An Internet meme that is making the rounds concerns a college pottery class. On the first day of the semester, the instructor divides the group into Group A and Group B. Group A will be graded solely on the quality of the pot they submit at semester’s end. Group B will be graded only on the total weight of pots produced. Fifty pounds of pottery gets you an A, forty a B, and so on. The class will collectively decide on “quality” ratings for all creations.
The “punchline” for this story is that in the entire history of the class, the “best” pots have always come from the high volume group. Why? Because they constantly improved their methodology through repetition while the “artsy” group argued about what beauty was and kept starting over.
I am not sure if that meme is true but it contains enough “truth” to merit further discussion. Only a lucky few have “natural talent” at anything. The rest of us have to practice, practice, and practice some more. Malcomb Gladwell’s famous 10,000 hour “rule” is frequently cited to encourage us, but I have never seen the statistical data behind that magic number.
If you get great teaching or coaching, your results may improve. Nothing will help if you don’t get your “reps” in, however. Conversely, bad teaching or coaching may be impossible to overcome.
In recent years, our industry has finally begun to pay attention to third party training. Some of the top people in the world are willing to share their experience and knowledge. But much like televised art classes, just listening to the lecture won’t result in instant masterpieces. You will have to do the work. Some of your output will be ugly and your co-workers will be happy to tease you about your “failures.”
The only way to achieve greatness is to keep plugging away. Our magazine once used Leonardo di Vinci’s sketches as cover art. How many rough drafts did the master toss into the fireplace before deciding to keep the ones we now celebrate?