Talent is not a Gift

“Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Late one recent evening, I found myself immersed in television watching Sister Act 2.  I recall the scene where Sister Mary Clarence (Whoopi Goldberg) brings her misfit class into what amounted to an attic space after telling them she wanted to make them into a choir.  There, she had them sing, first individually (not so bad), then as a group (not so great).

As most films go, shortly after this point, Sister Act 2 launched into its montage.  Here, clips were shown of the group as it started transforming from a bunch of individual freestyle singers into a choir.  By the time the few minutes long montage ended, the group was standing before the entire student body, administration, and faculty ready to wow them at its first performance.

As far as Hollywood entertainment goes, I understand the rationale behind such a production move.  It advances the plot much quicker, provides context without destroying entertainment value, and keeps the viewers’ interest piqued.

But, from a realistic perspective, I thought about what this montage glossed over in its few minutes of footage and what message it could be sending.  The impression it gave was that this group magically banded together to form an awesome choir simply because someone cared enough to assemble them and make them such.

The reality of the situation is that it takes hard work.  It takes practice.  It takes repeated failure, correction, and repetition to develop the skills necessary to perform at an elite level.

Too often we expect our talent to develop overnight.  It doesn’t.  Too often we try something once and quit because we were not any good at it.  Why would we expect to be great at something we have never done before?  Too often we give up before we ever get started.

Talent is not magic.  We are not born with it.  We are not just naturals.

Michael Jordan is not considered one of the greatest to ever play basketball because of magic ability bestowed on him.  Peyton Manning was not born with the ability to be an elite NFL quarterback.  Even Roy Hobbs of The Natural was not blessed with a gift for baseball.

Michael Jordan worked and practiced hard.  Peyton Manning studies the game better than anyone else.  Roy Hobbs threw pitches at the side of a barn over and over as a kid.

Do you want to be better at math, at piano, at singing, at sports?

Practice.  Don’t quit when it gets hard or you make a mistake.  Figure it out.  Correct the errors.  Work at it again.  Over and over and over again.

Don’t gloss over the work and effort.  Don’t sweep your mistakes under the rug.  Don’t take the easy way out.

The formula for developing skill can be simply stated:  Hours upon hours of repeated deep practice.

Will you put in the work or will you gloss over it and take the easy way out?

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

 

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It Starts at Home

Children are like wet cement; whatever falls on them makes an impression.
– Haim Ginott

It starts at home.

The first time I slipped up and dropped a four letter word and my son repeated it, I knew this to be true. For better or worse, the things that we say and do are reflected in and by our kids. So, why would that not also be true when it comes to things like bias and prejudice?

Regularly I see stories posted on Facebook that look too outrageous or unbelievable to be true. I came across one recently and had to do some personal research to fact-check. Unfortunately, my research found the story to be 100% true. Ronin Shimizu was a 12 year old boy. He enjoyed cheerleading. However, since this isn’t considered the “norm”, he was bullied for it. He was bullied so much, in fact, that he ended up taking his own life. Over what? Cheerleading? Certainly we’re not that dense as a population that we can’t wrap our heads around a boy wanting to be involved in cheerleading. Certainly we’re not so petty as to allow this to be the basis for ridicule.

But, alas, we are. At least in this case.

Sure, kids can be cruel. We’ve all seen how that works. Hell, a lot of us have been on the wrong end of that cruelty (I found out early on that I was not at an acceptable height for a lot of folks). Here’s the bothersome part, though: kids don’t come equipped with knowledge like this. It’s learned. My 3 year old son has no idea what it means to be short or why it even matters. He doesn’t understand the rationale of some that “only girls should be involved in cheerleading”. Further, if my wife and I are doing our jobs, these things won’t ever occur to him by virtue of any lesson we do teach.

“It starts at home.” This comment was attached the original posting I saw on Facebook, and it struck me as patently true and poignant. We’ve got to do a better job of showing our kids how to love and how to show compassion and empathy. Without those values, the cycle of judgment and hate will continue to repeat itself.

It starts at home.

Have an awesome Wednesday,
-A.

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One Piece at a Time

Let me start with a story:

Two friends were walking on the beach and came across a bunch of starfish stranded on the shore.  One person starts picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean.  The other friend asks, “Why are you doing that?  There are so many starfish stranded on the beach, you can’t possibly help them all.”  The first friend then picks up another starfish and throws it back into the ocean, then says, “I made a difference for that one.”

Too often in life, we fell as though we have to make a big splash.  We want what we are doing to have an impact on many.  We believe our actions have to help everyone.  We feel that if what we do does not make enough of an impression on everyone, why bother doing it at all?

So, we don’t.  We choose not to make a difference for anyone because we do not believe one is enough.  We think why bother if no one will notice.

What if we all adopted the mentality of “the first friend”?  What if we set out today to make a difference in the life of that one person in front of us at that very moment?  What if, instead of looking at the bigger picture with a negative outlook, we looked at the smaller present with a positive one?

