In Search of Excellence (Apologies to Tom Peters)
Anita Sharpe on Passionate Work
I don't think I fully got the true meaning of excellence until I observed something in my son.
For years, I thought he had the potential to be a great baseball player. He once hit a home run as first-grader; he once made a seemingly impossible, game-winning catch in outfield that caused his teammates to mob the field. So I silently fumed as coaches repeatedly rotated him from outfield to third base and placed him seventh or so in the batting order. All that potential, I thought, failing to be encouraged.
Nevermind that my kid also was the one most likely to be tossing his glove in the air or staring at the clouds. And nevermind that, left to his own devices, he never picked up a glove or bat to practice. His lack of passion for the game came through to everyone from other kids to coaches to parents -- everyone but me, who continued to focus on any glimmers of talent and potential.
Then when he was nine, he got a guitar. No one ever had to ask him to practice; he was at it at least two hours a day. He saved his money to buy music books. Within a year, he was ripping through Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Santana and playing on stage with a band.
And just like his fellow Little Leaguers who didn't want a semi-interested player at first base or batting clean-up, my son got quite picky about who he wanted to play music with. Casual players with talent but minimal zeal weren't welcome, even if there was a friendship cost.
And it hit me: while there is certainly no excellence without talent, it's over-the-top enthusiasm that makes the real difference. True excellence fueled by passion doesn't have to be outwardly encouraged, even in children. It doesn't require 'motivation' -- at least as we commonly practice it.
True excellence is about finding that one thing that you do well and want to do many hours a day, even when the field is muddy or your fingers bleed.