The master's path
blog for personal development through martial arts
By Master Sarah Huber
"You're so talented!", "I could never do that!", "You make it look so easy!", "It must be so great to be able to do something like that!".
Artists, musicians, athletes, craftsmen, you've all heard compliments like this before. They were always well-intentioned, meant with nothing but respect, and still... Why is it that statements like this don't feel quite right...? We say "Thank you," politely accepting the sentiment, but we all know the truth: Talent has very little to do with accomplishment and success.
There are exceptions- savants or prodigies who can sit down and instantly master their crafts. They seem to come out if the womb already knowing everything they need to excel at a specific art or trade. And many of us- I would argue most- have strange talents we are born with which we often don't think about or value... I have a friend who makes intricate balloon animals without ever having gone through a tutorial, she can just do it. Some people have impeccable internal clocks, or can keep a steady beat intuitively, or have perfect pitch. I once met someone who can instantly repeat entire sentences backwards... These are talents.
Talents are known as "gifts" for a reason. They are not earned, and therefore talent alone will not sustain a person's true success. The will to use one's gifts and share them with the world is laudable, and sometimes motivates us to develop a talent into something more..., into a skill. However, talent is not necessary for developing skill. There are only three things that are necessary: Desire, Determination, and Discipline. These 3 D's are convenient for remembering, but it really comes down to hard work; Sustained hard work over time, repetition, concentration, follow though, "stick-to-itiveness", and sacrifice through ten-thousand hours of practice.
Skill is not something you are born with. It isn't given, it's earned. Therefore everyone has the opportunity to develop skill. Talent is a contributing factor, as is intelligence, strength, size, eyesight, grace, dexterity, etc., but a deficiency in any or all of those can be compensated for with the 3 D's.
I'm fond of saying, "I'm really not that smart, I'm just hard-working enough to make up for it." So my answer to the compliment is this; Yes, you could do what I just did, if you had the desire, determination, and discipline to pursue it. I am not saying that you are lazy or incompetent, or in any way less than what I am. My intent is only to ask the question, What are you passionate about? What have you or are you willing to devote your time and effort towards and become obsessed with? Maybe it's a sport or a an art form, a service to others, it could be raising children, making something, or it could be something I would never think of. Whatever that thing is, and whatever work you have put into it is what deserves every bit as much respect and prestige as the ability to do whatever I just did.
So keep up your determination to work towards what you desire, and be disciplined in your practice, making time, motivating yourself and manifesting what is possible for you.