Bryan Cranston: How to manage opportunity when time is precious
After his breakout performance as Breaking Bad’s Walter White — and after playing dad Hal in Malcolm in the Middle — it might seem that Bryan Cranston’s always been as successful as he is today. Of course, his fame follows years of less memorable work. Remember his turn as Party Boy Number Two or Student Behind Girl? No, we don’t either. However, all of his effort put him in the position to capitalize on opportunities as they materialized. His career is now following an arc familiar to anyone in any line of work who sees things starting to pay off. Maybe that’s you, or maybe it’s something you’re looking forward to. In his Big Think+ video, “Find Career Success — The Cranston Assessment of Projects System (CAPS),” Cranston discusses what to expect and how to handle things if/when your ship comes sailing in.
What you send out returns to you
One of the surprising things Cranston is noticing now is that there’s a nearly equal energy exchange between the amount of effort he invested early on and the amount of work being offered to him today.
In the beginning, he says, it’s all about sending out information, trying to “get a piece of this here and there” by letting people in your field know you exist, are available, and are capable. The energy is all flowing outward from you to your industry at this early stage.
If you “by chance get struck by lightning as I did,” says Cranston, “that energy you were sending out turns around and comes back at you. It arrives in the form of a sometimes mind-boggling array of new opportunities. At this point, other people are now trying to get a piece of you here and there.
The CAPs system
Of course, even when things are going well, there’s a finite amount of time, and the challenge can be identifying opportunities that are worthy of yours. Cranston recommends something he calls “CAPS,” the “Cranston Assessment of Projects System.” In it, he assigns a numerical value for the degree to which a project achieves one of his personal goals. When Cranston evaluates a script he’s been sent, for example, he gives it a grade for each of these desirable attributes:
- The quality of the story
- The quality of the script
- The character he would play
- The director
- The other people in the cast
- The location of the shoot and whether, and for how long, he’d need to be away from his family
Cranston then tallies up the grades, and the higher the cumulative score, the more desirable the project is to him.
CAPS can work for anyone, regardless of profession. With a list of your personal priorities in hand, any new opportunity can be methodically evaluated for its value to you, or compared to other possibilities before you.