The Q&A Hole: What Does It Take to Succeed in This World?

With Rebecca Beegle, Alex Dobrenko, Asaf Ronen, and more.

The Q&A Hole: What Does It Take to Succeed in This World?

Here's the latest of our Q&A Hole series, wherein your reporter asks questions of various interesting people around Austin and beyond.

(Specifically: He asks them and then – with a gnat's-ass amount of editing (if any) – he prints the responses here for all to see.)

The questions can range from As Serious As It Gets to, ah, Pretty Damn Whimsical, and we reckon the answers – from your friends and neighbors, from minor celebrities and international superstars – will tend to fall along those same lines.

And, following up last week's Q&A Hole about New Year's resolutions, here's this week's call and response:


Rebecca Beegle of The Grownup Lady Story Company: Once, when I was a teenager visiting New York, I started to cross the street somewhere in Midtown. But before I got too far, the light changed, so I turned around to go back to the curb – and a passing cab driver yelled at me, “Don’t go back! Never go back! Always forward!” Even at the time, I appreciated the advice.

Alex Dobrenko, Actor: Succeed? Eek. First off, as cliché as it sounds, define what success means to you, rather than what the world tells you is success. Cause it ain't money, or fame, or comparing yourself to others ... on Facebook, though that's near impossible, so just don't do that often. Be nice. Pursue your passion. And tell people you're doing it – the more you put it out there, the more real it becomes. One day, sooner or later, someone will go "Hey, remember Alex? He told us he's an actor – let's call him." Whatever you do, don't "network" or talk about "networking." I hate that word. Just talk to people and find out what makes 'em tick and what makes 'em laugh. The world's all about making stuff and selling stuff. Figure out which one you like to do more and do that one. Laugh at stuff, including yourself, and good TV like Louie. And watch High Maintenance. God, that show rules. Don't ramble like I'm doing now. Try not to scoff at how "things are changing" – that's a sign you're being left behind. Unless it's Vine – I just don't get that whole Vine thing. Oh! Love. Love big and bold and as much as you can. In the end, it's all that matters … well, that and the other stuff I just wrote. And Froyo. Eat Froyo. Mmmm … Froyo.

Asaf Ronen, Education Director of The Institution Theater: The go-to answers are determination, passion, and stamina – and those are definitely true. The one thing that I've additionally learned to be a necessary part of that is being able to recalibrate what success looks like for you and being okay with what might never be part of that picture. For example, I don't know that my success will ever feature the financial stability that others enjoy. Sometimes it gets downright lean. Sometimes, it gets downright ugly. Some days, I have to save up to buy new socks.

I still wouldn't trade what I do for anything else, and I've stopped thinking of those alternative lifestyles filled with paychecks and plush socks. People with back-up plans are splitting their focus at least one too many ways. Regardless of what I'm giving up to do it, I still get to do something that I am very passionate about, I get to have a positive influence on people's lives, and I get to work with some amazingly creative people. That is the other key ingredient to success, I think, in surrounding yourself with strong allies. These are the people who will support you, teach you, and become collaborators in your craziest of ideas, creating a karmic wheel around you where you will be lifted by others' success and they by yours.

Jack Darling, Magician: Fail a lot! I’d also have to say: Grit, adaptability, a sense of humor, and the ability to help others and receive help.

I feel like I'm about to start a self-help book … but I would write a terrible one, so I’ll move over to a great magician by the name of Eugene Burger. I heard him in a lecture say these two things: “Every miracle has a price" and "Breaking the rules is fun and edgy.” He was talking about learning and teaching magic, but I think it applies to this question. Life is indeed a miracle and a challenge for most of us and the price of it could be anything. The saddest price in my opinion is not being who you are and doing what you love to do.

I write stories, perform magic, dabble with photography, and constantly I’ve heard people say, “Pick one thing and get really good at that.” I don’t want to pick one thing. I want to play, and if success comes with these forms of play – which in some cases it has – then in my opinion I am a success. I find joy in each of these things.

I also like to break the rules when I play. I know some people are stern on the rule-following, but not me. Sometimes you have to break the rules of what you're working on for it to mean more to you, or for you to make it work. Plus, rule-breaking is more interesting. I don’t mean the kind that might land you in jail. (Though if that's your thing, great.) I’m talking the creative kind of rule-breaking that opens new places in your growth as an artist and as a human being.

So if every miracle has a price, we also must give back and be of service to others – because to truly succeed there must be a form of giving back. This makes me think of my grandmother. When I was around nine, my grandfather’s boss took a while to pay him and we slowly started running out of food. We were down to white crackers and jam. I remember my grandmother serving the jam in small little bowls and lining the crackers beautifully around her finest dish. She had these small butter knives, she lit candles all around the kitchen table, and we dressed as nicely as we could for dinner. It seemed like we were eating caviar. I have since had caviar and I like the jam much better. But seriously, this one moment in time will stay with me until my last breath. My grandmother lived through many hardships but still she took each blow from life and created something beautiful from it. And exposed those around her to love. She was a success in this world.

William Beutler of Beutler Ink: The best thing about success is this: You get to define what it means to you. The worst thing is: The part of you that actually decides is beyond your conscious control. By means of reason and philosophy (and maybe counseling) you do have some hope of influencing your own subconscious. But no matter what, you're still on the hook to yourself. This is why I think you're better off thinking about success as a process, not as a fixed point.

To become a success, it is not necessary to have accomplished any specific thing. But it does help to envision a goal – big or small, public or private – that you wish to realize. You must avoid confusing this imaginary future with success itself. And this requires active maintenance. Like the dog who catches the car, or model train enthusiast who builds to the end of the particle board, the fun is in the doing, not the having.

I don't think I'm overstating things when I say that equating accomplishment with success puts you at considerable risk. At best you'll feel a bit empty inside. Worse, you might become a pompous ass. In either case, you've become a failure. The good news is this: All you need to become a success once again is to choose a goal and start working toward it. There is no bad news.

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