There’s a Chinese saying “台上一分鐘, 台下十年功” that translates literally to ‘stage top one minute, stage bottom ten years work’. Figuratively it basically means for every little success, there’s been a huge amount of preparation that has gone into it.
This saying has frequented my mind lately. It both motivates and discourages me depending on my mood and thought process at the time. Sometimes it’s comforting, when I apply it to all the rejection letters I have received that are just paving my way to being better. Other times, I’m exhausted just thinking about the long way I probably still have to go, all the work I have yet to put in.
Then I take it back to something that I’ve always lived by: one step at a time. Well in my head it’s always in French so: une étape à la fois. And so it goes. It makes me slow things down, so I can think more clearly. A frantic mind can’t be the most productive. Sometimes you just need to breath, organize, and prioritize. I’ve had those day when I wish I had clones of myself or the power to be at more than one place at a time, doing more that one thing at a time. I know I’m not alone on that. But that’s yet to become conventional, so we just have to keep empowering ourselves, and trudge through.
There’s a lot of merit to being prepared. From avoiding small inconveniences to preventing catastrophes, it all happens because someone was prepared. Or being prepared to handle whatever happens, because the world isn’t always in our hands. All the over-packers and list-makers are on to something.
I had to ask my mom what the Chinese saying I started all this off with was, I could only remember the first half. And her email was quite nicely put. After writing the quote she continued “則是他用了很多練習才可以上台表演”, in English I thought of it as ‘it’s that he used a lot of practice so he could go on stage and preform’. To me this all meant, in order to get some where you had to put in the time and preparation. There is a currency of practice put in in exchange for stage time. There are dues to pay. Those who live the good life without having contributed anything, won’t really have or be anything at the end. And those who have fame without putting in the effort to become someone great, have no value.
Billions are fighting everyday to be great, if not just better. All the artists, writers, athletes, doctors, among many others who are dedicating hours to years of their lives to do one thing, and do it beyond well. They have my admiration. Their constant drive and aim for perfection in themselves, are a great source of what motivates human progress. It’s easy to have a dream, but until I had the guts to try for it, I was nothing.
You don’t have to be grand. All the little things matter, sometimes we forget, all the big things are just an accumulation of little things. The tiniest gesture could mean the world to somebody. All it takes is one step to be going.
Thanks for reading.