Ira Glass is the host of “This American Life,” which is usually the most downloaded podcast in the U.S. each week. Over his 30-year career, Glass has developed into one of the nation’s most acclaimed radio broadcasters.
Yet, in a Public Radio International interview from 2009, Glass explains that, like anybody else, he had to overcome a long period of self-doubt before he felt confident in his craft.
It takes time and a lot of practice, he says, to bridge the gap between your ambition and the actual quality of your work. While his message is aimed at creative professionals like writers or radio broadcasters, it can be applied to anyone working toward the realisation of a vision, whether it be developing a skill or a business. As Glass says:
Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work… we get into it because we have good taste.
But it’s like there’s a gap. That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, ok? It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you…
A lot of people never get past that phase, and a lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have…
And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.
Glass’s point reflects Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule,” which says that “natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.”
Whether you’re an aspiring author or an entrepreneur, the only way to move beyond disappointment and self-doubt is by not letting it keep you from working.
German photographer and videographer Daniel Sax created a cool visual accompaniment to Glass’ words earlier this year:
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