Christina Sarich, Contributing Writer
Are you willing to spend 14,500 hours at something, anything, to master it? Apparently, that is what it takes to become a virtuoso. While there are exceptions to this rule, it seems that it takes an exceptionally large amount of focus and dedication to become a virtuoso or a genius. Is it possible, however, that the process of mastery could be accelerated? Can we use unconventional tools to surpass mundane levels of skill? Are there secrets to going above the bar without frying our minds or suffering emotional or psychological burn out?
Franz Listz was playing the piano at the age of five. Yo-Yo Ma started playing the violin and viola at a very young age before he switched to the cello. The world-renown tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, started singing at a local church at the age of nine. Einstein apparently did not start reading until the age of nine, and spoke much later than most children, but when he did, he spoke in full sentences. Apparently it takes time for the mind to process creative ideas, and it can do so more easily without the interference of speech. Is it possible that each of these examples of virtuosity developed mental prowess with slightly different, but fascinatingly connected, experiences?
Inherit Good Genes
Consider as a premise, too, that according to recent news in several scientific journals, even our emotions are passed down through the generations, based on the vibratory rate of our parents. In order to ‘match’ their frequency, we adjusted our own in order to be accepted and loved. If they were angry and closed-off, then we probably shut down our full compassionate expression in order to match the same emotional state of our primary caregivers.
We know that intuition and genius, technical or artistic talent, can be passed from one generation to another, so the first short-cut to becoming a virtuoso is in having parents with certain proclivities or a multi-generational head-start in a particular field. Since we can’t all choose our parents (though some will argue we did choose them before we got here, but we shall leave this undebated for the sake of this topic’s discussion), there have to be other sure-fire ways to promote excellence in a human being without having to spend seven hours a day, for an entire lifetime, at becoming a master in one or multiple areas.
Change Your Genetic IQ with Meditation
In recent studies, meditation has been proven to increase IQ. Part of the way it does this is by creating greater focus. If you can have fine-tuned focus while you are studying a particular topic, be it a challenging musical phrase or a complex scientific hypothesis, you are much more likely to arrive at an a-ha moment than if your focus is scattered. This does not come without a caveat, though, because what truly creates a quantum leap in human intelligence is loose-focus. It can be likened to a state of doing without doing. All great masters, whether painters or biologists, track-and-field stars or basketball players, have described a state of trance-like aptitude when they are doing something they love but still feel slightly challenged by it – enough so that they can continue doing it without boredom, or without too much frustration because it is overly challenging.
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Don’t Be Normal and Overcome a Great Challenge
Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has done extensive study of both human happiness and performance, especially creativity. In his book, Flow, he discusses the importance of creative choice, stating:
“Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason.” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The ‘struggling artist’ is a fallacy, in fact. If you look at how artists were treated in the Renaissance, they were not marginalized and ignored, but treated as an integral part of society. He also showed, in quite profound ways, through using examples of athletes, musicians, poets, scientists and others, who are considered masters in their respective fields, that people achieve flow by being ab-normal.
In his work, Csikszentmihaly found people of great creativity come from two types of families. On the one hand they overcame a very difficult child-hood, and in the other extreme, they were children of parents who were either intellectuals or open-minded, supportive individuals who promoted their children’s interest in a particular field. What was in common of the over 20 different Noble Prize winners he interviewed, is that none of them had a ‘normal’ childhood. They were either encouraged by incredibly creative, intelligent parents to explore those aspects of themselves, or they had to overcome a huge amount of emotional or psychological trauma in order to break through personal boundaries to develop their gifts. John-Paul Sarte, for example, had to overcome his father’s death at the tender age of two.
“I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.” John Paul Sarte – No Exit
Once You Overcome Hell, Embrace Heaven
Another commonality of great virtuosity is the relative peace in which adepts create their master works. Rumi composed over 30,000 verses of ecstatic love poetry because he was completely, and utterly blessed out. He couldn’t help but write. Pablo Picasso was not only one of the most prolific painters of his time, but he constantly pushed the edge of artistic expression by retooling his own style repeatedly. He went from a Blue Period to Rose, African to Cubism, and on to Realism and Surrealism the way some people change shoes. Though he is known for having mental problems, and suffering from depression, he clearly was in his joy when he painted. He was a pacifist and wanted only peace. His greatest misery was in not experiencing that on the planet while he was on it. His great work, Guernica, was an inspired call to that peace he so longed for. Likewise, Japanese inventor Shunpei Yamazaki holds over 2800 patents in the areas of solid-state physics and computer science. This is clearly an area of intellectual passion for Yamazaki. He cannot stop inventing things.
All true virtuosos make space for their love and passion to blossom. They listen to uplifting music, which creates a heart-space for creative flow. They spend time with friends or walk in the outdoors. They let their busy minds rest. Basketball great, Michael Jordan said, “ I take my whole mind away from the game itself,” in order to prepare for the game. He also said he listened to music and used humor to lighten his mood, making jokes with friends and making it a point to laugh.
Stand in Your Own Power
There are still other ways to quantum leap into mastery, including using intuitive, rather than linear thinking, and raising your personal vibration so that your auric field interacts with other’s on levels they don’t even consciously understand. When you do this, you know what they are thinking and feeling and can interact with them with that knowledge. Many skilled businessmen and women and world leaders do this with remarkable acumen. They insinuate their own personal power into a room before they even walk into it, so that people are more likely to listen to their message.
In summary, you can spend the requisite 14,500 hours at something to master it, or you can boost yourself into expert status with more unconventional tools. In the times we face, we need more masters of the human heart, scientists and inventors who are willing to stand against the status quo, and musicians and artists who inspire by being in the flow. Virtuosity is a birthright we all should enjoy, not just the few who were born into a privileged class.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World.
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