Maybe you just don’t have any talent

by Steven Washer on May 5, 2015




Since I can’t make videos or audios right now, or even talk on the phone, I’ve had a lot of time to think. And naturally one of the things I’ve been thinking about is the desire to do new things.

No kidding. I’ve taken my voice for granted for years. When I get it back, it’s going to be like something brand new.

I was trying to remember when I felt this kind of desire before. And suddenly it hit me.

In 1986 my head was in the clouds.
I wanted to fly like an eagle. Or rather, I wanted to fly without killing myself.

But I knew I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t talented. And when I started taking lessons, it confirmed I wasn’t talented. My instructor went out of his way to tell me I wasn’t talented. Every time we met.

I couldn’t blame him. I used to get very nauseous during every instructional flight. Afterwards I would walk out to the car trying to look like Tom Cruise in Top Gun, then sit for about 10 minutes in the heat until the waves of nausea subsided enough for me to drive home.

It took me 67 hours, the high side of the national average, to achieve the exalted rank of Private Pilot. There was nothing in what I did back then that would have indicated I’d still be alive and flying today.

Looking back, it’s a miracle I ever became a pilot. I had no talent. I had no ability.

Here's "Sunshine", a flying Call to Action.

Here’s “Sunshine”, a flying Call to Action.

All I had was desire.
And as I learned a little, my desire grew. And I got better. And I got more desire. And so on…

The exact same thing was true of when it came to video. Incredibly, I started learning video the day after I got my Private ticket. And it was just as clear to my instructors in video that I had no talent.

I don’t think many would say that to me today.

I see a lot of people come into the BrainyVideo family. They have desire too, just like I did. They lead busy lives. They have children and responsibilities and the need to make a living, just like I did.

And a few of them say “Hey, really, I want to learn video.” And they learn video.

Most don’t, though. They just don’t have enough desire to get started. And that’s cool. Video is special. It’s for the crazy ones, maybe; the ones who don’t mind testing their limits and are not so afraid of making mistakes. And yes, maybe even looking foolish.

Because that craziness is what you need.
Otherwise it takes 10 years to learn what could take 10 days, because your mistakes get weaved into your DNA and it becomes impossible to see them. You need to see them through the eyes of a good instructor and also through the mistakes others make when they are pointed out.

That’s why I get angry when I see other teachers showing people a way to make videos that get them to repeat and ingrain the same mistakes the instructor unknowingly made, and then those people go on to teach others by example, and it’s all a pretty depressing downward spiral.

We teach almost anyone how to make cool-looking and sounding videos in 3 days. And then we work on the content that makes those videos turn viewers into clients.

It's good to be zen on a shoot.

It’s good to be zen on a shoot.

Did you notice the order of events?
First comes the boring technical part, then the fun and profitable content part. You can’t reverse the order.

What if I had soloed before spending 20 hours with an instructor, taking all that time to anticipate things that would happen and everything that could go wrong, and making a bunch of low-risk mistakes, having them pointed out to me and correcting them and understanding in my bones what doing it the right way felt like?

And while you’re thinking about that, guess what? Something did go wrong on my very first solo; something that has killed a few pilots.

Here’s what happened.

There’s a tradition that your first solo is a surprise.
My case was no different. We had just landed, and the instructor got out of the plane and told me to go up and do 3 touch-and-goes. That’s where the wheels barely touch the runway, and then you take off again without slowing down.

So with my heart in my mouth, I pulled his door closed and took off.

Brings new meaning to "the wind in your hair"

Brings new meaning to “the wind in your hair”

About 500 feet up, his door opened.
Had I somehow convinced my instructor that I should solo, then learn the boring stuff later, I would not be here today to tell you what happened next. But part of the boring stuff was him telling me that if your door ever opens in flight, don’t panic. Just calmly reach over and close it.

So that’s what I did. And then I finished my 3 touch and goes. And you know what? When I landed, I did kind of feel like Tom Cruise in Top Gun; a slightly nauseous Top Gun.

Today my friends jokingly call me the world’s greatest pilot. Which is silly. After all, there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots. I’m just a pilot who learned that being good at something was a simple matter of reducing the mistake count with a good instructor. Because it sure had nothing to do with “talent.”

But you do need one thing to be successful.


There's no good substitute for knowing your stuff.

There’s no good substitute for knowing your stuff.

Of course, no one can give you desire.
Desire is kind of magical. It’s the inner compass that tells you if you’re headed in the right direction. Some say it’s the universe trying to express itself though you. In the 60’s they used to say “if it feels good, do it.” Now maybe we can say “if it feels right, at least don’t ignore it!”

All that is to say this: if you have the desire to learn video, then you can learn it. It’s not about being talented or technically-oriented. I know this because I was neither. I was the only kid on the Army bases where I grew up who couldn’t change a spark plug.

Fast forward a few years and you see my students making really cool videos that they’ve learned how to do by taking our courses or learning one-on-one in a VIP weekend.

And the only thing they had in common was desire.

When my voice comes back (the doctor says soon!), we’ll be scheduling our very first small group program.

This exciting summer event will take place in our studio on a weekend in August. We’ll be accepting four intrepid souls who have the desire to learn video our way in just 3 days.

Here’s the 4 question pre-application:

We’ll get back to you shortly with more information on this game-changing program.

Desire. I know some monks say it leads to unhappiness, but I’ve never been a good monk.

Maybe I just lacked talent.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison May 6, 2015 at 12:17 pm

What a wonderful post… it brought tears to my eyes. Your story is true for everyone about everything they want or think they do… when want becomes desire, it has a chance of becoming real.
(Can’t wait to hear your voice again.)
xo, Allison


Steven Washer May 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Thanks, Alison! In the 60’s they used to say “if it feels good, do it!” Now maybe we can muster a little bit of “if it seems right, don’t ignore it” and that might be just enough. 🙂


Melinda May 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Your story of flying was so touching and such a good example of attempting to do something new and a little scary. Video is certainly like that. When my husband and I started doing videos he was so nervous about being in front of a camera, but we watched your videos and read your newsletters and now he is so much more comfortable. I am sure we have a lot more to learn and we look forward to taking advantage of your new material. We miss hearing your “voice”.


Steven Washer May 6, 2015 at 12:44 pm

As do I, and the control tower, I think…
I’m glad you’re getting so much out of this work!


Mel Hardman May 6, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Really enjoyed your email, Steve. So many parrallels between your learning to fly and teaching video production …and, my own [experience] teaching others about e-mini trading. Even though I come from 35 years experience making videos and TV shows (yes, I started by editing on a Moviola with a hot-splicer and rewinds!) Such ancient technology, now! Even though I’ve been editing film/video for over 25 years with the AVID Media Composer, I’ve found your service absolutely invaluable; I’ve learned so much from you.

BTW… I’ve noted my latest web site above. Anyone tempted to visit it…. please wait a couple of day: I’m reprocessing the video with Steve’s YUVID Player and revamping the site somewhat.


Steven Washer May 6, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Thanks, Mel! Nice to know that Yuvid makes you want to make the rest of your site work better as well.


Stuart O'Neill May 6, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Steve: As you well know I’m a supporter. This was very on target for me. I’m learning as much as possible from your email and blog instruction. The tutorial of the selfie stick may be the most usable method you’ve helped me learn. I can practice without needing anything more than a selfie stick and a piece of editing software. Now that’s simplicity. Thank you.


Steven Washer May 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Well, Stuart, the essence of genius is simplicity. You may be on to something!


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