It was one of those rare days when I was already seated at our favourite table, sipping my coffee, when Paddy arrived.
“I heard you say in an interview one time that you had about a hundred and twenty-five celebrity clients during your career,” Paddy said as he sat down.
Assuming he meant it as a question I said, “Yes, I think the number would be around that.”
“That’s a lot of talent to be around,” Paddy observed.
“I was around a lot more talent than that,” I told him. “Quite often, when I was in the company of my clients, I’d meet other very talented people. For example, just through my association with Anne Murray I spent time with Glen Campbell, Jerry Reid, Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Chet Atkins, Jud Strunk, Brenda Lee, Larry Gatlin, Kenny Rogers, Roy Acuff, Charlie Louvin, Johnny Cash and a few others. It was the same with broadcasters and writers, because of my clients in those fields, as well as my own writing and broadcasting activity, I was often in the company of very talented people. But why are you bringing this up?”
“Because I want to get your views on talent per se,” Paddy explained. “What did you learn about talent from observing your very talented clients and their peers?”
“The most important thing I learned about talent,” I answered, “is that talent is only a starting point. It doesn’t matter how much talent an athlete, entertainer or other professional has, it’s what that person does with the talent that counts.”
“Give me an example,” Paddy said.
“For one thing,” I replied, “talented professionals realize that they can never rest on their laurels and are continually honing and adding to their talents.
“My favourite example of this involves Anne Murray. A number of years ago I went into her dressing room in Las Vegas just before her final performance of a long engagement. Know what she was doing? She was rehearsing Snowbird, a song she had sung thousands of times, and probably at least ten times that week. Yet she felt that something wasn’t quite right with her last rendition; and there she was, with her guitar player, Aiden Mason, going over it again just before taking the stage.”
“Wow,” Paddy said, seeming genuinely impressed, “who would have thunk it?”
“There are lots of similar examples,” I went on. “Except in instant, breaking-news situations, professional newscasters always rehearse what they’re going to say before going on the air. World-class athletes practice their skills over and over throughout their entire careers. Someone told me that Al MacInnis, one of the hardest and most accurate shooters in National Hockey League history, used to shoot pucks ten thousand times during the off-season. If accomplished superstars like Anne Murray, Al MacInnis, and seasoned broadcasters recognize the need to practice what they do regularly for a living, why should anyone think they can get by on talent alone?”
“So if I understand you correctly,” Paddy observed, “you’re really saying that talent without hard work is more or less wasted.”
“You could put it that way,” I agreed. “I also think that to become a top-flight anything, doing your best has to become a habit.”
“Have you seen people fail because doing their best and working hard didn’t become a habit?” asked Paddy.
“I don’t know about actually failing,” I said, “but I certainly saw lots of people not reach their full potential because they didn’t form the habit of always doing their best.”
“I knew a couple of athletes,” Paddy offered, “who liked to say they were saving their best for later when it might be more important.”
“The problem with saving your best for later is that there may be no later,” I pointed out. “Success without sacrifice is rare in any endeavour.”
“What were some of the other reasons you saw for people not reaching their potential?” was Paddy’s next question.
“Not willing to take chances would be one,” I answered, “Really successful people are willing to take calculated risks; go where they’ve never been before. To fully enjoy the ‘ups’ you have to be able to endure the ‘downs.’ Also, some things have to be experienced to be completely understood. But a balance is required; temptation should always take a back seat to common sense.”
“What else?” Paddy urged.
“Not making changes when it becomes obviously necessary to do so,” I added. “When your best no longer cuts it, it’s time for a change. But change can be treacherous. It’s a mistake to try to be something you’re not.”
“I suppose some talented people fail because they don’t listen to advice,” Paddy observed.
“Indeed they do,” I agreed. “But almost as many fail because they listen to advice from people who aren’t qualified to give it. The smart ones will listen only to reputable advisors.”
“I’ve got to get going,” Paddy said, “any other observations before I go?”
“Two,” I said. “First, even though no one has ever been able to adequately define star power, what’s certain is that some people have it and most people don’t. You have to have a style, but it has to be your own.”
“And secondly,” prodded Paddy.
“Good enough is the enemy of best,” I said.