I am incredibly impatient. Perhaps it stems from my instant-gratification-self-centered-millennialism. But even before the term millennial was invented, I always prioritized getting to the next step over enjoying the journey.
I struggle to just relax and have fun. Even on beach vacations, while my parents would recline on their fold out chairs, feet in the water smoking cigarettes and reading Esquire, I stood nearby counting down the minutes until we could go home and move on to the next thing.
I cannot sit still. I want it now.
A few weeks ago, my boss pulled me aside to tell me I was doing a great job. He was happy with my work and even more pleased that I had taken a leadership role on a huge project. While I had him alone, I thought it’d be a great time to ask how I could improve to reach the next level.
His answer – you’re doing everything right. Just keep doing what you’re and give it time. A promotion will come.
The advice was almost infuriating since there wasn’t anything to do other then let time pass at its usual, languid pace.
But in its own way, the advice reinforces something it’s taken me my whole life to figure out: achieving your goals requires two things – talent, which you can develop with practice, and time, which you can’t do anything about.
When I first started improv, I jumped in headfirst, like most newbies. I attended every Lab and longform show. I joined three independent teams. I went to open court and played in Cage Match. I started coaching.
The constant practice helped me quickly develop the core skills necessary to succeed in improv. But practice can only take you so far. Being pretty good requires effort. Becoming great requires time.
Aside: If you’ve never seen Ira Glass’ blurb about the creative process, now would be the time to watch it.
Having time to see more shows, play with different teams, and work under different directors and coaches all help refine and redefine your taste. Every new input bubbles and percolates in your brain, hiding in your subconscious, helping you discover your style and tone. The core skills become more ingrained with time, which means you can expend your mental energy on higher-level concepts, like tying your second game to your opener rather than trying to remember to have a strong initiation or find the game of the scene.
Yes, practice helps. But practice + time is the key to mastery.
And ironically, learning to accept that fact takes time and practice as well.
In a way, I am no different than that frustrated (yet adorable) boy on the beach, waiting for vacation to end, eager to get back to chasing after the next step. This mindset, this inability to live in the moment, makes my continued study of improv seem comical, even futile, at times.
Or maybe, it makes it that much more important.