing up to the fear of failure is critical. Indeed, it's virtually a prerequisite for entrepreneurs -- the best of the best of whom fail over and over again on their way to success. Thomas Edison tried and failed thousands of times before he succeeded in creating a working lightbulb. And while we all want to mitigate risk, there are times when entrepreneurs simply have to embrace that risk to achieve the success they're striving for.
Lesson #2: Invest in the support you need to excel. For many entrepreneurs, the difference between giving in to fear and seizing an opportunity often comes down to how prepared they are. Joseph says preparation was a critical tool in helping her overcome her fear of failure. Throughout her career, she worked with the best coaches and teachers she could find. In fact, even when she was barely scraping by as a struggling actor, she took what little money she had and spent it on classes and coaching. "I had to study with the coaches I knew could help me achieve the level that I wanted to get to," she says. "It paid off. Working with those coaches transformed my career."
In our competitive world, it's critical to work with people who can help you excel with whatever talents you already have. Successful entrepreneurs know that it pays to find those people who have walked the path before you and can show you the way.
Lesson #3: Be authentic. The hardest lesson Joseph had to learn was that it's best to simply be yourself. After months of performing in the chorus of the touring production of "Phantom...", Joseph had an opportunity to try out for the role of Christine. She planned out a routine that she felt sure would wow the directors. But just a few minutes into the audition, Joseph knew her approach wasn't what they were looking for. "I just wanted that part so desperately that I came across as phony and like I was trying too hard," she says.
Fortunately for Joseph, she got another shot. "I said, 'okay, my only goal is to be authentic and sing that song as honestly as I possibly can,'" she says.
That audition was the turning point: Joseph won the part and spent the next 10 years as Christine. The experience offers a crucial lesson that Joseph has been teaching to businesspeople and entrepreneurs through her speaking engagements: By being authentic, you bring more of who you truly are to all your dealings with others. As a result, the honesty and sincerity you can bring to the table serve as critical ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.
This is a lesson we can all learn: We can't control other people, but we can control ourselves by making sure we are authentic and real. As entrepreneurs, if we're the best we can be, we're going to win the vast majority of the time.
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