Anything You Can Do, Can I Do Better?

We’ve all seen “those parents”.  The ones dragging their kids to practice, screaming at their kids from the sidelines, berating them on the way to the car after a poor performance, then complaining to all who will listen that if the coach would do his job and pay more attention to their child, they’d be as good as…..

The behavior stems from a fundamental belief that all children are created equal, born with the same raw materials and with a blank page of interests, and that with just a decision and work, any child can become a superstar.

If we just push more, scream louder….blame…reward with affection and withdraw in disgust when they fail…punish harsher…Image

Are you, “that parent”?  

Do you believe that all children are born as equals? If given the same field, would it be level for each child to achieve the same success if they invest the same effort? Apparently, according to a CBS Sunday Morning survey, 23 percent of us believe we have genetic differences that will determine if one will be more successful at becoming an elite athlete, a complex thinker, a gifted musician… Sixty-one percent believe the sole determinant of achieving greatness is practice and only 14 percent believe the outcome is a combination of our natural strengths and the effort we invest in developing them.  

Raising our children under the belief that they can do whatever they put their mind to is right and also terribly wrong. It’s true that we can do whatever it is we put our mind to doing.  

I can sing. I can decide that I want to record a song and get it on the radio.  I could get in line with others that audition for American Idol.  Every one of them believes they can sing to superstardom too.   I can practice day in and day out. BUT, there’s no amount of practice I could ever do that’ll give me the X factor that will catapult me to rock star status just like the many we’ve laughed heartily at during the season openers of America’s Got Talent.   The same is true with ballet. I’m a 5’11”, large-boned German woman. Guess what? I can put on a tu-tu and dance. I can.  I took ballet in college thinking it would help me become graceful.  To think that if I just practice hard enough, I can become Prima Ballerina for New York City Ballet… Sorry.  Maybe a comedian…

Malcom Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, says that achievement is talent plus preparation, lots of preparation, 10,000 hours on average to master something, to be exact.  He noted that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation does.  In, The Sports Gene, David Epstein, has found that talented people, practiced more.  What separated the best of the best was how long and intently they worked to master their interest.  BUT, He found that the elite have natural abilities and aptitudes helped them use that time more effectively and efficiently.  Their degree of mastery, given the same amount of time, was far greater than someone of lessor natural talent.  

So, there is something to be said for finding aptitudes, natural strengths, innate physical attributes and developing them.  It’s a better return on investment of effort.   And clearly, it takes intense, long-term development to maximize the potential.  Applying those natural abilities to a passionate quest is where the greatest success will be discovered.  

Imagine if 61 percent of us believed that our children have been created with a unique, personal blend of strengths and talents and added 23 percent that embrace, “practice means perfect”, with the 14 percent that already know that finding the combination of both, what could the next generation achieve?

Parents:  Discover your child’s individual natural aptitudes, strengths, and abilities and fuel the development of them in what they love to do.