A while back, I posted one of my paintings on Instagram, and someone wrote: “I love your art! Is there an app for that?”. Having absolutely no idea what to reply, I just said: yeah. It’s called years of trial / error, failure, frustration, and practice. She didn’t respond, and un-followed me.
I must admit that after her comment floated around my head for a while, it didn’t seem quite as absurd as it initially had. In a world where we’re promised instant fixes for everything with a pill, a milkshake or a YouTube tutorial, it’s not shocking that people turn to apps to become instantly “good” at things.
To take gorgeous pictures, you no longer need to know photography or even Photoshop – you have Instagram, Afterlight, and countless instant tools/filters that do it all for you with the press of a button. Phone cameras now are better than professional movie-grade ones from a few years back, and the advent of apps such as Hyperlapse make it possible for regular Joes to film as well as DOPs (directors of photography).
But there are still some things that can’t be faked.
There are still things in life that to become good at, we have no choice but to do the work. Take yoga, for example. Yoga doesn’t lie. I won’t lie either and say that it’s all peace, love and floating on a cloud. No, it’s fucking hard.
Making time for a solid practice 6 to 7 days a week takes more than just “sending good vibes out to the universe”. It takes discipline, sacrifice, and some days forcing yourself to get past your hangover, bad mood or fatigue, dragging yourself to your mat, and putting in the work.
You can’t FAKE yoga. Okay, I take that back. Maybe you can in pictures, but you can’t keep up the farce if you’re expecting to teach it to others. When you’re standing in front of a room full of people waiting for you to guide them through their practice, they’ll catch on pretty quickly if you don’t live what you preach.
You can’t become a good writer by reading about writing or reading without actually writing anything yourself. All the spellchecks and google translates in the world won’t replace the repetitive action of actually DOING what’s required: writing.
You can’t be a good ballerina just because you really really want to be, and you can’t call yourself an “actor” if your craft consists of watching reality shows.
And I’m sorry to break it to you: you won’t become good at anything overnight, just because you’ve been told your whole life that you’re special.
Becoming good at something requires putting in time. It’s about dedication and personal investment, which usually come with a price. You can be born with a talent, but talent is nothing without the work. And to do the work, you have to be honest with yourself and figure out WHY you want to master something.
If you’re pursuing someone else’s dream or just chasing the end-prize such as fame, fortune and glory, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you’re honest with yourself, and are doing something because you truly love it (and not what it’s gonna “get” you in the end), the journey then BECOMES the destination, and you’ll fall in love with the ride, bumps and all.
And this is where the WHY becomes pivotal. When I was young and still chased after things I thought I should want because they looked good on Melrose Place, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. Not because I necessarily believed in universal justice or even wanted to help create a better world, but because I really liked the outfits the TV lawyers wore when they walked assertively into a courtroom and the convertibles they drove away from it in.
TV didn’t show me the sleepless nights law students spent studying, the ridiculous amount of work they put in, or the student loans they were left with after the pursuit of their education was over.
Needless to say, I was miserable while doing my Criminology degree, and as soon as I graduated I fucked off to Asia, re-grouped (for three years), figured out what I actually wanted to spend my time pursuing, and eventually moved back to Montreal to live out my real passion: art and design.
And because it was MINE, not someone else’s, all the late work-nights, the frustration, insecurity, disappointment, tears, second-guessing, re-starting, re-doing and fine-tuning actually made me HAPPY, and the PROCESS of learning and becoming good at something became an end in itself.
A woman once told me to do what I love, and the rest will follow. She was very wise, and very right. Because if your intentions are true, you will love what you are doing enough to do it often, and eventually to do it WELL. And even after you’re “good” at it, you won’t want to stop. You’ll keep going, you’ll keep doing, you’ll keep learning, and you’ll keep getting better. There’s no “end” result. The journey simply becomes the destination, and you’ll enjoy the ride.
And while you’re enjoying the ride, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Nothing happens overnight. Often we see someone who’s “made” it, and we think: “if he/she can do it, so can I!” And I’m not saying that we CAN’T, I’m just saying that we’re only seeing the result, and not all the work that led up to it. It all comes down to time invested.
And if I hear one more person using the Kardashians as a reference point for fame, glory and talent, I will invent a “shut the fuck up ” app and use it. Because the Kardashian fame is based on a sex tape, zero talent, questionable work ethic, and a whole lot of luck. They should not be looked at as examples of things to strive for, but the opposite.
So ask yourself what you really love to do, and then make time to do it. The more time you put in, the better you’ll become, and you will fall in love with the process of “getting good”.
There’s no app for that. And that’s a wonderful thing.