Hard Work Or Talent, Which Comes First?

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The 10.000 hours hands bleeding formula?

”…Life after college sucks. It really does. I mean, I don’t know, at least it did for me, but that’s the only thing I know. You just get a bit derailed. But soon something starts to happen, trust me. A rhythm sets in. Just like it did after your first few days here. Just try not to wait until, like me, you’re 29 until you find it. And if you are that’s fine too, some of us never find it…” – Peter Dinklage / Actor

Check those actors and artists out, what do you see? The fame, flashing lights and glory. Before that glorious day happens, did you know they were once kicked out in the streets without a dime or crashing in someone else’s couch for months…years? The vast majority of their peers that are still in the dark. The industry -Hollywood- is cruel. Many people, especially young graduates or artists, for obvious reasons, are craving for success. Very few end up successful, this is sad. How did they lost their groove? Many questions need to be asked and that’s what I’m going to talk about in this article.

What do you want to achieve?
Being clear about what you want to do is the key to your success. But be careful, money is everywhere and is clearly not what drives people to accomplish amazing things. What’s the money to an NBA athlete, multiple time MVP, without any rings? What’s the money to a terminally-ill oscar winning filmmaker? What’s the money to a football manager who won every championships except in one country? The list goes on. Please tell us: what is your clear vision of success?

Do you really have to count? 
Before getting to the Oscars, the championship trophies or rings, you’ll be hearing that there are no gains without pains. Huh, sorry, it doesn’t have to be painful! Today, you will play guitar (for example) until your finger hurt. Or you’ll beat those drums like crazy and bleed like Andrew in ‘Whiplash’ movie. Tomorrow it’s going to be another story. Another example, you’ll kill your eyes on the computer screen because you have to finish a design project. You forget that you have to be healthy. Do that thing you love everyday first, but don’t go insane losing your life balance. There’s no glory in getting no sleep or no social life, your craft needs those ingredients too, badly. Build a strong work ethic increments by increments. The 10.000 hours rules is a cliché, when you practice until it becomes second nature, you definitely lose the count.

Do you have it in you?
I have to confess, I jumped into the “Yes You Can Code!” bandwagon…I’ve downloaded 12 gigabytes of Android Development Course. As soon as I started, the only thing that captivates me was the UI/UX part. Coding? Pfff, I wanted to skip that part! I like to see things: the Desiiiiiign! It didn’t took me hours of video tutorial to figure this out. Just say no. When you dont’ feel like it, don’t waste your time.

Do you know the rules?
To play the blues you have to know your scales and guitar fretboard, there’s no way around. To gain speed you have to go slow and there are hands exercise for that. Drawing? Photography? They are all about actually learning to see the shapes or the light! Once you know the rules you’ll start break them and your own style will pop.

Do you bend your craft’s perception ?
Photographers don’t click buttons they see the different facets of light and serve them to you in a canvas; graphic designers are not copying and pasting things around, they are visual problem solvers; actors are amazing liars who embody the right doses of romance, drama or action that will make your heart move, no matter what. You know what they say about Miles Davis? That he could actually paint the music with his instrument. Wow!

Are you in constant state of awe?
If your not in the right mood, you’ll miss the shot. Before you do your daily practice, find inspiration and observe the masters at their craft. It can be a book, a video, a song, a concert. Masters will make you very uncomfortable, asking yourself “how does he/she do it?” until you get it right. 

Are you in the right environment?
There are countries where you’ll find that your industry is in very bad shape: no cinemas, very few creative agencies/music labels, no clear artists rights. To be ‘in the moment’ you’d need to go where amazing things are happening. Surrounding yourself with talents will tremendously improve your craft, the easiest way. Before that moment happens, you can use social media to link up, LinkedIN is a big house where the next amazing talent is one click or call away. I see no strangers here, just opportunities.

Where is/are your mentor(s)?
Mentor, it’s a rare species. They are the type of person you leave voicemails to. I once requested a mentorship and was asked to pay for it. Let’s be persistent and follow the people we admire to learn from them. They HAVE TO tell us how they got there and we should make our duty to relentlessly ask them.  A leader is nothing without the tribe.

Do you know that you suck?
Knowing something and doing something is two very different things. It’s in the awareness that you need to apply where change really happen. When you make music in your basement, design or draw a piece without actually sharing them: you are in airplane mode and not aware. Are you afraid, you have all the rights to be. It’s not a big deal, the door to improvement got the words “You suck!” written on it.

Is your failing mode on?
Go fail and fail hard. There are multiple ways of failing, your work can be rejected, your blog article can go down the drain -tell me about it Lionel! :)- you can get a gig get hired, do the job very well, your client then will ask you some free design work, you say no and that’s it! You’ll get your money -or not totally- and will never see the client again. That’s a type of failure. Like I told you, it’s never about the money but strong relationships. Will you have the courage to change your blueprint when facing failure?

Will you force your destiny?
I read that amazing story about Ridley Scott, the filmmaker. He met his success at 40 years old and, before that, it was a rollercoaster of little success and big failure. He stalked some ad agency executives in the elevator with only his portfolio in his hand, and pitched them all the way up. That’s how he got the job, the rest is history.

For decades the formula to success has been hard work. I guess it’s still the case. As far as i’m concerned, getting the right habits is the most difficult part of it. Please let me us know, in the comment section below, the challenges you face on your path to success and your insights. We could learn something from you that will help us find our groove again!