Is it ever ‘that easy’?

Published 9:36 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some people make things look so easy. Whether it is sports or school, we have all grown up knowing people that didn’t study, but made all “A”s, or that didn’t workout and train but could run faster and jump higher than anyone else.

The older I get, however, the more I believe that over time it really doesn’t work that way. I have been playing the piano for almost 50 years, but I see people that play with such grace and ease that I think they were just born with more talent than I. Perhaps that is true, but I expect they have also practiced harder and more often than I did, certainly as a child.

No doubt, the truly great pianists have put in untold hours of practice, sweat, dedication and preparation to be world-class. In doing so, they make it seem easy. The greatest rock stars of our time weren’t born with an instrument in their hands. Most young artists struggled, learning along the way, before arriving at the top of the charts.

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You don’t have to be musician or artist, however, to have your talent measured against others. Athletes are also often credited for having a God-given talent, and many do. The Olympic star or Heisman trophy winner undoubtedly has some natural ability, but ask any who have reached the pinnacle of their sport if they haven’t spent a great portion of their life practicing and perfecting their abilities.

Tennis players and golfers now start playing while still in elementary school. They practice for days and weeks for the occasional tournament. The backhand gets better because of practice. The putts that sink aren’t an accident.

Athletes and musicians get obvious credit, but what about the people all around us? What about the teachers that gave us knowledge and a hunger to learn more? The love for history or math or drama doesn’t come to a young student without a teacher that spent years going to school and then more years learning how to be a great and relevant teacher.

The list goes on and on. Eye surgery I had many years ago was perfected on the more than 500 patients before me. My vision was perfect when I got off the table. All of us have had the benefit of doctors and nurses that make it seem so easy when in fact it was years of training and dedication that made them that way.

Steve Jobs practically changed the way the world listens to music and communicates with each other. Yet he dropped out of college in his first year. He made mistakes along the way, causing him to lose control of his own company. By the time of his premature death, he had regained control of his company, which is now worth more than any other company in the world. He made it look so easy.

Interestingly enough, it was none of the people I have already mentioned that caused me to start thinking about the skills some people seem to have. Rather, it was the tradesmen remodeling our restaurant in Donalsonville the past 10 days.

This particular location was more difficult because the entire kitchen was being torn out and reinstalled. The dining room was getting a new floor and all new décor. A new freezer and cooler were being installed, along with a new parking lot and landscaping.

There is nothing magic about the remodel. In fact, this is the 22nd that we have completed. However, it was our most ambitious remodel and had to be completed in record time.

The team moved in on Friday night. Saturday morning, it looked like a bomb had gone off inside the building. By mid-week, a new parking lot was being covered with asphalt. The parking lines were dry on one side before the asphalt was down on the other.

Electricians, plumbers and carpenters were moving all around each other like bees. Everyone knew their place and did not get in each other’s way. Within a week, the drive-thru lane was open and the dining room will open Wednesday.

I keep going back to the restaurant, not only to see the progress being made, but to marvel at how trained craftsmen that know their job can work together. Like the athletes and musicians, this is not an accident. Years of practice and training has made them more than competent, they are skilled. They don’t need plans because they have been there before.

All of us, no matter the plan we have for our lives, must get up each morning and work, prepare and train to do our best. We can shine and be an important part of the world when we don’t accept being average.

We wanted to hire the best company for this particular remodel. Through the years of their own hard work and dedication, they made it look easy. It was worth it.

Dan Ponder can be reached at