Watching Greatness Grow

I was struck by a time-lapse video I saw today. It’s of a man named Shawn James who built a log cabin in the woods by himself (found courtesy of Kevin Rose’s Journal). You can see the video for yourself below, but it’s a stop motion video which condenses his process of building a log cabin into 5 minutes.

This five-minute video represents a lifetime of development and years of work. Watching the progress and seeing the final product so quickly makes it easy to forget the lifetime of development it took to do this work.

We rarely see the process of greatness. Watching greatness grow is like watching grass grow. It’s boring repetition. It’s drafting, revising, and recreating. It’s failure and tears. It’s tedious. It’s not glamorous or sexy. It’s starting and stopping…and choosing to start again.

This is especially true of internal development. A creative stop-motion video can’t show a person’s struggle to overcome self-doubt, the journey of discovering calling, the work of pushing through failure, the refining of talent, or the process of mentally choosing perseverance.

It’s tempting to believe that some are gifted with a shortcut. But even people who are born with great natural ability and skills do mountains of unseen work to perfect their craft. A ‘gifted’ basketball player like Stephen Curry doesn’t hit game-winning shots because he is born with the gift. It’s because he has shot 1000’s of shots of a week over decades. A ‘naturally talented’ guitar player like John Mayer doesn’t hit every note in front of a stadium of people because he is a naturally inclined musician. They practice their scales and solos in their studios for countless hours.

Those who achieve greatness, start with skill, and put in the work. If you doubt this, talk to someone whom you believe has become great at what they do (or you could watch the Seinfeld documentary on Netflix).

Understanding this aspect of development is critical when it comes to discovering and growing in Strengths. Our StrengthsFinder themes aren’t a golden ticket on the express train to immediate success and achievement. But our Themes are a map which points us in the direction of the treasure buried within us. To find this treasure we must be willing to embrace the life-long, grimy, and often unseen process of digging it up.

Your journey (and mine) will most likely not be made into a stop-motion video for close to a million people to watch. Most people will probably never know the work you put in, the fears you’ve faced, the obstacles you climbed in order to find and dig up the treasure within you. For most of us, the gratification will be found in the process itself and in the discovery of giving it away.


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