The Art of The Busy Fool

I have been thinking about writing this and that has been the trouble – I have been thinking about writing this.  For the past couple of weeks I have wanted to discuss a situation and a way of working that I seem to have gotten down to an art form – It has probably been my greatest role to date.  That of being The Busy Fool.

I recall first hearing the term being coined by Lord Alan Sugar (Sir Alan as he was back then,) on an edition of his TV show the UK version of The Apprentice.  Just to explain what or rather who The Busy Fool is, he is someone who spends a great deal of time working hard (in many cases, doing a good job,) but often ends up with little to show for his efforts.  I remember discussing the term with a Polish girlfriend of mine at the time and she totally agreed with the sentiment and would remind me of it often – In fact she tried her level best to steer me on a course away from that of Busy Fool.

As I sit here in the early hours of Monday morning, with the 84th Academy Awards on TV, it strangely seems beneficial to actually write about The Art of The Busy Fool, while an Awards Ceremony is being played out where the best of the one percent – i.e. The Best of the Best, are feted and awarded for their efforts – A one percent who are highly talented and very effective.  Not a Busy Fool among them.

I am probably being self-deprecating here as I am sure I am not the only person who is going through this, but the trouble is I hardly ever hear anyone else talking about this or are willing to discuss it.  So I now have defined what or who The Busy Fool is, now I will pose the questions: Why do I feel I am a Busy Fool? And…Why do I feel I have it down to an art form?

Firstly…Why do I feel I am Busy Fool?  Well my entire life (I am not going there,) has been one of being the teenager, the young man, the now middle-aged man who despite his best efforts, hard work, persistence and never say die attitude has consistently failed to land that killer blow that would lead to bigger and better things.  I have taken advice, spoken to career specialists (especially during my career as an actor,) and the answer is nearly always the same …You are doing the right thing… You are making all the right moves… You are dead on track.  Really!!!?

On paper I tend to agree but the reality says different.  Nothing is happening.  Well it is happening but it not happening and herein lies the problem.  I have paradoxical career – i.e. I have a career, I have a wealth of experience across Film, Television, Theatre and other areas of the media and yet…There is no success.  We could go into what exactly constitutes ‘Success’ for my Resume (CV if you will,) says here is a hard working actor who has a wealth of talent and experience (a good measure of success,) which is one side of the coin.  The other side of the coin is that I am or have hardly made any real money, much less a living from my efforts, hence why I say I have a paradoxical career.  I work extremely hard at my career, networking across social media platforms, attending networking events etc.  In fact Googling my name always produces a wealth of results.  I am doing a whole lot right it seems but not really yielding any long lasting results where other actors I know do so little and yet have successful careers and a comfortable lifestyle, none of which I have – The attributes of The Busy Fool – A whole lot of work, blood, sweat, tears and effort but little if any lasting gain or legacy.

And…Why do I feel I have The Busy Fool down to an art form?  Look at my career to date.  There can be no success without a great deal of sacrifice and boy, have I been making sacrifices.  My Life (still not going there,) has been very similar right the way down the line.  The shit I have had to put up with from Mother and younger siblings could be described as an abuse and infringement of my Human Rights but I am still not going there.  They no longer play any part in my life so let us leave it there.  2010 and 2011 respectively has seen me do more acting and photographic work than I have done in the previous seven years and I am proud of that fact.  When I took a leap of faith and focussed less on temping work and more on all things acting, things started to happen.  The only downside to this was that the jobs were either badly paid and/or if they were well-paid, one had so many problems getting paid on time that one’s fee disappeared in bank charges for being overdrawn.  I could go on and I will.

The Busy Fool as an ‘Art Form’ discuss.  When one puts as much effort into their career as I do on a daily basis, you are working and creating an art form and when that work of art does not materialise or is not realised nor recognised, then one has achieved that ultimate and most dubious of accolades –  That of The Busy Fool.  If you are living with your ambitions, your aspirations, your dreams, your ambitions on a daily basis, going to bed with it all, dreaming about it, getting up with it, travelling with it each and every single day and despite everything you do, you are still not going on to the next level, then you are indeed The Busy Fool.  And while all this is happening people will look down at you, they will despise you, laugh at you, write you off.  And as long as you are failing at all you do so the status quo will remain.  But one day, a time will come when all the hard work, effort and the Art of the Busy Fool will be realised and things will begin to happen.  All that hard work, effort and failure will begin to pay off.  Those who despised you, wrote you off as a loser, may well despise you that much more.  They may well talk about the time when they knew you when you were struggling, had nothing, went out to work for little and nothing.  They will sound proud to have known you when you were struggling, on the way (not that they realised it).  They will never ever mention that they couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger to help you with words of encouragement if nothing else.  What will be undeniable is that they will no longer be laughing at you or about you because they will realise they had you wrong all along.

There can be no success without sacrifice and some are more willing to make that sacrifice on a greater and higher level than others.  I count myself among that select number who are prepared to do what takes to fulfil not just their ambition, dreams and aspirations but to actually live them.


