“We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.” ~Martha Graham
When you were a kid, what did you dream of being or doing? I wanted to be a ballerina, but my one year of ballet lessons must not have proved fruitful because my dream didn’t come true. I have since learned that being an accomplished dancer requires more than one year of weekly lessons. It requires years of intense training, as well as loads of discipline and many sacrifices.
That’s my daughter in the photo above. She has reached her dream and is now a trainee with a professional ballet company. I have been with her through most of her journey and have seen first-hand the commitment and hard work it requires to get to the place where she is.
Of course I’m a proud mom, but this is true for any serious dancer. Like most of her dancing peers, she gave up a real social life at school; stayed up until the wee hours to finish homework after dance classes; and commuted 60 miles round trip from home to the studio.
No matter what else happens in her life in the future, she can always know that she reached a pinnacle in her pursuit as a ballet dancer. Although she doesn’t view herself this way now, she is an expert in her field and will become more so as she continues to advance in her profession. Sometimes I look at her and wish that I had had a passion so young and had pursued it as ardently. I floundered as a teenager and young adult trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
Now here I am in middle age, and I’ve finally figured out it is never too late to really be great at something.
Maybe not dancing, but I can be really great at what I love to do right now. For me it’s coaching and blogging. In the last year, I have thrown myself into a new career with a fervor. I am learning something new every day and now know enough to help others develop their own blogs and coach them with their goals.
What is it for you? Are you pretty good at something or do you want to be good at something? Why not be great instead?
Here are some of the benefits of being great at something:
- Your self esteem skyrockets. Working hard and achieving something makes you feel valuable and fulfilled.
- You become a go-to person. Others will view you as an expert in your area of knowledge and will seek you out.
- You expand your value at work. Especially if you are building your knowledge in a work-related area. Even if you are not, you will be perceived differently when you become an expert at anything.
- You create opportunities to build your income. Become great at something and then write about it, create a course, offer coaching or consulting, blog about it, sell products related to it.
- You can use it to serve. If you are great at something, share your abilities with others in ways that serve and uplift people. If you become a great cook, prepare a beautiful meal for family and friends or for a neighbor in distress. If you write or paint, create something beautiful for someone. Whatever it is you do really well, give it away sometimes and let the world enjoy your greatness.
- Expand your relationships. As you work toward becoming an expert, you will meet new people who share your interest and commitment. You will make new friendships that can be personally fulfilling and lead to more and different opportunities.
I understand that being great at something requires time and hard work. But if it is something you really like — better yet, something you feel passionate about, the work will be pleasure. Time will seem to fly by because you are in the flow of passionate energy.
The key to greatness at one thing is the “one thing” part. It is hard to have the time and energy to be great at one thing if you are distracted with many other things. You can eventually be great at many things, but you must tackle them one thing at a time.
If you are considering going for great in a certain area of your life, here are a few things to think about:
1. At the very least, be sure you like what you are doing. Passion is much better, but liking something is enough to carry you through the necessary work and discipline.
2. Do you have a goal for becoming great in this area? To make more money? Get a better position at work? Be more competitive? Or simply for the pleasure of it? Your goal might drive the amount of time you spend every day and week pursuing your greatness.
3. Do your research. Find out before you begin what it takes to reach the highest levels of your pursuit. Is this something you can work in to your life right now? How will you make that happen?
4. Set small goals for yourself every day, every week and every month. Then acknowledge and celebrate each achievement along the way.
5. Expect setbacks and frustrations. No one ever became great without them. I’ve watched my daughter over the years suffer with injuries, exhaustion, disappointments, and setbacks. But she never quit. Every one of these made her stronger and more resilient.
6. Find a mentor and role models. Go to the people who are already the experts in your area of greatness. Ask them for support and guidance, or just observe them in action. They will motivate you as they reveal where you will be as you continue to pursue your endeavor.
7. View the process as part of the pleasure. The actions you take every day toward achieving greatness should be savored and enjoyed. Ultimately, it is in doing, not achieving, that we find the most meaning and happiness. Don’t rush through the doing just to reach the goal. Take actions mindfully and focus on the task at hand.
8. Find a tribe or a partner. There must be others out there somewhere who are working toward the same goal. Go find them. Work together to support and motivate each other. If you work too much in isolation, you lose perspective and can feel lonely.
9. Don’t wait for great before you act. In coaching school, students frequently shied away from coaching clients while they were still training. Many, myself included, felt you had to be an expert before you coached someone. We learned from our wise teachers that you have to coach to become an expert. Whatever it is you are doing, practice it with others. It’s OK to flop while you are learning.
10. Celebrate when you arrive. I was recently at a performance my daughter was in — her first time cast in a professional company role. I reminded her that she had reached her dream of dancing for a professional company. She was blase about it at first, but then realized that all of her hard work and sacrifices had led her to this moment. Arrival can sometimes feel like just another step along the way, but don’t forget to step back and celebrate that you are fan-freaking-tastic!