When we set out to complete a jigsaw puzzle, we are not able to make a huge difference in one move or with one piece.  Instead, we have to take it one piece at a time, and slowly as we being to connect a series of individual pieces, our masterpiece begins to emerge.

Suppose that every day we were given just one piece of the puzzle.  Would we play it and choose to make a difference for one individual as we begin to build our masterpiece?  Or would we choose to ignore it thinking that our one piece is not enough to do anything?

Perhaps, we should all think of adopting the mindset of “the first friend”.  Start making a difference one piece, one conversation, one kind gesture, one interaction, one person, or one starfish at a time.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Take that step today.

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

Isn’t It Kind Of Silly?

“Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?” – Sean Covey

I heard a story recently about a woman who decided to make some changes in her life. She decided to start eating better and working out regularly. The results of her hard work and willpower were noticeable. She felt better physically and mentally. She also lost weight and toned up. All good things, right? For some unfathomable reason, some people around her felt the need to tell her that she had gotten too skinny and needed to “eat a pork chop”.

A few years ago when I decided (again) to go back to school, I told a friend about my plans. He just laughed at me. He made a sarcastic comment to the effect of, “yeah, I’m sure you’ll finish this time,” and laughed. He knew that college was something I had tried a few times before and hadn’t gotten through.

Why do we choose to tear people down when they’ve accomplished things? When people make the effort to better themselves, why do some of us have an immediate need to poke holes in those efforts? Initially, I’d point to low self-esteem and general insecurity. We see others making positive changes and feel that we’re stagnant, so we decide to minimize what they have done. Or, we feel insecure about our appearances or perceived lack of accomplishments, so, to make ourselves feel better, we take whatever steps necessary to diminish others. Put more succinctly, per psychologist Jeffrey Sherman,

“When we feel bad about ourselves, we can denigrate other people, and that makes us feel better about ourselves.”

The flip side of that is that we are far less likely to put others down when we feel better about ourselves. Instead of wasting time bringing others down for their positive steps, take some of your own. Not happy with your weight, for example? Exercise. Eat better. Set goals and work to achieve them. Encourage others and let them encourage you. Stop wasting precious time and energy on tearing other people down who have made decisions to better themselves. That is a poor substitute for making yourself better or solving your own issues.

If it is true that our general outlook can frame how we view others, there are solutions to that as well. Learn how to feel better about yourself. Determine where your weaknesses are and address them. Calling someone “too skinny” won’t make you skinnier. An exercise routine and a healthier diet will, though. Laughing at someone for wanting to further their education won’t advance your career any quicker, but setting goals for advancement for yourself sure
couldn’t hurt.

Start making yourself feel better. Get you figured out before you start casting aspersions on those around you. You will make exactly zero progress by tearing down someone else’s. Hop to it.

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

Thanks for reading! Dying to read some more? Well, aren’t you just the luckiest guy/gal in town! There’s more here: shorthoptimism.wordpress.com. Follow us on Twitter: @short_hOPT, and Like us on Facebook! Okay, goodbye now.

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What Do You Value?

“You give attention to that which you value the most.” – Amy Larson

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone about reading. I had a stack of books that I had not gotten to yet. I had been wanting to read them for some time and knew that they have a lot of valuable information in them. The problem arose that every time I would try to carve out time in my day to read them, I always thought, “I don’t have enough time to read them.”

I always felt that I was too busy. Work was at a hectic point, and other things seemed to pop up to occupy my time. There were just not enough hours in the day.

However, a few weekends ago, I decided to take some time to start reading the latest John Grisham book. As I started in on it, I just kept going and going. I started it on a Saturday and finished on a Sunday.

As it turns out, I did not miss anything by reading. I was no further behind in my work. I was able to take care of everything that still inevitably came up.

So what changed?

Well, the truth of the matter is that I simply made time.

I realized that I valued the time I took to read, so I made time to do it. Since then, I have made it a point to make time in my day to read a little bit. While I may not be sitting down to read an entire book in a few days, I have chosen to make time to read a little every day because it is important to me. As it turns out, I am not THAT busy.

Imagine if we all did this. I am not talking about reading books (though I feel this is an important part of our growth), but simply making time to do the things that we value. Instead, we choose to think of all the reasons that we cannot do something. We find all the reasons that we are too busy. We simply make excuses.

However, we tend to find all of the time in the world to post a status update on Facebook or Twitter (sometimes about how we never have time to do anything). We will spend hours in our week doing things that simply waste time or do nothing for us.

What if we expended that energy on the things we value and want to do? What if we stopped thinking we were so busy and just made the time? Five, ten, twenty, or thirty minutes a day. It would not take much, but over the course of the week it all adds up. We make time for what we value!

Aaron and I spoke a few weeks ago about how we just did not have time to write posts. We wanted to get things started back up, but we were just SO busy. As we discussed what we would need to do, it stuck in my head that the number one reason we were not posting anything was because we simply were not making the time for it. We did not value it enough at the time. We were choosing to value other things (which may or may not be important). If we were to be committed to doing what we said we would do, we had to value it, which would result in us committing some of our time to it.

