We’ve all met someone better than us in our respective field. I’m sure you’ve felt it: maybe it comes through as envy, intimidation, or just plain awe. For me, it always raises questions. How do they do that? Is it just magic? How do I accomplish the same thing? What should I do next?
This most recently happened to me on a photo shoot, when I got the chance to work with one of my modeling idols. It was obvious with her every pose that she was completely aware of her own body. There was never a hand out of place, never an odd facial expression, never an unpointed toe. She knew exactly what the camera saw no matter what part of her was facing the lens. It was incredible. She made modeling look like magic—I had no idea how she did it.
Working with her was so inspiring that I had to ask about her methods after the shoot. Sure enough, there was no actual magic to what she did: there was just hard work. She told me about portion control and food plans, exercise routines, and constantly pushing herself in yoga and dance to be able to do more strenuous poses. She was also older than the stated age on her portfolio, which meant she had almost a decade more experience posing than I did. (This is surprisingly common practice among art models, since bookings mysteriously wane after you turn 30, no matter how well you’ve aged or how young you look. A model will often stay “29” for years).
I suppose there are two ways that I could have let our talk affect me. I could have been motivated to work even harder to become the best model humanly possible; I could have changed my diet, improved my exercise routine, picked up yoga for flexibility and started seriously studying dance. I could hope that in ten years I had learned as much about posing as she had, and aged well enough to use it effectively.
Instead, I was reminded of something my dad said to me when I was growing up. I was an ambitious kid who was convinced she would become the greatest pianist that ever lived, and his job was to keep me sane and keep me from getting discouraged every time I met a better musician. He would often say about my piano playing, “Someone will always be better than you, no matter how many hours you put in.” He would tell me to play the piano because I enjoyed playing, not because I was better than others.
That lesson from my dad taught me several important things—probably more than he ever intended. First, it told me that you should work on what you love, and only compete with yourself. Second, that just because someone is better than you isn’t an excuse to stop trying. And third, it made me realize that if you wanted to make an impact, you shouldn’t solely concentrate on improving what’s already been done. Someone will always be better than you. So instead of just trying to do something better, you should do something new.
I’ve oftentimes found that the easiest way to make something new is to combine two things that haven’t been put together before. What happens when you combine art nude modeling and writing about the experience? What about music and modeling? Or modeling and dance?
The point is, seeing someone amazing shouldn’t discourage you because the road in front of you is so long. Instead, you should get excited about trailblazing. My idol’s skill inspired me to increase my own efforts as a model, even if I won’t be her equal in the near future, and certainly not before I’m 29. In the meantime, it’s also motivating me to explore modeling in new ways, such as writing on this blog. And guess what—I’ve taken up dance lessons too.
The next time you catch yourself becoming envious of someone you wish you were like, think of my dad’s advice. Do it because you enjoy it, and look for a new angle that’s uniquely yours.