Natural Talent + 99% Perspiration

There is talent, then there is crazy talent. This post is about crazy talent and where it comes from.

Like most people, I am fascinated by individuals with talent beyond the top folks in their field. Some people have particular talents, not because they work at it but simply because they are different in some way. Think “Rainman” or this gentleman. They just are this way.

But there are others who obviously have crazy natural talent. But they’ve gotten to where they are, three steps or so above their most talented peers, because they also work very hard, practicing 12-14 plus hours a day. They work so hard because they absolutely love what they do, obsessed with it. Here are four young people who have astounded me over the years. Three are athletes, one is an artist. But they are all artists really.

Skater Rodney Mullen

First is my long favorite. Since I grew up as a hard-core skater from youngest age, I have known of this guy for decades. In fact, he’s Florida boy who grew up not far from where I did. He lived out in the country, away from most people. Being very introverted, he avoided team sports, and talked his parents into getting him a skateboard. (What he describes about the personal psychological profile of many skaters in the clip below was so true of me and my little brother Scott who became a stunningly great skater.)

His father resisted, giving him the skate version of the “You’ll shoot your eye out!” talk. Finally they relented and Rodney seized the flat spaces around his house to become the greatest freestyle skater ever, and by far. He is not the “Michael Jordan” of freestyle skating. He was that when he was about 11. His name is Rodney Mullen.

There are so many truly remarkable nuances to what he does here that only skaters would note them and drop their jaws. He does things with such ease that his top peers cannot imagine doing; adding a variation on top of a variation to a particular trick that not many skaters can do. And wicked fast. I still shake my head. Anyway, here is Mutt, the only skater ever to give a TED Talk because he’s smart, the only skater to have ever done well in school.

Free Climber Alex Honnold

Alex is insane, but totally sane and crazy focused. He climbs things few other climbers do but with an insane twist. His unique talent – built by stunning hard work and discipline – needs no commentary. In addition, as you will see, he is the only person in world who “lives in a van down by the river” while being more successful than anyone else in his field. He lives for what he loves.

Guitarist Tina S

Tina, a “nice girl from next door” type is like 14 years old at the time of this performance. It is doubtful that anyone has ever played the guitar with this kind of dexterity, skill, command and discipline at this age. Its not even that she plays amazing “for a girl her age.” The artists who she covers have to feel a bit inadequate as they see her. And she looks slightly bored, as if she could watch tv or read a book as a she plays. Just plain crazy. She might even be a fire hazard.

Also, this cover of Eruption would make Eddie envious.

Street Trials Rider Danny Macaskill

In addition to this clip being a nice piece of film, it is incredible what this guy can do. He continues to advance and is one of the best big mountain bikers in the world. “Big” meaning he must carry his bike up to the top of mountains (not just really big hills) because there are no trails or ski lifts where he goes. Here he is doing urban biking. This guy could make his bike do stand-up comedy or bag groceries at the local Safeway.

Make note of the railroad track move as well as his moves across the top of that roofless railroad car.

Each of these young folks: Natural skill mixed with 99% perspiration.

Be inspired.

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