A short story: One day his conservatory teacher, Nicolay Rubenstein, gave a young Tchaikovsky’s composition class an assignment to write out variations on a given theme. Emphasizing that he wanted his students to deliver as many as possible, Rubenstein expected each young musician to write a dozen or so.
At the next class, Tchaikovsky nonchalantly handed his stunned teacher 200 variations he’d composed! Amazed at the quality and intricacy of the work, Rubenstein observed, “To examine all these would have taken me more time than it took him to write them.”
Even as a young student, Tchaikovsky was widely recognized as a shining light of Russian music. He inspired such belief, not solely because of his natural talent, but because he consistently exhibited the desire to give more than was required — to do more than was expected — to “go the extra mile.”*
Our takeaway? When talent is combined with the determination to excel, anything is possible — the sky’s the limit! Two variations can turn into twenty and twenty into two hundred. Yes, we all need to nurture and develop our innate talent. But we also need to unleash our desire to excel, to surpass ourselves by going beyond what we think others expect, but even more important, beyond what we typically expect of ourselves. So often, we demand too little from ourselves and the results we reap reflect our lack of rigor.
Some time today, you may find yourself tackling a writing project large or small that requires your time and attention. As you explore its dimensions, why not ask yourself, What do I expect of myself here? How can I do even more than expected? What will it take for me to do my absolute best on this, even though no one is looking over my shoulder? What more can I ask of myself here?
When we consistently bring our “A-game” to our work, our mind quickens and our words begin to sing and dance off the page. So let’s all “go the extra mile” — and write on!
*Many thanks to my friend and mentor, Dr. Rob Gilbert, for this inspiriting story. For a daily dose of inspiration, check out his free Success Hotline (973.743.4690).