Now bear with me here. If you’re following me on twitter, you may be concerned for my mental health between the title of this blog and my last twitter. I assure you they’re unrelated.
I was just going back through some old emails and found some back and forth between myself and a reproductions printer. I had sent the printer a headshot that I had shot from a recent shoot to get reproduced into multiple copies for my client. To me and my client, the image looked just fine. But when I sent it to the printer he sent me back a list of things that needed corrected on the image, and offered to take care of the retouching for an additional fee. At first I thought this was just the typical upsell; sort of like when you get your oil change and they offer to replace your air filter for about twice as much as it would cost had you just replaced it yourself. I kindly declined the printer’s offer, wherein he promptly replied back that he could not be responsible if the image did not come out correctly. Now he had offended my sensibility! I took the image back to the client, who still agreed with me that things looked fine. After a call to the printer to demand the reasoning behind the alleged need for the retouches, I realized that this guy was dead serious. He spouted off a list of the most miniscule things that could be corrected, changed, or retouched, and it finally dawned on me–this guy is so good at what he does that he actually sees things that no one else can see!
It kind of reminded of when I was in theatre working with different sound technicians. If you’ve worked with sound techs before, then you know that they’re all crazy (and I say that with a lot of love)! The good ones hear things that normal people do not. Have they literally expanded their hearing beyond the range of normal human beings? Maybe they’ve developed some superhuman powers that we are not privy to unless we also get bit by a radioactive spider? A quck test with a dog whistle shoots that theory down. The real reason is that they have trained themselves to listen to sound in a whole new way.
Just like the sound guy and the printer, we need to train ourselves to look and see and think in a whole new way. The reason these people are so good at what they do is that they’ve broken down their craft into micro-units. They master all of these micro-units first before moving on to the next thing, and then all of a sudden they’re not only experts at what they do, but they begin to see and hear and think about their craft on a completely different level than the rest of us.
Josh Waitzkin does a great job of illustrating this in his book “The Art of Learning.” Josh was the subject of the movie “Searching for Bobbie Fischer.” The book is part auto-biographical, and part technique. It delves into how he used this same technique of breaking things down into micro-units and applied it to becoming the national chess champion, and then applying the same technique years later to become the international champion in Push-Hands, a form of martial arts.
No matter what your craft is–acting, marketing, chess, printing, or whatever–you owe it to yourself to become that crazy guy who hears things. Be the one who can see things in a different way. Not only will you rise to the top of your field, you’ll be the one that everyone wants to hire.