The true artist has no pride; unhappily he realizes that art has no limitations, he feels darkly how far he is from the goal, and while, perhaps he is admired by others, he grieves that he has not yet reached the point where the better genius shall shine before him like a distant sun. Ludwig van Beethoven
Much has been written about what genius is. One definition recently resonated with me, culled and distilled from a variety of sources:
Genius is the intense attention, over a significant period of time, to something specific. rm
Most never achieve this because they become distracted by the desires of ego, otherwise known as life. This idea that “life happens” certainly has caused some delays in my career, mostly in the form of how I have chosen to interpret meaning from the events and circumstances in my past. “I’m not talented because my work wasn’t accepted in the local art show,” “I’m not good at art because my fourth grade teacher said my portrait of George Washington looked like John Adams” or “I must suffer if I want to be great.” Because these are our experience, which seem so “real,” we accept these absurd conclusions (and thousands of others) as true. The truth isn’t that you can’t do a thing, but that you have not really fully chosen to do it.
The first step to producing greatness, then, is to begin the arduous, but oh so rewarding process, of questioning the veracity of such Cognitive Distortions. For instance, how true is your painting not being chosen for the local art show an indication of your level of talent? Perhaps it just means that this painting is not the product your intense attention (without the distraction of ego) over time to something specific. I say “perhaps” because it is entirely possible the same painting might just win the next competition due to the vagaries of an often highly subjective adjudication criteria. But it probably means you have some specific work in front of you.
Believe it or not, the work has more to do with eliminating these Cognitive Distortions than practicing your art, because you can’t really do the latter until you have attacked the former. As a career coach, and in my own experience, I have found that when we reduce our egoic desires, wrapped up in the myriad of CDs keeping us in our thought prisons, we are then better able to focus 100% of our mental and emotional energy on composing our first nine symphonies, or whatever it may be to which we have chosen to devote our life’s work.