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Natural Ability and Achievement

I quote from a very wise man, Gary Keller. He is the master at making models for business, a man who has tried and failed several times. And when I say failed, I mean failed miserably. Like rock bottom, lose your house, everything.

He told me once about getting in his car and crossing town to hire the best HR person he could find, and promised them a salary he wasn't sure how he was going to pay. But he knew if he did it, the money would come. And it did. Big time.
Before I start, you all should know by now I love Cindy Pavlinac's work. She has a studio in Marin County, and she has taken photographs of sacred places all over the world. This is her photo, not mine. http://www.CAPavlinac.com
Back to Gary Keller's quote: “Reinventing the wheel every time is just plain exhausting work. And it leads to breakdowns and burnouts. On the other hand, I think you'll discover that modeling will be very empowering. In fact, it may make things appear so simple it feels like cheating. Powerful models usually feel that way.”
Then he goes on to say: “In my experience, people tend to predict success based largely on a person's natural abilities. This can truly be problematic no matter where you see yourself in this spectrum. Lots of natural ability can lead to overconfidence. Likewise, lack of natural ability contributes to low confidence, so much so that many never even attempt tasks that appear to be outside the realm of their natural abilities. The truth about ability is that it is neither set nor predetermined. However, it can be developed or it can be wasted.”

He finishes up this piece with this: “Now here is the simple truth we must all deal with: Natural ability can take us only so far. No matter how gifted we may be, each of us will eventually hit our own ceiling of achievement. There is no “if” to that assertion, just a “when.” So the most important achievement question you may ever have to ask yourself becomes: When I hit that ceiling of achievement–whether it is low or high–how will I break through?”
To relate this to writing, we model after other successful writers who have come before us. Some we model our careers after and some we learn from the mistakes they have made. How many people do you know who have told you they had a story idea and a book they wanted to write some day? Yet, very few of them ever do it, and of those few, only a handful are successful. Part of the problem is ego. People get tied up in their work and can't see the reality of what they've written. They judge, justify and make enemies.
But smart writers don't crave a following of writers, although that can be a good way to get started. Smart writers model themselves after someone who has gone successfully before them, and keep their egos in check to see the reality of their writing.
Writing then isn't a gimmick. No one wants to be a flash in the pan. Good writers are willing to break through the ceiling of their own achievement, and learn from the writing community as a whole. Yes, this community is made up of many varied fellow travelers. Some with limps, warts, fairy dust and fangs. But those people will help you, if you have the guts to open your eyes and ears.
My favorite line is, “I know what I think I know. But I can set it aside for what I have yet to learn.” Someone much wiser than I coined it. Though it's sometimes painful to find the flaws in ourselves and our work, it is the price we have to pay to get all the gold and the glory.
Who do you model yourself after? Can you measure yourself and seek the reality of your abilities as a writer, or do you write to “feel good?” What do you do when you hit that ceiling of achievement?
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Virna DePaul - June 2, 2011

Hi Sharon, I'm still trying to figure out why I write — to feel good or to reach some unknown goal. It seems like the goals always get higher and higher, which is good–it's what pushes us to be better. But in trying to be better, I never feel completely good, either. LOL. I really enjoyed this post!

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Sharon Hamilton - June 2, 2011

Thanks, Virna. Those goals do just keep getting higher and higher. The main thing, is that we keep trying, getting better, no matter what level we have achieved. I see in you a tremendous drive to succeed, in all things. The writer's journey is sometimes frustrating as we focus on improving our craft, and our base, but with wonderful people like you, who have helped and been friend to so many other writers, that journey doesn't always have to be so lonely.

Thanks for your comments here. Always a pleasure.

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Julia Barrett - June 3, 2011

Beautiful post. I don't know who I model myself after, if anyone. Honestly. I just want to do my best.

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Sharon Hamilton - June 3, 2011

And that you do, Julia. I don't think I would be nearly as productive without all the great role models, including yourself, around me. Maybe less frustrated with edits (LOL), but certainly not anywhere close to my current abilities. I use multiple mentors, for different things.

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