Every year, close to 10 percent of the incoming class of the elite Manhattan School of Music drop out.
Why would so many talented musicians leave, never to return? According to MSM president Dr. James Gandre (on Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing podcast):
They were the best in their home town... and now they're with a bunch of other people who were the best in their hometowns. And suddenly they're not sitting in the principal seat of the orchestra, they're sitting at the back of the section.
And they realize, 'Oh, this is going to be harder than I thought. Talent alone isn't going to do it. I actually have to work really hard.'
Hold that thought.
I was a decent wrestler in high school. Not great, but good enough to be a counselor at a prominent wrestling camp where most of the other counselors were Division I college wrestlers. The average camper was not just the best wrestler at their school; almost all were district and regional champs. Many were were state champions.
In short, they were the big fish in their respective ponds.
Every day, after the final session, the counselors usually stayed to work out with each other.
A few of the campers would hang around and watch. Occasionally, one would step on the mat to give a counselor a go.
That decision always ended badly for the camper: The usual gap in talent between a good college wrestler and a great high school wrestler is extremely wide.
Most of them -- especially the cockiest ones -- would trudge off the mat and spend the rest of the week avoiding the after-sessions.
But occasionally a camper would come back the next day. He would watch. He would ask a few questions.
And ask for another go.
And no matter what happened, come back the next day for more.
We all have limits. But in most cases, those limits are self-imposed.
One of those limits involves effort; that little voice inside that says, "I'm exhausted and can't do more."
That little voice is wrong. Under the right circumstances, with the right motivation, with the right goal... we can always do more. (Which is why one Navy SEAL ascribes to the 40 Percent Rule: When your mind says you're done, you're only 40 percent done.)
The same is true with skill; once you reach a certain level of expertise, your rate of improvement typically slows and that little voice inside says your limit is near.
Which causes you to assume you're as good as you can ever be.
The result is what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset: The belief that intelligence, ability, and skill are inborn and relatively fixed. That we "have" what we were born with.
Like, "I'm not that smart." "I'm not that good." "I don't have that kind of willpower."
Every camper who rolled with a counselor walked away with a bruised ego. But a few campers took a thrashing from the counselors and decided to come back for more.
Because they not only realized they weren't nearly as good as they believed. Or had been led to believe. They had been exposed to a bigger slice of the world, one where other people were a lot better.
And while humbled, they embraced a growth mindset: They decided that by putting in the time and effort, they might be able to be as good.
They decided that qualities like ability, skill, and intelligence can be developed through effort.
That they could be more than what they are -- and be what they worked to become.
One of the hardest things a parent has to do is help their children be objective about expectations.
Dreams are great, but reality eventually steps in.
Not just the reality of physical, mental, or emotional limitations, but also the reality of effort.
At some point, talent isn't enough. People who achieve at the highest level may be talented, but they also have worked really, really hard.
Consistent, relentless effort is the difference between good and great, between star and superstar, between startup founder and successful entrepreneur.
It's just as hard to be objective about your own expectations.
If you want to run a marathon... you also have to want to go out every day and follow your training plan. You can't just want the goal; you have to want the routine. Otherwise, you don't really want to run a marathon. You just say you do.
If you want to start a successful business... you also have to want to bet on yourself, work long hours, and embrace the risk of failure. Wanting the end goal isn't enough; you also have to want the grind.
If you want to be a great salesperson, you have to love the nuts and bolts involved in selling. If you want to be a great leader, you have to want the nuts and bolts involved in motivating, inspiring, developing, and coaching people.
And you have to accept that your current limits are self-imposed, because in order to achieve whatever goal you set, you'll have to do more.
Decide what you want to actually do.
Then find a way to spend time around -- or better yet, with -- a superstar in the field.
But don't just focus on what they have achieved.
Focus on what they actually do to achieve those things.
And ask yourself if you want to do the same things.
If you don't, save yourself the anguish and turn your focus to a goal where you don't just want the result but also the process.
Why torment yourself by dreaming about a goal you will never really try to accomplish? Deciding what you don't want is just as important -- especially to your happiness -- as deciding what you do want.
And if you do want to do the things required to achieve a goal, you get an added bonus: By experiencing first-hand what is actually possible, you'll not only learn what you need to do to reach the same level.
When superstar performance is the bar, you automatically set your internal limits higher.
You'll realize you're capable of more.
Talent alone is never enough.
You also have to want to work really hard.
You have to want the effort.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger decided he wanted to become Mr. Olympia, he believed that every rep of every exercise carried him one step closer to his goal.
That's why he couldn't wait to get to the gym every day, because then he could do more reps.
He wanted the title... but he also wanted the reps.
And so must you.
Everyone wants the end result, yet few people want the effort required to get there.
If when you do -- if you want not just the struggle, but also the victory -- you'll not only achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.
You'll also feel a greater sense of satisfaction, each and every step along the way.
Can't beat that.