By Frank J. Rich
Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare illustrates the advantages of hard work over talent. It was not by the hare’s “natural” speed the race was won, but by the tortoise’s determined attitude and persistence that prepared the end result. Slow and steady may not look like genius, but when next you attempt to open a stubborn twist cap, remember that “slow and steady” and not brute strength will loosen it fastest.
In the midst of the most inglorious tasks, as noted in Kipling’s poem, “If,” it is necessary to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,” where clearly hard work trumps talent.
In his celebrated books, Malcolm Gladwell makes the point that true proficiency comes from either 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice and experience with a skill. Certainly, it is easy to relate to a concert pianist, violinist, or masterpiece artist, for the hours of practice necessary to achieve great heights.
Though Michaelangelo, Mozart, Edison, Churchill, Lincoln, and so many others exhibited “natural talent” in their chosen work, all were noted for the long hours and dogged determination that led to their achievements. Edison is reputed to have performed more than 10,000 experiments on the light bulb before delivering his final product. As he tells it, the product was conceived and prepared well in advance of the last experiment, but not ready, at least in his mind, for practical use until then.
Both of these elements help to provide the makings of extraordinary achievement. The duet is rooted in a principle of achievement that has revealed the essential elements in success for all time.
Knowledge is much sought after but hardly useful if not applied, and even more so with skill. Skills too, have their magic, but fall short of expectations when short-lived. The Internet may be capable of 30 mbs when free of demand, but barely adequate at 212 kbs when stepped on by ISPs shaping traffic to accommodate more users.
The little “ant that can’t” turns into “the ant that can” in the popular Sinatra tune. Attitude, not the kind that shrugs at the obvious when others don’t meet our expectations, but sincere attitude, can brighten a day for all around as windmills fall one after another. Don Quixote de La Mancha may have wished his purpose on the world, but was never crestfallen as he infused others with the purest honor in his jousts with an insensitive universe – success in spite of its depravity.
Not least, habits form the blueprint for repeated productivity; the kind that obtain from a long obedience in the same direction. The model, often referred to as KASH, not only informs the character of success but also imputes predictability in all things. Those endowed of them succeed; those without do not.
Despite best efforts to present oneself in a good light by them, resumes summarily fail at anything but a glimpse into the person. Nothing about the team that aided his success, or the resources enabling it, or the small measure of a great success – turning a profit, however small, where there was none before – are the missing ingredients in the deception of them. Declaration without demonstration is deception. A workforce absent the desire to invest itself and the growing talent to materialize it is the issue of an errant code that defines underachievement.
After joining this weekend for America’s annual pastime, let’s pause to ask the question above. “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.”