Self-Transformation and Greatness (Whiplash)

Last night Amanda and I watched Whiplash. It is the story of an ambitious young jazz drummer struggling to become great at his craft.


It reminds me a lot of Black Swan, and there is a great video from Lessons From Screenplay comparing the two.

His story covers a semesters time at a prestigious and demanding music school. The conductor of the studio band is a tyrant, who comes from the hard ass school of developing talent.

Andrew, the main character, is obsessed with drumming, and he is pushed to the limits of his mental and physical health to reach his potential as a drummer and his obsession almost destroys him. He is in a serious car accident and then attacks his teacher and is kicked out of school.

That break allows him to get some mental space and take his foot off the gas before completely descending into madness. He has space to connect with his original passion outside of the obsession and then ends up in a show delivering the best performance of his life.

The movie is a reminder about the amount of dedication and effort required to succeed at anything. To be truly great, you need to sacrifice many other things. Not necessarily your health, safety, and relationships–you need to maintain those to succeed in the long-term. But to reach your potential in any craft, you need to give into personal transformation and truly let your craft become part of you. This is not an easy thing to do.

Accepting self-transformation is scary, so most people never do it. They never fully give themselves up to their craft and remain stuck as an old version of themselves. They end up caught between a vision of the future they want to achieve and a version of themselves from the past that they refuse to let go of.

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