The 2K11 24/7 XXVIII: Do you REALLY want to improve as much as you THINK you do?

Hello there, universe; let’s see how much of this post I can get out of my brain before I hit the hay for the night. So. The question arises – how much do you want to improve? No, seriously — think about it. How much do you really want to improve? We often complain about the places that we’re in in our lives. A job we don’t want. Tons of debt in our bank accounts. There’s problems everywhere and no solution anywhere in sight. You want to give up because it’s so overwhelming. People tell you it’ll get better, but you just can’t seem to figure out how.

I’m here to tell you that things will improve. For sure, they will. But you need to want to make it happen. That’s right — improvement is going to take WORK.
Over the month so far, I’ve told you about different ways in which you can improve your life. Some might not be so applicable for you, but as I’m starting to discover amongst my friends both old and new — they at least apply to someone. People are writing again (thanks for the shout-out, G – I’m really happy that you’re back at it!); people gain inspiration from them – this tells me something. People genuinely want to improve. People know that oftentimes, their lives can be better than they currently are, but the entire idea of life is one thing. Making it happen is another thing entirely.

Let’s take a case study here — the story of a young Amir Avni. To put it briefly, when he was 14, he was an “aspiring young cartoonist” who wanted to improve at his trade. So he sent a letter that would — at the time unbeknownst to him — would set the tone for his life. He wrote a letter to Jim Kricfalusi, likely better known to you as the creator of Ren & Stimpy. He was kind enough to reply to this then-teenager with a long letter full of encouragement, advice and enough reality to light a serious fire under young Amir’s ass. Amir at this point had one of two choices:

  • Get discouraged by how much work it is to be a serious artist, noting that Jim was more or less telling him to repeat the same work over and over until he got it right; or
  • Rise to the challenge and put in the multiple hours it would take to get to the place he could only at that time imagine being

Fortunately, he chose the second path – as of the time the article I linked to was written last year January, Amir was a 4th year student at Sheridan College in the Animation program, with a portfolio that’s a testament to the fact that he put in the time necessary to get much farther than he had been at the time where he’d written that letter!
Some people call me an artist. Me — I consider myself more of a “guy who happens to draw sometimes”. My peers who eat, live and breathe art are the ones who I consider the artists. You have Aaron Ong, who posts conversational videos of himself sketching on YouTube when he’s not busy with all of the paid animation projects that he’s working on (i.e. it doesn’t leave him much time to post videos!). In the video below, he laments that he sees so many people with potential who simply choose to not grow further because they’re unwilling to put in the work necessary to get to “the next level”:

While I was writing this, I was chatting with another peer, friend and quite honestly, one of the more talented guys I know, German Shible. At first we spoke of the difference between the improvement one gleans from hard work (link slightly NSFW – figure study) and the quick wins that one might obtain through luck. He maintains that although he’s been drawing all his life, all the art that came before the figure study linked above was the product of luck, with no control over his creative ability. With the work put in to gain control over his ability to then further refine it, he can now produce things that are closer to his vision of what he should be doing.
He then proceeded to drop this gem on me:
and a thought: It’s not enough to WANT to improve oneself. one has to NEED it. Desire means nothing. This goes for art and life.” — German Shible
Seriously, it’s pretty true. If there’s not a distinct need behind your perceived need for improvement, it’s not likely going to happen. The best art (visual, musical, whatever) comes from strife and conflict. People hone their crafts to escape bad situations. People will improve if it is the sole thing that continues to define their livelihood. Any celebrity who we see as “timeless” didn’t get where they are overnight — if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you’ll know  that he theorizes that we need about 10,000 hours of practicing a task to master it. 10,000 hours. That’s no number to sneeze at!

  • 10,000 hours = 416.7 days non-stop
  • Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep a night, and 2 hours per day for hygiene and food, that means it’ll take 714.3 days non-stop to do so
  • If you’re trying to master your job and you only choose to put in the time during a 40-hour work week, that’s 250 weeks to get to 10,000 hours right there if you take no vacations — or 4.795, almost 5 years
  • Oh, and it gets better. If the thing you want to master isn’t your job and you’re working full-time (40 hours per week), and get 8 hours of sleep per night and take 2 hours per day for hygiene, guess what? That’s still 3.299 years of your spare time to master it — and that’s assuming if you don’t factor in kids, relationships, commuting, socializing, etc. etc. etc.

What I’m trying to tell you is that no matter how you go about instilling permanent improvement in your life, it’s going to take a LONG time to create your ideal situation! That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it — it’s more a push to start now! Stop thinking and start doing! I actually moved a whole ‘nother blog post to a later date, because I felt that this was way more important. I want you to go take a baby step. Right now. I want you to do something small better than you did it before. Floss extra well. Clean up after yourself a little more. Try to be nicer to the person who gets on your nerves. Just take something and do it better!
And when you do it, come back and tell me about it! Go ahead. Tell me what it is you want to improve in, and your drive that makes you want to do it! Let’s all empower each other!
I’m out, friends! Have a great one!

–case p.

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