It’s one thing to accomplish something and another to be accomplished at it.
I was eleven years old and it was the beginning of august.
What I remember most about the accident was being numb to reality. There seemed to be more blood than one could have shooting out my arms. I didn’t die. I really hurt even though I couldn’t feel below my elbows anymore. The median nerves in both arms were cut by a sawblade coming loose. 100 miles in an ambulance at top speed, a skilled neurosurgeon pieced me back together and I awoke to a new life; one with no feeling in my arms and hands. My arms lived and nothing was amputated. The doctor told my mother that her son would have clothes-pins for fingers unless I learned to type or play the piano, the only hope to gain some function in my fingers.
I was destined to be a piano player. I was not destined to be an accomplished piano player. Ironically, I achieved a level of playing piano way beyond what I would have if I had not had my nerves cut off simply because I was at the piano three to four hours a day for the first three years just trying to get my fingers to work. Today I am called “gifted” when I play the piano in public. That’s bittersweet to me.
I was forced to do three things that made me at least somewhat successful in many areas of life. Three ingredients of ones “journey toward awesome” are participation, practice and perseverance. There are other ingredients but the learning and growing curve to be one of the best requires constant learning by doing again, again, and again with the goal of being better every time.
I discovered that when you work at something you get better at it
I thought of these three ingredients as I was trying to figure out how many hours I have invested in trying to photograph hummingbirds. Those little birds make me look bad. I am in awe at Sandra’s photography (she is an accomplished photographer of even hummingbirds…click on link). But I’m persistent and getting better and better. I keep finding new ways to maximize my equipment just as I found new ways to catch a basketball with no feeling in my fingers.
Yesterday I picked a very small space in mid-air where hummingbirds tend to travel to the feeder. I was hoping to get a couple of crisp clear in-focus pictures. I put the camera in “burst” mode on a tripod with a 300mm lens. I focused on the camera on that spot with the feeder on one side of the picture hoping to catch mid-air pictures. I started shooting when I heard the hum of wings hoping for a good catch. 200 pictures later I evaluate and come to some hard conclusions. I’m going to have to up my game, stretch my equipment’s capability and grow my knowledge of setting up for better shots. My best shots are worth sharing but not awesome. Click for a scroll through the slide show.
I’m working at photography. My wife asked me what would make a great shot. My answer was better color with a flying hummingbird grasping a bee in one claw and facing off with another hummingbird trying to chase it away…both in perfect focus at 1/2000 of a second to freeze frame the wings. I want to see the wings.
By the way, participation, practice and perseverance have some side issues that show up in the journey toward awesome. Patience is one of them. Imagine sticking your hand in the freezer until you cannot feel your fingers anymore; then go play the piano (or play a guitar, dribble a basketball, knit, sew, shake someone’s hand…). I spent hours getting my fingers to find notes that people with feeling could find in seconds.
Everyone’s starting point is different. Natural talent only means one could be accomplished at something quicker than most people. Ironically, most people with natural talent settle for mediocrity while those who have to really work at getting mediocre keep going.
participation, practice and perseverance spill over into every aspect of life. I have a childhood friend who became a very accomplished engineer. No small feat for someone who could not get better than a D in math in high school. He would spend hours to others minutes trying to grasp concepts. When he grasped those concepts they were for life and not just for the test.
This is our “Journey toward awesome”. Be it photography, sports, work, living on what we make financially, relationships with God, spouse, family, neighbors and country. It all counts. It all spills into the others for good or bad. I had the best compliment yesterday “you are an awesome neighbor!”…to which I replied “thanks, but I do want my Sawzall back in one piece” as he drove away on his ATV.
I walk back to another project I’m working on. One which will take me much longer than an accomplished person. The end result will make me look “gifted” when really it’s just an accomplishment. May you be bittersweet “gifted” as I have been. I have had long talks with God about how life works…he just says “I know, I’ve been there. Your journey to awesome is, well, awesome. You’ll see”.
PS: Here is a link (moms song) to my piano playing. Some of you will recognize the old hymn. I made a special rendition of moms favorite song as she was bowing to cancer.