Saturday, June 28, 2008


I saw "Wanted" at the theatre last night. It's a nice movie action movie about a guy who's recruited into a secret society of assassins. This poor cubicle dweller is plucked out of a wholly unpleasant life and dropped into intensive training as assassin. Believe it or not, the only thing that bothered me was the idea that this guy could master fine combat skills in a few weeks.

It takes a least a year to go from raw talent to world class, if you have the talent to begin with. We all talk about how it takes years to master a martial art. I don’t think that’s true. George Foreman walked into a boxing gym in 1967 and year later was good enough to be considered for the Olympics. 18 months after he walked into that gym he was good enough to win the gold medal at the ’68 Olympics. 18 months from raw talent to gold medal. So much for the idea that it has to take years or even decades to master a martial art.

For those of us who don’t start with the necessary raw talent, I’m pretty sure we can train for decades and never reach that pinnacle.

Does that mean we shouldn’t do it?

To not make the effort is to eternally be less than we can be, to walk through life as a shadow of our potential. The vast majority of people I meet go through life as shadows. Whether we remain shadows because we are afraid, or lazy, or we believe there is nothing more to be aspired to than TV on weeknights and beer and movies on the weekends, or for some other reason, the shadows I meet every day terrify me. The idea that I could end up living like that scares me far worse than dying.

I have the potential to do a lot of things. What scares me is that I could make excuses to not avoid them. Like a lot of people I know, I have done things that the shadows consider amazing, though why they are amazed I can’t fathom. I’ve traveled to Asia and spent years living in a country whose language I didn’t speak when I arrived, learned the language, found masters of the arts I was interested in, became their students, and learned as much as I could. For those who have done something similar, it’s no big deal. The idea that I find amazing is to not do something similar. To drift through a series of soul-suffocating jobs in the place where I was born and never know anything else. To do so little with my potential, that’s amazing to me.

Now that I realize how little time it takes to get really good (since it is clear that I don’t have that world class potential I have to settle for being really good) at just about anything, the excuses for not trying seem even weaker than they were before. I just have to choose a path and start down it. I’ll get there.