#VIBE: Five lessons from Maisie Williams’ TED talk
By Jed Gregorio
March 18, 2019 at 12:01 am

Maisie Williams began her TED talk, self-deprecatingly, with the dubious I-don’t-know-why-I’m here, and I-don’t-know-what-to-say, but from those 16 minutes soon emerged an unfazed 21-year-old who is unmistakably Arya Stark in another life.

Williams talked about the perks of naiveté, capitalizing on one’s unique perspective, prizing talent over fame,  and her new app Daisie, and how creatives need each other’s support to succeed.

Below I list the five lessons I picked up from Maisie Williams’ TED talk.

Maisie Williams at TEDx Talks. PHOTO SOURCE MAISIEWILLIAMS.ORG

Maisie Williams at TEDx Talks. PHOTO SOURCE MAISIEWILLIAMS.ORG

Lesson 1: Remember when you were young, fearless, and unshackled. “I was just too young and naive to feel inadequate.”

“At 8-years-old I was enrolled in dance class and by 10, I informed my mother that I didn’t want to be in school anymore. I wanted to be like Billy Elliott and go to stage school. This was the first opportunity or challenge I was presented with. Even as young as 10 I was willing to give up all of my friends and go away to board a private school, away from my siblings, away from my mum. Repeatedly she would ask, ‘Are you sure this is what you want?’ And to me it was a no-brainer. I didn’t just want this, I needed it.

My grubby knees and crooked teeth were not on the list of requirements for becoming a professional dancer. And when I look back now both myself and my mother looked severely out of place. But at the time I was just too young and naive to feel inadequate. I didn’t care. If Billy Elliott could do it, so could I.”

Lesson 2: Embrace your unique perspective. “I was cheeky, I was loud, I was angry, and for this I was perfect.”

“After meeting a woman called Louise Johnston in an improvisation acting workshop, she gave me the words ‘bowling ball’ and asked me to create a short scene inspired by these words. After making her laugh with a fictional story of how I threw a bowling ball at my brother and it bounced, she asked me to join her acting agency. […] After meeting Louise in the February of 2009, and trying but failing to land the part in the hit sequel Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, my second audition was for a show called Game of Thrones. This was the third opportunity or challenge I was presented with.

I harnessed all of my insecurities and self doubt and let it flow through the words that came out of my mouth.

I climbed the steps to the Methodist Church with my mother’s hand in mine. I perched my tiny bottom on one of the seats outside the audition room and listened to an annoying girl with her even more annoying mother tell me all about the number of auditions she had done prior to this one, and also about her pet fish. My name was called and I stepped inside. I had a hard Bristolian accent and dark rings around my eyes that were so big they took up half my face, and a hole in the knee of my trousers which I tried to cover with my left hand as I was talking to the kind lady who taped my audition.

But as soon as she pressed record, it all drifted away, much like when I was dancing in my mother’s living room. I harnessed all of my insecurities and self doubt and let it flow through the words that came out of my mouth. I was cheeky, I was loud, I was angry, and for this I was perfect. After getting the part and shooting the pilot episode, the show slowly grew to become one of the biggest shows in television history.”

Lesson 3: No artist is an island. “The key to success within creative industries is collaborating.”

“In February of 2017, a friend of mine Dom [Santry], and I, were swigging beers in my kitchen and he confessed to me that there is a huge problem with the creative industries. I agreed. The series of events that got me to that point were based mainly on luck and timing and were unable to be recreated. He suggested to me that we create a social media but just for artists, to be able to collaborate with one another and create a career. This was the fourth opportunity or challenge I was presented with. Great!, I thought, and how the hell do we do that? And Daisie was born.

The industry is built with gatekeepers holding all of the power and selecting who they deem talented enough to advance to the next level.

Of course everyone who I spoke to about my latest endeavor thought that I was mad. However I know that this is something I can help change. This last year in the industry we’ve seen a huge shift with the #MeToo movement. The industry is built with gatekeepers holding all of the power and selecting who they deem talented enough to advance to the next level. More often than not it’s easy to catch the attention of those people if you have graduated from an expensive school. But even then I have friends who are fresh out of art school having trained for years and are still no closer to creating a career.

Now I’m not claiming that with Daisy I can make everybody a star, but I do believe that the key to success within creative industries is collaborating. Actors are only as good as their writers, musicians are only as strong as their producers, and designers need their teams.”

Lesson 4: Invest in talent over fame. “We are connected, we are aware, and we are the future.”

“Within the industry there is a common phrase which I think we’re all pretty familiar with, and that is ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ With Daisie, I hope to give that power back to the creator. I want to encourage people to create a list of contacts that they will work with and support as they take their first steps into the fickle and often challenging creative world. I am of the generation who grew up with the internet, I’ve never known anything else. We are connected, we are aware, and we are the future.

I hope Daisie can breathe new life into the slightly dystopian ad-riddled worlds that social media platforms have become. I hope to create a space where people can boast their art and creativity rather than what car they are driving and whether or not they bought it in cash or on finance. In a world where literally anyone can be famous, I hope to inspire people to be talented instead. Talent will carry you so much further than your 15 minutes of fame.”

Lesson 5: “Trust that you’re good enough. There truly is a place for everyone.”

“Trust that you’re good enough. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that there truly is a place for everyone. Ask questions and laugh at the face of people who say they’re stupid questions. Be open to learning and admitting when you don’t know what the hell is going on. Refuse to hold yourself back and dare to dream big.”

The passages quoted above were transcribed by Jed Gregorio from Youtube. Watch the full TED talk below. 

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