Falling in love with inaction

I heard a story several years ago that stuck with me and has informed the way I see goals. Allow me to paint a picture for you. A jazz ensemble is playing at a cocktail party (background music), quite well, and they finish their set. As they’re standing around after their performance grabbing drinks and talking with spectators, a woman approaches the piano player and, like so many before her, states with longing “You were wonderful! I wish I could play piano like you.” After hearing this for years and ruminating on the statement echoed by many, the piano player takes a drag of his cigarette, looks at the woman and says “no you don’t. If you really wanted to you would have done it.” He walks off leaving the woman bewildered at how her compliment was received.

Another story, which is most likely apocryphal, but drives the point home is about Pablo Picasso. Again, paraphrasing. Pablo is sitting in a cafe doodling on a napkin. When he is done he takes the napkin, crinkles it up, and goes to throw it away. A woman sitting near him is watching him do this and stops him before he can throw the small drawing away. She asks him for the napkin and he politely agrees, with a condition. She must pay several thousands of dollars for the napkin. Stunned, the woman replies with “but why would I pay that when you were about to throw it away? It only took you a few minutes to draw!” To which Pablo replies “No ma’am, this took me 40 years.” Pablo takes the napkin, stuffs it in his pocket, and leaves.

Too often we’re content with falling in love with the idea of something. Whether that thing be a skill, success, or a tangible object. We find ourselves saying “I’ve always wanted to…,” “I wish I could…,” “I’d like to…” We’ve become accustomed to the idea of overnight success and pay no mind to the hours of work people put into a skill. The Piano player, had he been more eloquent, would have further explained to the spectator that he also wished to one day play piano at a high level. Instead of just wishing he could play piano, he spent hours and years of his life practicing, playing, remaining in solitude in order to refine a skill. Wishing is easy, putting in work is difficult. As Joe Rogan says, “Be the hero in your own movie.”

Don’t just love an idea, love the actions.

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