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In keeping with the themes of getting a Late Start and having Persistence, particularly as it applies to a recently begun voice over or acting career, but really as it pertains to just about ANY new endeavor, this week we’re going to talk about what it take to become a master at your craft (whatever it is). Thanks to Justin Knott for reminding me about this!
We’ve talked about this before…kinda
Now to be sure, I have hinted at this idea in several posts, but I’ve not delved deeply into it at all. It can be frustrating and intimidating to start something new, whether it is a hobby, a passion, or a business. Or maybe a hobby or passion TURNED business. In case you didn’t realize this, when you are just getting started in something, you are typically not very good at it…and certainly not a master.
Not just you, everyone.
I could do that…
I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? Think of someone you know who is REALLY talented at something. Do you wish you were as good, as experienced, as accomplished at it as they are? I know I do, and I think that’s pretty normal. How many people wish they could be a rock star, or a famous actor, a professional sports figure or even an accomplished magician? My guess is, almost everyone at some time in their life looked at someone and thought “Man, they really have it easy. I wish I were a ______________. (Fill in the blank yourself here. Use extra paper if you have more than one like me).
We all start somewhere
Here’s the thing: None of the people you aspire to be like started out as a master at what they do. Every single one of them started out just like you: A novice.
Sure, many, if not most, of them had some innate talent. They could at least DO what they were striving for, even if not very well. But you know what? YOU have some innate talent too. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know if what you are good at is what you want to perfect, but you HAVE some innate talent for something.
An overnight success…later
In previous posts, I’ve said that it takes 20 years to become an overnight success, and while I STILL have no idea who said that first so I can properly attribute it, that doesn’t make it any less true.
What I am trying to say to all of you new voice over artists and aspiring actors is this: Don’t lose hope because you don’t start off booking every gig you audition for, or even most of them ( Any of them?). Surely it can be discouraging, but if you remember that each and every person whose name you recognize immediately at one point was a “nobody” trying to become the person they are now.
How did they get there?
The answer to that question is easy, although accomplishing it isn’t. Time and hard work.
A LOT of time. A lot of time working hard.
It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft. Go back and read that again, and make sure to note the comma. TEN THOUSAND hours. For those of you not great at maths, let me break that down for you.
10,000 hours, if you could work at it 24 hours a day, would take you 416 and 2/3 days to reach. You read that right, if you did NOTHING else but practice and perfect your craft, it would take about 14 months to master it.
No one can work 24 hours a day at something!
Not for more than one day anyway. So let’s assume you had nothing else to do, but needed to sleep 8 hours a day, how long would it take THEN? Well, assuming you could work on your craft 16 hours a day it would take you 625 days to master it. That’s 1 3/4 years. Doing nothing but sleeping and practicing. I suppose it could be done, but you’d be divorced (or never married) and your kids would wonder who you were when you emerged from whatever cave you were working in.
Practically speaking, you probably have a lot more demands on your life than working to perfect your craft. You have family and friends. You probably need to eat, shower, relax, go to the store…and a myriad of other “life” things that need to be done and that take away from your being able to master a craft. So, let’s be reasonable and assume that you could work at your craft like a job and devote 8 hours a day, 5 days a week to it. How long would THAT take to master something? Hold onto your hats. If you could devote what amounts to a full-time job to mastering your craft, 40 hours a week, it would take you 4 and 3/4 YEARS to become a master.
But…I don’t have THAT much time!
Right, and frankly neither does anyone else! Odds are that you ae still working at a “day job” so that you can have a roof over your head and food on the table, you probably have family obligations like taking out the trash, doing the dishes and driving the kids to their soccer games as well. If you are like MOST people who start out on the road to fame and fortune (HA HA HA) as a voice over artist or actor, you have on average 2-3 hours per day to devote to training and practice.
Realistically, unless you are independently wealthy, single, childless, socially awkward with few to no friends and absolutely dedicated to mastering something, you have at most 2-3 hours (or less) a day. Let’s assume you are fantastically dedicated and devote 3 hours a day, 7 days a week to this endeavor. How long till you master it? Did you figure it out yet? It’s a little over 9 years. NINE YEARS! That’s right, pretty much a decade JUST to master the craft. Then of course you ‘ll need to be discovered by actually DOING it and showing off your mastery. Apparently, give the “20 years to become an overnight success”, it’ll take another decade to let everyone know you are a master!
The truth is, even that 3 hours a day average is probably too much. There will be vacations, and Holidays, and family visits where you will be expected to be “present” and not working on your craft. There will be times when you are discouraged and exhausted and feel like you just don’t have anything left to give. This is normal, this is life, so don’t beat yourself up if you “put it down” for a while to recharge and renew.
Why did I write all of that?
All of that to say – keep going. Don’t be discouraged if you are not yet where you want to be (well, unless you’ve ALREADY been doing this for 20 years and getting nowhere, which is unlikely, in which case you should pick something else). Keep at it until ONE day YOU are the master, YOU are the one people look at and wish they had what you have, Keep training, keep practicing, keep improving.
Along the way…
Here’s what you’ll find. Along the way as you continue to improve and get closer and closer to mastery, you WILL start booking more gigs. You DON’T have to be a master to be successful and remember there are degrees of success. It’s overwhelming to think about reaching that 10,000-hour mark without setting goals for intermediate milestones along the way. Make sure to set goals for yourself…both ultimate goals AND intermediate goals so you can know you are making progress toward reaching mastery. I can’t tell you what those goals should be because they’ll be different for each person. Just find a way to measure progress toward your ultimate goal of mastery and then track it. Each milestone reached will give you encouragement to head for the next one.
How do you eat an elephant?
Most of you have probably heard this 1000 (not 10,000) times, but how does one eat an elephant? Desmond Tutu, a South Africa cleric and theologian says, “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Whatever you are trying to master is like eating an elephant. It can’t be done all at once, and it is going to take time. What are you waiting for!? Get started right away, it’s going to take a while!