The Wisdom of Gandalf

A Smart Old Fart


The journey of a thousand miles

[ Sidebar: Anyone who knows me longer than 3 minutes knows that it was only a matter of time that I wrote a Blog centered around Gandalf or Lord of the Rings.  End of sidebar. ]

Happy Labor Day weekend!  Here’s one for your time off.  It’s centered around a timeless tale that you probably know pretty well.

Frodo and Sam were almost to Mt. Doom.  It was an absolutely frustrating, maddening, painful six-month journey.  They encountered a Balrog, eagles, Nazgul, aggressive elves, savage trees, treacherous men, intense darkness, intense fire, intense hunger, intense thirst, aggressive dwarves, a giant Spider, Gollum, orcs, orcs, and more orcs.  And the nagging weight of the One Ring all along was weighing Frodo back down to Middle-earth.  They were facing pressures galore to quit.  All of those pressures, and yet they kept going.  They planted a seed long ago, in the Council of Elrond.  That seed was the determination to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.  They just had to get there.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  And since there were no Stanley Steamers bumping around The Shire at that time, it would definitely indeed be on foot, and no faster.

“All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”

That was the wisdom imparted by Gandalf the Grey, before he faced his test with the Balrog and was resurrected as Gandalf the White.  He knew that Frodo would face suffering and adversity.  He knew there would be challenges, and temptation to quit.  In fact, in the movie versions, Frodo almost did quit in Osgiliath, nearly handing the Ring of Power right over to a Nazgul flying on a fell beast.  Thanks Frodo.  Nice determination, pal.  Good lookin’ out for everybody else.

What Gandalf was saying was that Frodo needed to make a choice.  In every moment, he was given that moment and needed to wisely decide what to do with it.  Would he sow seeds?  Or hold them back?


Sowing Seeds

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge Rings Geek.  I’ve always been inspired by the Lord of the Rings, and I’ve read the complete series at least 150 times, no joke.  Don’t judge me.  I already said I was a Geek.

The Lord of the Rings is an epic tale of a journey.  A journey of sowing and reaping.  If you look for that theme, you’ll see it everywhere.  Aragorn and Arwen.  Frodo and Sam.  Eowyn.  Every one of them had a desire for something, and every one of them needed to plant seeds to get there.  Even Sauron.  They all had to continue to work towards their goal, even at great cost to themselves.

A few seeds planted here. A few there.  Aaaaaand a few more over there.  You never know when they’ll take root.  In the case of a Chinese Bamboo tree, it takes five years to grow underground…yet in the 6th year, it grows eighty feet tall!  I bet you didn’t know that, huh?  (Disclaimer: I actually didn’t until the writing of this article; an arborist I am not.)  Seeds never reveal what they’re doing.  Just like you can’t see where a Great White Shark is, or when it’ll reveal itself by leaping out of the water with that seal in its mouth (moment of silence for said seal), in less macabre circumstances, a seed doesn’t reveal itself either, until its time is ripe, and it too bursts forth and reveals itself.

What are your seeds as a voiceover artist?  Auditions.  Marketing contacts.  Attempts to reel in business somehow.  Casting yourself out there into the ether and hoping to connect with another soul who wants to partner with you in this great thing called self-employment.  You scatter the seeds where you may each day, and you hope that they’ll take root and grow.  But you never know in what timing that will happen, and you don’t need to.

Just like Frodo and Sam, you never know when you’re going to reach your Mount Doom and accomplish your Quest.  Even Gandalf in all his wisdom never knew if they would actually do it.  In the most unforeseen way (except perhaps by His Royal Greyness when he said that his heart told him that Gollum had some part to play yet, for good or ill), Gollum came along....and but for Gollum, Frodo might have become the Dark Lord himself, keeping the Ring unto his own ends.  It was up to them to continue their slow, solemn march towards the fiery mountain, and get that ring in there.

They got there.  That Chinese Bamboo tree took root.  The Ring was cast into the fire.  The bamboo tree grew 80 feet.

Mission accomplished.  Kinda like when I just put my preschooler down for a nap: an ordeal that is accompanied by a delightful amount of anguish, rule-breaking and downright disobedience.  But there’s nothing that a little chloroform won’t solve.  *wipes hands in victory*


You Shall Not Pass

Ever feel like you’re just spinning your wheels?  Like you’re the big bad Balrog and Gandalf is telling you that “you shall not pass”?  Stuck in the middle of the week with no jobs and you’re not allowed to cross over into Lothlorien, that great Elven haven brimming with voiceover jobs?

I sure have.  These past two weeks I didn’t have any jobs through Wednesday afternoon.  For this past week, something exploded late Wednesday afternoon.  I finally got two, and then the well was tapped.  And then the dam broke.  By Friday afternoon, I finished with seven.  Take that, Gandalf.  I’ll pass, thank you very much.  Iron your robes for crying out loud, you look like a sow in the mud.  And take a bath ya stinky crotchety wizard!

I’m finally feeling the Summer Slowdown.  When it began a few months ago, it didn’t affect me.  I was supremely busy, and was enjoying a steady diet of recording jobs.  And then, the numbers dwindled. They went from 12 one week, to 8, to 6, to 5.  And now, finally, this past week: what a victory.  I’m grateful, and I hope it’s the winds of change, because there’s nothing worse than waiting for those seeds to take root.  I’ve sent out so many marketing contacts and uploaded so many auditions.  There are certain laws of reaping and sowing that say that your efforts will not be in vain.  They HAVE to not be.  You WILL receive a bounty for your investment.  You must believe that all of that combined energy that's currently bottlenecking in the reservoir of bounty is soon going to explode: something BIG is going to happen for you.

Again, look at my past few weeks.  Nothing. Nothing.  Then something.  Then nothing. Then bounty.  All of those efforts came from inquiries from weeks prior.

All of my current efforts are sowing seeds into the fertile soil of my future.

You and I HAVE to know that our efforts will eventually pay off.  Nothing is in vain.  No such mammoth investment of effort that strains us to our very core isn’t heard somewhere.  It resounds and echoes in the great ears of Bounty, which eventually returns the fruit of our labors to us in all fairness.  Sometimes, we sow five thousand seeds and reap twenty.  Sometimes, we sow twenty, and reap eight hundred.  Sometimes we sow ten, and reap one.  There’s a backlog that builds up, and never doles itself out with equal measure.  The only thing we can be sure of is this:

Sowing zero reaps zero.

I shall pass, thank you very much.

Now let’s be realistic.  I’m not facing being:

  • consumed by a Ring
  • eaten by a Balrog
  • scorched by fire
  • scratched by Gollum
  • webbed up by Shelob
  • skewered by Uruk-hai
  • betrayed by Boromir
  • freaked out by Galadriel
  • impaled by a troll
  • trampled by oliphants
  • pursued by Wargs
  • roughed up by orcs
  • snatched by a watcher in the water
  • slashed by Nazgul
  • smothered by trees
  • scorched by lava, or
  • dropped by an eagle.

But then again, it’s only Monday.  Who knows what Middle-earth will bring, if I keep on planting?

Let’s go sow.  Our Chinese bamboo can come.

All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.




Need a voiceover?  Request a quote today or visit my Demo Reel. Or subscribe.  Or other things.

Joshua Alexander
Seattle Voice Actor & Voiceover Talent for hire

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4 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Gandalf”

  1. You are correct Joshua. It has repeated many times in my voice over career. You plant the seeds and must be patient. You will always reap the reward eventually. It is just much harder for those who are now used to the get everything now internet age.

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