“Tortoise was over the line. After that, Hare always reminded himself, ‘Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!‘“ ~The Tortoise and the Hare (Aesop’s Fables)
I was sitting in an introduction to calligraphy workshop when a fellow student asked the instructor, “What do I need to become a professional Calligrapher, what would it take?”
We were all on the edge of our seats with that one. It was as if we were about to learn the secret ingredient to Grandma’s cookies.
The answer, to our surprise, was pen and paper.
“The materials are no different than that of a novice calligrapher,” the instructor explained.
The distinction between a novice and professional calligrapher is not in the tools they use, but rather in the professional’s commitment to practice, their pace, and the time they took to learn and do something.
The same goes for any professional at their craft.
I recalled a time when I was on a cruise ship and saw all these tourists with huge camera lenses and gadgets for their cameras. I was incredibly impressed and at times intimidated with their gear as I would hold up my own iPhone to snap a quick picture.
After a while of being on board, you get to know one another well. I realized that despite their top tier lens, basically all of their cameras were set in auto mode.
What good is such an advanced lens when you don’t know how to use it?
They had gone from zero to one hundred with no practice, no skills acquired, just fancier devices.
This lesson on the professional calligrapher has always intrigued me.
When we look up to the expert, we assume that increasing the quality of materials or having access to nicer resources is what makes them great. This assumption overlooks the time it would have taken them to learn something new and to achieve their goal.
Instead, we want to cut corners and are looking for the shortcut. We want to make progress as soon as possible, perhaps because we feel behind in life and think we need to hurry to get ahead, or because we think we’ll be happier when we reach our goal.
Cutting corners is not a strategy that necessarily benefits us. It’s a way for us to be more useful and readily available to others, get more things done, and exhibit productivity.
Our concern for positive feedback and acceptance by others keeps us from taking the time to experience something thoroughly for ourselves, just because we enjoy it or are curious about it.
This past year I have been working with my sister to brainstorm new career opportunities. My current goal is to become an independent filmmaker.
Similar to the observations shared above, I found myself quickly approaching the mindset of the calligraphy student: What would it take, what would I need to make the best movies, to be a great filmmaker?
I too, wanted the shortcut. The direct route to achieving my goal. Is there a certain camera lens I need to have, light kit, microphone, or skill that would lead me right to success?
After deep dives into blogs about filmmakers and watching online video subscriptions about filmmaking, it occurred to me that I had all that I needed to accomplish my goal.
There was no shortcut to filmmaking.
It was just going to take time.
Time for me to learn more about the tools that I already had.
Time to pick up my camera and practice shooting interviews.
Time to use a pen and paper to write down script ideas.
Time to make bad videos so that the next time I could make a better video.
Time for repeated effort, continual practice, and eventually, improvement.
It’s easy to get caught wasting time looking for a solution instead of taking time. In the end, we lose energy and motivation looking for the right tools or answers.
We do things with the intention of going fast rather than far. We fixate on the end result and rob ourselves of the fun we’d have and excitement we’d feel if we let ourselves enjoy the journey.
Instead, I’ve learned that I stand with the tortoise, not the hare, “Slow and steady [wins the race].”
Go far. Reach farther. Take the time to become your best self.
About Megan Schowalter
Megan Schowalter is an educator, filmmaker, and Co-SHE-E-O at Aging Courageously.
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