A painting at the National Gallery: farmers working in a field, they are busy reaping the wheat and don't notice a passing comet.
A picnic with friends: no-one cares about the guy in the distance holding a perfect one-arm handstand. "Anyone can do that", they cut short dipping their breadsticks into the hummus.
An afternoon in the gym: an invisible man doing 25kg strict bar muscle-ups.
These scenes got me thinking about the causes of indifference. We are all very busy with our own lives, we need to rush and accomplish, be focused on the task at hand, and yet I have the impression that our blindness might not depend on an exaggeration of focus but on blurred vision. We are willing to pay to see performances but can't stop and appreciate performance when it's in front of us, not even in a context (like in the last example) where we ourselves are working to improve. Missing an extra-ordinary event can happen: it could definitely happen in the 16th century when no previous notice was available to the public. Art doesn't need to be understood to be appreciated: to say it with Adorno, the German philosopher, it is just participated.
Have we lost the empathy to participate of other people's efforts? Because that's what I see when someone does a one-arm handstand (or performs any other skill for that matter): I see someone who has dedicated a ridiculous amount of time and effort and thought to develop a certain ability. If it's true that some skills come easier to some, it is also true that talent, if there is such thing, needs to be nourished to develop. Genes require input from the environment to work. Development is what it's all about. You will hear us talk about "The Journey," and I want to tell you straight away that nothing else matters. "The Journey" is a mindset in which the process of learning takes over everything else, including the goals that made the journey start in the first place. It is an open path leading to impossible, unthought destinations: it is impossible to foresee where effort, coaching and time will take someone. It is also a path of perseverance until the end, where giving up is not contemplated in virtue of the fact that proceeding matters more than achieving. Many people can be persistent in the short term, but perseverance is the long game, the endurance of will power. I want to encourage you to be, above all, perseverant and you will achieve beyond your goals, beyond what you think is even possible for yourself to conquer.
Indifference might be an expression of fear. Perhaps the achievements of others make us feel inadequate. I can only talk for myself and I can tell you that during most of my life the terror of being judged, of failing and being rejected paralyzed me. I spent most of my life trying to hide my deficiencies, proving myself in all circumstances: I had to be perfect and I had to be it effortlessly. Engaging in a process to better myself seemed like a failure already: in my mind successful people were born successful. I would have felt sorry for the guy who had to practice eight hours a day to improve his handbalancing skills. Well, I have changed my mind, and as long as we are still at the very beginning of this project and the winners to our freshly thrown competition have just been chosen, I want to also tell you something that nobody ever told me: that our qualities are not carved in stone. If we practice, train and follow a method, we have the power to change and cultivate our intelligence and physical abilities. The people around you who are smarter or talented are not special: they worked very hard, they work very hard all the time to become better versions of themselves, and they all took pride in the process of learning and growing.
It might take a long time to get to where you want to be: don't ever let the fear of failure stop you. Looking back, if you achieve your goals or not, you will never regret trying your best. If you fall trying, no-one will notice: the people who take no notice of the muscle-up man will pay no heed to you. The journey is yours and yours alone, there is no failure in trying.
Enjoy the journey.