Saturday, October 1, 2016

An 8 year old and his ‘Secret Treasure’

...On Practice — your Secret Treasure, and the Power of having a Growth Mindset

Circa 2004, my 8 year old self went up on stage and performed a bunch of monologues from Harry Potter, all by myself. I had never performed on stage alone before. I knew nothing about acting. The thought of going up on stage would give me chills. I would start shaking whenever I had to say something in front of an audience. I was introverted, shy, and didn’t like attention- clearly not the kind of kid who you’d imagine would get into acting. But I did…

There was a huge dramatics event in school where two students from every class would perform a character from a novel in front of the entire school. The performers would be selected through auditions. Being a curious child who loved to try everything new, I signed up. I worked hard on my audition. I made sure I had memorized each and every line such that I could repeat even in my sleep. I also practiced my delivery along with my Dad who had experience with acting. I did all this, not out of any desire to win, or to get to perform in front of the entire school (The thought of doing so actually scared me), but more out of fear of screwing up my audition really bad- I thought that since I had signed up to try something new, I should at least give it my best shot. It turned out that the teachers who took my audition liked my performance a lot, and somehow, I beat the other kids in my class and got selected. And ended up performing in front of the entire elementary school consisting of a 1000 kids and a 100 teachers. I wasn’t as good on stage as I had been while practicing at home- I was really nervous, and my legs were shaking, but they were well-hidden by the baggy pants that I was wearing, so that was convenient. It was still pretty good I guess, considering I received praise and appreciation from fellow students and teachers after the performance.

Fast- forward to 6th grade. I was taking a dramatics class. My teacher didn’t regard me as a good actor, and gave me a B- in the first term. Again, I was that shy, unassertive, introverted kid who’d sit in the corner, and never ask for bigger roles, always being content with whatever little roles that I got in class. That year, I took part in a dramatics competition. I was really not expecting to win. I knew there were better actors out there, especially now that I was competing against 7th graders and 8th graders. Even after my first successful performance a few years ago, I didn’t consider myself particularly good at acting- ‘that performance was just luck and practice, I’m not a natural actor’, I told myself. After the competition, when the second prize was announced, I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name. I later performed my act in my dramatics class and received immense praise from my teacher and fellow classmates. “He acts well”, they said and I was like “wow, I guess I do, now that I’ve done it twice.” At the same time, I felt a slight sense of guilt and embarrassment: I thought that I had tricked everyone into believing that I was a good actor, when all I had done was just practice really hard. I was certain that if anyone practiced that hard, they’d probably beat me. I was like a kid who has found a secret treasure. I should let them think that I am a good actor, I’ll just practice really hard every time and win, and they’ll never know.

Next year again I took part in a dramatics competition. This time, determined to win again, and to keep everyone thinking that I was actually good, I put in hours and hours of practice, completely ignoring everything else, including my studies. I ended up winning the first prize. And again, everyone said, “Oh, he’s such a good actor”. I was really happy but also wanted to tell them: “hey I’m actually not, I just practiced really hard”. More than anything else, I realized that I loved acting, and I loved entertaining people. So I got involved with acting a lot more. I participated in workshops and competitions, and developed my skill.
My experience with public speaking was very similar. I had always shied away from public speaking before 9th grade. In 9th grade, I decided to go at it, and signed up for an event where I had to make a speech on a particular topic on stage- I worked hard at it: first, on preparing a good speech, and then on memorizing all my lines to perfection, and practicing my enunciation. I managed to deliver a decent speech- it wasn’t the best, but hey, it was the first time I had given a speech on stage, and I didn’t screw up, so I was happy. Gradually, as high school progressed, I got more involved in public speaking, and had become a much better speaker by the time I graduated. Today sometimes people tell me, “oh, you speak well on stage. I don’t.”, or “you have that talent”. Or, “Oh, it’s hard for me, but you can do it easily.” Fact is, that even today, I don’t consider myself a great public speaker. I have learnt the tricks and the techniques, sure. And I have becoming better at practicing, and I know the effective ways of practicing. But at the end of the day, it is still all about practice. Even now, whenever I speak on stage, no matter how small my part is, I still practice with the same amount of effort and dedication as I did when I gave my first speech on stage back in 9th grade.

Why did I just reflect on all of that?

Because there are certain things I felt I needed to remind myself of:
1. First, is the belief that just because you aren’t good at something right now, doesn’t mean that you can’t become great at it. In other words, having a growth mindset: (from a post by Ameet Ranadive)

2. The other thing is practice. When the world sees a great show, they see ‘natural talent’, they don’t see the practice.

Practice is your little secret treasure. No matter how good the world thinks you have become. Dedicate yourself to it. Love it. And do it like you’re giving your first speech, or performing for the first time, or playing your first match, or writing your first big blog post, or your first side-project or whatever it is that you do. Do it like you did when you first started.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If you liked reading this post, do comment below. This will encourage me to write more :)

No comments :

Post a Comment