Genius?

[Versión en español aquí.]


On the 26th of August I went to a concert in Cádiz by amazing violinist Ara Malikian. A gorgeous performance, and I cannot recommend you enough to go watch him play if you have the chance.

During the concert he played a piece composed by Pablo Sarasate, one of the greatest violinists ever -and my countryman!-, and I remembered some of his words: “For 37 years I have practised 14 hours a day, and now they call me a genius!”

This quote made me recall another one by Mozart: “It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.”

Many of us look at the greatest in history at anything -or at the greatest of today- as if Zeus himself had blessed them (or whomever blesses these guys, I do not know who is in charge of that up there), and their gift and everything they have accomplished in life had fallen from the sky, given to them by a divine hand. I mean, nobody here is discussing the fact that in order to become the greatest, or at least to be worthy of being placed among the greatests, it is compulsory to have a little splash of genius and talent that is beyond what the common mortal can achieve…

…but I do believe that we also use that as an excuse to give ourselves a pat on the back, and to settle for way less than we could achieve.

We excuse ourselves before even starting.
That way, losing feels less bad.

But we forget that our idols, even those at the Olympus of history… worked incessantly for many years to become who they were, and that nothing actually fell from the sky for them. And we forget, especially, that many of them worked much, much more than anyone else “despite”  having the incredible talent we envy.

What if, instead of making excuses… you went in wholeheartedly? What if, instead of just touching the water with one foot just in case there are sharks… you went in head first? What if you actually practised 14 hours a day for 37 years?

I’m not trying to fool you. Failure exists. Bad luck as well -and as romantic as it can be to think of success as something entirely dependent on you, chance is always a player in the game-. And you could go in head first and fail. Give it your all, and bite the dust. And the blow hurts. But I know very little people who actually went all in, failed, and regretted giving it their all until the end.

Vince Lombardi once said: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”  Unfortunately, you cannot get there without risking being the one defeated.

We love to think ‘What if…?’, and then imagine everything that could go wrong. Every single way we could fail. What people we don’t even care about would think about us, and what those we really care about would think about us -unsurprisingly, we suck at predicting these last ones-. But we rarely stop for a little bit of wishful thinking.

What if you make it?

What if you stop making excuses and show the world who you actually are, and how much you can achieve? What if instead of shrinking because‘out there, there are people with more talent and that work more than I do’, and worked as if you were one of those guys touched by the gods?

Maybe you actually are one of those.

But… are you willing to pay the price to find out?


Bonus quote by Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

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