Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Michael Faraday, Martha Graham, Marie Curie, James Marshall Hendrix, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, Floyd Mayweather Jr, and John Clayton Mayer. The brilliant works of these luminaries often transcend culture, race, and time, leaving many of us rapt in awe. How did Martha Graham so thoroughly master dance to the point where she could create her own genre? During his illustrious career, how did Floyd Mayweather Jr seemingly sense impending punches and skillfully slip out of the way well before his opponents could land them? How does John Mayer effortlessly slide around the guitar, belting melodies from every corner of the instrument almost as if it were part of his body? How did Michelangelo manage to capture the very essence of life in the divinely sculpted statue of King David. Are these amazing shows of brilliance a result of some God given talent, or just plain old fashioned hard work? Short answer – extreme skill is almost always a combination of talent and a special type of hard work. For the more detailed answer, keep reading. Continue reading Is genius a product of talent or effort?
We all intuitively know when we have experienced a display of exceptional skill because it stirs up emotions in us that words cannot quite capture. It is the feeling that causes you to shake your head in disbelief at Stephen Curry’s accuracy from 3-point range on a basketball court. It’s the emotions you feel when a soulful guitar solo leaves you in tears. It is the excitement that forces you to dance when you hear Alicia Keys belt out the chorus to “Empire State of Mind” from her famed vocal chords. Words cannot describe these feelings because exceptional skill predates language in our human culture. Before the invention of language or the existence of insanely skilled musicians, writers, and athletes, our ancestors were insanely skilled hunters and navigators who could deftly weave their way through the rich African jungle and strategically plan the efficient killing of prey. Master’s of their respective domains seem to possess skill that is otherworldly and beyond the average person’s grasp. This apparent unattainability of mastery is further heightened by the fact that there are so few masters in history who really stand out. These masters form a shining line through the annals of time: Galileo, Leo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Albert Einstein, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Michael Faraday, Benjamin Franklin, Martha Graham, Marie Curie, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jeffrey Jordan, Steven Paul Jobs, Floyd Mayweather Jr, and John Mayer amongst others. The otherworldly skill these masters possess seduces us into repeatedly asking certain questions. How does exceptional skill come about? Are their brains just different from that of the average person? Are these people just born geniuses? Can anyone become a genius? Do I have what it takes to be like that or should I just accept my lot in life and stop fooling myself? Well my friends, I invite you to follow me on this literary journey as I attempt to explain where exceptional skill comes from. Continue reading How to get really good at (fill in the blank)