The Value of Persistence and Producing Volumes of Work
If I could summarize this post to the tune of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic musical, Hamilton:
“Giving up is easy, sticking it out is harder.”
(Hamilton fans, I know you just sang that line in your head.)
Today I share with you a motivational excerpt from Current TV’s 2009 interview with Ira Glass, host of the popular public radio show, This American Life.
In this interview, Glass speaks candidly about advice he wishes he received when he first started out in radio.
His message transcends all mediums and serves as an inspirational reminder that mastery, or the art of really honing your craft, requires practice, patience and persistence.
Here’s Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish someone had told this to me…all of us who do creative work…we get into it because we have good taste.
But it’s like there’s a gap.
That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. Ok? It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making…is kind of a disappointment you.
A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit.
And the thing that I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.
The thing is…everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase, you gotta know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story.
It’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap, and the work you’re making is going to be as good as your ambitions.
In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met.
It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while.
And you just have to fight your way through that.”
Ira Glass, 2009
Excerpt from Interview by Current TV (via Public Radio International)
“Ira Glass on Storytelling Part 3”
. . .
Most of us start off excited and full of passion about our goals and dreams.
But the moment we hit a snag or failure, our excitement melts into hesitation and self-doubt.
We start questioning our abilities and whether we have what it takes to succeed.
We start saying things like:
- Be realistic…
- That’s not practical…
- I don’t know what I was thinking…
- It’s a pipe dream…
Rather than keeping our eyes on the prize and just doing the work, we focus our precious energy on all the ways things could go wrong.
We’re so convinced of our eventual failure that we quit, thinking that doing so will spare us from future pain.
The danger of quitting is that it gets a little easier each time.
When we consistently quit the moment things get hard, it’s difficult for our brains to trust that we’re capable of seeing anything to fruition.
And so we keep quitting.
Our actions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Ira Glass tells us that excellence takes time and a lot of work. Too many of us expect greatness without putting in the effort, and when our work fails to live up to our own expectations, we get discouraged and quit.
The sad thing is we often quit right before a breakthrough.
If we can just hold on, keep working and fight through the desire to retreat, we will find success.
Most importantly, we will begin to trust ourselves.
When we know in our hearts that we can do hard things, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.
Have a great week.
Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash