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One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life, is to decide, without apology, to commit to the journey, and not to the outcome. Joyce DiDonato
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Paying the Price

In a recent post I said:

I’ve always wanted to learn lots of poems by heart.

No, I’ll rephrase that - I’ve always wanted to have learned lots of poems by heart.

There’s a story which I’ve told before about the famous pianist Artur Rubinstein. After one of his brilliant performances a society lady came up to him and gushed, “Mr Rubinstein, I’d give anything to be able to play like you.” Rubinstein looked at her and said “No, you wouldn’t.”

What he meant was that the price she would need to pay was hours and hours of practice, day after day, for year after year, decade after decade. And there was no more chance of her being willing to pay that price than fly to the moon.

What she really wanted of course was to be able to play like Rubinstein without having to pay the price.

The story is similar to that told about one of Napoleon’s marshals, Lefebvre. To quote Wikipedia:

When a friend expressed envy of his estate, Lefebvre said “Come down in the courtyard, and I’ll have ten shots at you with a musket at 30 paces. If I miss, the whole estate is yours.”

The friend refused. He was envious of the estate, but not of the years of fighting and danger which Lefebvre had lived through in order to win it.

I’m sure we all have things we would like to be or to have done. But are we willing to pay the price?

If you are not willing to put the price for what you want, then you don’t really want it at all. Not that much anyway.

Reader Comments (6)


<<famous pianist Arthur Rubinstein >>

I don't want to be a nitpicker (read "I am being one") but didn't you attribute this to Horowitz in your book on productivity?
March 17, 2016 at 19:11 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

<< didn't you attribute this to Horowitz in your book on productivity? >>

Well spotted! I'm pleased that you can remember the contents of my book better than I can.

I think (though I'm not sure) that Rubinstein is the correct one. That's assuming either of them ever actually said it - I'm sure both of them must have thought it on numerous occasions!
March 17, 2016 at 19:34 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Excellent point, Mark, about paying the price. Calls to mind something I read recently in Brian Tracy's excellent book, "No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline":

"The great oil man, H. L. Hunt, who at one time was the richest self-made billionaire in the world, was once asked by a television journalist for his 'secrets of success.' He replied, 'There are only three requirements for success. First, decide exactly what it is that you want in life. Second, determine the price that you are going to have to pay to get the things you want. And third, and this is most important, resolve to pay that price.'"
March 17, 2016 at 23:05 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Thanks for that. I'll remember that one for my next book!
March 18, 2016 at 0:08 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
As Mr. Hunt was a hell of a lot more successful than I'll ever be, I hesitate to second guess him. But I would add a fourth requirement: get busy actually paying the price! (Am I just splitting hairs here?)
March 18, 2016 at 6:40 | Unregistered CommenterTom

<< (Am I just splitting hairs here?) >>

No, I don't think you are. Resolving to do something is not enough - just look at the history of New Year resolutions!
March 18, 2016 at 10:08 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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