Monday afternoon, I was talking to a friend of mine with whom I hadn't spoken in a while. She's an artist -- a really good one -- but she was lamenting the fact that when she looked around she saw other artists who were, to her mind, "more successful" -- they were more well-known, or they showed in bigger gallery spaces, or commanded huge commissions. "I'm not sure what I should do," she said. "Maybe I should go back to school and study more. Maybe I need a graduate degree in art..."
Now, my friend is talented, and Lord knows that she works hard at her craft. Furthermore, she hasn't been practicing an artist for very long, and yet she's inarguably had some success. "You know," I began gently, "I mean -- I don't create the kind of art you do, so take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt -- but it seems to me that your problem isn't talent or skill. You just need to have some faith that you're really good at this. I mean, definitely, go to school if that's what you really want to do, but the fact is: you do great work, people love working with you and everyone wants to see you succeed. I say you just keep plugging along. Keep doing what you're doing, surround yourself people in your field who inspire you if you can, and see what happens. I suspect that when you meet more people in your field and they see your work, and after you've made all of these true, sincere connections, folks are going to trip over themselves to see that you're successful. I think that's how the world works: talent is only part of the story. You need faith in yourself, and in the fact that your hard work and talent will take you there."
As if to confirm my words, hours after her call, she landed a lucrative commission. My smugness knew no bounds.
Until of course, that same evening when I was talking to another friend about my own work. It was like I hadn't heard a word I'd said to my artist friend -- I shared some recent success that I had, but then lamented that I wasn't farther along: in coaching, in my ecourse, in everything. "Oh for heaven's sake," snapped my friend (she's not one to mince words), "you've just made a bunch of changes to your career. Give it a minute. This stuff takes time."
As I'm typing this, my daughter is outside practicing her guitar. She's been taking lessons for about 18 months now, and even though I'm her mom and theoretically supposed to say this no matter what the truth is, she's good. Like, she's really good. Like, good enough that she graduated to an honest-to-goodness electric guitar this Christmas, at the strong suggestion of her guitar instructor. Good enough that when she muses every once in a while that perhaps she'd like to study guitar at the university level in several years, no one smiles with amusement -- instead, we're all (Marcus, her teacher and I) trying to figure out how to support her talent to get her there.
Now, my kid is 11 -- she'll be 12 in about 8 weeks. She's not going to university for another 6 years, and right now she's nowhere near the level required for admittance to a music school -- nor, of course, would we expect her to be performing at that level at this point. It's only been a year and a half, after all. But what's great is that she's so confident in herself -- and she has faith that she'll get there. We have faith that she'll get there. We can be patient.
Why can't we adults cut ourselves equal slack, you know?
So here's to working hard, and having a little faith and patience along the way.