Failing Faster As A Way To Expedite Growth
Could ignoring your initial suckiness be the key to getting good at something?
Recently, I decided to embark upon video-making as a hobby.
It’s been surprisingly all-consuming.
Work responsibilities aside, I’ve thought about relatively little since.
Left to my own devices, with my wife for company (is two years of marriage enough for the ‘long-suffering’ appendage?), I can ruminate for hours about whether my next move should be buying a camcorder gimbal or investing in an i7 to speed up rendering on my computer.
She reminds me that I could probably stand about five minutes of hearing the same discussion about AutoCAD (she’s an architect).
Last night I even caught myself dreaming about monopod combinations and what kind of footage I could capture if I could attach another meter of carbon onto my existing gear. Parker Walbeck’s excellent YouTube channel has replaced Netflix as my daily before-bed viewing (highly recommended, a wealth of information).
I wake up thinking about what I could record when work is through. Go to bed watching a guy talk about what microphone to use when interviewing. And then evidently spend my sleeping hours using my subconscious to try make sense of it all.
I’m hoping this won’t be another relatively short lived hobby of mine — hyperfocus is a manifestation of ADHD. Because right now, I’m motivated.
Being Afraid To Get Started Means Never Starting At All
Truth be told, getting into video is something I had been planning for years — a type of creative expression I’d always wanted to explore that I thought would be a great extension to my enjoyment of writing.
I’m convinced that us creatives are basically the same people in various guises. We write. We paint. We make movies. We record podcasts. The medium matters less than the output and the sharing — so why not explore whatever calls us?
And so it was that I’d bought the camera, which was fast gathering dust in my tech cabinet.
Kitted myself out with some nice accessories for capturing sound and throwing light on dark corners.
Watched the tutorials for how to use Kdenlive (a basic editing program for Linux.) I even had an idea of what I’d like to make videos of.
The only thing missing?
Hitting the record button and actually getting started.
Static Friction: The Hurdle To Actually Taking Step One
The answer to what was holding me back was probably a mixture of factors.
One of them was self-confidence, or a lack thereof.
Truth be told, I didn’t actually believe that I was able to make videos.
Could I afford high-end gear? (Answer: no, but for beginners it’s probably not necessary).
My desktop computer — which I love dearly — was designed for editing documents and not rendering video streams. I run Linux and can’t countenance the thought of using anything else to compute. My upload speed — 5 Mbps on a very good day — frankly sucks.
Finally, as creative expressions come, video is intimidating.
Writing might take a lifetime to master, but at least the basic prerequisites — a brain and a pen or a keyboard— are readily available and familiar to most.
Video? If you follow those “how to start a YouTube channel” guides you end up with an entire shopping list of gear to pick up.
Finally, I have good old inertia to thank.
I’ve been writing professionally since my first communications job and know my XLR cables from my 3.5mm jacks (those are audio cables for those unaware). Perhaps I was afraid of discovering that I’d chosen the wrong medium to focus on all these years?
You want more reasons?
I’m a notorious curmudgeon who’s about as divorced as can be from some aspects of popular culture. I’d rather watch paint dry for an hour than gesture towards an invisible subscribe button while beseeching my followers to “push it” (“consider” subscribing is the formulation I’m most happy with).
In my thirties, I can’t keep up with the Instagrammers and Tik Tokers of this world. Nor do I want to. But I do love YouTube (I really love YouTube!). Was there space for me in this mix?
But the (additional) problem I created for myself was this. Every time I went onto YouTube, the standard of even amateur hobbyists (like me) seemed to be getting progressively better. Some of these guys had been making videos since they were a kid. Popular channels these days are almost cinematic productions.
So why embarrass myself with my rookie efforts?!
A couple of months ago I realized how stupid this line of thinking was. And I’ve been trying to shift my mindset ever since.
Because to interject a truism, everybody starts somewhere. No exceptions.
And the key to getting good at anything (I think!): being willing to fail quickly and not being phased by your initial bad-ness.
Otherwise, you’ll never get good. Actually, like me and video for the past couple of years, you won’t even be able to get started.
Therefore, I’m currently making as many videos as possible of anything that I think might be even remotely interesting.
Park up the street? Record it! Had a random idea? Make it into a blog. You get the idea.
I’m not there yet. Far from it.
I still lack the confidence to attempt some of the things I would like to shoot (I have what I think is a great idea for a documentary!) But I understand now, at least, that it’s the not even trying that’s holding my growth back.
I proudly plan to make as many bad videos as possible this month with the intention that, over the course of the month, they will get progressively slightly less bad. And believe me — that they are.
But they’re slowly, day by day, getting slightly better.
Today, I learned how to edit lighting in post-production.
Next up: color-grading footage.
The improvements are incremental and probably imperceptible to most. But not to me.
And I know that the faster I can iterate, the faster I can improve.
That was a lesson worth starting this journey to learn.
And I’m pretty sure it’s the key to getting better.