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Super-agent turned CEO used one simple mental trick to get ahead

Hollywood mogul Charles D. King wasn't born at the top: In fact, he began as a trainee in the mail-room of the renowned talent agency William Morris Endeavor and only succeeded by pulling himself up, step by step.

He worked with stars like John Legend and Oprah Winfrey before launching his own multi-platform media company, Macro Ventures, which was behind the production of Denzel Washington's Academy Award-nominated feature film "Fences" in 2016, and more recently, the acclaimed indie film "Mudbound," which Variety predicts may be the first Netflix feature to compete for an Oscar.

King attributes his accomplishments to a simple mental trick that he calls the "as if theory."

It involves, he tells CNBC Make It, acting as if you already are what you strive to become. Like dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have, it helps better position you to achieve your dreams.

Producer Cassian Elwes, honoree Mary J. Blige, producer Kim Roth, and producer Charles D. King attend the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards
Neilson Barnard | Getty Images
Producer Cassian Elwes, honoree Mary J. Blige, producer Kim Roth, and producer Charles D. King attend the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards

From his first day on the job at William Morris, King explains that, although he was just a trainee, he did everything as though he were already an agent. "I read publications, I was analyzing deals, I was networking," he says.

Even during that early stage of his career, he brought in clients, such as the Grammy Award-winning hip hop and R&B singer Missy Elliott.

He also knew he had to look the part. Before he began in the mailroom, he scrounged together the cash to buy two Armani suits, because he saw that's what agents were wearing. He knew that, if he looked the part of an agent himself, he was more likely to get cast.

Charles D. King, CEO of Macro Ventures
Charles D. King, CEO of Macro Ventures

From the time he graduated from Howard Law School, he had one plan: to run his own media company with a multicultural focus. He even made a note of it in his commencement book.

"If you're planning on making an entrepreneurial play at some point," says King, "think about the long game. Have a long-term vision."

He climbed the ladder, he says, with that vision in mind, always thinking to himself that he should "act as if." And it worked.

He became an agent, and then a vice president, and then a senior vice president. Finally he was named the first African American partner at William Morris. But he wasn't done.

"Think about the long game. Have a long-term vision." -Charles D. King, CEO of Macro Ventures

"When I was a partner at WME," he says, "I'd already started establishing myself and building relationships in other sectors as though I were the CEO of a company." He recognized that "CEOs of companies understand multiple disciplines."

For example, "they have relationships with people on Wall Street," he says. "They have relationships with people in the tech sector." They even meet politicians and become involved in that community, too. He made sure to forge those same relationships and, with them, he was able to leave WME and found Macro.

So, step by step, King made his dream a reality. From outset of his career, he consistently assumed the roles and responsibilities of his superiors until he became one of them and, eventually, exactly who he wanted to be.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a great time to reflect, to evaluate the past and to think about what you want to change. And, as King's example shows, becoming the person you aspire to be is more than possible, once you start acting as if you know you can.

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Video by Richard Washington