Today, I challenge you to give value to those things you continually say you are too busy for. Perhaps there is a project around the house you have wanted to do for a long time. Perhaps you simply want to read a book for pleasure. Perhaps there is a friend you want to meet for dinner and catch up with.

If you really want to do it, you WILL make the time. And you likely won’t miss out on anything in the process.

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

E.L.E.! Everybody Love Everybody

E.L.E. Everybody Love Everybody!” – Jackie Moon

Anybody want to talk about Michael Brown? How about Darren Wilson? No?

Yeah, I’m not going to do that in depth here. Not specifically, anyway. What I am going to do, however, is talk about some of the things that have caught my attention since this unfortunate event unfolded. This situation, unlike any in recent history that I recall, has served to divide people in ways that I didn’t think possible. In the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision and the unrest that followed, I have seen people call other people animals, barbarians, and generally uncivilized. Verbal attacks on other human beings laced with semi-cloaked bigotry were spewed across my various timelines, and the very worst in people was played out for all to see. People that I have known for years displayed behavior that I thought them incapable of.

What bothers me most that maybe didn’t get to me as much five years ago, is that when things like this happen, I envision the world in which my son will live in the next 10-15 years. How different will his world be? How long will it be before some jerk take the time to teach my son the unfair and awful lesson that people attach meaning and value to the color of skin? Right now, two of his closest friends (unbeknownst to him but apparently and painfully aware to the rest of the world) are considered different from him because of how they look…except, he doesn’t see it. (They don’t see it, either, by the way.) It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances that people either continue to blindly prop up or plainly ignore, neither approach being what any reasonable person would consider productive or progressive.

See, the truth that many choose to ignore is that we are all people. This country will never be comprised of solely people that match up to your skin color, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or otherwise. Sure, it’s easier to identify with people that share common interests. However, this country was built by immigrants and continues to be inhabited by the lineage of those immigrants. That fact won’t change for the foreseeable future. So, as I see it, we have a couple options: Option A: grease that wheel and keep that cycle rolling. Continue to hate and be scared of people that we don’t understand. Or, Option B: try to break down some barriers. Try to show and accept love. Try to take time to understand something that is currently beyond your grasp. (You can probably imagine which option I advocate for.)

Whenever we are confronted with divisive situations we often turn into the crappiest possible versions of ourselves. We fight instead of bridging gaps. We argue instead of engaging in healthy debate. We attack instead of learning. This modus operandi is getting us nowhere.

You don’t have to walk an entire mile in someone else’s shoes to begin to understand them. Just start with a couple steps and work from there.

Have an awesome Tuesday,
-A.

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Daily Short-hOPT: Smiling Through Adversity

This past week brought me some heavy doses of perspective:

  • A $50.00 lesson in asking for and accepting help that is free.
  • A nation coming together to support a little girl, a worthy cause, and a man’s dream.
  • A walk where I failed to realize the power of tone and word choice.
  • The inspiration of faith, strength, and a smile by a friend’s daughter facing a challenging adversity.

Perspective is one of my favorite topics about which to write because it is simply one of the easiest things to lose sight of.  The problems and casualties of our day rush to the forefront of our mind, blocking our vision of just how great we have it.  As a result, we become consumed by these “pressing” visions, complain to anyone who will listen, and spin a web of negativity that spirals us downward toward a feeling of languishing.

What if we took a moment to realize we do not have it so bad?  What if we took a moment to realize we do not have to go it alone?  What if we took a moment to realize it should not always be about us?  What if we took a moment to have faith, be strong, and smile through our trying moments?

“Fear is easier than faith, so most people go there first.”  A friend of mine shared this wisdom with me on Thursday.  I suppose it is also easier to complain and easier to be negative than to face the situation head on, smile through it, and grow from it.  I know this because I am still a work in progress there.

It is more than talking a great game.  It is walking, living, and modeling that lifestyle.  But, I left this week inspired.  Thanks to two young girls.

The first is Leah.  Most of you know her story.  Her father is Devon Still of the Cincinnati Bengals.  If you do not know their story, just click here, and soak in the inspiration.

The second is the daughter of a friend.  Most of you likely do not know her story.  On Thursday, she went to the hospital complaining of headaches.  Doctors discovered a brain tumor and spinal fluid buildup on her brain.  An emergency surgery followed to drain the fluid, and on Friday, she underwent a five hour surgery to remove the tumor at the base of her brain.  Yesterday morning, the neurosurgeon informed her and her family that no more tumors were showing.

She has shown remarkable faith and strength in her healing journey.  As I have remained updated on this story, her steadfast belief and loving smile have served as a constant source of inspiration.  Please continue to pray for this young woman!  I know her family would appreciate it.

We all face tough circumstances, but proper perspective and faith bring a wealth of healing to our daily struggles.  Fear is easy.  Faith is not.  But this week, I learned that with strong faith and the help of your friends, miraculous things can and will happen.

The only way to get beyond a tough situation is through it, then learn from it.

Why not do it with a smile?

Bring your best today!

Love, Noah

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