A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts about the fact that most of us are average. My brother came back with a challenge for everyone to be great. At face value, it seems as though we were writing opposite points, when in fact we were both writing the same thing.
In this particular post, I explained that one problem that I have with schools is that grades have become a skewed system to measure intelligence and leaves people thinking that they are much smarter than they are. After all, A is for above average, as is B, C is average, D is below average, and F is failing. Studies show that more kids are earning A’s now than ever before. So A has become the new average. I summed up my point with a quote from the Pixar Movie “The Incredibles”. Syndrome said to Mr. Incredible, “I want to make everyone super. When everyone is super, no one will be.” Because the playing field is leveled. Jason came back with a challenge to not be average, but to be great.
I would like to echo that challenge today. There is no reason everyone cannot be great at something. When we look at great people all over the world and find their history, you will find that there is a direct correlation between their greatness, a natural talent, and a lot of practice. Seth Godin talks about the Beatles and other greats and their early days. The Beatles did not become great in their natural talent alone. They played 10-12 hours a day in a German club 6 days a week for years before they took their talent public. I spent a year in Japan as an exchange student, in the same city that Ichiro grew up in. I met his father and went to the museum on the property of the home he grew up in, and saw where he practiced as a child. Today, there is no better contact hitter in the game of baseball on the planet. Ichiro is not just good because of his talent. Ichiro began playing ball a young kid, and everyday after baseball practice, his dad took him out for two more hours of batting practice. That is what makes Ichiro great.
We all sit around and wish we had natural talent like the athletes we idolize, or the charisma of some public speakers, or talent of great musicians, but the truth is that it comes with a lot of practice. At the school earlier in the week, we had the Kindergarten graduation. The Kindergarten teacher asked me to close in prayer, and as any good pastor does, I said a few things before closing in prayer. I saw her in the hall the next day, and she asked me how I can get up in front of people like that and just talk. I explained to her that is from years of practice. I reflected upon my first “speaking” opportunity.
In high school, a friend and I started a Bible club. We just wanted to gather the Christians of the school together and hold one another accountable, and encourage each other to live for Jesus in a public school. I had a scripture that I thought was kind of cool, and I was thinking that it would be an awesome sermon. So I showed up, read the scripture, tried to explain a few thoughts, and only talked for about 3 minutes. That is a far cry from where I am today, but it has been a lot of speaking engagements, some successful, others not so much.
The key to greatness is to find what your natural talents are, and work hard to develop them. Don’t worry about your weaknesses, they will most likely never become a strength. Focus on your strengths and practice hard. Then you too can be great.
What are your strengths? How are you developing them to become greater?
By the way, if you are interested in reading ongoing discussion between Jason and I about greatness and other things, feel free to read it over here.