Have you ever met the special ones? People that just seem to ‘have it’ ahead of us all. People that we consider to be naturally talented, gifted, or ‘good’? These are people who can effortlessly–or so it seems – spit out the answer to a third-power polynomial within seconds; people who would ace every test like an academic Hamilton; people who are the uncontested ‘champions’ in every domain of life.
From Michael Phelps, to Usain Bolt, to Lewis Hamilton, to Lionel Messi, to Aristotle, to Mozart, and of course, to the Magical Einstein, our world seems to have been adorned with these special ones. It seems to be ingrained in our DNA that in life, there are certain people who are naturally gifted from birth and rise to become super heroes; and others that do not have this quality would, throughout their lives, remain un- or averagely successful. Talented, special, gifted, are all words used to describe these individuals.
Why is our society divided into those who can, and those who can never? Why are some people exceptionally good that we just submit to their supremacy and others are just normal and simply living like everyone else? Why is greatness extremely polarized and the majority of people remain onlookers throughout their lives?
Our society is divided into different levels of progression. Naturally, every human is born into the lowest level, which I call the Ground Level. The ground level is the level of least achievement, awareness, and consciousness. Individuals in this level are characterized by high levels of complacency, unreasonable conformity, and weak psychological and emotional states.
Not only are these individuals of low achievement rates, most of them are underachievers – with great amount of potential lying tranquil in them. Every single one of us is born into this level. That’s why failure is extremely easy and complacency is extremely pleasing.
But there are higher levels. Levels of self-discovery, potentials mining, and self-awareness; levels of interest discovery, interest development, and interest deepening. Individuals in these levels are fully aware of the world around them; of the fact that they have a role to play, a calling, a purpose, a passion. These individuals also used to be on the ground level, but they took the initiative and dare to be different, to seek out the world, to seek out themselves, and to seek out what they can potentially be. In order words, these individuals became crazy – they had enough craze. Crazy because they doubted the default and dared to ask ‘why not’; crazy because they stood up, and out, when others didn’t even believe they ever possessed the strength; and crazy because they pushed against societally institutionalized limitations.
Genetic make-up, place of birth, place of growth, family beliefs, ancestral beliefs, national beliefs, etc., unarguably contribute to an individual. But they don’t determine the individual. They are the stimuli, not the response. We choose the response. All those we consider special ones all chose their response. Einstein left the ground level and pursued his passion. He was crazy enough to, not only doubt, but also prove wrong, the 200-year-old theory of mechanics by Isaac Newton; and left Newtonian physicists in strong shock. The normal human instinct is to conform, make use of the available resources and never ask if there are other better means – that’s the ground level thinking. But Einstein, like all other special ones, had enough craze to doubt the default and, not only ask questions, but also remain unyielding in seeking the right answer.
This characteristic, we comfortably equate to talent without giving it a second thought. So, we describe Einstein as a genius and someone with an alien’s brain. But is that really all there is? Just talent?
My answer is a boldly written, dark coloured NO. Einstein, according to most accounts, studies averagely 8 hours daily. That’s over 50 hours weekly! During his annus mirabilis (miracle year), when he rolled out four groundbreaking research discoveries, Einstein was reported to be studying an average of 10 hours daily, sometimes in his patent office. But we would comfortably say ‘he’s just so talented. Everything comes to him easy’, totally neglecting his hours of passionately seeking answers to questions. Another special one is Rowdy Gaines, the three-time Olympics swimming gold medalist. Gaines has his place in the U.S Olympic Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In the eight-year period leading to the 1984 Olympic games, he swam at least twenty thousand miles, in increments of fifty-yard laps. Such effort he put into the game! But when we watch him swim and win gold medals, we call him a ‘fish’, as if it just came to him naturally. ‘’I swam around the world,’’ he said, ‘’for a race that lasted forty-nine seconds’’.
We are almost always deluded, it appears, by the myth that anyone who achieves huge success does so because of the pure talent she possesses. Einstein isn’t the only curious one, we all ask questions about life that puzzle us. My dad asks why he urinates more frequently when he drinks cold water as opposed to warm water. I ask why oxygen is the only gas we can survive with; why Carbon dioxide is so disastrous to the atmosphere. We all ask questions, I reiterate, but we don’t all put in the work required to get answers. We aren’t ready to spend hours in the room studying texts. We aren’t ready to spend boring hours poring through dumb scientific research to find answers to our questions. We aren’t ready to spend days/months/years learning and practicing just one skill when all our friends are enjoying their time. We aren’t ready to keep playing that horrible sound from the piano till we play out a beautiful one. Better put, we run away from our passion.
Hence, when we meet those that stuck to their passion and the work it demanded, we label them special, talented, gifted, natural. No. No. They weren’t special. They just had enough craze to say ‘whatever the price is, I’m ready to pay.’
Einstein wasn’t special, he just asked questions and worked, passionately, to figure out the answer. Phelps isn’t special, he just trained, passionately, to master his game. Aristotle wasn’t special, he just learned and developed himself, passionately, to write better. If, and only if, we can stop calling successful people talented and special, perhaps youths with massive potential lying unconscious in them will learn that success is only possible through deliberate, hard, often unpleasant practice and efforts, and not just some talent.
I have a vision of a world where people will recognize that result is directly proportional to effort. Perhaps I can rephrase Einstein’s statement to depict its true meaning.
‘’I have no special talent. I just have enough craze.’’