Archive for January 12th, 2022

Working to Potential


GC Myers- Early Work, 1994

He was justifying his existence, than which life can do no greater; for life achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that which it was equipped to do.

–Jack London, White Fang

Much distracted lately, I needed a personal reminder that I had to apply myself a bit harder. This post from back in January of 2011might be just what I was looking for. It’s about reaching the furthest potentials of one’s talents and abilities but even if one wishes to attempt to do something for which they believe they have no real talent, it still applies. The hard work they put in will yield real progress and reward them with confidence and lessons that can be applied throughout the other aspects of their life.

From 2011:

I had a nice email from a gentleman who told me about a prize his 16 year old daughter had recently won for a painting she had submitted in a scholastic competition.

I took a look at the piece and responded to him, telling him it was a well done painting, nicely composed with 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 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 innately within 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 in the way 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 his work habits. He saw himself competing as a writer in the same way as he did in his time competing as a wrestler.

To reach the potential as writer required  putting in the same levels of intense effort as those needed to compete as a wrestler or any other athlete on the Olympic level.

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 a journey to reach her true potential.

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