[NOTE 1: This was first written as a draft in December 2015 and abandoned for 6 months – hence, let’s just pretend it’s still December and not the middle of the fucking summer, aye?]
[NOTE 2: I talk a lot about grit and perseverance and all that nonsense in this post. Here is a really good episode of Freakonomics Radio from this past May that delved into the subject of grittiness. Listen to it while you read, if you’d like!]
It’s appropriate that I got to the mid-season finale of The IdolM@ster during my Winter Break. Those who saw me prior to break, in the stretch from the beginning of Thanksgiving break (November 21st) through my last day of work after exams (December 16th), saw my transformation into a shambling zombie who once didn’t sleep for 38 hours, and when he did sleep, occasionally slept under staircases.
Oh, you think I’m joking?
So yeah, that stretch was sucked some shit. Unlike prior semesters, I wasn’t just juggling final projects and exams, but also managing a design team outside of class. Coupled with applying for and waiting to hear back on internships, I was frankly a bit of a nervous wreck. I had gotten so paranoid about missing morning exams and deadlines that, almost every morning for a week after classes let out, I woke up in a panic, thinking I was going to be late on a deadline or that I missed an exam.
I bring all this up in what is ostensibly an anime-related post because, as I watch The Idolm@ster, and when I look back upon the pressure cooker I found myself in the first two weeks of December, I realized that perhaps the girls of 765 Production and I have a lot more in common than I thought.
(I mean, not that much in common – I am a portly brown man and they’re a bunch of impossibly tiny little tweens. But you get the picture.)
In episode 11 of The IdolM@ster, P-san informs the members of 765Pro that he has managed to book them a live concert. Obviously, the group collectively loses it – we’ve spent the last 10 episodes following the girls as they struggle to make a name for themselves, so this is truly their big break. In particular, for Miki, this represents an opportunity for her to try to convince Ritsuko to let her join Ryuugou Koumachi. And for Chihaya, it will be the opportunity to sing, and the fulfillment of that long-cherished dream that propels her towards the idol stage.
The stage is set, the ingredients are in the pot, the fire is lit, and the steam blooms.
What does it mean to have grit? True grit is a concept that denotes a steely-eyed gaze at the future, and a determination to make something you want, happen, even in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a term we use to talk about the ability to become an immovable rock facing down an unstoppable wave. It is a mindset of perseverance that yells “Not today!” when despair come knocking. (It is also the name of a critically acclaimed Western from 2010 but that is neither here nor there.)
“Being gritty” means you will put in your 10,000 hours, and then another 10,000 more when it still isn’t good enough. You have a long term goal, and you have a plan – now you need the input to get to the output. But saying it isn’t enough – you have to have the right mindset.
There’s a lot to be said about attitude in the path to success. Confidence in yourself, even unjustified confidence, can bring out the best in yourself, and turn the tide in your grapple with your goals. It’s that kind of gritty attitude that most people need to succeed. But I don’t think people are born gritty, and it’s not a quick thing to develop either. Sometimes, you just need someone to pull you back on your feet because you can’t do it yourself, when you’re still too weak. There’s a reason the phrase “fake it til you make it” has been repeated so often it’s a cliche.
Defining your goals is actually one of the first tasks we do when developing a long-term product or a solution. It may seem obvious, but to define your goal leads naturally to what your tasks must be. Although the girls of The Idolm@ster may not be as quantitative in its goal statements, it is still obvious what their tasks are: master this rhythm, perform these steps within this time period, do not bump into others, look lively. These break down into subtasks to be done, and subgoals to be met – memorize the rhythm and play it back, memorize those steps, practice your timing until you know the time count down pat, and practice together to get a sense of how to utilize the stage for yourself.
One of the few benefits of my part-time job while I’m in school (I wash dishes for one of the dining halls) is that, disgusting and tiring though it may be, it gives me ample time to think, disconnected from outside stimuli. It gives me a lot of time to plan what I want to do, and how I want to do it. A 5 hour shift in
“the pit” might mean I can slowly work out how to build a part of my team’s launch vehicle down to the build schedule, or how to mitigate sensor noise, or something like that. I haven’t actually done any real “work”, but I can come out of that smelly pit with the smartest way to exert my energy to get me to where I want to be.
When shit hits the fan, it hits the fan with an intensity that rivals the greatest of storms, the spiciness of Mama Garlock’s chili, or the strength of my bowel movements after indulging in aforementioned chili.
(I’ll let you savor that image for a second. Can you feel it now, Mr. Krabs?)
Pressure cookers work by sealing and heating a liquid until its boils off, producing steam. The combination of high pressure and high temperature significantly reduced cooking time and can simulate slow-cook techniques in short periods of time. But the thing is that it’s a pressure cooker – it’s practically a bomb waiting to go off!
You have to have a strong gasket, and tough material, to make a cooker that lasts when the pressure goes through the roof.
When the going gets tough, the tough need to get going. And if you’re NOT tought, you’ll need to learn – fast. There’s a process in the manufacturing of metal alloys and plastics to make them tougher. The term is work-hardening, and it’s where you cold work a material and apply so much stress, work the material so hard, that it begins plasticly deforming. This introduces dislocations and tangles into the structure of the material, and that makes it harder and tougher and more resilient. It becomes a tough surface that won’t bend or buckle so easily under heavy loads.
The girls of 765 became tougher and harder to handle the sudden rise in pressure that came out of nowhere. Far from buckling, they stood proud and held up to the pressure
Being done with finals week felt good. It felt really good. I started seeing the rewards of my work pretty quickly – although I didn’t get the grades I wanted (I didn’t make the Dean’s List like I’d hoped,) I did hear back from an employer and landed myself an internship for the summer! (Actually, I’m there right now, but we promised we’d pretend this is still around December 2015.)
The rush of seeing your hard work pay off is nothing short of orgasmic – to stand on a stage where you are recognized for your efforts is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
It’s addicting. And it pushes you to never stop never stopping.
Although I still cannot bring myself to really enjoy the products that the idols push (that is, of pop songs and fuwafuwa personalities and cute girls in super-ruffly clothes wearing tiny hats (seriously, what is with the tiny hats??) (they don’t even protect you from rain or heat like a normal hat is supposed to do, what is it even for, you cant even use it to hold change while you’re holding a street performance)), I can very much appreciate that which these characters do in order to make those products. To juggle school/work, and then the demands of idolhood on top of that is not easy. To live such a life is to live one that demands respect, and I gladly give it. You go, 765Pro!
P.S. No seriously tiny hats suck why would you use them