“If you don’t struggle, you aren’t learning.”
If you are one of my acting students at our glasgow acting studio, it’s likely you’ve heard me say this. I say it so often that I’ve started to hear my acting students saying it to each other.
But I fear that some of our students hear it and think I’m perhaps saying it to motivate them, to make them feel better about not getting it right, to prop up their egos when they get it wrong, to stroke their confidence because they aren’t talented enough to understand it all automatically. If you think that, you’re completely wrong.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Struggle is necessary for growth. Just like in the training of a muscle, it’s the struggle that makes the microscopic tears that grow into stronger muscle. The same with your ability as an actor. Struggle makes you strong. This isn’t my opinion, it’s scientifically proven.
When we struggle, the substance myelin starts getting wrapped around the wiring in your brain. It’s an insulator and the more you struggle, the more insulation gets wrapped around the wiring. This insulation helps the signals in your brain move more accurately and quicker. The quicker and more accurately the signals leap, the better you are at something. When you grow more myelin, you are growing skill. Struggle builds myelin better than any other activity.
And as I often point out, people associate struggle with being BAD at something. So, when they realise they are not naturally gifted at something, they give up, because they are struggling. COME ON. Think about this again, they give up at the very moment when they are growing the ability to grow more proficient at something.
I’m not trying to make you feel better, I’m telling you that if you’re struggling, you are actually in the process of learning. It’s science.
If you are in your comfort zone, you might as well go home. If you are panicking, that won’t help one tiny bit, but if you are in the learning zone, struggling, what Daniel Coyle calls ‘reaching’, then you are always moving forwards, growing, learning, building your ability.
Learning to be the best actor you can be is all about the struggle.