I was thinking about heroes, idols, and mentors.
When I was seventeen, I spent dozens of hours learning a Steve Martin standup routine word-by-word, beat-by-beat for a high school speech class assignment. I didn’t really have my own voice yet and considered the learned mimicry a sort of “homage to a master”.
Almost twenty years later, I give a lot of credit to Mr. Martin for my sense of vocal timing and appreciation for language. And also Bill Cosby, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Ricky Gervais, Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld, etc. Not that I am in comparing myself to comedy greats, just that they are people who have influenced me, teachers who never knew they were.
But spending thousands of hours with funny movies and comedy TV shows isn’t enough. You can’t just watch shows, you have to observe them. It takes an inquisitive mind to learn how to improve.
Why did he say that line like that? Why did that long pause make everyone laugh? Why can that actor say a line with a straight face and it’s funny, while the other one uses lots of expression and animation and it’s funny? Why does he move like that? What do I appreciate about him, even though I see no similarity in our styles? What is he doing that I can learn and use immediately in front of people?
You don’t need a formal teacher or mentor to learn interesting communication choices - sometimes you can learn more valuable lessons from those who are not official teachers.
I wonder who the world's most prominent secret teachers are? Perhaps it depends on chosen professions and areas of interest, but I am guessing moms and dads are up there.