How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice.

Mary Playing the ViolinPeople who know, who have achieved anything close to mastery in any discipline will repeat the practice mantra until they’re blue in the face.  “Practice, not talent, is the key to success,” they will say.  But not just any practice.  Intense, focused, repeated work on a specific aspect or combination of isolated aspects of whatever is keeping you from a masterful execution in whatever particular area of expertise you are working, is our ticket to success.  Those people rise to the top and the rest of us call them “talented.”

But let’s back up.  What is it that really makes someone talented?  If you dread practice, or feel it isn’t necessary, it is because you lack one crucial piece in the puzzle.  Desire.

If desire is missing, then practice is simply drudgery.  You can yell and scream all you want about practicing but if the student does not have a desire to do anything and everything possible to bring that thing of beauty into the world, they are just empty words.

My daughter hates to practice her violin.  But when she hears a tune, played beautifully by her teacher, or some kid on Youtube, and she buys into the idea of standing there, in front of the world, playing it beautifully, she becomes obsessed with getting it right.  She needs guidance to know what and how to practice, and yes, she needs to commit the time and discipline needed to break it down and really make it happen.  But when she makes up her mind, nothing will stand in her way.  The same is true with Danny.  When he gets a piece of music in his head, when he has heard it performed brilliantly, the hunger in him grows and the practice it takes, follows.

On a side note, there is a huge difference between competing, which is a function of the ego, and the instilling of a strong desire to make something beautiful.  That’s why I hate competitive arts.  My artistic effort is only a way to become closer to God, to make something beautiful, rather than beating anyone.

I think we often forget the importance of inspiration in the conversation about talent.  People get to be awesome not just because they practice, but because they have it in their head to become awesome.  Desire is only motivation for intense practice.

So can genius be taught?  Yes.  Genius is simply focused desire on steroids.  So yes, but teachers and parents have to be willing and able to provide inspiration.  The secret is this, “if you build it, they will come.”  I have become a much better salesman, trying to get my kids to practice.

Mary took over the blog at this point.  She wrote:

“Same with singing. If you practice singing, then you will be a loud and strong singer. Like Mary has to practice singing, “Giants in the Sky” to get better at the singing.  And don’t forget about ballet. . . “

I won’t.  And thanks Mary, for your contribution to today’s installment.  I love you!!!  Your desire to bring beauty into the world inspires me!

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