This is a photo of a wall in the Art lab near my teaching studio at Northwestern College…

I walk past this message every day.  It’s a great reminder.

Let’s for the moment imagine that we can quantify progress/skill on an instrument by counting rungs on a ladder.  It seems to me that the difference between a gifted student (aka “brilliance”) and a normal student would be how many rungs they can climb in a given amount of time.  The gifted person climbs 5 rungs in 30 minutes, and the normal person only manages 1 rung per hour.  Now, a normal homework assignment (for my students at least) requires a 5-rung effort.  So then, the normal guy has to work an hour every day for 5 days between now and next week’s lesson in order to get the stuff done.  Yep, that’s about “normal.”  But the gifted guy… he has a choice.  He can get his 5 rungs accomplished in the first half hour after he gets home from the lesson and then have tons of time for video games, or he can practice an hour a day anyway and come back having learned the homework AND a bunch of other stuff.  Pretty soon he’s asking for 50-rung assignments each week… or pushing himself for even more.

The point is this: what does the gifted person get out of their giftedness if they only put in the work needed to stay on par with everyone else?  More video game time.  That’s it.  That’s all they get, because at the end of each week they are still on the same rung as everyone else.  And then at the end of 5 years, or 10 years, they are STILL on the same rung as everyone else, so at that point nobody really knows or cares that they’re gifted.

But at least they’ve logged in tons of video games.

True greatness comes from the combination of giftedness AND hard work.  In fact, the hard work is actually the means by which the giftedness makes itself known.