I didn’t make the cut. During my junior year in high school, I tried out for the varsity basketball team. Now don’t get me wrong—I put on a respectable showing during tryouts. But you know what? It wasn’t enough.
I was the last cut made.
I fell one spot short of making the team.
And you bet, I was disappointed.
After a few days of sulking and licking my wounds, I mustered up the nerve to speak with the coach. I wanted to ask him what I could have done better or more of to have made the team. He invited me to his office and we had a long talk about the work and dedication a varsity starter puts in each week. I learned about time and energy commitments, study habits, nutrition, exercise, and training routines. He told me, “Son, you can have a lot of fun playing the game, playing pickup ball at the park with your buddies, maybe a rec league. And that’s ok. But if you want more than that, you have to make the choice to make a bigger commitment and put in the work to the point where you have a right to be disappointed when you don’t get the result that you want.”
As long ago as that was, that experience serves as a constant reminder that before I indulge in those occasional moments of self-pity over the thing that I didn’t get or achieve, I need to be sure I earned my disappointment.
When I focus on doing what is necessary to earn those disappointments, chances are I’ll be disappointed much less.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the great horror writer Stephen King. When asked how great writers become great, he said:
“I think that writers are made, not born or created out of dreams of childhood trauma—that becoming a writer (or a painter, actor, director, dancer, and so on) is a direct result of conscious will. Of course, there has to be some talent involved, but talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work and study; a constant process of honing. Talent is a dull knife that will cut nothing unless it is wielded with great force—a force so great the knife is not really cutting at all, but bludgeoning and breaking (and after two or three of these gargantuan swipes, it may succeed in breaking itself.)”
He goes on to say, “Discipline and constant work are the whetstones on which the dull knife of talent is honed until it becomes sharp enough, hopefully, to cut through even the toughest meat and gristle. No writer, painter, or actor—no artist—is ever handed a sharp knife.”