Remember as a kid running into a relative you hadn’t seen in years? They always commented on how much you had grown, didn’t they? Saying things like, “I remember when you were only THIS high!”, along with a healthy dose of cheek-pinching, head-rubbing, and all the things loved ones do when they haven’t seen you in a while. Your relatives were astonished not by your growth per se; rather, by just how much you’d grown. For some reason, however, I never seemed to feel the way they felt: to me, I was just the same kid…yeah, maybe I was a little taller, but not so much as to warrant all that attention.
I was thinking about this very thing recently when it occurred to me that there are other situations not unlike the one above. Watching my hair grow is another example. (Yep — I’ve grown my hair out several times and always hated waiting for it!) Maybe I’d notice certain “landmarks” in my hair’s length — like bangs finally long enough to cover my eyes, or the back of my hair touching my shoulders for the first time — but other than that, I really didn’t notice much difference. But to people who I didn’t see every day, week or month? They’d notice immediately.
My musical development is yet another of the same type situation: I practiced daily for years hardly noticing any real development, but others with whom I hadn’t performed in a while would tell me the positive differences they heard and felt in my playing. While this was always good news, I was always kinda bummed by the fact that I couldn’t detect the improvement on my own. I’m still the same today: every time I sit down behind the drums, I still feel like that young kid from 30 years ago who still has to try really hard to play well. Others will sometimes tell me they see something different, but on the inside, I always feel the same.
The exact same thing is happening to me (again!) as a voice actor: I take lessons; I practice; I study my heroes; I practice some more; I get some VO gigs; I go back home and practice even more. But each time I step behind the mic, I still feel like the same guy who is trying desperately to “sound good” (usually while simultaneously feeling like I “sound bad”)! The thing is, I know am getting better…but again, that’s not because I can hear any real growth in my abilities. Rather, my conclusion comes from a mix of two things: (1) others telling me that I’ve gotten better (including my agent, thank goodness!) and (2) a lifetime of experience that has taught me that growth always comes with hard work — whether I see it or not. Whether I hear it or not. Whether I feel it or not. Indeed, whether I know it or not.
My point is simply this — trust yourself. If you’re relentlessly working toward a goal, you’re growing. Even if you don’t notice.
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