Life and Stuff

How to be Great at Anything

*This post is Part 1 of 3. Find Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Road to Greatness
Greatness is somewhere around that next bend.

Have you ever thought about how someone becomes talented?

Notice I didn’t say anything about being born talented. Sure, a few folks seem born with a considerable edge over the rest of us. But I’m convinced the majority of folks that seem wildly talented only seem that way because of the vast amounts of time, attention, and passion they’ve put into honing their craft, whatever it may be. Any one of us could be great at whatever we chose if we were willing to do the same.

Maybe we won’t achieve spectacular brilliance. Probably there is a whole other magic level that some people (a very, very few, I suspect) operate at that we can never quite reach, no matter how much of ourselves we pour out. But I’m not terribly worried about achieving spectacular brilliance. Great sounds pretty good to me.

Actually, I’d even settle for pretty good. For a little while, anyway.

I’ve thought more and more about this as I approach the end of the first draft of my novel. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, and I’ve often been frustrated with my slow progress.  Why don’t I write faster? Why haven’t I finished this already?

The answer (aside from the fact that I’ve often pushed aside or limited my writing time in favor of other obligations) is that I need this novel to be good.

I’d love for it to be great, but that might be a bit much to ask of a first novel.

All of this time I’ve spent working through plot and character, building up the story only to tear it down again, is what will (hopefully) make me great someday. It’s part of the process.

Not only that but I think the road to greatness in any area has most, if not all of the same landmarks. Becoming a great writer is much like becoming a great baseball player. Hitting a home run might not be the same thing as creating a character that takes root in the heart of a reader, but the learning how to do either has the same basic principles:


Sometimes you look down the road and Greatness seems too far away. Heck, sometimes Halfway Decent seems like the other side of the solar system from where you are. This is when you must lie to yourself a little. You have to tell yourself the next stop on the road isn’t so far away. Getting there isn’t going to be so hard. Stumbling along the ways isn’t going to be all that painful. Hey, it might even be fun (you know, in a bloody, possibly embarrassing sort of way).

Lie to yourself about this stuff often enough and it will become true.

In which case, it won’t be lies anymore. But, whatever.


When you’re despairing over your progress, you have to remind yourself that greatness is almost always made, not born. And greatness is made with lots of time, attention and passion. Put in enough of those three ingredients and, badaboom badabing, you got greatness. Or pretty goodness. Which might be good enough.


Some might call this persistance. I just call it pigheadedness. When half of you wants to quit, the other half must dig in his/her heels and just refuse to budge.

Like a pig, I guess?

Honestly, I haven’t spent a lot of time around pigs, so I don’t personally know if they’re pigheaded. But I got called pigheaded a lot as a kid. And it’s a character quality that’s worked pretty well in a lot of situations for me (not every situation, of course…but that’s not important right now).

Anyway, just keep at it. Use the lying or truth telling techniques above as befits your situation.

I’ve got quite a few more thoughts on this, but I’ll break for now. Stay tuned for Part Deux next week.

Find Part 3 here.


What’s your take on this? How do you define talent? Do you think it can be grown? 


Photo Credit

The Long Road Ahead by Jae, on Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0


6 thoughts on “How to be Great at Anything

  1. I think you’re right. I think one can have a natural talent for something, but what really makes the difference is the desire to keep at it. I once knew a next door neighbor who spent most evenings in his basement, drawing. He chose the basement because he knew no one would bother him. While others were laughing and playing games, he was drawing, for hours at a time.
    I tend to think that what we call “talent” is really a natural “desire” to improve at something without any external incentive from others.

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