“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”
— Henry van Dyke
Breathing hard, my daughter said to our martial arts instructor tonight, “Boy, it would be embarrassing if I was in a class with little kids who were better at martial arts than me.”
The instructor was quick to point out that it wasn’t how young or old you are; how big or small you are; just that you are trying. Paraphrasing, “The only thing that counts is how hard you try, how hard you work, and how long you do it,” he told my daughter.
In martial arts, as in most things, it is exactly that. If you persist, think about, work at, and study something for a long period of time, you will get pretty good at it. A great speaker knows that a good speech is never written, it’s rewritten again and again to deliver that magical moment on stage. A great mechanic has to work on hundreds or thousands of cars in order to be able to make those “instant diagnosis” on the side of the road. A great athlete knows that it isn’t talent that wins a race. It’s unceasing work and workouts.
Even a genius isn’t really a genius. It’s been postulated that it takes a person about 10 years of persevering at a discipline in order to make a breakthrough.
Julia Morgan, perhaps one of the greatest 20th century architects you’ve never heard of, was a case in point. In an age when women were discouraged from obtaining a high school diploma, she overcame great tribulations (male chaperones and teachers deliberately flunking her, studying in an unfamiliar language, French … to name a few) to get a degree from the University of California at Berkley and a Beaux-Arts certification from the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the pre-eminant architecture school in the world. She went on to design buildings for William Randolph Hearst including the Hearst Castle. Her “genius” was in perseverance.
Tonight, as I prepare to teach a class of art literacy to a group of 6th graders tomorrow, I need to keep this in mind because quite frankly I’m not a great artist and I’m not well-versed in the early 20th century architecture of Julia Morgan. In short, my presentation won’t be brilliant. It won’t be genius.
But that isn’t what giving time is all about. It’s just throwing yourself into volunteer projects and doing your best, learning everything you can along the way. Always thriving and striving to deliver your best, knowing it will never be perfect.
The next time you see an opportunity to help someone or a group of someones, don’t hesitate because you might not do it perfectly, or because someone might be able to do it better.
Just help because you can.
Today’s gift of time … Preparing for tomorrow’s art literacy class presentation on short notice. I’ll do the best I can.