Episode 161 — The Hustler’s Mindset


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Episode 161 — The Hustler’s Mindset

Hey, everyone!

This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 161! This week, I’m making a deep dive into mindset because it’s the glue that makes everything stick. One of the key things, as we go through our careers — is having the right mindset. I wanted to touch on that for a lot of reasons: A lot of us are in a hurry and we think that there is this ONE magic bullet: “If only I learn that one software — everything will be okay.”

I’ve always known that if my mindset isn’t right — I’m not going to get to anything that I want. It means that I have to be careful to always push forward, not just forward on talent or skill. I do honestly feel that anyone can acquire the skill as long as they’re willing to put in the time. It’s not because they were born with a certain talent. It’s the mindset that allows you to pick up a skill. If you’re present with what you’re doing, if you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty — all of that plays into how successfully you’re going to learn.

Let’s dive in!



[00:44] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or the reason you didn’t get the job? Here is the thing: Most of us think that we can put our latest work on our reel, add some music — and get the job. A lot of us aren’t aware that the majority of reels sent to a studio are skipped through and sometimes never even watched in the first place.

Everything we’re taught about being an artist is wrong! Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of arts — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write a book from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. I want to:

  • Give you the formula to be the obvious candidate for the job;
  • Tell you how to build a reel and put it up on YouTube — that brings studios to you!

You can get this book for free right now! Whether you’re in design, film, tv or games, go to www.allanmckay.com/myreel!



[03:17] When it comes to mindset, that’s the key pillar that’s going to get you where you want to go. You can say, “Here is where I am, here is where I need to get, here is what I need to learn — so I’m prepared for all the sucky-ness that’s about to ensue.” With the military, there is a bootcamp to break you down and rebuild you. From that perspective, it makes sense when you need to get everyone into one focus. When it comes to our careers, it seems that some of us don’t have the goals or they’re focused on the wrong thing.

Realign Your Pain Points

Our career should be a big part of what we’re focusing on, rather than software. When it comes to our goals, our pain points align with the wrong metrics. I’ll give you the analogy of the gym: “I must join the gym so I can lose weight.” What do most of us do? We join the gym and we get that dopamine hit because we’ve aligned our pain points with that one thing. It’s assigning the pain to the wrong area. The same way people get into relationships because they’re unhappy. We look at the wrong thing to fix the issue!

[06:43] It’s so critical for us to set goals in the beginning, but it’s more critical to set the RIGHT goals. If we don’t, we start measuring our accomplishment in the wrong way. I’ve had students tell me that they were so happy to sign up for a Course, but the moment they got any resistance — any challenge during their coursework — suddenly, they “don’t have time”. They thought they’d just swipe a credit card — and magically their life would change! They start back paddling. Unfortunately, I cannot go to your house and drag you by your ear, to do the work. YOU have to take the responsibility. People think by buying something, they’re getting the result. They’re not! By buying something, they’re buying an opportunity to learn!

[08:10] We have a saying in my company that people expect to get their 6-pack abs by swiping the card. But they don’t want to do the work! They need to realign their pain points:

  • You need to find the right Course;
  • You need to find a place you can begin your journey.
  • But that’s where the work begins.

You have to put in the work, in the trenches. When you join the Course, that’s when the work begins. The pain and the journey begins now. Getting there is not the same as climbing it! That’s when people fall off. It’s about the experience that you go on, along the way. 

Measure Your Success — with Failures

[09:45] A lot of people are afraid of failure. What if you do the work and find out that you suck? What if other people are better at the work than you? All those frustrations are part of the process. I always say, “You’ve got to eat shit with a smile.” It’s in your failures that the most growth occurs. Of course, you’re going to suck in the beginning. Every time you fail, you’ll suck a little less. That’s what happens when you do something new. You have to think about where you want to be in the end and remind of it that this is part of it.

[11:00] I see too many people quit and what ends up happening is that they stay in the exact same place they were years ago. I have students returning to my Mentorship years later, and nothing has changed in their life. You have to be in it — to win it! It takes work. You have to measure your success and your failures as you move through. Inch by inch you get where you want to be.

[13:10] If I were to talk about quick wins, those happen by placing a system in place and setting goals. That’s how you get a quick win! Quick wins are about being intelligent and pushing through. The more you do this — building relationships, improving skills, chasing work — the more you start having the work come to you. You will get to eventually pick and choose your projects, get paid better, choose your clients. But you have to pay your dues. You will eventually get to choose what’s important to do. That’s the position you want to be in.

Analyze the Data

[16:45] I get so frustrated! I want success and I want to be available to others to make that success happen. It’s easy for us to think that we’re so busy and then complain that we don’t have time for change. I bet there are holes in your schedule. You’re also busy doing thing that aren’t aligning to your goals: the big picture stuff! It’s easy to be busy for the sake of being busy. We’re treading water and burning energy that’s not going toward what’s important to us.

[19:49] It’s critical to track our time to see where it’s going. I remember a few months ago, I had to fly to LA. As soon as I was on the plane, I realized I’d been busy doing all this stuff at home — but I was doing things that weren’t going to push the needle. We have to track our goals. Put your energy where it goes! Fail, repeat — and eventually you will win!

[21:45] You can either choose to quit when things get difficult, or you can be busy and not put the energy where it matter. The only thing worse than burning the energy is moving in the wrong direction. You have to look up occasionally and see if you’re still heading toward your goals.

[23:40] I have a lot of friends who won’t go into a business with a company if that company hasn’t had at least one failure. Failure shows how the company handled the it. If they didn’t quit and kept going, they have the perseverance that it takes to make it. I’ve given my friends quick wins that I regret — because they haven’t earned it. I got good by sucking and failing, and eating shit. That’s how I learned the best. These are my war stories! So when my friends ask for an easy street and I help them, they aren’t ready for what their asking for.

[26:37] One of the responses of dream job responses was to be VFX Sups. When I asked people what they were doing — the answer was, “Nothing.” Go get a camera, get your friends together and go make some bad projects while also studying — that’s when you’ll eventually have the knowledge to have that job! You would’ve made a leap toward the necessary process. Or, you can start making your own independent films. The title doesn’t come with it!


[28:22] We need to take a step back and realign our expectations. Most importantly, we need to realign the pain points. Work hard now so you don’t have to work later. Or, work hard now — so you don’t have to work at all later!


  • Have a strategy;
  • Track it;
  • Show up
  • Put in the time;
  • Analyze the data you’re getting back.

[29:30] Skills can be learned. You have to be in it — to win it. Keep firing out reels! If they aren’t coming back with responses, tweak a few things and see if you get a better result. Wins and fails lead you to the same result. Focus on what’s moving closer to your goals!

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