Archive for January 31st, 2011


I had a nice email from a gentleman who told me about a prize his 16 year old daughter had recently won for one of her paintings.  I took a look at the piece and responded to him.  It was nice painting, nicely composed and had strong lines and color.  It was far ahead of anything I was doing at that age, especially by the virtue that it was complete.  I could see this young person doing more with their talents in the future.  I wrote him back and told him this but with my standard warning, one that I have written about  here before:  Potential and how it must be actively pursued with constant efforts and a consistent pushing of one’s abilities. 

I wrote him to tell him this, to let him know about some of the young talents I have seen come and go because they felt their talent was something that was in them and could be turned on and off with the flip of a switch.  I told him to tell her to look at the work required as a musician looks at rehearsals.  Perhaps even look at their talents as being like those of a musician, talents that need constant exercise in order to stay sharp and strong.  For instance, even if you have great innate talent, you can’t expect to play the violin like Itzhak Perlman if you don’t devote your talents in the same way as he does. A great part of his life is in nurturing his abilities.

I always feel like a sourpuss when I’m giving this advice.  Nobody wants to hear that they need to work harder.  Everyone wants to think that they have this great talent born within them and it will flow like a spigot whenever they so desire.  If only that were true.

I think you will find that those who succeed at the highest levels in any field are those who understand this need to constantly push and work their talents.  I’m sure there are exceptions but none come immediately to mind.  I wrote about this in a blog post when I first started this, over two years ago.  I wrote about something author John Irving had said about competing as a writer as he competed as a wrestler, putting in the same sort of work as though he were attempting to be an Olympic wrestler. 

Hard work.   It’s not glamorous especially in this world of instant gratification but it is a proven entity .

I’m showing the piece above to highlight this.  It’s a small painting that I did before I was showing in any galleries, in 1994.  At the time, it pleased me very much and I could have very easily kept painting in that style and been pretty happy, without much effort.  But there was a little voice in me that kept saying to push ahead and work harder, to see what I could accomplish with greater effort.  It became not an end but a stepping stone to move ahead.

That is how I hope this man’s daughter see her painting– as a stepping stone.  She may think it is the best thing she has ever done but if she is willing to push ahead and put in the effort, she will look at it someday as a mere step in her journey.

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