I always say the audition begins in the lobby of the casting office—the same lobby filled with all those other actors bent on sabotaging you.

Truthfully, though, it’s you who are sabotaging yourself.

You spy an actor across the lobby who you saw on television last night and who you assume has a lot more experience than you, and you tell yourself that you’ll never get the part. Your inner casting director decides that the actor who just walked into the waiting area looks perfect for the part and will surely book it.

As you glance around, everyone reading for your part looks completely different from you. You start getting miffed that you were brought in for this role in the first place, since you are so totally wrong for it. The casting director comes out and hugs another actor and tells him how thrilled she is to see him and thanks him for coming in to read. On top of that, that actor is in the room for twenty minutes … and you have to go in and audition directly after him. Furthering your anxiety, a group of actors are loudly bragging about having several more auditions later in the day … and this is your first audition in six months.

Sound familiar? The voices in your head do a brilliant job of sabotaging your confidence, especially right before the casting director calls your name.

I have learned from every actor who’s walked through that door—the good, the bad, the unprepared—and I’ve observed that the actors who were most successful in the art of auditioning were the ones who started getting mentally focused in the lobby, before they entered the audition room.

When you enter the lobby of the audition room, you’re walking into a cacophony of sounds and distractions. You may run into someone you know, and your first impulse may be to chat and catch up. All too often you’ll be laughing and exchanging stories when your name is called. As you enter the audition room you’re unfocused, scrambling to get into the right “head space.” Most of the time this scenario will resolve itself as a blown audition opportunity. As an actor you must adopt the mental focus of an athlete to combat distractions and sabotaging thoughts while sitting in that lobby, so when you enter the audition room you’ll be focused and ready to go.