Think of a magic illusion. A magician vanishes a card and makes it reappear in an impossible location. As spectators, we see the effect and are amazed by it. What we don’t see is the method behind it. If we could learn the mechanics that made the illusion possible, we would realize that the magician’s “powers” are also within our reach.
Just like with magic illusions, our unawareness of what happens behind great performances of the people we admire makes us think their results are beyond our capabilities. But there is a process behind every impressive feat—in sports, arts, or any other field. A process that we could follow too.
Many times the process is not what we think. It’s rarely glamorous or exciting. In magic, sometimes an elegant effect requires that the magician inelegantly strap a magnet to his thigh under his pants. And some card effects need hours upon hours of practice in front of a mirror to eliminate any “flashing” and conceal the inner workings of the effect.
Methods are not often as satisfying to watch as end results. We like to see the finished product, the competition, the illusion, not how it came to be. It’s the reason we watch sports games and not sports practices. We don’t want to see our favorite players running through drills again and again. We want to see them compete, executing their skills at their best—and preferably, under high-stake conditions.
This obsession with the end result and the grand scale performances make us feel incapable of great feats. We think that those we admire were born with “gifts” that allow them to master their craft with ease. But we believe so because we are not looking at the process that took them there. The early mornings and late nights. The struggle, the frustration, the discouragement, and in many crafts, the physical toll on the body.
When we finally see the process behind greatness, we get to humanize our idols. It reveals that they, too, have to work hard to build their skills. That they also make mistakes and fail. That it doesn’t come easily to them. But more importantly, we get to see that the path to greatness is also open to us if we wish to follow it.