Meriam Webster’s dictionary defines effortlessness as an adjective, meaning showing or requiring little or no effort.

I define it a little differently – effortlessness is one of the key signs of a consummate professional.

Watch Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean execute a close quarters, high-precision step sequence across the ice, in perfect time to the music, smiling serenely. Look at Miguel Indurain mount the podium on the Champs Elysee, after winning the Tour de France, and notice how he doesn’t even seem to be breathing hard. Go to a movie, and see how Ben Kingsley has become the character he is playing, as if he was born into the character’s shoes.

Or come down from the heights. Walk into a training course, and watch the woman leading it draw the group in, so that the discussion heads in the precise direction she wants it to. See a broker casually hit a button to sell stock, seconds before it starts to fall, listen to a nurse say exactly the right thing to quiet and calm a panicking child.

Maybe you could read the winning entry in a writing competition, and see how the writer incorporated the rules and challenges so seamlessly that you can’t imagine how the story could possibly have been written any other way.

Every last one of them makes what they do look easy – people envy them their natural talent, their “God-given gifts”.

“But,” someone will say, looking at the person who came in second, “Look how much harder that person is trying/working.”

And that’s crap.

The difference between number one and number two isn’t natural talent – you don’t even come close, without talent. It’s taking the trouble to hide how hard it is, so that all you see is effortless perfection.

Every day, I hear people say things like “We can’t all be Tiger Woods/J.K. Rowling/Nelson Mandela/Steven Spielberg/Stephen Hawking/riverrun”.

Maybe not.

But, dammit, in the field we choose, we can all try.

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