In 1979, Hall of Fame standout Larry Bird first broke into the NBA, the beginning of a long and spectacular career with the Boston Celtics. Larry had a practice regimen that he faithfully observed throughout his career. He would arrive at the venue at least two hours before game time and, with the help of a ball boy, shoot baskets. Over and over. Before every single game. Larry said that through hard work and self-discipline, he was able to go farther in his career than other guys who had better natural gifts but didn’t work hard developing their talents. Though Bird was tall (6’9”), he couldn’t run or jump well. But he could outshoot and outthink his opponents. This he did time and time again.
We all come into life with certain aptitudes, advantages and challenges. What we do with what we’ve been given determine the kinds of lives we make for ourselves. Quality and success in life do not come automatically. You may have superior intelligence, even brilliance. But if you neglect the hard work of study, learning, practice and productivity, your potential will remain unfulfilled. That doctor, attorney, theologian, financial analyst, software engineer, or Grammy Award-winning musician inside you does not emerge automatically.
Some years ago a friend of mine was working on his Ph.D in Leadership Studies. When asked what types of students earn their doctorates (versus those who don’t), he remarked, “The Einsteins wash out.” Why? “Because you can’t outsmart the work.” That was the secret of Thomas Edison’s genius. “It’s plain hard work that does it.” I especially am keeping this in mind as I’m going back to graduate school in January to finish my Master’s degree.
Similarly, you may have come into life with health problems in your family tree. Those challenges do not have to define or limit your life. You may have obesity, heart disease or high blood pressure in your family line but their effects are not necessarily inevitable. Again, it takes work—the hard but fruitful work of exercising, eating carefully, avoiding unhealthy behaviors and stuff.
Life is what we make it. It’s a canvas to paint on. Like Larry Bird, with hard work and self-discipline, we can take modest giftings, even disadvantages and turn them into a Hall of Fame life.