When I was a kid people kept telling me that I would be talented. Of course, I liked that. Who would not? And I did more of what I seemed to be talented in, clever little me :o)
Pawlow’s dog was fully alive in me: Make music, get some cookies.
When I got older something started to shift. Suddenly – to my disliking – the label “talented” somehow faded. All of the sudden it was not enough any more to be talented. That was too bad!
What increasingly counted was something not so cozy: WORK.
I kind of resisted this. And I had to put in more and more effort to keep the glorious myth of a talented girl alive.
My epiphany really struck when I talked to a Russian piano teacher.
He told me: “In Russia it is simple: the one who practices most is the most talented.”
I have to say this was not exactly what I wanted to hear. He kind of stole my talent-teddy!
With the years passing, the sparkling glow of natural gift had to be replaced. By this mundane thing called work. Hard work, training like a crazy person. Practicing like an addict, not running for the bottle but for the scales and arpeggios!?
With some pain I adapted the philosophy that would bring me to perform at grandma’s birthday. But it was that would get me on some kind of a stage.
What I found later was that this kind of insight – as unpleasant as it was at first – was very useful. Not only for music. But for everything.
My new mindset was: Whatever I want to achieve, I can do it if I just put in the time and the labor. This myth of talent is a nice fairytale to get children hooked into something. But in real life makes all the difference.
And the Russian teacher was right: If we do care enough to be industrious like hell we will come out smiling one day – because we won.
Never believe too much in the label of “talent”. Clearly it is motivating, when we are told that others are impressed by our innate genius.
But this is how it really works: With all the hard work we put in we build our character and strengthen our core. Talent alone is nothing without work.
Could Maurice André beautifully perform a concerto when he first tried playing the trumpet? No. His many years of hard work made this possible.
Could Mozart write a Symphony at five years old, when he wrote his first piece?
No. His many years of hard work made this possible.
Of course there are quick and there are slow learners.
But in fact we are all learners. No one is a born genius.
This is just a marketing trick to get someone engaged. Let’s not fall for it.
And instead enjoy the simple and slow footwork that we put in over the years that in order to excel in something we love.
With so much love,
p.s. Scott Pool, professor of bassoon at the University of Texas in Arlington, started a super cool series of Tango-Etüden videos. Please watch the beautiful performance of Moto di tango and Milonga esercizio where Scott inspired young writers with his art, which is amazing. Fantastic work!