4 responses to “The Art of The Busy Fool

  1. Hey DGJ.

    A very stimulating missive. Nothing compares with a heavy dose of introspection to crank-start the week, eh? I have a lot of respect for Lord/Sir Alan, specifically for his brevity and directness. ‘The Busy Fool’ is in all of us, albeit to varying degrees of intensity, and as a fellow (though art-less) Fool, I too have a take on the phenomenon which is – briefly and succinctly – that to succeed, The Fool needs three vital ingredients: passion; honesty; and industry. The ‘success’ I mention is of course relative and open to definition, though what I refer to can best be described as ‘personal fulfillment’. I know you reasonably well; well enough to have thrown you a few inquisitive, gentle ‘curved balls’ in the past, only to be quite surprised by your responses. It’s my believe that very little of our personal trauma is wholly inexplicable but it’s at our lowest junctures where we need clarity from friends to help us find solutions. Hence my offerings: passion; honesty; and industry.

    I’m interviewing actors for a film I’ve scripted where I’m determined not to accept anything less than is absolutely necessary to get the job done.
    I’ll be brief and direct – though always with heart – in that I’ll try always to leave them something helpful. Some may get the message, others may not.
    For some, my offering may be wholly inappropriate, but hey …. who trusts a fool?

    Bon courage et bon chance.


    • Hello Mr. Glenn,

      I was very surprised to get a response to anything I write. It has never happened before. Thank you for that. As I nearly always put a link on my Facebook Page, any comments good or bad, tend be directed to me via Facebook.

      You made some very good points. Yes it is my usual personal view abeit an intrsopective and personal one on how the life of an artiste pans out for better or worse. It a journey and an intensely personal one at that. There is no denstination, just a journey that will take to different places, based on the choices one makes.

      I as I said, I had wanted to write the piece for a week or two. When I finally did it was the stimulation of watching the 84th Academy Awards (Uncle Oscar’s Party to you and me). There is probably no better stimulation for writing my piece than to watch an awards ceremoney attended by the most successful people in their area of expertise i.e. Acting on film etc. The best of the best. Christopher Plummer proved it is never to late to get one’s first Oscar and the grand age of 82.

      I too am a fan of Lord (Sir Alan) Sugar for his brevity and no nonsense approach in getting to the heart of the matter. Yes there is little of The Busy Fool in each of us but, as I think you defined probably more clearly than I did, that where it becomes an art form is via the ingredients of passion, honesty and industry. I have that in abundance that is for sure. Success is a relative to whatever situation you are in and/or what and how you define success. Some would ask: What is Success? And how do you define it? In my piece I think I answered the question in my own way by looking at my Acting CV then looking at my bank account and the answer is paradoxical. I may have a CV (Resume if you will,) full of acting work but have made very little money from it. Some unkind person would argue that if you are good at something, you don’t do it for free. And I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. While there are many actors who walk out of drama school and go straight into paid work and continue being paid (in some cases quite handsomely,) for their efforts, I have met and worked with very few actors who have been fortunate to have hit the ground running so successfully. We have to pay our dues before our efforts are recognised and we start being hired and paid handsomely for our skill, effort, talent and passion. And in some cases our honesty and integrity also.

      I would be interested to know what your inquisitve curve balls were and my surprising response.

      Most of what I write is from an intensely personal point of view. I am not saying I am right in every case but I can only describe situations I have been in and had experiences of. I have discussed my reluctance to work for free (especially on film,) but that does not mean that is wholly wrong for an actor to do so but sooner or later we (myself included,) have to put a value on what we do because again from personal experience when one takes on such a job, we don’t always have the idea sold to us i.e. There is usually little passion, honesty and industry on the part of the film maker concerned. They have not fully invested in their project. They may pay an DOP or a cameraman but never the actors. Having not invested fully in their project, they seldom get the film out there to an audience or market the finished product so not only have they wasted their time and effort but they have wasted everyone elses as well. We both have a shared history on that front so I won’t bother mentioning names, as we both know who I am talking about.

      Fortunately I have moved beyond such people, as I have discussed, talked about what I am willing do and more importantly what I am not willing to do or rather definitely won’t do. If a project has legs, there is honesty, passion, integrity and industry behind it, I am on board each and every time. But if it is going to be a case that we can’t afford to pay you but we will feed you, then I am not there. Having said all that I have made some inroads in terms of Theatre and that is not always a paying affair but I finally managed to work in London’s West End and in that, some of the sacrifices I have made has paid off in some small way but unless I capitalise on that side of the acting field, then it will all be for nothing.

      I don’t have all the answers, I can only relate to what I have experienced and continue to experience, in the hope it can be of help to others in similar circumstances but related exclusively to the Acting profession. Like I said, I very seldom have conversations with people on this subject and if I did, I think it would be a chorus of endless moaning, something I am not at all into. Besides, by writing about one’s experience here, there is always the possibilty of reaching a wider audience and getting a response.


  2. Pingback: first harmony then prosperity « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality·

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