Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity of observing groups of people at their craft/work (Not Kraftwerks, remember them?) And I learned a lot that I already knew :-)
Two disparate groups which acted very much in the same way. They acted with focussed hustle.
The first group was a group of young actors. I've been doing some fight scene choreography for a small film. The second group is a tree trimming company that is presently in my backyard getting an amazing amount of work done in short order.
Let's take the second group first:
I was told they would start work at 7:30. At 7:10 the trucks pulled in. Some guys were riding on the back firefighter style, hanging onto the rail with one hand. Long sleeve shirts ready to protect their arms. Scarves around their necks and hats in their free hand.
As the trucks rolled to a stop they lept from the truck and quickly spread out. Like a well trained military force, they prepped the area. They did not walk to each task, they ran. They did not get off the truck looking for how they could waste a little time before work. They attacked the job. They didn't "go to work", they attacked the job. Focussed hustle.
Now I have hired crews before. And what I saw did not compare to this. The local kids hired did not move like this. Instead, they found every excuse not to work. Needed a drink of water, Needed a snack. Needed a bathroom break. Or worst of all, didn't know what to do next. They robbed me of output a few minutes at a time. In my estimate, their output was maybe 10% of this crew. But of course, the pay scale was likely similar. At least on the same order of magnitude. I could digress on this point but that's not what the article is about, so let's move on.
The tree trimming crew is Mexican. Some speak English, others don't. One looks like he's about 16. And in fact, most are young. Very young to have the work ethic that they have. It's wildly impressive.
Watching them work I instantly thought, "That's it, I'm moving to Mexico. I'm never teaching lazy Americans again"
But then I remembered the actors.
Working on set has allowed me to observe a lot of young actors. Each day is a different group with just the main characters being consistently there. Despite the fact that it was a different crew every day I recognized the same thing. Focussed hustle. Each actor, when not needed, made sure they were not an impediment. They found a place to be out of the way and quiet. And they scanned for anything that was needed. There wasn't a lot to do most of the time but I noticed that they looked for anything that could save the producer even a few minutes. It was remarkable.
Why? Well, that's why. It's the why.
For the tree trimmers, I can make some assumptions. I could be wrong but I need a hypothesis.
Maybe they have family back in Mexico. A mother, a sister, who knows. Maybe that family will have no food if they don't send money. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Maybe they were taught to work hard was part of being a man and they don't want to disappoint. Maybe it's both of these things. I don't know but regardless they seem to have a very strong why. And they are willing to suffer for that why.
Had it not been for the actors I might have assumed that this strong motivation could have only been caused by culture and economics. Had it not been for the actors I would be booking my flight right now.
But the actors did not have that economic drive. One, a kid of all of about 20, drove up in a brand new Porsche. The others also seemed to have ample means. Instead, I will assume, they must have the strong why of being successful actors. Or at least to be good at their craft.
By close observance, I found out that they were all from the same acting "culture". Attending the same acting schools. Working together on various projects.
So we could say that both groups:
1) Had a culture that they learned from. In other words, good teachers.
2) Had a strong why.
3) Are willing to suffer for their why and to remain a part of their respective cultures.
And there is the magic key.
I know many that have a strong want. They don't necessarily do well. They perform at 10% of potential. They have a want not a why.
I think that I am extremely good at giving them the culture of martial arts. I work hard at it because I have a very strong why. Yet some respond and work at full potential and others don't. Some limp along barely alive. Showing up last minute for lessons, and not prepared to work when they get there. Others amaze me every day. Excelling beyond my expectations.
Each has the same resources. Namely me.
The difference is the why and the willingness to do what it takes for that why.
And that leaves me with a very big question.
Do I make the why a requirement for training under me? Is it better to sharpen a sword or nurture a seedling that may never grow?
Before writing this article I did not know the answer to that. But as I write this last line I now do.
Thank you for helping me think it through.
Shun Shi Fu