“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo
The Wonder of Work

Last month, I wrote about the beauty of rest. This month, I want to celebrate hard work, because the necessity of one does not diminish the significance of the other.

Everyone we admire had to work hard for the things we respect about them. Maybe it’s a special ability, a character trait like integrity, or an excellence in what they do, whether it’s business, art, or people. (Being a great parent qualifies too!) Maybe they can run faster, jump higher, or skate harder than anyone else you know. And the truth is, many of these abilities are unique, a special talent that the average person might not have. Regardless of the erroneous belief that anyone can do “anything,” the simple fact is that I will never be a professional hockey player or a concert pianist.

Having said that, even worse is the idea that someone wakes up one day and realizes they’re Wayne Gretzky and they better go play some hockey!

Talent is not mastery, it is only the potential for mastery. Michelangelo was an extraordinarily gifted sculptor and painter, but if he’d never picked up a brush, never studied his craft, never poured hours upon hours into his work, he would never have achieved what he did. Discipline preceded mastery.

I believe that everyone of you has something to offer the world, something only you can offer. No one else. If you’ve ever read Jesus’ parable of the talents, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re given something, use it. What is used is multiplied. What is buried, rots. I might never be a professional hockey player, but I can write and I have a passion for story. Therefore, it’s my responsibility to study my craft, hone it, and pour time and energy into being the best writer I can be.

For me, this requires saying “no” to a second job and all the financial securities that would bring. It means setting my clock every day for 3 hours, and not moving from my computer until I’ve put 3 hours of work into Scrivener. It means taking scary steps like sharing my manuscript or dealing with rejection and failure. Then going back and rewriting for the tenth time! I’m still a long ways away from where I want to be, but once when I got upset about my lack of mastery, a good friend very simply said: “How do you expect to get there if you don’t go? If you want that, you gotta work for it.”

Of course! But too often in this life of Google and drive-thru windows, we don’t allow for time between the desire and the fulfillment. We are like toddlers who haven’t learned delayed gratification. We don’t take time to study, we’re easily frustrated, we run from discomfort. This is to our detriment and the world’s at large.

In the end, we all have a choice in life. We can ignore what we’ve been given and do just enough to be comfortable and get by. Or we can commit to the hard work, the unseen hours, and the tough choices that transform talent into mastery.