Saturday 11 April 2015

Opinion: Wasting talent toward instant fame

Awesome humanity
This is probably a difficult subject, but one that needs addressing in many ways. We have to ask, what makes the world go round and gives us the comforts that we enjoy and others crave for?
Whilst every profession in its way brings value, there are professions that are more than essential and without creating or engendering rivalries, might be more important than others.
In areas of medicine and technology, if people did not make careers out of the looking to ease pain and discomfort out of curiosity and determination, what kind of a world will we have?
Other professions
In my case, I know that the absence of health can literally mean the absence of ability, will, strength or purpose to do anything else. Last weekend, I hopped on a plane to Bucharest, just because I thought I could go there.
However, I would not be here if not for the doctors, the nurses, the medicine and more invisible but critical support systems had not come to play over centuries of repetition, standardisation and perfecting to find a way to put cancer into remission and keep my health at one of the best levels I have ever had.
My journey to Bucharest also would have been impossible without the fundamentals of physics, the applications of chemistry, many mathematical equations, visionary and sometimes daredevilry thinking that has made cars, trains, airports, aeroplanes and all the backend systems down to the person who has to do the graft work of lifting and throwing my luggage about as it follows me on my journey.
Nurturing talent
This brings me to an aspect of discipline that will apply to literally any vocation, in an opinion piece for the Evening Standard under the title of “Talent is worth little without the hard graft that must go with it.” Sarah Crompton writes about the absence of star English dancers in ballet or contemporary dance.
She mentions three of the leading choreographers who have expressed concerns about the standard of contemporary dance training, Akram Khan for instance says, “I am concerned that somewhere, somehow, the training young dancers go through in the UK is not supporting them in the rigour, technique and discipline that I am looking for in a dancer.”
Lloyd Newson, says, the students trained here “lack rigour, technique and performance skills,” then, Hofesh Shechter suggests, British dancers are “consistently outclassed by fitter, stronger and more versatile dancers trainer internationally.” Let’s not go into the fact that these three leading Britsh exponents are Bangladeshi, Australian and Israeli, respectively.
Then Tamara Rojo, who is the Artistic Director of the English National Ballet, gets to the heart of the matter, “Do we want to promote instant success and instant failure, or do we want to promote self-esteem and hard work?” Now, did I say, she is Spanish?
Really nurturing talent for life
This is not to say there is no raw talent in Great Britain, we have much undiscovered and unrefined genius lurking in the inner recesses of the many youths who have not had the teaching, lecturing, mentoring, coaching or just help to realise their potential.
In other cases, and this is where it gets rather unfortunate, the syllabus structure in many disciplines beyond dance, in schools and universities are not equipping our youth for the varied careers needed to have a thriving country that is building for the future.
Much as we hear that the UK has the fastest growing economy in the developed world, the fact is this is not trickling down or lifting people up, it is the rich getting richer and the poor sinking further into poverty. The political battles of our election already show that the visionary has deserted our leadership; we are aiming for nothing, just fame.
That seems to be the career goal of most of our youth, instant fame, lots of money and a jet-setter’s life, without the really backbreaking hard work, but what is instant is just what it is. There is no depth, no rigour, no discipline, no attention to the fundamentals stemming from the patient and painstaking attention to detail and we wonder why people crack. Just imagine lifting a weight you have never practised for and the back gives.
Project Manager fame
I see this in my field of endeavour, Information Technology, everyone wants to be a Project Manager and they have all acquired the certificates like garlands to litter their CVs with the jargon and superfluity of words as pertains what they seem to have done.
The British in its Empire days had one amazing exportable skill, it was one of managing people, organisation and application, recognising ability and gathering men to perform. This is what put the Great in Great Britain, between negotiation and plunder, we created an Empire on which the sun never set. That is now history.
Sadly, what we now find in many Project Managers who usually get paid a lot more than everyone else are people without the rigour, the technique, the discipline, the depth or basic understanding of the management of projects, the management of people, the fundamentals of the project, the appreciation of the talent pool necessary to achieve project goals and how to nurture that skills pool to achieve results.
Then you wonder why projects fail, because in most cases, Project Managers are an abstraction from the core reality, task masters who have rarely done the task, let alone understood the task and they only have to converse with you to lay out their ignorance like a billboard.
The need for more dirty hands
I have only found a few Project Managers in my 25-year IT career who have taken the time to get involved enough to understand what we want to achieve so that they can take some realism away into crafting their project plans.
I have in certain instances had to take projects I am on by the scruff of the neck and assume the role because my reputation is at stake. Yet, this is the instant success or instant failure Tamara Rojo talks off, the absence of the essential grounding and pain of long-term practice and application that becomes evident when we are really tested by the reality of getting things done.
Objective tests will no more cut it, we need comprehension tests, application tests, less simulation and more practical hands-on, hands-dirty work with the sweat and hard graft that brands perfecting whatever we do into making us completely dissatisfied if things are not just the way they should be.
I salute everyone who does that extra bit beyond the necessary to ensure what they do, even above the call of duty and responsibility makes our world a better place. Thank you.

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