The career myths & lies that led us to the tipping point

Never in a million years did we think last January that a year later we’d still be asking the question, “So…when are the jobs coming back?”

Way back last April as the industry strikes were looming, people called me crazy, a naysayer, and a “doomsdayer” when I predicted that at-best we wouldn’t be back to work in any capacity until September (and most likely not back to work at any significant level until 2024).

Yet here we are.

Just last week I received a multitude of responses like the one below to my latest newsletter about what to expect in 2024:

“I love you Zack but that was so depressing! Of course I already knew that was the case but you shining the light really kicked my ass about the industry still being slow.”

I wish the solution were as simple as waiting a littler longer. But 2024 looks to be as challenging as 2023.

Another solution could be trying to fix a broken system. But unfortunately the system isn’t broken – it’s working fine. The rich are getting richer. The more desperate we are for work, the easier it is to ignore our boundaries. And the easier we will be to control (and exploit).

Given how many factors are beyond our control, I think it’s important to share a VERY important reminder – a sentiment I’ve been sharing for months with my Optimizer students – that was eloquently stated by fellow colleague, podcast guest, and friend Jesse Averna:


If you are struggling right now, it’s not your fault.

Regardless of who’s at fault for our present circumstances, it is our responsibility to accept this is our current reality. Once we better understand what got us here, we can then figure out a plan to move forwards.

The Career Myths & Lies That Led Us to the Tipping Point

Myth #1: You learn, you work hard, you retire

Post World War II the economy was booming, and “The American Dream” was in full force. The path was simple: Pay attention in school, get good grades, pledge allegiance to the flag, go to college and get a specialized degree, work hard, do what you’re told, maintain the status quo, climb the corporate ladder for 40 years, and then “retire.”

All you had to do was follow this simple formula and you too could own a nice house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. 40 years of backyard bbq’s later and the company would reward you with a healthy pension and a gold watch. And that’s when you would get to start “living.”

Myth #2: Climbing the corporate career ladder = Security

As early as pre-school, our entire lives were pre-ordained around one simple question “What do you want be when you grow up?” (Side note: Please don’t ask your kids this question.) Whether your choice was firefighter, police officer, doctor, nurse, astronaut, baseball player, or [fill in the blank], the idea was to choose the bottom rung of a single ladder and climb it to the top.

Along the journey a select few were fortunate enough to pursue their true calling. The rest ended up on the corporate hamster wheel.

  1. You pledge your loyalty to the company of your choosing (or more accurately the first one willing to give you a job).
  2. You then use your specialized skills to provide value to said company (i.e. generate income for them).
  3. That loyalty was then rewarded with job security, perks & incentives, and ultimately a healthy pension. And once again, this was the point at which you were given permission to start “living.”

Myth #3: Success is defined externally (by money, material wealth, and prestige)

Nowhere is the myth of defining your success by external factors more prevalent than the entertainment industry. You’re nobody in Hollywood unless I’ve heard of the projects you’re working on. Oh you don’t have an Emmy or Oscar yet? Or you don’t have three letters after your name? Then I guess you haven’t “made it.” Keep at it, and best of luck!

Moreover, not only is your success dictated by your weekly rate, so are your happiness and well-being. Because you couldn’t possibly be happy without a nice car, owning a house versing renting, and all the latest tech & gadgets.

And most importantly, the first question I want to know as soon as I meet you in person is “What are you working on?” So you better be working on something right now, and I better recognize it. Because if you aren’t, then what value do you have to me? It’s all about what you’ve done recently.

Only once you’ve paid your dues, put in the work, and made a recognizable name for yourself are you then allowed to start “living.”

I’m curious…which myth above resonates with you the most? And why?

As I talked about extensively in several recent podcasts, I have no intention of waiting until retirement to start living.

I want to live a life defined by meaningful experiences

I want the way I spend my time & money to be in alignment with my values

I want the freedom to define success on my own terms

If you feel the same way, keep an eye on your inbox Wednesday morning. I’m going to share with you the biggest career lie of them all.

This lie has conditioned us to believe it is THE most important factor that defines either our success or failure in any career path.

This lie is the reason so many of us are out of work right now.

This is is why we feel so lost & alone.

This lie is why we’re dealing with a collective identity crisis.

And this lie is what allows our time & talents to be mercilessly exploited.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”