Friday, December 26, 2008

Precise Procedure 12/26/08

I'm always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.

Pablo Picasso

I once knew a very religious fellow who, with almost no experience, got a job as a home construction worker. I saw him one day and asked him how it was going. He replied "Well, today the Lord taught me how to install a ceiling."

Several times in my life I have taken on the challenge of doing things I knew almost nothing about. In my late teens I was hired as an actor. I had talent and some ability but very little experience. I went to work carefully observing the other, more experienced actors around me. I bought books on the subject to give me an idea of the scope and dimensions of what I should be doing. I did a lot of homework with the script and the director's notes. I was slowly learning the craft. I did well enough to be hired again and again, and so spent most of my life as an actor. I got good enough so that a New York City critic wrote "His versatility is awe inspiring."

When I first got a job as a radio announcer, I didn't even know how to turn the microphone on. I sat down in front of a control board with a row of knobs and switches and a few meters. I tried turning them on and off while saying "Hello." Finally one of the meters flapped so I knew I was on the air. I introduced the first record, turned all the other knobs up, started the record and turned all the knobs down, one by one, until I found the one that made the meter move. From there I figured out where the next turntable was attached. By the end of my shift I knew 100% more about broadcasting than I did when I started, which was nothing. I learned even more by watching the other announcers and engineers work. Broadcasting was a part time job for me when I wasn't acting, but I was eventually welcomed as a part timer for a major market radio station in New York.

I took life drawing classes at an art school in New York. On my first day the model was a big man, over 6 feet tall and very husky. It was a 10 minute pose and what I drew was about 4 inches tall in the middle of the page. I used to keep it around just to show myself what I didn't know. I became annoyed with myself because I couldn't do it. I was at the point when most people would give up. But I signed up for classes all day, everyday, 6 days a week. When I wasn't working I was at the art school drawing. Until one day I finally saw what the instructors had been trying to show me about the human figure. Soon, the school was putting my drawings up for exhibit along with the more advanced students. And people in the class were moving over to sit next to be to see what I was doing so that they could learn from me.

I'm retired now, but in all of those areas, acting, broadcasting and drawing I can still do better. I'm no Picasso. But almost everything I've done in my life I did Picasso's way. You have to go into the water if you want to learn how to swim.

Macbeth said "And if we fail?"
His wife answered "We fail. But screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail."


DB - Vagabond Journeys


Beth said...

I think some of us (ME) are sometimes afraid to attempt something new because of the fear of failure. It's hard to put yourself out there knowing that you might not be able to do well. It takes bravery to do that, and in that respect, I'm not a brave person. You are.

Hugs, Beth

Beth said...

I love the addendum, and will think of it the next time I don't feel I have the courage to undertake something new!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

One of the reasons Beth and I are such a good team is that while she may be hesitant to attempt some new things, I will jump in with both feet and forge the way ahead.

Big Mark 243 said...

I really like this post ... A LOT. In fact, part of this spirit is why I want to go to Nebraska, thinking it is better to go down in flames, than to slowly boil just standing in one spot!

Though I could have had more success in my life, I do like that instead of just 'wanting', I tried to get 'it', and still haven't stopped. Mark Twain said something about 'with ignorance and confidence, success is assured'.

I stay ignorant. And I think it is going to happen for me. Still!

a corgi said...

good entry, DB; we do have to go into the water if we want to learn how to swim; and we have to be realistic that we may sink a bit as we learn, but we keep doing our best to press on to learn that new task, hobby, ability, etc!

Happy New Year!


Joann said...

Very good and thought provoking entry. I think I'm a person who is afraid to try new things on my own without direction... but this entry is inspiring!! Thank you!!

Breezy said...

Wow this post sounds real familiar. Did you repost it from your previous blog? Or maybe we all just talked about taking on new challenges and learning new things before in a different post. But I am the worst about jumping in all excited to learn something new. I usually dread it, but eventially with the way progress and things of the future are I am forced to learn new things and adapt. Every 3-5 years at work we get new instruments or new computer software and there I am learning a whole new thing. Other things that you have a choice to learn on your own or not, because of curiosity or a passion I seem to work a little harder at. Other things I want to do, but can't get over the fear of failure to try and do it. Not to say I will never try it.. just have to take baby steps to get there.

Joyce said...

I have always found learning new things very stressful. I have a fear of failure, even though I have not failed at many things in my life. I enjoy being the SME (subject matter expert) and knowing more than anyone else on a particular subject. Wonder what that says about me?
Hugs, Joyce