TITLE: Of Roosters and Running AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 19, 2004 10:10 AM DESC: A hard workout has me thinking about perseverance and talent. ----- BODY: From Art and Fear:
In talking about how hard artists work, I am reminded of the story about the man who asked a Chinese artist to draw a rooster for him and was told to come back in a month. When he returned, the artist drew a fabulous rooster in a few minutes. The man objected to paying a large sum of money for something that took so little time, whereupon the artist opened the door to the next room in which there were hundreds of drawings of roosters.
Sometimes folks, non-runners and runners alike, comment on how they can't run as far or as fast (hah!) as I do. There are days when I wish that I could open a door to let the person see a room full of runs like the one I had this morning: hard work, pushing at my limits, finishing with nothing left, but still short of the goal I've been working toward. Folks who make this sort of comment almost always mean well, intending a compliment. Often, though, I think that the unstated implication is that they couldn't do what I do even if they tried, that runners have some innate ability that sets them apart from everyone else. Now, I don't doubt at all that some people have innate physical abilities that give them some advantage at running. The very best -- the guys who run 9.9s in the 100m, or 2:10 marathons -- almost certainly have gifts. But I am not a gifted runner, other than having the good fortune to not injure easily or get sick very often. And let's not forget how hard those 9.9s sprinters and 2:10 marathoners have to work in order to reach and maintain their level of excellence. Richard Gabriel often says that "talent determines only how fast you get good, not how good you get". Good poems, good art, and good runs are made by ordinary people. Art and Fear says this: "Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work." That is good news for runners like me. Maybe, if I keep working, I'll reach my speed goal next week, or the week after that. It's also good news for programmers like me. Computer science students should take this idea to heart, especially when they are struggling. Just keep working at it. Write programs every day. Learn a new something every day. You'll get there. -----