Image source: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSIWofqHX_yrZ9j5k-msMFo9IuVmdVFbsbZHwYrnjql3y58Mzom
While his pictures are iconic, perhaps not everyone knows the name Ansel Adams. He is one of the great photographers of all time, best known for his black and white shots of national parks. If you do know Ansel Adams, you may not have heard that he was a classical pianist.
In fact, Ansel Adams was a much better pianist than I am. He was given a conservatory level training and could have easily gone on to become a recitalist or a professor of piano at any conservatory. At some point, however, he found photography.
I saw a documentary about Adams and heard him play. I remember two things: first, his playing was exquisite. Second, the look of regret on his face was heartbreaking.
Adams made a choice at some point. He could either be one of a thousand brilliant pianists, or he could be the one, the only, Ansel Adams, photographer. Few people would argue he chose poorly.
Because few of us have either the instruction or the time to become THE anything, we are left with a slightly different choice. We can attempt to be the greatest at something when we know we will fail, or we can decide to be content with just being okay. When I was discussing this with my friend Yale, she remarked that, rather than attempting to be awesome at one thing, she had chosen to be awesomely mediocre at many.
I think that’s a brilliant solution. It’s an acceptance, even a celebration of who she is. If you are dissatisfied with that answer, consider this.
However “talented” I am or am not, there is only one of me. I am most likely to impact the world by presenting myself as genuinely as possible, acting on my strengths and working on my weaknesses. That genuine me involves not only my talent, but the sum total of who I am, including my failures and weaknesses.
If my french toast is really good, but not worthy of a restaurant, am I supposed to give that up? No way. That french toast could comfort a friend or be a part of an amazing brunch party.
If I can write about my experiences and post them on the internet, does it have to be Shakespeare? No! How many people have had their lives changed by some ordinary thing they read in a comment somewhere?
If I am not going to be the next Glenn Gould, should I give up playing the piano? What in the world for? It’s the music that’s important, not me, and my job should be making whatever music gives me and someone else joy.
Have you given up something because you decided you weren’t good enough? Are you hesitant to learn something you’d love to do because you’ll never be as good as…What would you do if you didn’t feel the pressure of having to be better than everyone else?