Talent & Greatness, part II

I love sequels. :)

I’ve been thinking about talent and greatness yet this week. Oddly enough, I presumed that the two belonged together when I wrote last week’s blog, Talent & Greatness. I find myself converted on this matter.

Merriam Webster Online defines talent as “the natural endowments of a person.”

Great, on the other hand, is defined (for the sake of this discussion) this way:

5 a : eminent, distinguished <a great poet>

By these definitions, I would consider myself a talented musician, but not a great musician. I have always had a love and inclination towards music. But I have always only ever been a mediocre musician, with the ability to do what I desire (play and write) while lacking the freedom of excellence. I can lead you any worship song and many hymns; but I cannot play Mozart.

How, then, does one transition from being talented to being great? I think greatness requires time, energy, and commitment. We cannot presume to be great unless we are willing to work for it. It may cause us to stumble and fall on our faces many times over, but it will force us to learn and grow.

It’s hard, becoming great. It demands humility and hard work and hours of seemingly pointless exercise.

I’ve been thinking about greatness mostly in terms of writing. I have so much respect for individuals who can share their writing and allow others to critique it with red pen! But isn’t that how a piece of writing is perfected? Isn’t that how our writing grows?

The good news is that I think we can spur one another towards greatness. And therein is my challenge to you (and me). Twofold.

  1. Be the iron to sharpen those around you. Don’t be a jerk, but be honest and offer challenges that help them to grow in their strengths.
  2. Look for those individuals who will be that iron in your life, and don’t be too proud to accept teaching. Not all teachers have impressive backgrounds and degrees to qualify them.

What do you think? Can we do these things? Can we shift from talent to greatness?  Have I missed something?

Pax Domini!

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8 thoughts on “Talent & Greatness, part II

  1. All very true. Far too often talent goes wasted and is never cultivated toward greatness. Too many of us want to just be really good at what we do without the hard yards. Even spending years studying something we might never move towards greatness because we spend the whole time going with the flow, we do things the way those in our group do, and we do it really well, but we only do it that way because it’s the way it’s done. It’s true in literature, music, philosophy and theology alike. It’s easy to get good at something but never really own it for yourself.

    My own interests in philsoophy and theology make this plain to me allt he time. often the culprit is partisanship. People don’t want to contemplate the possibility that the view they now hold might be wrong, so they lower their standards and just accept dogma, never making use of what criticial and analytical skills they have.

    • I love your perspective, Glenn. I think it was Jaltus who said once that studying can be worship. Your words just reminded me of that. What I failed to discuss here (I think) is that there is a difference between the pursuit of greatness for the sake of “being great” and the pursuit of excellence for the sake of honoring God with the blessings He’s given us. At its core, perhaps this topic is basically just another matter of stewardship and worship, eh?

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it. Keep pushing forward.

  2. In the pursuit of greatness, I have often fumbled and failed. Never rising above mediocrity, I have strived for the best that I can attain. In music, I have always aced in music theory, but my ability to play piano was such that my piano instructor asked “Are you sure you want to be a piano major?”

    I have tried to be realistic when judging what I am trying to become. I have also been told that I judge myself with higher standards than I would use for critiquing others. It can be hard to correctly judge one once one has declined to the point where I am now. I don’t have the right conditions, the time, and, sometimes, the right inclination to even try. I would like to regain all of that lost ground, but there is a lot of disappointment that comes with the effort. Maybe I’ll get back to where I once was, but at this stage in my life it doesn’t seem to be possible.

    • I am hearing a lot of disappointment and discouragement in your words, Steve. Allow me to offer a couple of remarks.

      First, in the pursuit of greatness, failures and struggles are a necessity. Ben Franklin said, “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” Be encouraged that struggle brings growth, and that failure puts you in historic company.

      Second, I think most of us have a tendency to judge ourselves much more severely than we would judge anyone else. Don’t do it, Steve. Jenn and I were talking today about the “cold pricklies.” My challenge to you is this: Every time you think or speak a “cold prickly” against yourself, find two “warm fuzzies” to encourage yourself. If you need help with this project, email me for a list of warm fuzzies. I could supply quite a few for you. It’s so hard, though (I know!), to be an encourager instead of a critic of our own selves. P.S. Being an encourager doesn’t mean ignoring the failures or the weaknesses. Being an encourager means surrounding those weaknesses with the strengths and successes to be corrected and grow.

      Third, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” The answer is in the next two verses (Psalm 137).

      I love you, Steve Ward. Every day, you are in the process of becoming. Becoming *what*? That is the question. Has it occurred to you that maybe God has you in a new place…with a new purpose? Just a thought. I certainly don’t know. But I know that He does all things well–even the things that momentarily sucketh. So keep your head above water…and keep treading. You’re doing just fine, brother.

  3. Hiya Sarahmoo. Well, at the risk of a slap; Webster takes me back to the parable of the talents. What we are given, and what we do with it/them. I agree that talent is cultivated to greatness, through practice and exercise; and also through sharpening by other individuals.
    At work, I listen to a local Christian radio station; it is the neatest compliment to have a new helper tell me ‘I dont mean to be disrespectful/no offense, but this is totally not the music I figured you would be listening to’, which leads into an all day praise and worship session, singing along, and commenting on themes. My talent, in this instance, is worship. HIS greatness, is involvement in the ‘where two or more are gathered in MY name, there I AM in the midst of you’. I ‘own’ nothing, but am a steward of much.
    Your quest toward greatness will be achieved- has already been achieved, for that matter…by surrounding yourself with great people.
    Ok, Ok, its 1 a.m….I am rambling. Just wanted to say “Hiya Sarahmoo”.

    • Hiya Tojboi. Whatcha doin up so late?

      Of course Webbie brought you back to the parable of the talents. We’re not specifically talking about money here, but the lesson may be similar in that we are to be good stewards and not waste what we are blessed with. Rather, we are to use them for good and encourage them to grow.

      I’ve missed ya. I hope you’re well.

      • Yeah, all is well. Let me clarify on my re-conclusion; I never equated the parable with money (although, that is probably what was implied)..I always equated ‘talents’ as literal abilities; and how they were used to magnify the lord/giver. Plus, I just love recurring themes, hehe. I will be nice for a short period, now.

        (Side note to Steve Ward) Find your ‘happy thought’, and then you shall fly. It worked for Peter Pan/Robin Williams. ;)

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