Mastery and perspective

You might think, like I did, that being in the film industry doesn't lend itself to mastery given you’re not actually on set that often. Between developing the screenplay, trying to finance the film, pre-production and then post-production, you’re likely on set for less than five percent of the whole process. Not to mention that you’re probably only producing one film a year, if you’re lucky!

In fact, the same is true for many creative pursuits. How can you reach the 10,000-hour rule if you’re not practising your craft every day?

The question I have for you is this: if you’re working a job or freelancing, are you looking at that work as boring and meaningless, or are you looking it as an apprenticeship and an opportunity to build your skills? Are you present while you’re doing the work and reflecting on it each day, or are you dreaming of a future and not really engaging with the work? 

In the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, we learn that when Jiro takes on new apprentices he starts by teaching them how to wring out a wet towel because those are necessary for good hygiene. Only when the apprentice has wrung a towel to Jiro’s satisfaction, does he or she move onto handling food. And even then, we find out that the apprentice must flip ‘nori’ seaweed for months, even years before they can fry an egg. 

I’m often envious of freelancers for having the ability to work on their craft and be paid for it, every single day. To me, that’s like winning the lottery. But how many of those people are working on commercial jobs for clients with the perspective that the work is beneficial to building their craft? Sure, we’d all much rather be on set shooting features, or in the studio recording an album, as I’m sure Jiro's apprentices would much prefer to be running their own Sushi restaurant. But while you can dream big it’s those mundane everyday tasks, done over and over until perfected, that create masters. 

You might also argue that you’re working a job that is completely unrelated to you craft. In response I would pose this question: who do you think is the most OG freelancer?

I’m guessing you wouldn’t say Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart... We think of Mozart as a child prodigy; a man who didn’t have to worry about making money, finding love and being creatively fulfilled. A man who spent every waking hour composing the most famous symphonies in history.

 Alas, we're wrong!

After an intense training during his childhood, Mozart was sent away by his father to work for European nobility and send money home. In 1781, after years searching for a job, Mozart settled in Vienna as a freelance composer and performer. Like all of us, he needed money to survive! So, what did his routine look like?

5.30am - 7am - wake up, do his hair, get dressed
7am - 9am - compose
9am - 1pm - give lessons to make money
1pm - 2pm - eat lunch
2pm - 5pm - visit potential patrons who would fund his creative pursuits
5pm - 9pm - compose or go to a concert
9pm - 11pm - visit his girlfriend
11pm - 1am - compose  

Sounds hectic, right?! As Mozart said: “Altogether I have so much to do that often I do not know whether I am on my head or my heels.” So, no matter what else is going on in your life, there is always time to pursue your creative vision. We might not all have Mozart's potential, but we all have 24 hours in the day.

If you’re serious about your craft, you need to be working on it every single day. There is no excuse for not being engaged in the work that you are doing and finding a way for that work to feed into training for your ultimate goal. And there is no excuse for not finding the time to develop your craft.

Every day and every interaction is an opportunity to work on your craft. Make it count!