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We Can't All Be Great. Who Makes the Cut?


Once a person achieves success, notoriety, fame, or fortune, everyone wants to ask them, "How can I get all of that?" How can someone else reach that level? How does one become great, so great that everyone else pays attention?

Recently, I've noticed a lot of these success stories say that you have to be born a certain way to be great. Greatness at any given thing isn't learned or developed. It's either there or it isn't. This is absurd.

Pick a person, any person. Their personality, individual characteristics, behaviors, and so on originate from two places: genetics and environment. Every study is a little different, but they all effectively say that a person's personality is based 50% on genetics and 50% on the environment that person is raised in.

What's more, all of these studies promote a malleable brain. There are certain aspects that can become fixed if not used at all in the first, say, five years, such as the use of language, empathy, and fine motor skills. But the brain is generally malleable.

You can grow and develop in new areas at any time, and you can compensate for one thing or another as needed.

People overcome learning disabilities all the time. When one sense, such as sight, disappears, your brain makes up for it by strengthening the others. When you start a new job or have a child, your biological clock begins to adjust for the change in the schedule. Your mind adapts.

What makes a great athlete is not what they're born with so much as what they're able to develop. In fact, if anything it matters most when they're born.

As you're growing up in various sports leagues, the older you are at sign-up and cut-off dates, the better you'll perform in that stage. Being 10 months older than the next kid makes a big difference when you're 8 years old.

What makes a musician great isn't necessarily what they're born with, but how much time they spend practicing and learning every day - how long it takes to reach those 10,000 hours.

Experts in their fields aren't born, they're developed through decades of study, research, and focused work.

Whenever I hear someone successful say you have to be born a certain way to achieve what they've achieved, I can't help but be enraged by the ignorance and the arrogance of it all! But I think I know why it happens.

People forget. They don't remember what it was like to not be doing what they've become famous for, and so they just assume they were born with some innate talent. 

Most, if not all, of the greats making this outrageous claim have been working on their craft since time out of mind, since they were 10 years old or even younger.

If you take a 30-year-old who's been playing piano for 2 years, and stick her next to another 30-year-old who's been playing piano since she was 10, who's going to be better?

So what if you're a late bloomer? So what if you don't find your passion or your niche until you're 25, 35, or 50? It doesn't matter what you're born with! It matters what you can develop. It takes time, but if you want to be great, you can be great.