Why Can’t I Just Be a Prodigy?

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. – Kevin Durant

Our kids have a way of being much more honest than adults, and by their honesty, sometimes they can show us our true feelings.

My daughter and I were riding in the car talking about her ‘new’ harmonica that she inherited from her Great Grandmother. We started talking about where she could get lessons and the importance of practicing. That’s when she looked at me and said,

“Why can’t I just be a prodigy?”

A prodigy is defined as a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability.”

What she meant was why couldn’t she just open the box and sound like she had been playing the harmonica all her life. I had to smile and chuckle in that way that parents do when our kids prove that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I’ve had the same thought many times myself, just not with a harmonica, but with writing. Why can’t I just skip the whole learning, and growing stages and start right out at mastery.

One of the first things I did when I decided to get serious about writing was to enter a short story contest. My thinking at the time was that if I was ‘truly talented’ I would win the contest on my natural ability alone. Who needed to worry about learning story structure, characters arcs or all that stuff? If I was gifted enough to make it as a professional writer, and if I had the special pixie dust that all profession writers must have, then that talent and magic would show through, and I would win.

I wanted instant success. I wanted weight loss without diet and exercise. I wanted to be able to run a marathon without getting off my couch.

I might as well have been trying to fly.

Reality has a way of slapping you in the face when you are running completely contrary to it. Of course, I didn’t even make it out of the initial round of the contest. I could have given up right there, but I decided to keep learning, to keep writing, and to press forward on the journey.

Prodigies are rare, and what we don’t see is even the prodigies have to work and practice. Tiger Woods, a golf prodigy, was the first man on the practice tee when he ruled the golf world.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. – Kevin Durant

Kevin_Durant_dunkKevin Durant is an preternaturally talented basketball player. He’s won numerous awards, and has taken his team to the brink of championships. He’s a man who knows he has tremendous, world class, God given talent, yet he points to hard work.

That’s the real lesson I was reminded of when my daughter made her declaration. Talent is  something outside of my control. Hard work isn’t.

Hard work isn’t flashy. It isn’t going to go viral. It’s old fashion. It’s what your grandmother would say.

I hope the message got across to my daughter. I also hope the message was remembered by her father.


Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kevin_Durant_dunk.jpg