The Virtuoso Pianist and Climbing the Ladder

Bill Abbate

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Are some things practically effortless to you? Everyone has something they do so well they can "do it in their sleep," as the old saying goes. How did this ease of effort happen, and can you leverage it to do other things in life? You bet you can! Let's look at what it takes to make an effort nearly effortless.

Effort and difficulty

Do you remember starting a new job and how much effort it took to become comfortable with the task at hand? Sometimes the learning curve can be steep. A certain amount of mental and physical effort is required to learn something new. When you work through the difficulty of learning, you emerge victorious on the other side.

Do you think of yourself as a successful, victorious overcomer? Whether you know you are or not does not change that you have already overcome a great deal on the road to becoming a mature adult. Think of the many things you have overcome in life. As a child, you struggled to learn to walk and talk. As an adult, you learned how to earn a paycheck and become self-sufficient. What about the thousands of things between childhood and now? You had to learn and master countless things to get where you are today.

Most of us fail to realize how far we have already come. You have already learned a tremendous amount of information and gained many skills. The great thing about life is everyone has an equal opportunity to apply themselves, overcome a vast array of struggles, and come out victorious on the other side.

Do you see yourself in that light? Can you see yourself in that way? If not, why not?

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right." Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Through all of the struggles, difficulties, learning, and practicing, you have become a fully functioning adult who has many things you can "do in your sleep." How many more things can you learn and master? The opportunities and potential is limited only by you, the way you think and see yourself, and the drive you possess.

Effort and Ease

Everything begins with effort. Can you think of anything achievable by a human being that does not require effort on your or someone else's part? I would love to hear of any that come to mind in the comment section below. Let's clear up what we mean by effort. Following is its definition in the Cambridge Dictionary:

effort (noun) - physical or mental activity needed to achieve something

Anything we do requires effort, including conscious and unconscious efforts such as breathing, sleeping, waking, walking, eating, and other daily activities. These ordinary activities can take considerable effort when ill, but very little when healthy.

The wonderful thing about making a conscious effort to do something is you can improve on it to the point that it becomes so easy you can "do it in your sleep."

But what about effortless things? According to the above definition, it does not mean you exert zero effort. It does mean it is easier to do. Let's turn again to the Cambridge Dictionary for the definition of effortless.

effortless (adjective) - seeming not to need any effort:

To do something effortlessly means it "seems" not to need effort, yet it actually does. For example, some people effortlessly dance, get excellent grades in school, swim, play an instrument, and so on. The amount of work they put into getting to that point is something we rarely see.

What is it in your life you wish you could do effortlessly? Here are only a few things I have worked on or continue working on to make effortless:

  • Playing the guitar
  • Exercising
  • Curbing my appetite
  • Dealing with email
  • Using my time wisely
  • Climbing the career ladder
  • Cooking certain meals
  • Writing articles that help others
  • Producing YouTube videos for Jane, my wife
  • Traveling
  • Loving Jane
  • Walking through life as a Christian

I hope this brief list helps you think about areas you may wish to work on to make effortless. Why not list a few things you struggle with that you want to do with less effort now.

I would love to know what you would wish to do and would greatly appreciate it if you would leave a comment below.

Let's look at a few examples of how you might reach the level of "doing it in your sleep."

Example 1 - writing

Please allow me to provide something from my experience for this first example. You can achieve the level of "doing it in your sleep" at any age. For instance, I have retired twice, and social security reports my first earnings were in 1970, so I have a few years under my belt. My "retirement writing career" began in earnest about three years ago when I published my first book and started writing articles for my website.

To date, I am nearing 700 articles on Medium with more than 2000 in print around the web in various publications and on different websites. I admit I cringe when I read some of my earlier work. They are pretty bad. But I keep writing and have achieved a reasonable level of proficiency. I am not quite at being able to "do it in my sleep," but I am getting close.

Think about that for a minute. This senior citizen committed to writing daily three years ago. He has not let up and receives awards and recognitions regularly on multiple platforms. Hmmm… If I can do it at my age, you can certainly do it at yours!

Example 2 – climbing the ladder

There are plenty of examples in the world of people at every age starting late and becoming extremely good at what they have put their mind to doing. For example, many of us know someone in business who seemed to rise through the ranks effortlessly? Unless nepotism is involved, they likely worked hard, gained a great deal of knowledge, acted wisely, are good with people, and did a hundred other things to make it look effortless.

Come to think of it, even if someone climbs the ladder through nepotism, the person helping them must have applied themselves to be in the position to promote them. Their effort paid off even though the family members did not.

Regardless, it can seem you are effortlessly climbing the ladder to everyone else. Yet they have no idea how much time, energy, and effort you put into it.

Example 3 – the virtuoso

I recall a story of two women having a lunch conversation about the ability to play the piano effortlessly. One of them, a virtuoso pianist, performed piano concertos worldwide. She played masterfully and won high acclaim wherever she toured.

The other woman noted how amazing the pianist could play and said she would love to play like her. The pianist abruptly said, "no, you wouldn't!" Then the pianist explained to her only a few people in the world were willing to practice many hours every day for decades. She said most people will never commit and do not possess the diligence to exert the extraordinary effort required to play at her level. She said, "You do not want to play the piano as I do. You were never willing to do the work."

While the virtuoso pianist needs to work on her people skills, there is tremendous truth in what she says. We often admire people of extraordinary talent and wish we could do what they do, but very few are willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears needed to make it happen.

Final thoughts

Are you satisfied with what you have and who you are, or do you want more? If you want more, to what level are you willing to commit? How much effort are you ready to invest to attain this level? The answer to these questions is as individual as you are. It is your decision alone.

Why not choose an area you wish to become so proficient you can "do it in your sleep" and go for it! Commit to working on it daily, expending enough effort to get to the point it becomes effortless.

As a favorite founding father of our country said:

"Practice makes perfect." Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

If practice doesn't make you perfect for some reason, it will undoubtedly make you better!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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