At the age of four, Lady Gaga wasn’t bringing down the house for 30,000 roaring fans. In fact, Stefani Germanotta didn’t even become the Gaga we know until she’d studied and practiced music for years. Just like every other kid who picks up an instrument, she took up piano and plunked out an uneven version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Pablo Picasso didn’t begin crafting timeless masterpieces with his first paint set. He probably scrabbled out an uneven stick figure, as many of us did when we first attempted art.
The masters of any craft – from music to business – are not born titans. Their mastery comes through the combination of hard work, persistence, study, discipline, and sacrifice. Yes, innate talent plays some role, but far less than most people believe. It’s the countless hours toiling away, learning and practicing, which lead to mastery.
Why, then, do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect at our early attempts at something new? The master salesperson, architect, dancer, sommelier and accountant all stumbled before honing their crafts. Experienced pros at the top of their game make it look easy and natural, but that only comes as the result of years of effort and refinement.
Stumbling early is part of the process. As I learned jazz guitar, I devoted hundreds of hours and made countless mistakes. There were many days I wanted to quit, many times I felt I had no talent. But it was the persistent force of will and the tenacity to succeed that allowed me to eventually make it look easy. It was a twenty-year journey, not an overnight success.
Gordon Ramsey probably burnt his first grilled cheese sandwich. Serena Williams undoubtedly missed thousands of shots before perfecting her backhand. Walt Disney was fired from an early job because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” As you embark upon a new path, or work to elevate an existing skill, keep in mind that persistence and grit will play a far greater role in your eventual success than any raw talent you possess.
We’ve all felt discouraged when not progressing as fast as we’d like, but let’s flip that story. Those moments of doubt are merely signals that a breakthrough is near. Forge ahead and learn through the frustration. Before you know it, people will point to you as the master, exclaiming how easy you make it look and what a natural you are. Your first, second, or fifteenth attempts aren’t what you’ll be remembered for. Press on, and your defining moment will be revealed in conjunction with your consistent pursuit.