Excellence: Mastery Achieved

jump_for_freedomDirector, Online Academy.

Some people are born naturally gifted in certain areas. No one had to teach the track superstar, Carl Lewis how to be fast, he was just born that way. The Bible talks about the gifts of the Spirit; prophesy, healing, miraculous powers, wisdom, and faith. Other gifts include teaching, service, and counseling. But, no one gifted or not, is exempt from the hard work necessary to achieve mastery. The great composer, Beethoven, wrote hundreds of musical scores before he turned twenty-one. Jimi Hendrix, the first rock guitar virtuoso, practiced and played his instrument nearly all night and day as did the famous jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

An often unknown fact is that every person of renown had a mentor. The Proverbs say having a mentor is wise and you are a fool if you don’t have one; “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverb 21), and “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverb 13). A great track coach can help a gifted runner gain a step or two. Gaining a step or two in today’s world means a lot. Choosing a mentor is a key decision. No one wishes to learn from a fool. It is essential to achieve excellence by finding a wise mentor who is gifted in teaching and is very experienced in the practice you wish to learn. The greatest pianist of the second half of the Twentieth Century, Glenn Gould, had a mentor who taught him how to hit the piano keys in a distinct striking manner. That style lead to Gould’s fame and acclaimed aggressive articulate style of play. Who would think that there was a different way to strike a piano key? Alberto Guerrero did. He changed the way the piano was played after 300 years! A good mentor brings special insights into a subject and wisdom others simply do not have.

Discipline and practice are key factors to attain mastery. There is a “10,000-hour rule” originated by K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist. It is a popular rule of thumb to help one achieve excellence. The author who popularized this theory, Malcolm Gladwell, writes that the Beatles performed for over 10,000 hours in Germany and small clubs before they broke through. Bill Gates states that he spent his 10,000 hours on a computer starting at the age of 13. Gladwell explains that reaching the 10,000-hour rule, which he considers the key to success in any field, is simply a matter of practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years. Gladwell also notes that he himself took exactly 10 years to meet the 10,000-hour rule, during his tenures at The American Spectator and his more recent job at The Washington Post as a writer. Drive and discipline are essential to success as well as being gifted. And, as above, the fact that no one makes it without help and instruction, “No one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone,” writes Gladwell.

The great bassist, Stanley Clarke, cites that people born of privilege often do not have the drive to succeed. When I asked him why a very gifted musician never “made it,” he asked me if our mutual friend came from wealth. He did. And more often than not Stanley was correct in his assessment. In this case the artist came from a coddled life. He did not have enough desire and drive to make it. It is a documented fact from a five-year study by Dr. Karl Alexander at Johns Hopkins University that those who go to summer school and work through vacations achieve more than those socio-economically privileged who are off summers taking it easy. It is not a necessity to be poor to succeed, but drive, discipline and teamwork are.

The great basketball star Michael Jordan was often scolded by his coaches that there is no “i” in team. His retort was that there is an “i” in win. They are both right, it takes a team, but it also takes talent to succeed and lead. Jordan was first known as a “dunker,” then he worked very hard on every aspect of his game and became the league’s Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year many times. Even he had to work hard to become complete.

I suggest that if you are working in a field that you have no talent or gift in and struggle that it is a good idea to consider a change. Talent is essential to succeed, then hard work; it is that plain and simple.

My grandfather used to say, “Walk like you mean it.” Walk, work, and live with intent. Don’t do anything half-assed. If you wish to attain mastery, walk like you mean it and walk a lot of miles with a guide at first to help you avoid the blind spots, the bumps and grinds in the road.

The On-line Academy has room for five more qualified students to train under the direction of Glenn Samuels.

Contact: glennsamuels@gmail.com




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