“Talent is useless without training, thank God.”
– Mark Twain
Sunday, [1:37] PM
“That kid’s got a God-given talent.”
“He’s a prodigy!”
“He was born to play that guitar.”
Those are things I heard adults say shortly after I picked up the guitar at the young age of seven.
I had no idea what they were talking about. It made absolutely no sense to me.
It all began after pizza night… which we did every Friday at Jeep & Joe’s Pizza in downtown Barberton, Ohio.
After that was TV time.
And this particular night we watched The Partridge Family. It was the first episode I had ever seen.
I was completely and utterly mesmerized.
Keith Partridge was the coolest human being I had ever seen in my short little life. He was a rock star with long hair, rock star clothes… and what captured my attention the most, he played the electric guitar.
I knew from that very moment… this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
After weeks of persistent pestering, my dad finally relented and took me to “Happy Hank’s”… Henry’s Music in beautiful downtown Barberton, Ohio to sign me up for guitar lessons.
They refused. Said their experience showed a 7-year-old kid was too young to learn guitar and would never stick with it more than a few weeks.
In another few months I’ll be approaching 40 years as a guitarist… some of those as a professional. Ole Happy Hank was right about the other 99.9% of 7-year-old boys… but he was dead wrong about me.
I didn’t get upset with Crappy Hank and give up on my first-ever dream.
I got MAJORLY pissed off!
I bugged my dad until he took me back to Crappy Hank’s and bought me a book on learning guitar. If that old fart wouldn’t let me take lessons, I was going to teach myself.
And that’s exactly what I did.
And am STILL doing today.
From the very first moment I cracked open that book and played my first chord (an open G Major “cowboy chord”) on an old crappy beat up Harmony acoustic with 15 year old strings my Mom left gathering dust in the basement… I was completely hooked.
I LIVED with that guitar.
Hell, I SLEPT with that guitar… literally.
Every minute of every day I wasn’t in school, church, eating or doing chores, I was playing that guitar.
Until my fingers bled.
And then I put on my mom’s cotton gardening gloves so I could continue playing it in spite of my sore and bleeding fingers.
I gave up playing outside, riding my bike and playing sports like all my friends just so I would have more time with the guitar.
I put in some serious time with that instrument. But it didn’t feel like work… it was a labor of love. After all, I was PLAYING the guitar, not WORKING the guitar.
That’s why I didn’t understand all those comments about “talent”, “child prodigy” and all that stuff.
Those adults couldn’t have been more wrong.
It wasn’t talent or a “gift” they were seeing… it was the predictable result of THOUSANDS of hours invested learning my instrument.
Talent had NOTHING to do with it.
If that talent theory held any water, people with genius IQ’s would have a HUGE advantage over the rest of the population and would be raging successes in a multitude of disciplines.
That’s simply not the case.
In fact, quite the opposite. People with genius IQ’s are much more likely to be working in menial jobs with little to no personal reward and minimum pay than their average IQ counterparts.
Give me two students…
One with lots of natural “talent” but an aversion to work…
…and one with no “talent” but a willingness to work his ass off.
After only a few months the no talent student will be so far ahead of the talented one it will make your head spin.
History shows again and again, the surest path to mastery of anything is…
Ever read any of the Travis McGee novels by John D. McDonald?
You should. They are some of the best examples of story telling masterpieces ever written.
Gary Halbert even claimed studying John D. McDonald’s writing would make you a better copywriter.
The first time I ever read a Travis McGee novel I marveled at McDonald’s ability to weave an almost addictive story, describe scenes in such detail I could picture them in my mind (I still remember them as if I was actually there)… and suck me in so much I thought about the characters and story line throughout the day as if it was something actually happening.
But I wasn’t marveling at some kind of unique talent or ability. I was experiencing the results of John D. McDonald’s 10,000 hours.
He had heard that it takes most writers ten novels before they get really good. So he went about writing his first ten novels...
In his first YEAR!
When you make THAT kind of dedication to your passion… without compromise… you are destined to become a master.
It’s not a matter of IF it will happen… it’s a matter of when.
Once you’re very close to… or have exceeded 10,000 hours of training in your chosen discipline, (interesting word choice, huh?) you are at, or almost at, the point of “effortless” mastery.
Of course, it wasn’t originally effortless. It was really frickin’ hard… and you probably considered quitting many, many times.
Heck, you probably DID quit many times.
But if it’s a TRUE passion or dream you only “quit” for a very short period of time.
You always came back.
You HAD to come back.
It’s as if this particular discipline has chosen YOU… and you simply CAN’T quit… even if you think you want to.
So you get in your 10,000 hours, making whatever sacrifices are needed to do it as quickly as possible.
And all the civilians marvel at how effortless you make it look. The jealous ones (the ones who don’t have the balls to do their OWN 10,000 hours) call you…
They like to make themselves feel better and claim that as an excuse for their own cowardice and/or sloth.
Many will hate you and deliberately try to sabotage you with words and deeds.
Even just beginning your 10,000 hour trek is a silent accusation that they, too, could begin their own 10,000 trek… if they had the balls.
But they don’t.
A precious few very unique and special people will encourage you and become your own personal cheerleader. Many of those will be people who have already completed their own 10,000 hour journey… or are in the process.
The other 99.9%…
Their response will be to try and pull you back into the “crab bucket” with them.
Their fate is punishment enough… poor bastards.
No, it’s not easy.
(Anybody who tells you it’s easy is lying to you… and probably trying to sell you a “magic bullet” solution.)
So, no. Not easy.
But worth it.
Look, you’re going to spend 10,000 hours doing something. Most people spend it on stupid stuff that produces NEGATIVE results in their life. Like watching TV.
Why not invest those 10,000 hours in something you’re passionate about… that will produce happiness and success?
And the time to start is…
Whatever it takes, start chipping away NOW at those 10,000 hours.
I promise you it won’t be easy.
And almost no one will understand you or support you.
But don’t ever forget this:
The minute you start on your 10,000 hour journey (and stick with it), you’ve gained a few things most people won’t EVER have:
1. The balls to stick your head above the crowd and brave the folly of tomatoes… and…
2. Somebody in your corner…