There’s the plan you make and the one you take. There is what it should be, and there is this.
Success is a business these days. According to Forbes, there are as many videos on YouTube for self-help as there are on PornHub (obviously, this is a fake fact Snopes).
We love to live vicariously through others. We love to pretend we are successful. We love to try, but as Master Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Do the real thing. It’s a scary thought, but it is that simple and that hard.
How many actors do you know that only take classes? How many creatives burnt out through too much schooling? By getting an undergraduate degree in theatre, a master’s in acting, and a doctorate in god knows what? How many writers set their wallets on fire to attain degrees in putting words on paper rather than merely putting words on paper?
How do you build muscle? Is it dialing in your diet and focusing your training in the gym, or is it a secret formula hidden from you for years by the world’s greatest bodybuilders until now this Instagrammer is sharing the secret with you!
Doing the real thing is hard. Doing the real thing sucks. This is why we love watching a movie but hate writing a script. This is why we love talking about backstories rather than memorizing lines. This is why bullshitting your way through life is easy, and mastering a skill takes time.
What is the secret to writing? Writing. What is the secret to dancing? Dancing. It’s not always sexy or glamourous. Coaching is as much about watching film for patterns as it is about being on the field. Acting is as much about memorizing lines and screwing up in rehearsal as it is about performing.
Anytime someone overcomplicates something, they are going to sell you something. Anything worth doing is difficult. In life, nothing comes without a price, and the price for what we want is suffering. While I am not talking about lying on a bed of nails to win your love, I am talking about sacrifice. Only frauds and scams come easy.
The circus we will create for ourselves to avoid the blank page is astounding. We will convince ourselves that the mindless work we are doing, the YouTube videos, the research, the whatever is essential.
Nothing replaces the real thing. If studying was a measure for success, porn addicts would make the best lovers.
So why do we avoid the work? Consuming is safe. We can passively learn, although not really.
When we take action, we take risk. When we do, there is the possibility of failure, of confronting the reality that we are not as good as we think we are, and that terrifies us.
It’s one thing to pretend in our mind that we are a great actor, it’s another thing to audition for a film and be rejected. It’s one thing to talk about movies with friends and a round of beers, it’s another thing entirely to produce and direct a feature.
Fill the big rocks first.
If we do nothing for a moment, rather than consuming another podcast, another episode of Madmen, another how-to video, if we simply quiet our minds, we know what needs to be done.
Instead, we will fill our days with little rocks. There are only 24 hours in a day. Depending on what you need sleep-wise, that number is roughly cut by a third. Now, some people don’t have to work, the rest of us do, and while we fantasize about the day we only do our art from sun up to sun down and get paid vast sums of money, let’s pretend that we have to work 6-8 hours a day. That leaves us eight hours to create, eight hours to do our difficult task. And yet, we will fill that remaining eight hours with the most trivial tasks that have nothing to do with our art.
Rather than filling your day with small, wasteful tasks, what is your one thing? What is the thing you are afraid of? Is it acting? Writing? Dancing? Cooking? Writing your own tv show about dancing while cooking? Do that. Rather than waste your focus and energy on Instagram or Youtube, put that time into your medium. Do the real thing. Don’t ponder the thing. Don’t study the thing. Do the thing.
In fact, if you are stuck and feeling exhausted, do nothing. Rather than filling your time with more activity simply to feel productive only to feel more tired, rest. In fact, we could all use a little more nothing in our days from time to time as opposed to one more thing.
In his book “The Obstacle is the Way,” Ryan Holiday uses stoic practices to teach timeless principles. The lesson is in the title. How do we know what taste to do? Answer, where do we meet resistance? Instead of looking for how to avoid conflict, how do we meet it head-on? Instead of dancing around the subject, how do we use the obstacle?
In dramatic writing, a character is defined through his actions. Not his thoughts. Not his pithy puns or wayward wit. His action. Character is revealed through action. Action is defined through obstacles. Batman is only as good as the villain he faces. The obstacles the protagonist faces and the lessons they reveal about what he wants and who he is are what make a script. Why does the Joker work so well for Bats, because he is the antithesis in every way to the character?
Every hero must face their dragon. No script ever ends with the protagonist avoiding the problem. Even Odysseus, the wise and wily, ultimately has to face his problems. We cannot skirt the issue. We must choose the biggest dragon we can handle and take it on. To choose anything less is to lead a banal life.
Modern society, present times excluded COVID-19, has led us to believe that life is easy, that what we want is just a seminar and a few dollars away. We have been trained to trade money for pleasure, and our wildest desire can be delivered to our door without any real work; however, real things don’t happen that way.
The hard things are hard because it takes the strongest person to attain them. Why do we admire Stephen King? Why do we admire Michael Jordan? Tom Brady? They do the work, and they achieve the results. And yet, what about their opponents? What about Dean Koontz, Charles Barkley, and Matt Ryan? Are they lesser than? Hell no. Dean Koontz has written more stories, Barkley is one of the greatest players of all time, and Matt Ryan leads a hell of a football team. These men, all of them, get up and get things done.
When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to rest, rest. If you do the hard thing, if you do the real thing, then you will know when you have earned your keep. If you shirk the task, then you will keep going back to the well again and again.
Do the work.
Brock D. Vickers
This is the beginning of a new part of life: a habit: an idea: a routine to dig at what makes a man great.