Once You’ve Done It 600 Times, You’re on Your Way to Mastery
One of my pet peeves is our culture’s focus on instant gratification. People want everything, and they want it right now! Instant food, overnight delivery of just about any product, and – of course – dental appointments the same day they call.
Oh! I almost forgot one more thing: instant isn’t enough. Everything must also be absolutely top quality.
I’m currently remodeling a 100-year-old home. What began as a three-month project is now scheduled to take twelve months. When discussing quality cabinetry, restorative woodworking, advanced electrical and “White House” level painting, there is no such thing as instant gratification.
We are talking about craftsmen and craftswomen who have taken years to learn their trades. Each and every one of them talks about how difficult it is to find employees willing to learn the best way to sweep a floor before they pick up a hammer or begin painting.
When I find myself getting impatient, I remind myself of the ad for the Honda Accord that features an unbelievably complex “Rube Goldberg machine” made entirely from Accord parts. This film is a great example of what it takes to master a specific task. It has no computer graphics or digital tricks. Everything you see happened in real time exactly as you see it. The film took 606 takes.
In the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn’t work. The crew would then have to set the whole thing up again. They spent weeks shooting night and day. By the time it was over, they were ready to change professions. (Sounds a bit like dental school, no?)
The film cost six million dollars. It took three months to complete, including full engineering of the sequence. In addition, it’s two minutes long, so every time Honda airs it on British television, they’re shelling out enough dough to keep any one of us in clover for a lifetime.
However, it is fast becoming the most downloaded advertisement in Internet history, and is therefore worthy of our consideration. Honda executives figure the ad will soon pay for itself simply in free viewings alone. (Honda isn’t paying a dime to have people watch this commercial online!).
When the ad was pitched to senior executives, they signed off on it immediately without any hesitation, knowing full well how much it would cost.
There are six (and only six) hand-made Honda Accords in the world. To the horror of Honda engineers, the filmmakers disassembled two of them to make the film. Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) is parts from those two cars.
The voiceover is Garrison Keillor. When the ad was shown to Honda executives, they liked it and commented on how amazing computer graphics have gotten. They fell off their chairs when they found out it was for real.
Oh, and about those funky windshield wipers. On the new Accords, the windshield wipers have water sensors and are designed to start doing their thing automatically as soon as they become wet. It’s a bit alarming in the commercial.
What I really like about this commercial is that it supports my philosophy on Mastery. True mastery takes practice. It makes no difference what the task is: martial arts, filming a commercial, remodeling a house, or cutting a crown prep.
They all take practice. Often the smallest error can cause failure, and only after continued practice is mastery achieved.