Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beyond Talent

I enjoyed John C. Maxwell’s Put Your Dream To The Test, so when his book Beyond Talent: Become Someone Who Gets Extraordinary Results was released, I requested it immediately through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program. On the whole, I’m pleased – this book is another keeper for my collection.

Its core message is simple : sheer talent may be enough to attract attention and admiration, but it’s not enough to last the distance and succeed. I always consider whether this kind of book would be useful for writers, and in this case the answer is yes. There are many people with talent who want to write but never do, or who write but can’t or don’t publish. What holds them back from achieving their full potential?

Maxwell’s theory is that it takes more than talent to achieve greatness – it takes belief, initiative, practice, perserverance and character. But those can all be learned or developed. It isn’t just up to one’s inherent skill.

Maxwell writes what I think of as inspiring (as opposed to inspirational) self-improvement. It’s easy to state that it’s important to believe in oneself – that’s a hoary platitude at best – but this book tells stories instead, short and entertaining anecdotes about people who didn’t win the first time they tried something but who didn’t give up. Before reading this, for instance, I wasn’t aware that Edmund Hillary was once part of a failed expedition to Everest before his much better known, successful climb.

The book also illustrates points with pithy or insightful quotes by everyone from famous sports players to Helen Keller to Hannibal (the Carthaginian general, not the Thomas Harris character), and the application exercises are balanced with humorous asides, like these statements reported to have come from employee performance evaluations (page 187).

This employee should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better.

Some drink from the fountain of knowledge; he only gargled.

So it’s a very easy read. The only thing I disagree with – emphatically – is this claim on page 22.

Only a life lived for others is worthwhile.

If I had lived my life for others, I would have studied economics instead of science, gone to Pensacola Christian College instead of the University of Georgia and decided that getting published wasn’t worth it. The others who wanted this of me – my parents, in other words – might have been happy. I’m not sure the same could have been said of me.

And if you live your life for others, who are the others living their lives for?

Maxwell goes on to elaborate that people around you should feel that their lives are being made better by your purpose, but to me that’s the side-effect rather than the goal. Other than this one issue, though, I enjoyed the book.

More importantly, it made me want to send out more query letters.


Tara Maya said...

By "living for others" I don't think it means living to please others, or by the command of others or at the whim of others. I think it means giving of yourself what only you can give, fulfilling your own potential, ultimately to the betterment of the world.

Loren Chase said...

I agree with Tara Maya but at the same time it does still seem to imply that the worth of your life is due to what you do for others. If that makes sense? But if it does mean living my life for others by following the goals and dreams they have for me, then I disagree. That would be a horrible way to live, I've done it and you end up the unhappiest. Great post! I think I might check out this book:)

Marian Perera said...

Tara - I agree that it's better to live up to your own potential, even if that doesn't directly benefit others.

I've no doubt that people who live for others can and do accomplish great rhings - but I don't think this is best for everyone, or that it will necessarily produce the most (or only) fulfilling life.

Loren - Yes, any such claim should clarify exactly what it means to live one's life for others. If, for instance, you decide to be an abstract painter and you work hard at it, is this living your life for others? (I'd say no, since you're probably not even employing models)

And if you find pleasure and some measure of success in this life, who's to say it's not worthwhile?

Private Server Hosting said...

Sounds to be a good book! Thanks for sharing!

Marian Perera said...

You're welcome. :)

laughingwolf said...

i see it as: only a life lived for others - in the sense these 'others' are your characters - is worthwhile