"The unexamined life is not worth living" Socrates

- - scatterings of ideas sent to my younger self, a sensitive girl who was fooled into believing she was a boy because of anatomy - -

Monday, 7 February 2011

A Ramble on Admiration

"What a wonderful God-given talent you have!" These words have upset me over the years, when directed toward me, for many reasons, and especially when I have heard them directed toward others, for reasons I will elaborate upon. It has nothing to do with belief in God. Here is a hint. I prefer another saying: “God helps those who help themselves”.

Glib words like “you are so lucky to have such a gift” flow from the tongues of the uninformed. Such is the world for those who do not understand single-minded devotion. Striving toward ones hearts-desire is less a gift and more a (sometimes pleasant) burden. I understand that this is “preaching to the choir” for the large portion of you.

Not being a “this or that” sort of person by nature or upbringing, I have always been very conscious of shading. The kind of people who I find attractive are generally very accepting, not to mention talented and hard-working. That is not to say that I reject the idea of privilege, but rather to point out that I do not believe in hard and fast delineations. There are talented, hard working people in my world who are “somewhat privileged”. There are far too many talented and hard-working individuals who because of circumstances, cannot fulfill their potentials.

Many of my friends are highly skilled artisans. 'Gifted' with the physical characteristics, time and finances to receive training, they made the most of privilege. Understand that many thousands of hours of work went into each 'gift'. Without that energy expenditure, no number of lucky breaks would have resulted in the art they produce. 

I especially remember a school chum who for years practiced piano at least five hours a day at home, and spent every lunchtime at school for the three months before his degree performance working specifically on the third movement of Beethoven's 'Moonlight' Sonata. His fingers must have ached. At the age when most of his classmates were busy lining up their next weekend 'bash', his single-minded devotion to that craft gained him the result he most desired; a career in music and a reputation as one of the finest pianists around. How lucky is that? Luck – zero. He 'had' to do what he did. It was a choice at some point, but once he started down that path, it was simply his road. Only a major life crisis would have diverted him. As a sports celebrity once observed, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.

It is with this in mind that I read blogs here. The devotion and sacrifice one makes to put a life right is not a 'gift'. I do not feel sorry for you or myself, any more than I did for my pianist friend, doing something you have little choice but to do. My admiration however, is quite the same.


  1. I absolutely love this post. It is so true that great talent and great gifts are nothing without the hard work to make them flourish. There are more people that have been successful with hard work than those gifted without wanting to work with it.

    Everyone of us here in blogistan does things not for kicks and giggles but because they must.

  2. Well, you do have quite a talent with words and writing. :) But it's good to remember that much of what we do is craft, and craft requires practice in order to improve.

    The sports saying you quoted reminded me of another: "You have to be good to be lucky."

  3. Well Kathryn, there are kicks and giggles too, but they usually come after the accomplishments. My hard-working friend plays the piano now as part of a complete life, including much fun. Hopefully we get that too. :)

    Ariel, my humble thanks for mentioning my scribblings in the same paragraph as the word 'craft'. :-D

  4. Hey kicks and giggles are the bonuses. And don't hide your light, you do craft, it's called turning a phrase.

  5. Hard working

    What wonderful gifts! :)Suzi

  6. I'm going to play devils advocate here :)

    Whilst I agree mostly, there are one or two individuals who are just good at whatever they do.

    One of them works in my team... He smokes like a chimney, drinks nothing but coke and beer and generally does not have a healthy lifestyle. He can also, without training run the 5KM run in a top 30% time.

    He also picks things up and is just good... He wanted to play the piano so he brought one, watched a few you tube videos and played like someone who has been playing for years.

    Someone brought a yoyo into the office. Within a couple of hours he was showing off tricks like a pro.

    Yes he puts effort into what he does, but at the same time it's a minute amount of effort compared to the rest of us in the office to acheive the same results.

    It may sound like I am bitter here, but really I am not. One of his other talents is to be instantly likeable to everyone who meets him.

    Me... I put the work into it and hope something good comes out of the other side, much like you said in your blog :)


  7. Not just a little bitter Stace?? :D
    It would be hard not to be just a bit envious of someone able to do not only mentally but physically challenging things with little obvious preparation.

    I remember a guy who could eat anything in large quantities (double portions of everything) and never seemed to gain weight.. always thin.

    I heard once that the average person only uses some small fraction (like 10%) of their brainpower.. we all have the potential for much more, but lack access to it.

    Other exceptional types that come to mind include people with photographic memories... the ability to speed read and comprehend.

    I love the challenge to an idea.

    Thanks Stace


  8. Mythbuster to the rescue! And I picked the one from Scientific American so you wouldn't say, oh, that's just Wikipedia. :)

  9. Oh, and be careful what you wish for. I knew someone once similar to the guy you describe who could eat huge amounts of food. This guy was skinny as a rail. Eating for him was a chore.

    I think the ability to speed read can be learned. It's a technique more than a talent.

  10. Thanks Ariel; now when I suggest "I'm doing the best I can", it might actually be true... learning how to speed read might be really useful, considering how much there is to learn and how little time there is! LOL

  11. Practice makes perfect, if you possess the inherent talent in the first place. With out it, forget about it! You can practice until the cows come home and it will all be a colossal waste of time. I have a cousin who has immense artistic talent. I think he inherited it from his accordion playing father. He could pick up almost any instrument, and even without training, play it much better than most of us could after years of practice. I was so impressed when I first heard him play guitar. Then I dropped in on him one evening, only to find him carving the most wonderful filigree out of balsa wood with an exacto knife. As a teenager he wanted to paint his room, so his parents said OK. Little did they know he would paint a tropical island mural on one wall, a night sky complete with moon and stars on his ceiling, a mouse hole on the baseboard, and the backs of his doors like playing cards! When his mother saw it, her jaw dropped. "It's like another world in there!" she said.

    Melissa XX

  12. The way different people observe and process the world must be so amazingly different right from birth.

    I know from personal experience that paying attention to the way things look is not something everyone does in the same manner. The person who can draw something convincingly puts what they see on the paper, not what they are looking at; in other words, they do not interpret the image their eye captures, they record it. This difference seems startling and hugely difficult at first to the non-artist, but after a while, once you understand it becomes obvious. There are still physical skills to practice, but yes, the latent talent of seeing the world in that way really makes a difference.

    Musical 'thinking' is similar. I also know a couple of 'irritating' people who can just pick up an instrument and play.


  13. Love it! This is off topic I guess but this is stirring some controversy apparently. (I'm not sure why)

  14. Nice spam Tim...

    love in the St. Lawrence Market, of all things...