24 Apr 2016

Learning Greatness

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As a child one of my most cherished memories is my Mom and me dancing and singing to the top of our lungs to whatever she was listening to.  We had a single speaker that looked like it was built by someone who flunked out a high school woodwork class. It was an awful misshaped oblong beige color with a Sears receiver, complete with tubes, and record player.  Yeah we listen to music pressed on vinyl back then!  I remember vividly rocking out to the disco Diva herself, Donna Summer’s, belting out “Bad Girls.”  As a consequence of this influence, music is my outlet and my passion.

Growing up in the 1980’s was an exciting time for pop music, and pop culture and me. Artists exploded onto the music scene right and left, yet there are a few who are “supremely talented. Prince Rogers Nelson fell into that category.  In my world the bottom line was this, if you weren’t a Prince fan, then you had no taste and zero style.   Loud and proud, I would openly belt out,” When Doves Cry!”  Of course, to everyone who was subjected to this auditory assault, they knew that doves weren’t the only ones crying, pigeons were bawling too!  I was and remain a diehard fan of Prince’s musical genius.

The passing of Prince has inspired this post.  I know there is a definition for genius, as it relates to IQ testing etc, but what I want to discuss is “learned greatness.”  This is the space where ambition and energy drives an individual towards out-sized genius accomplishments; the result of which leaves a legacy for those seeking the know how, that they too can be great.  Clearly, Prince was blessed with God given musical talent.  The same as you the same as me, we all are blessed with a unique talent and yet, talent will never be enough.  A vision of what you want for your life is the spark that ignites your talent into a flame.  What keeps the flame burning bright and hot is your willingness to maintain clarity, work, sacrifice, focus, flexibility, listening, taking right action, learning for things gone wrong, build confidence, feeling the fear and moving forward fearlessly, being in creation and not in competition and never letting anyone tell you what your “vision” must be. These are the elements of greatness.  This is what  made Prince great.

I’ve just completed, “Michael Jordan: The Life,” by Roland Lazenby.  As a basketball fan, the book holds much appeal for me.  After reading this book I don’t know if being the world’s greatest basketball player was Michael’s intended goal.  Becoming that, transpired as a side effect of what he most wanted in life, and that was to win.  His desire to win made him a student of winners.  His coaches were always impressed at how intently he listened to their suggestions and directives.  He would practice on and off the court honing his athletic skills and his innate talent by living and breathing and becoming one with the game.  In the purist sense of the word Michael Jordan was humble enough to learn from those who came before him, so he could go beyond them.  In addition he possessed unshakable and complete confidence in his ability to accomplish his goals. Confidence can be built from repetition. The more you do something, and do it well, the more you know you can do it.  This is why practice is the key to performance.  It is knowing you can perform and perform well, no matter what is going on around you.

Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs are remarkably similar; they made those around accomplish things they could not have dreamed of on their own.  They were  ruthless drivers of people.  If you didn’t try to match their energy or challenge them, you were disregarded.  They were there for one thing, and that was winning.

Reality says that you have to pick the right channel to express your talent and genius in.  Michael Jordan wasn’t going to be the best ever in baseball or as a quantum physicist.  And for me, no matter how hard I try to dunk a basketball, it is never going to happen; hell, I can’t touch the net.  And as for singing, I’ll always make pigeons cry.

Logic plays a role in how we choose to live our lives and how our lives unfold.  The reality is, you can win in your life; you just need to pick the right game.  The game you pick allows your unique talent to be ignited into your flame of genius.  A flame that will always burn bright and hot, because it is being continuously fueled by your passion to evolve into the highest potential of yourself.  Never stop feeding your flame.

Greatness has a price, and it is always worth it.  It’s easy to be average.  And it takes tremendous effort to be above average.  But to be great, to unleash your genius, you need all of what is discussed above, plus imagination, insight and courage.

I’ll end this blog with lyrics from Prince’s, “Baby I’m a Star.”

Baby I’m a (star)
Might not know it now
Baby but I are, I’m a (star)
I don’t want to stop, ’til I reach the top
Sing it (We are all a star!)

At the time of singing these lyrics Prince was not a household name.  But he made that happen.  So can you.

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