David Strittmatter

Why great things take time

“Einstein had been working on a theory for the relationship between space and time for years but had made little progress. He was again stumped, so he decided to get some fresh air and hopped on his bike for an excursion through the quaint streets of Bern, Switzerland.

As he peddled along the cobbled streets he happened to come across the Zytglogge, a famous medieval clock tower in Bern that he had passed hundreds of times before, but this particular time was different.

When we gazed at the clock tower, he had a sudden moment of clarity… the answer to special relativity was actually quite simple. Time can beat at different rates through the universe. It all depended on how fast you moved. The rest is history.

Einstein had an often called “Aha!” moment. There is this common belief that we are fortunate to have these sudden realizations and attribute our breakthroughs to them, but are they really so sudden? Perhaps not.”1

Einstein believed that ideas take a while to formulate and do not do so in moments of aha, but rather slowly brewing and forming over time. It was not so much a sudden moment of insight, but rather that he was, “…led to it by steps arising from the individual laws derived from experience.” Translation: it was a progression that took a long damn time. Simply because the final manifestation happened in a single moment, does not mean that is where the real insight occurred.

Great things take time. 

How many times have you heard that phrase in your life so far? Chances are, quite a bit. It’s a commonly thrown around phrase that lacks the punch to convene its inherent meaning.

We are spoiled by all those seemingly “overnight” success stories: People publish a video that goes viral and are set for life, release a song and are globally known the next week, or make an astounding discovery as Einstein did and receive the Nobel Prize.

Most of the time, though, we don’t get to see how much effort and time was invested in those very brief breakthrough moments. We see those people as a prodigy (wunderkind), gifted, and attribute their successes to talent and luck. For example, Ed Sheeran suddenly appeared on the international music stage, and since then he has skyrocketed. Many people think that Ed Sheeran is simply blessed and his success can be solely boiled down to his talent. However, he had been performing as a street artist for more than 10 years before he was even noticed and started writing songs when he was in high school.

Can you imagine how many hours Ed Sheeran needed to become the singer who made it almost a decade ago? Let’s say an average of 4 hours a day, 360 days a year for 10 years. 360 x 10 x 4. That’s approx. 15000 hours and Ed Sheeran may have worked even more.

It took him al least 15000 hours to got to this moment when his song “The A team” reached international success. If you are/were convinced that Ed Sheeran is gifted and all his success is based on his talent, are you still believing that this is the case?

Why many of us fail to make their dreams come true

I am strongly convinced that everyone can accomplish extraordinary results if we put in the necessary work.

It is true that we all have a different starting point in different areas of life. And yes, we all make progress at different speeds and not all of us can become Einstein. There are indeed boundaries. Nevertheless, there is no shortcut.

Most people achieving extreme performance once had a dream and worked as hard and as smart as they could to make their dreams come true. What most of them share in common is perseverance. Although they have to invest thousands or even tens of thousands of hours to save their seat in the ranks of the greats, they are willing to take the risk for several years or even decades of no success.

In view of the risk and the great effort involved, it seems clear that we tend to give up our dreams. What I really don’t like, though, is the reasoning underlying those decisions. I cannot disagree more when someone wants to tell me something is impossible or that he/she has not the required talent to achieve something. I think this is 99% bullshit.

Everyone can achieve something great

We don’t have to become the next Adele, Picasso, Bill Gates, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lawrence, etc. to make our dreams come true.

If we have always wanted to learn to sing, paint, drawing, to found our own company, to become an actor, etc, we just have to put in the work and take the risk. No one can tell us that we are going to be successful, but also NO one can tell us that we won’t. One thing is for sure, however, if we don’t even try, we’ve already failed.

I know dozens of people who would like to sing, but at the same time tell themselves that they cannot learn to sing. 99,9% of our world population is physically capable of hitting notes accordingly. It just takes a lot of work. How can we tell although we haven’t even tried? All those teens taking part in the talent shows have already been singing since they were young. They put in the hours, even though we don’t want to acknowledge it. The same goes for all those aforementioned areas of life.

Moreover, we cannot simply expect to achieve something great after trying a few times. It might take dozens or even hundreds of hours until we can witness progress. Particularly my generation and the upcoming ones are more and more impatient. Instant gratification takes away our ability to work towards things. Yet, we cannot make an educated decisions before we haven’t invested a sufficient amount of effort and time.

It comes down to one question: Are we willing to pay the price?

Ultimately, we have to be honest with ourselves. Do we really want to become this or that person or learn a particular skill? Or do we just think that it would be “nice to have”? It’s totally fine to look up to someone and acknowledging their success. Yet, when we really want to achieve something similar and tell ourselves that we can’t because we don’t have the “luck or talent”, we lie to ourselves. We make up excuses to justify our failure to try.

If we really want to achieve something great, we need to be willing to pay the price. This time I want to close this rather controversial article with a quote of John Wooden: “Good things take time, as they should. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen overnight. Actually, getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome.”

1) See: Aly Juma: “The Power of Slow: Why All Good Things Take Time” URL (click)

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