Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Taiko

I recently watched the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi", about an 85-year-old Japanese sushi chef who is obsessed with making perfect sushi and is as near perfection in his craft as anyone will come.
His philosophy of how to get better at things applies to any skill or craft, and I of course thought about applying them to taiko.  He mentions the three points in bold below; I’ve expounded on the ideas further.

1.) Hard Work

A given, right?  When you want to improve on your skills, you have to work on them: repetition of correct motions, a little sweat, a lot of sweat, learning to adjust to what your teachers tell you, etcetera etcetera etcetera.  If you’re doing taiko, then you’re doing this.

2.) Talent

No matter how much you practice something, the only way to take things to the next level is to have a least a modicum of talent at it.  Let’s say I have no talent in ballet (I know, hard to imagine.)  I can study the movements and I will get better to a point.  After a while however, without some sort of talent, I will only be able to achieve small increments of progress instead of breakthroughs.

3. Hard Work

Having talent is not enough, because talent only takes you so far.  You then have to go back and work hard with that talent to take you to the next level.

- - -

This philosophy is easy to understand, but I want to address a few points.

I know that some of you that are reading this are thinking “I don’t have talent, so what's the point of working so hard to get better?”  I *know* some of you are because I’ve heard it directly (and tried to shake some sense into you, too.)  Stop it!

Even if you feel you may not have talent in something, it doesn’t mean you can't enjoy it and get better at it!  You working hard may result in a stronger artist that those with talent who do not.  Not having "talent" doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy your art or feel satisfaction from it, nor does it mean others won’t receive pleasure from your efforts.

“Talent” can come from many different things and it’s not always directly in the art form one practices.  Looking at ballet again, one might have talent in ballet, or in movement, or in body mechanics, or in martial arts, etc.  They all relate to “talent” and all apply here.

For those who work hard, find their talent, and work hard still, I don’t think this philosophy ends there.  I think it continues until you stop trying to reach that pinnacle of perfection.  If you find your talent and work hard on it, there might be another level of talent that comes into play in finer details or related activities.  Then you should work on on those.  And then if you find you have talent in things that come from there, then work hard yet again, and so on.  That cycle may never end, if you follow it intently enough.

The most important thing here is not whether you have talent or not, or whether you feel you have talent or not.  It's how hard you want work at what you have and being the best artist you can be.

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