The more time I spend trying to be good at something I’m not interested in, the less time I spend developing what I am good at.
I remember a story I heard years ago about how inappropriate it is to judge an animal by focusing on skills that the creature does not possess:
– A fish is specialized to swim so its ability to climb a tree (or fly) is ludicrous.
So where do we go with this? Is it wrong to expect people to learn something they are not naturally good at? To me, no. I think we all need a foundation of reading, writing, arithmetic, and sports… but at a foundational level, not a specialized level. It’s not about becoming expert in the basics, you just need to have them.
We all have heard stories about kids who were terrible at school but went on to become successful or famous or influential or wealthy. They didn’t get hung up on the things they weren’t good at. A good foundation is all about fundamental skills. But these are not the things to become expert in! You then need to specialize in what you are naturally good at, talented in, passionate about.
Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”
In 1974 an interview with the famous modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham was published in which she credited a remark about the ubiquity of genius to a noted composer: 11
Edgar Varese, the composer, said, “Martha, everyone is born with genius, but some people only keep it for a few minutes.” That is the demand – to keep it!
Here’s more to read on this story if you’re curious: