Baseball, Persistence, and How I Became a ‘Natural’ Writer

by Marcus Sheridan

First of all, let me say Happy Easter everyone. It’s a great time of the year and one that hopefully you’re spending with close family and friends.  But before I jump into today’s article, I need make two quick announcements:

The first has to do with my recent tagline article, which some of you have been asking about and I’m proud to say that this coming Tuesday, at 9:30am, I will be posting an article about the tagline that was chosen from the massive amounts of suggestions I received from my amazing community. In other words, the social experiment completely worked and YOU chose this blog’s tagline. I hope everyone checks out this post, because it’s going to be dang good, I promise.

The second point of business is that I was recently interviewed by BlogCastFM. If you haven’t heard of BlogcastFM, they are known throughout the blogosphere for interviewing some of the top bloggers in the world, and because the guys that run it were desperate to fill a slot, for some reason they asked me for an interview ;-). So if you’d like to hear me animatedly discuss the beauties of blogging, business, and branding with the incredibly talented interviewer Srinivas Rao (also of Skool of Life), please click here and give it a listen. I promise you won’t be bored to tears and you might even gain a few butt-kicking ideas to implement in your blog or business.

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Let’s Play Ball

Jt's team

Coach Tina in the back with my son, JT, far left

To start off today’s article I need to tell a story (I know, you’re surprised, as I never tell personal experiences on here, right Jens ;-) ). My son Joseph (aka JT) is in ‘coaches pitch’ baseball this year. Basically, coaches pitch works like this: Kids, ages 6-9, are pitched a baseball from a machine. This machine tosses the ball at about 40 mph and consistently throws strikes down the plate. So as to keep the inning moving quickly, each child on the team gets a total of 6 swings to hit the ball. If they haven’t hit the ball within 6 swings, they’ve struck out. Once every player has had 3 at bats, (3 total innings), the game is over.

As you might imagine, kids this age trying to hit a little ball going 40 mph and only having 6 swings to do so often times doesn’t work out too well. Heck, it’s not unusual to see coaches tossing the ball ( very slowly mind you) under-handed to the kids because they simply can’t seem to hit the machine.

But as luck would have it this year, my son was drafted (that always makes me laugh) by a lady named Tina Moss. Along with her husband Bill, Tina takes coaching these youth very, very seriously. This was evident in the first practice of the season, where she laid out 2 simple, yet profound rules to kids and parents:

1. The team would practice twice a week, no matter what, and attendance was expected.

2. Everyone would learn to hit off the machine, and there would be no underhanded pitches during the game. (In other words, they were going to work very hard.)

Personally, when I heard Coach Tina say this, a big smile came to my face. Yep, she was going to push these kids, and she wasn’t going to allow an apparent lack of ‘talent’ or ‘ability’ get in the way.

Of course, once I watched the results of the first practice, I was a little concerned for Tina’s wishes, as there was one big problem—a lot of our players (keep in mind these are very young boys and girls, many of which have never played ball) simply had no clue. Unfortunately, talent was not going to carry this group. Wondering how Tina would react, I just sat back and allowed time to tell.

Over the next 5 weeks, my son’s team practiced a total of 10 times. Rain or Shine, somehow the coaches managed to work with the players. Even more amazing, they would have ‘special’ practices for the kids that couldn’t hit well. Unlike the kids in Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, none would fall victim to a lack of attention from coaches. Simply put, Tina’s will to help them succeed would overcome any deficiencies their apparent ‘lack of talent’ might induce.

Game Day

Finally, just last week, after hours and hours of practice, my son played his first game. Watching our kids warm up, I was amazed at their smiles and confidence. It was obvious they were ready to play some ball.

The game started with the other team batting. Within no time, I realized their kids weren’t well prepared. In fact, I talked to one of the parents and was told they had only had 2 practices over the previous weeks. That’s right, they had 2, and we had 10.

After a quick first half of the inning which saw their kids miss ball after ball from the machine, it was our turn to hit.

jt and dad

Me and my boy, future Hall of Famer ;-)

With coach Tina standing on 3rd clapping and cheering her future stars on, the hours of hard work were ready to shine….and boy did they ever.

To make a long story short, these were the actual results of our players:

24 at bats, 24 hits

And the other team? 3 hits….total.

That’s right, in a 3 inning game, all 8 players(2 were missing in the photo above) on our team hit the ball every time. But not only that, every hit was made by the 3rd pitch. Not a single child needed 6, much less 4, pitches. 3 was it. As a father and huge sports fan, I was literally blown away by what I witnessed. Kids, who just weeks before didn’t know where to stand at the plate or even how to hold the bat were now ripping balls into the outfield.

Let’s Quit with the Lame ‘Talent’ Excuses

So what’s my point with all of this? Well, to be completely frank, my days are filled with businesses owners explaining to me why they don’t have talent with the web, technology,  and content marketing. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone tell me, “I’m just not a good writer”, I’d be a rich man. The reality is that we all stink at writing in the beginning. In fact, and I will bet my life on this, none of us came out the womb knowing how to slap words and sentences together. Somewhere along the line, each and every one of us, little by little, had to learn it.

When I was a kid in 4th grade, I was labeled a ‘below average reader’. They put me in a group of other ‘below average kids’ at a separate table from the rest of the class and I was happily made fun of for being in the ‘remedial group’.

Fact is, I couldn’t read (and certainly not write) worth a lick for a long time. When my brother was 9 he could devour a comic book in 5 minutes. As for me at the same age, I just remember looking at the pictures, because the reading part of it was too tough.

Later on in life I got poor grades in English. Then in college my professor told me I couldn’t write very well. Personally, I wanted to punch the guy.

So did I roll over and play dumb? Heck No. I got mad and wasn’t afraid to stink at writing. I had stuff to say, and I knew eventually I was going to figure out how to say it on paper without sounding like an idiot.

The Making of a Writer

So two years ago I started blogging. Looking back at those articles, I can only shake my head at how poorly written so many were. Here, have a laugh like Ingrid from NittyGriddy did this week and check out this one, my second post on TSL. But since that time I’ve written over 400 articles on my different blogs, which accounts to be somewhere around 400,000 words worth of info along with 500+ hours of sweat equity. To give you a better feel for this, most of Seth Godin’s books are between 30,000-50,000 words, which is like saying I’ve written over 10 books during the past 2 years.

The humorous part to all of this is the fact that these days people tell me all the time I’m a ‘natural’ writer.  But much like the kids that struggled to even swing a bat their first day of practice, the road to writing has not been an easy one for me. Has it been arduous? Heck yes. Have there been ups and downs? Yes again. But has it been worth it? Well, just like the kids on my son’s ball team would tell you, yes, it surely has.

Your Turn:

Are you a natural writer? If not, how much time and work did it take for you to feel better about your writing? Furthermore, what are some examples of activities or skills(beyond writing) that you previously struggled with but now have become a strength? As always, don’t be shy, your comments are what make this world go round. :-)

Happy Holidays Everyone!! :-)

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{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Gosselin April 23, 2011 at

Well I’m glad you learned to write Marcus, since you’ll be the Guest Author at Life,for instance on Monday! I loved the story in this post. Despite Gladwell’s theory, or employing it and bringing each child’s performance to a level of success is a success story worth sharing. (Note: remember to RT this article!)

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was at least nine years old. Recently I ventured to take a look at my early posts at LFI- nearly six months ago. It was interesting to see what I was doing then compared to what I’m doing now. The learning curve, may it never end, is fierce and fun, isn’t it?

I’m about to step into a new arena soon. My manuscript is ready and I’ll be researching the publishing process. Is getting published a skill? We’ll find out!

Keep writing Marcus!
Lori

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

I’m glad I learned to write too Lori, and what’s that, I have a guest post on LFI??? What is this world coming to?? ;-)

You talked about the learning curve– Yes, fierce and fun is a wonderful way to describe it. Heck, this whole thing called blogging, and finding your voice, and all that other stuff is a non-stop process of growth.

As far as your manuscript is concerned, congratulations!!! That’s so wonderful. I’ve been through that process before and without question, it can be a challenging and frustrating one, but just hold the course and I know you’ll end up with your goals met.

Tell me, have you written about the manuscript on LFI? I’d love to know more. And be rest assured that you’ve got many supporters strongly in your corner Lori. :-)

Chat with you Monday, I’m sure ;-)

Marcus

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Lori Gosselin April 23, 2011 at

No, Marcus, I haven’t talked about the manuscript, except in passing, at LFI. I’m sure, as it is and becomes more and more (I hope) a part of my life story, I will in the future though! :-)
Talk to you Monday!
Lori

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

You mean to tell me you’ve been writing a book Ms. Lori and haven’t told your biggest fans??? Girl, you better get with it ;-)

Seriously, can’t wait to hear all about it!

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paul wolfe April 23, 2011 at

Marcus

I LOVE this topic. (you probably knew that I would, right?)

I truly believe that there’s no such thing as natural talent. Not at anything. Not music. Not sport. Not art. Nothing.

Now people will disagree with me. And point to the ‘poster’ boys of the natural talent argument. (Those poster boys are Tiger Woods and Mozart btw). Here’s the thing about Mozart – did you know his Father was not only one of the pre-eminent composers of the time, but also the most highly ranked pedagogue of his day? And he started training Mozart Junior around the time he was 20 months.

Is it any surprise things turned out well for Mozart Jnr?

And Tiger’s Dad Earl was a college level sports trainer/professor. And he was dedicated to raising a champion. Tiger started playing golf aged 8 freaking Months! (His Dad had a special putter that Tiger could start using from his high chair). Tiger started with professional coaching aged 4. And Tiger is ruthless at practicing.

Is it any surprise Tiger ended up OK at golf? (Or indeed, that the troubles in his personal life occurred given the kind of upbringing he had?)

No-one is ‘naturally’ talented at anything. To appear naturally talented at something is simply the application of hard work over time. Take writing, Stephen King writes a 1000 words a day without fail.

I once calculated that he’d written somewhere in the region of 15 to 16 million words in his lifetime (it’s probably more, because he wrote more when he was younger, he’s ‘slowed’ up since his early 30s! :) ) Any wonder that Stephen King writes pretty well? (And if you don’t like his horror stuff, read ON WRITING to see just how well he writes).

The problem is that telling yourself that you can’t do something because you don’t have natural talent is an easy way for people to cop out. I can’t do that, I’m not talented. I can’t write as well as him, he’s got natural talent. If you hear someone say that, you have to call them out, because not only is it BS, but it’s a self limiting mentality that most people believe in and stops some of the people we care about from leading the lives that deep down they’d really want to.

You can probably tell this topic means something to me. Sorry I ranted….but you’re absolutely right. More people need to stand up and say it too. Great post. Have a great easter.

Paul

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

You didn’t rant at all Paul, in fact, this was excellent my friend. Really bud– spot on and I absolutely love the two examples of Mozart and Tiger—as they get abused over and over again while inferring to our kids that they’ll never ‘be those guys’. Total hogwash, as you and I both know, and it’s important to realize that there is this crazy thing called hard work, dedication, and desire that supersede talent and ‘gifts’ and day of the week.

And in the business world, entrepreneurs and average Joe biz owner need to be careful not to lose sight of this. Just because something might not come easy doesn’t mean we can simply shirk it off– otherwise we’re doomed, especially as a business.

Love your passion Paul, and I’m super grateful you’ve stopped in today bud. :-)

Marcus

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Jk Allen April 27, 2011 at

Wow – that was passion right there Paul – I love it!

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howie at sky pulse media April 23, 2011 at

hey marcus great post my nephew needs tina to coach him in soccer! well practice makes perfect. i have been blogging for two years now. i think i prefer participating in other peoples blogs. mine is more to showcase my smarts which while it does do so the copy is not that great. but i tend to take on things that make me uncomfortable forcing myself to grow. i was flattered gini allowed me a guest post on spin sucks then shonali asked me to be part of her waxing unlyrical team. and my third post got a lot of action. i tend to be analytical and data heavy which turns a lot of people off but as i am drawn to the more eloquent philosophy bloggers to expand my abilities they should do the same. especially creatives in marketing/advertising who forget the CFO decides their budgets and spend.

so while i can aspire to werite better i am also ok if i just learn how to relay critical insight to people who might cringe at the copy a bit but walk away smarter and willing to come back. cheers!

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

Hey Howie, so great of you to stop my man. I’ve seen you many, many times on other blogs and this comment was very insightful. What I like about what you said is that you seem to have a clear idea as to who you are. I think this is the biggest problem most bloggers have– they simply don’t know their strengths, weaknesses, passions, niche, etc….You do, and it seems to be really working for you, which is awesome.

So keep doing what you’re doing man. Relay that critical data and insight and continue to make us all a little smarter— goodness knows I could use some more smarts ;-)

Again, great to see you Howie, have a wonderful weekend man and let’s have more of these conversations, shall we? ;-)

Marcus

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Marianne Worley April 23, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

I’m not sure if I’m “naturally talented” at anything but sleeping!

My abilities resulted from having many great teachers that emphasized writing and encouraged me to write every day. I’m so lucky that my fourth grade English teacher made us write a well-structured paragraph every single day. In junior high, my teachers encouraged us to write plays and poetry, not just book reports and essays.

For every writer, it’s a learning process. Some just start earlier than others, but that has nothing to do with talent.

-Marianne

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

Hi Marianne!! Sleeping, huh?? lol

I’m so glad you stopped in today and took the time to leave a comment. It is amazing how our writing ‘careers’ can be benefited or hurt by the educational foundation that is laid early on. You had a wonderful experience in school, and it set the tempo for what would become of love of writing. That in itself is a beautiful thing, and really should be the goal of any teacher in this day and age.

Again, appreciate this Marianne and hope you come by again sometime :-)

Marcus

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Bill Dorman April 23, 2011 at

It’s been fun and games, but I’m going to have to give you some tuff love here brother, nobody else is stepping up to the plate (no pun intended). You got this whole love fest thing going and it’s only because you are rolling your family pictures out………are those even your kids? I mean really, when are you going to start writing something of substance…………..

You make a good point, everyone thinks it just comes natural to you. Guess what, everyone thinks Tiger Woods is a natural golfer. Comparing you only to his golfing abilities we both know a lot of time and effort went into him getting where he is. I see that same talent from you. Yes, I’m jealous because I want all the love you are getting…..I say that facetiously, but I know what it takes and I just hope as I progress I can mature with the depth that you have; especially after being told you wouldn’t be good at it.

Seeing the little league pictures brought back pleasant memories; I was that coach trying to be a positive influence for my kids. The most rewarding thing to me is when I see these kids now (fully grown) and they tell me how much fun they had playing on my team.

You are out there spreading your love deep and wide and I’m just glad I can be a part of it as I continue to watch you grow.

Thanks for being a good sport with me.

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

Oh Bill, being a good sport with you is as easy as it gets– you are a hoot my friend—funny as they come, but serious and reflective as well– makes for a great combination really.

You got me though with the fam pics. You see, when you look and sound as goofy as I do Bill, you have to bring in backup. So that’s why I include my fam when I can, they divert the attention away from my many flaws ;-) Pretty cool idea, huh???

So you were a baseball coach? Very nice. I help out a little right now but I’ll likely be a full time coach next year. I wanted my kids to get old enough before I stepped into the coaching thing. But no doubt, it’s in my blood, big time.

I appreciate your kind words about my writing style Bill. I honestly do hope you find it not only tolerable, but uplifting in some way as well. It’s certainly therapeutic on my end. And seriously man, you’re a pretty darn good writer yourself.

Thanks for stopping in bud and for bringing so much value every time. It really is a pleasure to have met you Bill.

Marcus

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Edwin April 23, 2011 at

I think Im a natural writer but I didnt know that till 4th grade. Thats where I really found the love of writing and really enjoyed doing it.

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

C’mon Edwin, don’t stop there man. What happened in the 4th grade? Ya gotta tell us a little more than that buddy. :-)

Marcus

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Edwin April 23, 2011 at

LOL well in 4th grade I had to take some end of the year exams about writing. So basically in 4th grade all we did was study and do writing. Some people hated it, it turned out I loved it (at times)

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Eugene April 23, 2011 at

I think that there are three factors at play when someone becomes successful at something.

1. The will to succeed and put in the work
2. Natural Talent (and this is where I disagree with Paul)
3. Passion

You have to have the work effort to get better and better and perfect your craft. This usually requires passion (you probably don’t want to work your ass off at something you don’t really enjoy doing at all).

But natural talent IS at play here. No matter how hard I try, and how no matter how much I love playing basketball, I will never have the physical stature of Shaq. I will never have the vertical jumping abilities of other shorter players. I can work and improve the skills I have now, but I will never have a 48″ vertical, that’s just a fact.

The other point I wanted to make is that schools aren’t always the best arena to pick out natural talent. I think you have to have some sort of natural talent within yourself in order to write the way you do, Marcus. I think in this case schools are actually counter-productive for the improvement of certain skills because they like to follow strict rules and guidelines…and if you’re not playing by their rules you “are no good.”

Writing and English class are a big example of that. The second I left high school to pursue a business focus I was taught to throw away everything I learned in about writing in school…because that actually ISN’T the way things work in the real world.

Plus, after finishing school I realized that you can get by without ever actually learning anything. I was a “natural” at getting good grades. I knew exactly how to give the teachers what they want without ever really putting in much effort. I really only learned or paid attention in the classes that interested me (which weren’t many).

I think you had the natural ability within yourself but it took time and the right platform to expose it (along with desire and practice). But practicing only perfects something you already have the capability of doing within yourself.

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

Eugene, this was great man. I mean really, really great. I love Paul’s mentality. And I love yours as well. There is no question that we are all given certain genetic advantages and disadvantages. Some can jump to the moon and dunk, and then there are others like us Eugene and feel great when they manage to slap the backboard with the tip of their finger ;-).

I think the key in all of this is that we don’t allow presumed ‘talent’ to be an excuse to do or not to do anything. Only from drive, passion, and work can we discover our potential.

And I could not agree more with your statement about the limitations and ‘rules’ of the schooling systems. My writing style is very ‘write like I talk’. In English class, this doesn’t merit the grades, but in the test of life (especially blogging), it bodes very well.

Thank you so much for stepping in here and disagreeing a bit Eugene. We don’t see enough of that around here sometimes. ;-)

Have a wonderful weekend friend.

Marcus

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paul wolfe April 24, 2011 at

Without overwhelming Marcus’s blog by doing an Ingrid and posting a 3000 word comment, I do just wanna make a couple of points on what Eugene has to say.

Firstly I think Eugene is confusing genetics with talent. There’s no question that for certain disciplines – mostly athletic or sporting – that certain body shapes are required. As Eugene rightly says if you’re 5 foot nothing it doesn’t matter how good you are at basketball, the chances of being a top pro are slim to none. And we can’t do anything about the cards that are genetics deal out. We’re either slim or tall or broad or short…or whatever.

So on that, he’s spot on.

But on natural talent I believe he’s wrong.

Here’s how the ‘natural talent’ cycle works.

Let’s take a child. Let’s say that child’s parents are musicians. The child hears his parents playing music and is probably surrounded by music in the home. It’s only natural that he is interested in music (it’s something that makes his parents happy, it would be important to him). So maybe he starts picking notes at the piano. Or the cello. Or whatever instrument his parents play.

And maybe they show him some stuff. And because they are enthusiastic and give him praise, he subconsciously understands this is important to his parents. So he tried harder. And learns some more bits and pieces.

Then at school when it comes to music lessons, he is ‘naturally talented’ when compared to the rest of his class who come from homes where the parents are not musical, they don’t have instruments. So he probably gets extra teaching to nurture this ‘natural talent.’

As a result of that training and practice, he gets better and better. And people say: that’s because he’s naturally talented. It’s not – it’s down to extra practice and extra tuition/training. Pure and simple.

And this cycle is the same for anything. Let me give you some examples in real life – there’s a kid in my eldest son’s class who’s ‘talented’ at drawing. The reason is that his mother draws, and when he draws his mum gives him praise, and encourages him. (Which is rare for this kid as his mother sadly has some kind of depressive condition). So he wants his mum to be happy – he draws his ass off. Result: naturally talented at drawing.

Or take my eldest son – he-s 8. And he’s part of the football club at school and they get coaching organized by a Premiership football club. And his coach told me he was good and talented. And said: it’s rare to find someone at this age who kicks well with both feet. Your kid is talented.

Only what the coach doesn’t know is when my kid goes to the park to play soccer with me we have ‘games’ where for every time he kicks the ball with his strong foot, he has to kick it 5 times with his weak foot. And we’ve been doing that for 18 months. He’s not naturally talented at kicking with both feet – I’ve been training him.

Activities like drawing, writing, musical instruments, sports, etc are so new on the timescale of human existence that evolution hasn’t had chance to cater for them in terms of survival – and therefore doesn’t. No-one is born with a natural capacity to do computer coding. Or photoshop. Or play the violin. No-one.

And I’ve written enough now so I won’t go on – but the understanding of the process of learning at the ‘neuron’ level is advanced enough to back this up. But I wanted to put it in very simple, layman’s terms to try and make it understandable.

THE GOOD NEWS: the good news is that it means that ANYONE can learn to do ANYTHING. If you can find good teachers (or great teachers), have the persistance to put the hard hours in at the coal face you can learn to do just about ANYTHING.

FINAL NOTE:

Google Susan Polgar. She was the first female chess grandmaster ever. What’s extraordinary about her story is that her Father set out to raise her as a scientific experiment and see if he could create a chess grandmaster. (He raised three daughters – all grandmasters). I forget his own level of chess playing, but it was low. Couldn’t possibly be a genetic talent that he’d passed on. There’s a 45 minute on her – used to be on Google Video – go watch it with an open mind if you can find it.

(Sorry to hijack your blog Marcus – but this is something I’m REALLY passionate about).

Paul

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Keith Davis April 25, 2011 at

Hi Paul
As I read your comment I spotted the words “FINAL NOTE.”

Knowing you as I do, I looked further down the comment expecting to see “FINAL FINAL NOTE.”

Didn’t find it. LOL

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Sarah Arrow April 25, 2011 at

Going to Google Susan Polgar right now, that she could become a chess Grandmaster through hard work is simply… awe-inspiring.

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paul wolfe April 25, 2011 at

Hi Sarah

Susan Polgar’s story is illuminating indeed. The important takeaways are hard work over time combined with great teaching.

HTH.

Paul

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Ingrid Abboud April 25, 2011 at

Paul,
I couldn’t stop laughing at what you said about me here! LOL
But my dear friend, I think you just broke my record with that one haha. Well, if its more than 1200 words or so – then you did!

Oh, and I will be back here to reply to a point you made. But heck, I’m splitting this comment up so as not to appear THAT long hahaha.

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paul wolfe April 25, 2011 at

Only 890 words or so – you are still the official Reigning Champion of the blog comment!

Look forward to your reply….

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Ingrid Abboud April 26, 2011 at

Hey Paul,

I agree with much of what you said here but I do believe in natural ability. You can be naturally talented at something – but as we both agree – practice and working hard at it is what will make you even better or stronger.

But I think some folks have a base that others don’t have.

The example I want to use is natural athletic ability.

I know someone who pretty much excels in most sports that you can think of. She might be great at one or two but you can pretty much put a racket of any sorts in her hand, and she’ll play the game at a level that wouldn’t be considered that of a beginners.

I had a girl on my team in college who probably trained more than all of us put together. And then there was this other girl who trained pretty hard as well, but who just had better hand eye coordination, better reflexes, more speed. Sure – she had practiced them, but she had less difficulty than most. They came more easily to her somehow.

Neither of her parents have athletic genes in them – not even close, not even one! Neither of her parents taught her to play at an early age nor practiced with her in the back yard. She might have picked up a sport and practiced on her own at first – but she had no professional training of any kind when it came to a few sports that she played.

I believe that you can watch someone do something and mimic it. Maybe not very well at first – but better than most. I don’t know if you could call it a gift – but it seems like it. Once you realize you have that potential – you practice till you can’t stand any more. That’s what makes you better – but the talent is almost innate.

I may be dead wrong here – I don’t know – but it’s what I believe and the example I used is very real. There are some sports that if you play one or two – you can play most. I’m not sure how to better explain it but I have known a few people like that and I’ve seen it done.

Take a good baseball outfielder (to use the same sport as Mufasa used here) – they should know or learn how to dive to catch the ball. Now take that same player and put them in front of the net to be a goal keeper (soccer). Do they have the instincts? Do they have the hand-eye coordination? Can they dive to stop the ball? Sure – they may need to learn how to kick it and the rules of the game – but let’s say they played kick-ball a few times as a kid. Will it not be easier for them to pick up a goalie’s kick?

Let’s say you rode a skateboard as a kid – nobody taught you – you just tried it and liked it so you did it a few times. You weren’t necessarily good but you had fun. Now you want to take up snowboarding. Do you not have an added advantage? The posture? The balance? Again – you might suck – but the bases are there. It will be easier for your to learn – just maybe not to stop haha.

Now take that snowboarder and put them in the water. Not regular water skiing but skurf or mono. They’re already used to have their legs together in a position where they’re stuck and can’t be moved separately. Will they be able to get out of the water? Maybe not – but will they not be better at the stance and controlling it than someone who’s never skateboarded or snowboarded before? Maybe yes?

What about tennis and squash? If you know how to play tennis – you probably know how to play squash. Maybe not correctly – maybe not with the proper techniques – as squash is in the wrist where as tennis isn’t – but you’ll be able to smack the ball and place it where you want nonetheless.

I have a friend who is an opera singer. She’s incredible and yes she probably practices day in and day out. But when she realized she had a voice – she hand’t practiced yet. It came to her and her parents don’t sing either nor do they know much about it. Maybe not the best example but a noteworthy one at most. Only to say that are exceptions. There are some things that we were born to be good at.

That’s the kind of natural ability I’m talking about. Once again – you might disagree and I totally understand if you do. But once again – every example I used here, I can tell you for a fact is true.

I do however agree with you in that anybody can do anything as long as they have the drive, persistence and the proper teachers or coaches. But some will always be better than others and it’s not because they don’t practice just as hard or want it just as much. You just gotta love it and know between you and yourself that you’re gonna’ be great at it.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough but I’m hoping its coherent musings rather than non-sense lol.

Cheers

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paul wolfe April 26, 2011 at

Hey Ingrid

I just cut and pasted that into Word so I could do a word count – you just wrote 900 more words!

Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts – I’ve got some interesting stats for you on this which I’ll leave for my post on Natural talent so we can take it up over there! I’ll be expecting lots of polite and good natured disagreement, some banter, some stretching of our brain muscles, and hopefully we’ll all learn a bit.

I think the main takeaway – that we’re all agreed upon – is that with the right attitude and determination, great teaching, effective and efficient practicing and sheer bloody mindedness that anyone can learn to do just about anything.

That’s important for everyone to know – so that you KNOW you can get better at something if you put the work in. Because we’re programmed by evolution to (mostly) go with the status quo.

Ahhhhh….I can feel my fingers starting to get faster….I’m gonna hold off and leave it for my next post. I’ll tweet you and Eugene when it’s live and you can come and be perfect examples of how to disagree with dignity and politeness (if you don’t understand that, see my latest post!).

And I understood what you were saying perfectly.

Paul

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Gini Dietrich April 26, 2011 at

HAHAHAHAH!! I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this to her!

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

Let me just say that this comment was amazing G, as has the entire conversation you and Paul have had. I really don’t have anything of value to have other than to say it has been a treat for me and the rest of the readers here to watch two incredibly smart and passionate people debate a topic as you all have done. This is exactly why you’ve got such an amazing fan base, community, and brand in the blogosphere G.

ty

M

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Eugene April 25, 2011 at

I see what you are saying, but can talent and genetics really be separated as two different entities? Just by definition a talent is a natural/innate ability. And that is genetics at work. I think someone can be better predisposed to perform a certain action.

Even with an artistic ability I believe there to be some sort of genetic factor at play.

It is a nature vs nurture discussion. You can become good, or even great, at something just through nurturing an ability. But I think to be the absolute best you also have to have a natural disposition for it.

As far as László Polgár goes, according to Wikipedia (sure, not a scientific source but fairly accurate most of the time nonetheless) he was an expert on chess theory. I bet there was some natural talent passed on from father to daughters along with his nurturing of their talents. It would be more impressive if he, as a chess expert, would teach them to dance ballet.

And chess is something that requires a certain level of logic and thinking. So if he was in a field that required a lot of logical thinking he may have very well passed on an ability to think a certain way which would result in a similar outcome (although he WAS focused on chess which just makes it even more possible).

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paul wolfe April 25, 2011 at

Eugene

We could bat this back and forth for a long time – so we may have to agree to disagree. Or we can have a Blog Off – I’ll write an article on the case against natural talent existing – you write an article on the case For Natural talent.

Two things.

What Wikipedia says about Laslo Polgar isn’t that the he ‘was’ an expert on chess theory. It’s that he IS an expert on chess theory. And anyone who raised three children to international grandmaster status and spends twenty plus years doing it is going to qualify to be recognized as an expert in theory. When he started his ‘experiment’ he was someone who kind of knew his way about the board. And that was about it.

I’d have to read some of my research material to cite sources….but he set out to prove that genius could be made. And he chose a topic that he wasn’t a genius in so that no-one could point to any hereditary factors.

The second thing is that it doesn’t matter much that we disagree on whether talent is natural or not – provided that we agree that the only way to get better at something is to put in some serious hard work at the coal face. From your first comment I think we both agree to that – in which case the rest is interesting semantics. (Although I do like discussions like this – I just don’t want to hijack Marcus’s original post with a side discussion that you and I may be the only ones interested in pursuing!)

Paul

P.S. I dig that your response was thoughtful and eloquent and that you concentrated on sharing your thoughts on the topic. I had a similar discussion on another blog and got flamed horribly because I didn’t agree with someone. So hats off and kudos for that!

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Eugene April 25, 2011 at

Paul,

We can definitely agree on the necessity of hard work, no question about it.

I think blogs should be an open forum for discussion and sharing ideas and opinions. Isn’t that the fun part?!? :)

Plus, that’s how you open up your own mind to new ideas and broaden your horizons. There is no reason for things to ever get out of hand like that.

And I appreciate that you are willing to discuss. I think a lot of people would just leave it alone (out of fear or laziness or what not).

Looking forward to more discussions with you!

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paul wolfe April 25, 2011 at

Hey Eugene

I loved your response. Seriously very cool. Maybe in my other site – teaching bass guitar – I’m used to people being wayyyyyyy more aggressive when they disagree with me. Anyway, found it refreshing and intellectually stimulating.

In fact, I wrote a post about it. And gave you a Shout Out in that post. It should be linked from this comment.

I’m gonna write a post in the next 48 hours on Natural Talent – and we can take up there! See you over at my house!

Paul

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

That post was AWESOME btw Paul. Isn’t it great when comments inspire posts?? Just goes to show there can be serious power and magic in the comment section of a blog.

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Patricia@lavender-oil April 23, 2011 at

Hi Marcus

Another really interesting read. I tend to agree with Eugene. I could be taught coding and whatever else the geeks do that remain a mystery to me and they would still be a mystery lol

I am not a problem solver naturally but I do love writing. When bloggers talk about writers block and what to write, I don’t really relate. I have heaps of creative ideas. And I enjoy English literature and can spot grammatical errors in things I read when others would just not notice ;-)

So one side of my brain works overtime while the other side seems to not function very often! That’s why I am so blessed to have some really great blogging buddies who help me out with all things techie as otherwise I would not be progressing very far with my blogging journey!

And as far as sports go, to a point I think with practice we can improve, but some are naturally gifted whilst others just aren’t so well co-ordinated. Your son’s coach sounds as though she is getting the best out of each of her young charges. But there will be some who will naturally shine and others who will work hard and do their best and hopefully reach their full potential too.

It would be boring if we were all the same wouldn’t it?! And definitely you do have a gift for writing. School doesn’t always bring out the best in us, depending on how you were taught. Glad you persevered cos now we can enjoy your musings. Great read Marcus and Happy Easter to you too :-)

Patricia Perth Australia

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Marcus Sheridan April 23, 2011 at

I think I might be with you on the coding Patricia, I’m about as ‘unnatural’ as it gets in that arena ;-)

Seriously though Patricia, you’ve made some great points, as you always do. We all have certain characteristics, natural strengths and weaknesses. And although I believe that innate talent is certainly a factor in almost all areas of life, my main point with this article is that talent, or a lack thereof, should never be an excuse for failure, especially when it comes to an imperative part of running a business in the information age– the content marketing branch of a business.

But thank you Patricia for telling me I write well. It means a lot to me. As I said above, I do hear that from people, but never does the sound of it not induce within me a smile of satisfaction knowing that I’ve come a long ways, and managed to turn what was once a very weak characteristic into a strength.

So thanks for being just plain awesome Patricia. I appreciate you very, very much.

Have a wonderful Easter. In fact, I guess your Easter breakfast has already started ;-)

Smiles,

Marcus

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Mitch Mitchell April 23, 2011 at

I love stories like this and how you can merge it into a lesson. For my part it wasn’t that I didn’t know how to write, but I wasn’t really sure what to write when it came to blogging and, on my main blog now, what I wanted to write about. When I first started, there really wasn’t all that many folks writing about, well, blogging.

Eventually I figured out my style and I was good to go. But I’ve left all those other bad posts up because at least they were honest. I would say that I feel I’ve gotten better, even though I’d been writing since I was 10. Too bad I couldn’t have been a literary version of Mozart. lol

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Hey Mitch, great to see you man, and appreciate the kind words you’ve said here. I know what you mean about ‘figuring out your style’. I think this is the great challenge for most bloggers, and as I’ve said before, I think it’s almost impossible to know right from the beginning what you are or are not. It’s a process, and can only be figured out by, well, writing.

Glad you were able to find your style Mitch, and I hope your success only continues, Thanks!

Marcus

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Christian Hollingsworth April 24, 2011 at

Boy do I love this post. My last comment until Monday – so you should feel honored Mr. Marcus…

Writing. A simple word, yet the results bring us into glimpses of eternity. From the written word we can enter another world, swashbuckle with a few pirates, and learn from a master blogger.

When I first started writing it felt a little rocky. Especially on topics I didn’t know too much about. Sometimes I’ll look at the first posts (in the archives) of a few of my blogs and I cringe. The things I wrote sometimes were pure disgusting. If gross was a blog post – that was him.

Since then I’ve been able to study English, writing and journalism in college – and most important – keep on truckin’. Every day I write something. Whether it be in my journal, in a notebook, posted as comments, blog posts, copywriting for companies – you name it. It’s just like any other skill. When you practice – you get better.

My father has always been a benefactor of 10,000 hour rule. If you practice something for 10,000 hours you’re bound to be a professional (or at least darn good!) at anything. I’ve learned to live by this rule, and it works. I know it does.

For certain things in my life (e.g. guitar, drawing) I haven’t put in the time. So nope – I’m no where NEAR being a professional at the moment for those items.

Sorry for the ramblings. Loved the post.
Christian

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Christian, wow, this was great and yes, I am honored that you made this your last stop for the weekend :-). You mentioned the 10,000 hour rule. I hadn’t heard that rule until Outliers, but it makes so much sense, and once I started thinking about it, again and again it matched up.

It’s funny what you said about your blog posts being ‘gross’. Strong adjective, but hilarious nonetheless. But looking back at my own, ‘gross’ would fit the bill pretty well. ;-)

But the great thing here Christian that applies to anyone reading this trying to get better is your ‘truckin on’ comment. That’s exactly it. That’s what people so often fail to do. It requires tons of hard work, faith, determination, and many hours….but it will happen.

Again, thanks so much for your support in stopping by Christian.

Marcus

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Stuart April 24, 2011 at

Oh Marcus, what is this world coming to? You don’t need natural talent to succeed? Just wait until we tell that to the millions of quitters in this world ;-)

Seriously, you highlight a very good point; if we are to achieve the success we dream of, then we need to put in an equivalent amount of hard work and effort. No one will hand us this success.

By throwing those balls underhand to your son and his friends, the former coaches were saying “Just make sure you can hit it right now, and as long as you turn up on the actual game day, it will be alright”. But Tina’s different. Tina says “If you want to win this game, then you better make you act like you want to win it.” And that’s why I admire people like Tina. They know what it takes to reach that magical plateau of success. They know that you need to do the work.

It’s no coincidence that I recently read the latest blog post by Steve Pavlina, titled “Action Bias”. Steve talks about the cases of action and inaction, and explains why it’s OK to do both from time to time, but action is much better in the long-run. I seriously suggest checking it out Marcus!

Ive realised now, from reading Steve’s and your article, that action bias is the best way forwward in the long-run. Sure, to begin with, I won’t be able to hit a ball and I’ll feel like giving in. But the only people who get success straight away are those who are lucky, and luck always turns on you at some point.

To quote a song lyric, “What the world needs now, is effort, sweet effort”

Take care champ ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Sweet effort indeed Stu…..and a sweet reply. You really have brought a great point to light here— Is initial failure more beneficial to long-term results, or should constant ‘achievement’ be the only way to go, thus hindering (potentially) performance?

There are definitely two schools of thought here. Many parents would debate that the kids should ‘never strike out’ at such a young age (thus the underhanded method). On the other hand, there is another group of parents like me– the ones that understand that failure and challenge is a good thing (when handled the right way).

Like you Stu, I think the main focus, when it all comes down to it, is effort. It’s a must. No way around it. And if there’s enough of it, great and wonderful things will happen.

Thanks so much for coming by bud, and I love the series you’ve got going on right now with your blog. It’s awesome.

Marcus

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Keith Davis April 24, 2011 at

Hi Marcus
I knew something important was happening next week.
I thought it was something to do with a royal wedding.
I was wrong… it’s your tagline announcement. LOL

Not many of us are naturally good at anything.
Certainly not me.
Here is a little something from one of my early posts called “Practice, practice, practice”

“When I was young I wanted to be a good skier.
Not easy in England. We don’t have much snow and even fewer mountains. What to do?

I joined a ski club, which boasted the longest dry ski slope in England… a staggering 235m! I got to know all the best skiers in the club, had coaching, put in hours of practice, read books, watched videos and eventually I gave up my job and went out to the French Alps for a season.

For three years I worked in the UK during the summer and went out to the alps in the winter. Eventually I became a member of BASI, the British Association of Ski Instructors.

One day I was teaching a woman who was finding that skiing is not as easy as it looks. In her frustration she turned to me and said “it’s OK for you… you’re a natural”… I smiled.”

Just thought I’d share that.

Happy Easter Marcus.

BTW – the mini Marcus looks like a chip off the old block.

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Keith, I’d never read this story of yours. This was great man, loved it. I’ve never skied in my life. When I was young, whenever I’d see a group of friends take a trip skiing someone would always come back with a broken leg, or arm, or…face ;-) And considering I was going to play in the NFL, I knew such a risk would be good ….But somehow neither one ever came to fruition ;-)

What that lady told you about being a natural gave me quite a laugh. But that’s simply the way it looks once we’ve reached a certain point, as it’s impossible for onlookers to see, feel, and experience the hundreds of hours that have lead to the ‘natural’ moment.

Great to hear from you Kieth, I’ve missed ya buddy!

Marcus

But

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Keith Davis April 25, 2011 at

Marcus
Looks to me as though you’re playing in the top NFL Bloggers league and if I’m not mistaken… you’re next out to bat.

Only kidding.
Of course I know what the NFL is.
It’s…….

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

See Keith— that’s why I’ve missed you lately— ain’t nobody wittier (like that English) than my guy Keith.

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Daniel M. Wood April 24, 2011 at

Great article Marcus and like usual a long one ;)
First congratulations on the interview and I am looking forward to your new tagline.
Say congratulations to your kid for me, you know I love baseball, we are building a team here in Norway. Btw if you have the chance please have his coach send me an email, we would love to get some pointers!

Now to the point of your article!
I remember your first articles here on TSL and I do think they were good though, I remember thinking that I wish I wrote as well as you, on the other hand my writing really stunk back then and you had been writing for your pool company a while, but I do think you are being a bit too hard on yourself.
You are a good writer and if not a natural writer you are a natural story teller which is much more important!

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Hey Daniel, great to hear from you bud. I had a feeling you’d appreciate this article considering you’re the Norwegian version of Mr. Baseball ;-)

You are right about my writing Daniel. It really started about 6 months before this blog with my pool company, although the styles of writing and topics were very different. But I appreciate your kind words. In reality, I think we’ve both come a long way. The fact that you’ve been able to do this in your second language is utterly incomprehensible to me, and you deserve some serious props bud.

Thanks your kindness and support D’!

Marcus

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Wez Bailey April 24, 2011 at

To be honest I don’t really think there is anything called ‘natural’ talent. I mean it is true that some people are good at doing certain things as opposed to others but real talent comes with hard work, practice, experience, continuous learning and true dedication of one self to the activity. You are not born with a talent, you nurture a talent with age!

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Nice take on this Wez, you and Paul would get along really well!!

But I think you summed up perfectly the actions required to become a ‘natural’:

hard work, practice, experience, continuous learning and true dedication

But thanks so much for coming by Wez and I hope you’ve subscribed and will return again so, it’s a pleasure :-)

Marcus

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Mark Harai April 24, 2011 at

Wow Marcus, I had no idea!

I know I’ve said/written many times that “I’m not a writer.” But, I have been writing for a couple of years now and I desire nothing more now than to be a good writer.

The exercise of writing helps you improve and reading the articles of other bloggers/writers that you really enjoy to read helps a bunch too.

The trick is to just keep writing and writing and writing more and being inspired by other writers along the way. You really start to develop a love for it.

I’m still challenged on the creative side of things; take this article for example… It’s just a simple story, but it packs a very powerful punch. The message comes through so clear and I feel like I know you much better than I did before I read it. I must learn to see things from this stand point and write in this fashion. The desire is there, now to actually do it…

I love to come here Marcus. It’s an inspirational place to be and I always learn tons.

Thanks for all you do bro : )

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bill dorman April 24, 2011 at

Hey Marcus, thanks for the DM telling me how much better my reply was than Mark’s………………small victories…………..

I see ya out there……………:)

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Mark Harai April 25, 2011 at

Yikes! That’s not saying much Dorman!

When you get better than Giddy, Brewer, or Allen, then you will have accomplished something : )

LMAO.

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Bill Dorman April 25, 2011 at

Like that will ever happen, they are ‘all world’. I just want to be like them when I grow up……….if that ever happens…………:).

I looked at some ranking and I think I was in the top 100,000 for best reply of all time however………….just sayin’…………….

Have a good week buddy, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.

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Mark Harai April 25, 2011 at

It’s always an adventure catching up with you in the blogosphere – so looking forward to it Bill : )

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Mark, this was much, much better than Bill’s reply btw ;-) lol, jk

Seriously though, I appreciate your kind words, as I always do. But let’s talk about this story for a second. Yes, it was simple, no question. The key to great writers, that use stories, is their ability to draw life lessons from the simplest of experiences. You’ve got to look at it this way– If anything happens to you that is impressive, thought provoking, exceptional, or memorable– you should be writing about it. You see, most people take topics and then right about them, maybe including an experience in as they go. I’m completely different– I choose experiences first, and then I turn them into whatever topic I decide. In fact, I’ll often take the same experience, and turn it into 3 or 4 very different topics/themes…..I hope this makes sense Mark. You have so much rich experience. Stuff that you look back on that taught you great and small lessons. Take from each and tell us what the world, and life, has taught you.

Thanks again for being such a great support Mark. :-)

Marcus

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Bill Dorman April 25, 2011 at

Oh stop it Marcus, I’ve already cashed the check………….

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

LOL Bill :-)

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Sarah Arrow April 24, 2011 at

The wonderful thing about blogging is you can always go and tweak the earlier posts if you are that way inclined :)
I have found since I started blogging 4 years ago there are so many “real” writers ready to kick you as you try and learn that blogging becomes very painful!
I’m glad you persisted Marcus, I am glad your son got the right coach with the right attitude. I wonder how many people the blogosphere is missing, their words, their tears, their joy and successes because someone told them that they couldn’t write.

No one ever stops learning and if people keep telling you know, go and find some people who’ll say yes. Create your own Tribe ( that’s a Seth-ism too :))

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Amen to that Sarah, I loved this comment. I’ve asked myself the same question. How many people are out there right now that could literally change the world with their voice and pen but yet have been told by some ‘expert’ that they didn’t have the skills necessary? It’s a shame.

There is a tribe for each and every one of us Sarah. I believe that too. There’s never a need to feel ‘alone’ in the blogosphere. With the world at your fingertips, there can be a sense of belonging for everyone. Thanks for pointing that out.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend Sarah, your support here rocks, and I really appreciate it.

Marcus

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Lach April 24, 2011 at

I’m curious about your writing process, Marcus. Needless to say: “prolific” would be an understatement. Obviously these days your able to write pieces very quickly. Do you basically write them from start to finish in one sitting and hit publish? or do you piece together ideas, rewrite drafts etc.? What keeps the ideas flowing?

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Hey Lach, I’m so glad you asked this man. Everyone is different in this. For example, Ingrid from NittyGriddy blog (you should check it out) has over a hundred ‘drafts’ in a folder. This works for her and she’s very successful.

But do you know how many drafts I’ve got Lach? ZERO

That’s right, nothing. Is this a good thing? Probably not, but it’s who I am. I sit down, I write about an experience, I post, I publish. That’s my process. Occasionally I’ll write something one to two days in advance, but usually it’s the same day (hence the occasional typo).

In terms of ideas flowing, I write down experiences I have. That’s really it. And then I ask myself what that experience taught me. Like most, I have an idea book that is usually close by, so I’ve got lots of ‘topics’ that simmer around, but no drafts, none at all.

What’s your approach bud? Similar? Different? Would love to know.

Great seeing you Lach and thanks for the comment.

Marcus

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Lach April 26, 2011 at

It’s very rare that I write something from start to end in one sitting. Usually I just start with an idea and see where it takes me—sometimes it takes a while exploring the thoughts before the really good material starts to flow. But it’s still in a pretty raw, unrefined state so I often come back later to add more structure and clean up the language. I enjoy writing most when there’s a really clear idea that’s burning to be expressed; and usually that means I have to be moving towards some important goal in life. Otherwise the inspiration doesn’t flow as readily. I have a lot of drafts. I’ve noticed though that if I take too long to finish something the motivation goes away and the piece isn’t interesting anymore, so I think I need to work at focusing more intensely on finishing things quickly.

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Christina Pappas April 24, 2011 at

Writing is probably one of my most favorite things to do other than reading. fact is, i love words. And while I have only been an official blogger since September, I find that putting my thoughts down on paper or screen (is that proper?) is refreshingly calming. I love to hash it out, come to a conclusion and come up with a whole new list of things to write about just by writing. It seems like its come naturally for me although I know it hasnt. The part I struggle with as a corporate blogger is putting myself in my audience’s shoes and trying to speak to them in a tone and about a topic that will resonate. I find it hard to find a commonality between what I want to write about and how it relates back to the reader (I love how you brought in a personal story here and made it relevant to your blog – this is what I do not know how to do!). Everything takes practice. Everything.

When I was in high school, I played the alto saxophone. I loved it and practiced everyday. It was easy because I loved the way I ws progressing. My success was exciting to me. I took up provate lessons and joined every band I could. I think the same thing will happen with your son’s team. They will just get better because it feels good to do well.

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

It does feel good to do well, doesn’t it Christina :-)

And btw, I like saying ‘putting my thoughts to paper’ or ‘putting my thoughts to pen’ as well, there’s just something so unromantic about ‘putting my thoughts to digits’ or ‘putting my thoughts to keys’, ya know ;-) ?

I understand your struggles trying to mix a corporate blog with a personal feel. It can be difficult, especially if the CEO is short sighted (the biggest problem most corporate blogs face). If you can, try to mix the personal experiences of your customers (and yours too) into your stories. How do they relate to your product or service? And what opportunities do you have for readers to nod and say, ‘Oh yeah, that happened to me too!” ?

If you want to chat further about it Christina, I’d love to help. Shoot me your phone number on the ‘let’s chat’ form above and I can call you and talk about it. I’m on the road quite a bit, so it’s fun to yap to good people about marketing and blogging. :-)

Marcus

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Christina Pappas April 25, 2011 at

Thanks Marcus! I appreciate the offer and love to chat about marketing and blogging! Chat soon!

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Adam Toporek April 24, 2011 at

Hi Marcus, great post! I’ve been reading your site for a bit, but this is my first time commenting. In that time, I can say that the reason I stuck around was because you really are a good writer, no matter how you got there. :)

I do agree with Eugene that talent exists. However, it really is only useful if developed and is highly overrated as a factor in success. As you point out, practice is what makes the difference.

I think that writing is unique compared to other endeavors because there is a shadow activity that can predispose someone to writing well… reading extensively. Take two children, one who grew up reading a lot and one who only read only when he had to; the reader will most likely be a more “talented” writer later in life, even if they started with the same basic aptitude. Of course, reading is not enough. Only writing practice will truly allow for the development of writing skills. But I do think some writing “talent” is the result of being well-read.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time, since it is just dead on point with your post:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” President Woodrow Wilson

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Adam, a pleasure sir and I’m so glad you’ve stuck with me here at TSL and left this great comment. It’s funny you mention Wilson’s quote at the bottom there. I’ve got that exact same quote on my office wall, so it’s close to my heart and I could not agree more.

I think reading has a huge part of it. About 5 years ago I started reading very heavily. I devoured many of the classics and history books. The minds that wrote these books were simply amazing, and I’d like to think that even though our writing styles may be very different, that people like Hugo and Bronte rubbed off at least on my mind a little. ;-)

BTW Adam, I checked out your blog and really like what you’re doing over there. (the McD’s v Subway article was quite interesting).

Have a wonderful week!

Marcus

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Adam Toporek April 25, 2011 at

Thanks for checking out the blog Marcus. Much appreciated.

BTW, heck of a debate you stirred up here! :) You really have a great community.

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Adam Toporek May 9, 2011 at

Well Marcus, I had to come back and comment on this old post. I was at a conference and a colleague of mine was actually walking around with this quote on the back of a tee shirt. We were talking about it when I brought up Pres. Wilson, and he pointed out that the quote was actually from Pres. Coolidge. At which point, I smacked myself on the head and was knocked out cold. :) Not sure when the mixup in my head happened. Maybe because Wilson has a quote on the topic that I am also fond of… (“Genius is divine perseverance. Genius I cannot claim nor even extra brightness but perseverance all can have.”)

Anyway, I remembered commenting on your post and decided to come back to see if I messed it up here too… I did. Figured I’d correct the official record. I don’t want to be responsible for bringing down the quality of content on TSL. :)

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Sally Brown April 24, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

I truly enjoyed this post. I have always thought of myself as a “natural ” writer. I have been writing since I was a young girl. I loved English and had great teachers. Now, that I’m beginning a blog, though, I’m wondering it I am right about being a “natural” writer. I have been so concerned about making sure every “i” is dotted & “t” crossed that I was told by a friend that my writing now is too formal. I was also told that I need to explain some of the things I write about myself on a personal level rather that skirting the issue. I read a lot of other blogs and those that teach me about blogging. Some say ‘be personable’ & then some say ‘don’t be too personal’. How does one know when it’s too personal? I write about Live, Love and being Passionate about both. I guess I’ll just keep writing, listen to what people say and see how it goes.

Thanks for a great post! I also love the analogy with your son’s ball team.

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Hi Sally, and I’m so very glad you’ve posed these questions, as they’re ones that most of us have struggled with at one time or another. Here’s my advice for you:

1. Write like you’re talking to a friend that is sitting next to you.
2. Lean towards being personable—if you feel prompted to say it, don’t let fear hold you back.
3. Don’t listen to other people very much. Listen to yourself. Be you.

Hope this helps a little Sally. Good luck and thanks for all your support!!!

Marcus

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Sally Brown April 25, 2011 at

Thanks so much for the reply, Marcus. I think I will follow this advice. I am a pretty upfront person so I should also be so in my blog. I know that I have had some very bad things happen to me, but if by sharing I can help one person overcome similar issues, then it will be worth it. One of most important reasons God has put us is to help each other. If my previous pain, survival and success can help another, then I will be encouraged to continue my fight against child abuse.

Sally

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

You’re very welcome Sally. That’s the attitude you should take. Again, trust yourself and it will all work out.

Have a wonderful week!

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john Falchetto April 25, 2011 at

Just like Paul I love this topic Marcus.

I do believe that with sufficient practice anyone can achieve some success by polishing a skill, writing, sports, music, you name it.
Malcolm Gladwell speaks at length in his book the Outliers of the 10,000 hours it takes to master any skill. From Tiger Woods to Mozart, these are people who by the time they reached their teens had already been practicing for more than 10K hours.
In case you wonder, 10k is 3hrs a day, everyday of the year for 10 years.

So yes, practice and you get good or even very good at something. Genetics not-withstanding.

But where I think the focus should be is WHY do some of us choose to kick some serious butt and sacrifice to achieve a goal?
After all if it was that simple, anyone could just put in the hours and get good right?

Some of us choose to sit in front of TV and drink beers at night, when others are running/walking on their elliptical.

So perhaps the talent question isn’t about having the skill or not but rather having the WILL to get that skill or not.

Wada u think?

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Mark Harai April 25, 2011 at

Hi John, I tend to agree with you. Desire and action are pretty powerful ingredients to mastering anything. If you have these two things working for you, you can accomplish anything.

I think your environment, support system and important people in your life can significantly impact what a person accomplishes in their life.

But, possibilities are limitless.

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Ingrid Abboud April 25, 2011 at

Ha!
I agree with here too John. Will and determination is huge factors. Either you get yourself motivated or you don’t! That’s what makes the difference in everything we take on.

Excellent point JF!

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Yeah Griddy, I agree, that John guy is a pretty smart fella ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Did someone say ‘elliptical’???

You’ve brought up a great question John, and it’s one of the greatest of life mysteries. For every JF, MH, or Mufasa, there’s a dude on a couch drinking beers until he passes out every night. It’s sad but true, and I guess there are a million factors that decide that. Guess that will have to be your next post, eyyy Mr. Expat?? ;-)

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john Falchetto April 25, 2011 at

I wish I had your drive Bud, but I can’t do indoor sports. I rather be beaten up for 1hr than do 1hr of treadmill or stationery bike. Hell I will go run in the woods at night with a flashlight before I train inside. But that’s a different post :)

Now why do we choose beer over training? Ha!

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stevie April 25, 2011 at

marc, i have to think that with your swing that the next natural progression for you would be something considerably less athletic. :)

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Ouch, that’s just wrong, plain wrong Steve-O. ;-) Good to see ya bud!

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Frank April 25, 2011 at

Marcus,

I never really considered myself a natural writer but I am a person who has always loved to write. It is one of the things that I am passionate about. Now that in no way means I am good at it. It is just something I enjoy doing. I guess with the passing of time and the creation of numerous articles I have finally become comfortable in my own writing skin. I think it came from wrong so much that the only option I had was to finally get something right.

To me I think talent is a form of investment. Each person is unique and given a specific ability (talent) that they can choose to develop by investing in their gift or they could bury it and profit themselves nothing. By choosing to develop your talent by practicing it you give yourself the greatest potential of fulfilling potential.

Blah, blah, blah, deep thought, deep thought blah blah… :-) This is probably how I really sound.

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

No way Frank, you sound great man. Like the bible says, we’re all given talents. Some of us bury them (that sucks). Some of us multiply them (that rocks). And from the looks of it, you’ve been really multiplying yours lately.

And so you know, and I’m not just saying this, I think you’re a very, very talented writer. Your voice is strong and one that’s full of passion–this to me is as good as it gets man.

Thanks for stopping by bud, really appreciate it.

Marcus

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Ingrid Abboud April 25, 2011 at

Hola Mufasa,

As you know – I love posts that tell stories – but what I love even more is when the story pertains to something I love – baseball. Yup, I don’t look it – I know lol! But that sport was pretty much my life for a long time and I just adored how you related it here.

Much like anything in life – practice makes perfect – well, almost perfect. To me, there is no such thing as perfect.

You can start by being a good writer – but you won’t become great if you don’t write everyday – if you don’t challenge yourself and push your limits and comfort zone.

Your first post – the one I teased you about (and of course, you did the same with a couple of mine hahaha) did not lack good content, it simply lacked Mufasa’s real voice – the one you have today and the one you manage to portray so well in each piece that you write.

I could easily say the same thing about my first 50 posts! They are humorous – in that you might recognize my sarcasm – but I don’t reveal a part of my personality in them. They’re just regurgitations of news with my small touch. But you won’t get to know me through them. I don’t share anything that relates to me in them.

When it comes to sports – it’s a given that the team that usually practices more and harder is the one that will win. Granted there are exceptions to that rule. But in general, you gotta’ want it bad enough and you’ve got to be ready to go out there and focus and give it all you got for that time when you’re on the field. Do the best you can and play your game. But while you’re playing – know the other team – know their strengths and weaknesses, know who their best players are, where they tend to hit the ball, how fast they are…

It’s very similar to writing – focus, be yourself and write the way you know best. The way that comes naturally to you. But know your audience as well.

As for natural ability – I DO believe that it exists but I also believe that if you have it – you still have to work to make it better. I’ll be back for that one though hehe.

Congrats for JT! I have no doubt he’ll be playing in the big leagues very soon! Much like his A-lister blogger dad. Must be the genes haha!

Hope you had an amazing Easter weekend.
Cheers
PS – I’m thinking that JT will be stealing some bases real soon if he’s to run after those new rabbits and try and catch ‘em ;).

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

You’ve actually brought up a really good point here G– there are two main areas of development when it comes to writing:

1. General writing/communication skill
2. Finding your voice/personality/style

Like you said, Mufasa clearly was not in my original articles. There was no spark. I guess once someone settles down and sees who they really are then, without them really realizing it, they develop into their real self– and their ‘style’ manifests itself.

What’s interesting about you Griddy is that you’ve always been such a relaxed writer. Your original posts, although they weren’t ‘griddy’ per se, were LOL funny, and I mean big time. I’d mention the subjects here but we do have a younger audience ;-)

Speaking of natural talent btw, which I very much agree with you in that there is a combination of talent and work that goes into one’s success, the first time I ever took JT outside, (when he was old enough), I handed him a ball and asked him to throw it to me. Then, without any fear or confusion in his eye, he chucked it right back…and it was as fluid and hard as I could have possibly imagined. In that moment I literally looked up and said, ‘thank you’, with a big smile. :-) ….Then again, something tells me quite a few of your coaches had that same smile when you were his age ;-)

But thanks for asking about Easter G. It was great, and I hope yours was too with all the fam.

Mufasa

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Jk Allen April 25, 2011 at

Marcus,

I checked out the interview on BlogcastFM the other day and that was off the hook! I enjoyed learning more about what you’re up to outside of TSL and how it has sprung new and rewarding opportunities. Also, can’t wait to see what comes of the Tagline post tomorrow morning!

I love examples including sports…it’s my language. And to take a further, I love examples with kids – that’s really really my language.

JT’s a handsome little guy (he looks just like Nikki). I have a soon to be 6-year-old for him to play with whenever we connect!

The lame talent excuse is LAME and not worthy of mention. I’ll be the first to say that I’m “not a gifted writer”…but instead running from it, I try twice as hard to develop my skills…and man I got better. I have a lot of developing to do, but Im’ “in process”, because I’m writing every single day. I write more in comments and replies to my comments than I do my own blog posts – which is great practice because my comments usually come out exactly how I speak.

Let’s see, I’ve been terrible at a lot of stuff. I was a really bad student back in the day. I played sports, and grew up in the inner-city, so I didn’t have to be good at school, just sports – and I lived that to the fullest.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go to college and when I did, I realized that I had no sills to help get me along. I had never studied for a test, really never did homework, and surely never did group activities/assignments. I had to put in double the time and effort compared to my peers, but when it was all said and done, I graduated in the top 10 % of my class. I stepped my game up and worked my butt off!

And now, I see education is ultra important. My kids go to a great school and my wife and I spend hours daily, making sure that they are on the right track.

Great example of using real life experiences and sharing how they have practical motivation for all areas of life – we just have to be open-minded.

PEACE

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Hey JK, always a joy hearing from you and your epic comments bud. And yes, JT got all his looks from mom, no question.

I love your story though man. It’s one of persistence, determination, hard work, overcoming the odds– truly moving. Tell me JK, why don’ t you refer back to your childhood more when you write? Seriously. You’ve made this crazy shift, amazing really, and you are so far removed now from where you were, but you only give your fans (that’d be me) snippets. I’m not picking on you here, but I’d love to know more. I’d also really love to know the moment it clicked for you in college and you decided to step it up. Was there something specific that happened that was the ‘bucket of water in the face’ moment?

But don’t answer that question here brother, I’ll let you save it for a post. :-)

You’re the man JK, and I thank you so very much for the incredible support you always offer TSL.

Have a great week bud.

Marcus

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Elena Patrice April 25, 2011 at

Hello Marcus!

Easter, baseball, writing and more… ahhh, I love this mix! Always a pleasure to read your posts! They’re not something I take lightly because I have to let them marinate in my mind and on my heart for a bit.

I love to write; however, I am not a prolific writer. Sometimes it truly pains me to get out what I’m trying to say because I tend to come from a very emotional side of things. I accept this about my writing and accept as well, that my style is definitely not for everyone. I’m also very particular about what I read, so I’m drawn to certain writers or style of writing. Since writing doesn’t come super easy for me, I’m starting to video blog because that will fully allow myself to express and pour out what’s trapped in this head and heart of mine more consistently and at a faster speed for sure! Perhaps I’ll get good at that over time and it will become my strength, we’ll see (I’m sure going to give it my all).

Blogging has definitely encouraged my love of writing and I’m so grateful for this platform. What a gift it is to many people who are writers at heart and to those who didn’t know they had it in them! ;) Your baseball analogy is perfect and we can all relate! As always Marcus, thanks so much!!

With kindness,

Elena

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

You may say you’re not a ‘natural’ writer Elena, and that it’s a struggle, but comments like this one only show me that you’ve got loads of ability, and your way of expression is quite appealing. Whatever you do, just don’t sell yourself short. You seem to know who you are, your style, and that’s great…don’t change it for anyone–only change as you change, which will inevitably happen with more and more time. The process of growing as a writer and blogger is such a beautiful thing really. Just gives me a smile thinking about it.

I think doing video is a great idea. In fact, I can’t wait to see them. Good luck with that and thanks so much for taking the time to leave this wonderful comment.

Cheers,

Marcus

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Peggy Baron April 25, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,
I love how you weave life lessons into everything you write. To me, that’s natural talent, no matter how hard you had to work to make it happen. ;)

I’ve always loved to read, often preferring the fiction world to that of real life. As a child I saw myself becoming a big famous author. That dream was blown to bits when my first year college professor told me my writing wasn’t that good and lacked depth. I was crushed.

It wasn’t until I started writing articles for EZA and then for my blogs that I found I do have the ability to write, although in different form than I had imagined as a child.

Thanks,
Peggy

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Aww, thanks Peggy, that’s really kind of you, and I’m grateful– hope to keep the life lessons coming ;-)

Isn’t it sad that so many dreams get annihilated by educators?? It’s quite a bummer. But I’m glad you’ve been able to put your talents, skills, and passion to work Peggy…and maybe you should send your college prof some of your works and say, ‘How about that for depth??’ ;-)

Appreciate your support lady, I really do, and I hope you have a wonderful week.

Marcus

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Gini Dietrich April 25, 2011 at

I just came by to say that when JT is ready to go pro, you’d better call me! I’ll be his agent.

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Marcus Sheridan April 25, 2011 at

Believe it or not Gini, when he does go pro, you’d be the first person I’ll call– No one is as tenacious as Aunt Gini!! :-)

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Rajka Milanovic Galbraith April 26, 2011 at

Marcus, Inspirational. Love that coach Tina.

Remedial reading, really? Would never have known! I was in an inner city school until 1st grade, moved to the burbs and was almost placed in the remedial class despite being in the highest reading group in the inner city… So, I can relate to your devastation about this.

As for writing, I feel I have some talent but it is exactly what you say it is: write, write and write some more. I too recently re-read an article from 6 months ago: It was not my best work, terrrible actually! Thanks for the incentive to keep writing!

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

Remedial is right Rajka— I was pretty darn bad. But hey, the work pays off, it really does. And I’m glad to see you share this same mentality. I know you’re in this for the long haul, so just keep chuggin along, and thanks for your support here as well. I hope you know how much it means to me to see you stop by.

Best,

Marcus

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Jason April 26, 2011 at

Dude, I’m still blown away by this, especially considering my boys team fell victim to the best coached team in little league history only a few days ago.

I thought you nailed the application to writing too. You may not be a natural writer, but you are a natural teacher my friend.

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

Haha man! Yeah, they’re certainly the best coached team I’ve ever seen ;-)

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Jens P. Berget April 27, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

Oh no, I’m late again. I’ve been too occupied with my novel lately. I have to pay attention to your new posts, because it’s too hard to scroll down to leave a comment this late :-)

By the way, thanks a lot for the mention and the link. I really appreciate it.

I must say that the posts I enjoy the most are personal posts (I know, you already know this), and analogies, where you explain important things in an easy way and relating it to things you’ve experienced yourself. To me, this post is one of your absolute best, absolutely brilliant.

There are probably things like a natural writer, but all it shows is that some people start writing in a better way than other people, and they might even learn faster. But in the end, it’s all about persistence, and the people who are working the hardest will always be at the top (well, maybe not always, but most of the time) :-)

- Jens

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

You’re never late Jens. Come by a month late if you’d like. :-)

Honestly, it means a lot to me that you liked this post. I wrote it and wasn’t quite sure if anyone would like it at all. Usually I can tell if a post has a lot of potential or not, but with this one I figured people would get a little bored with it being a little long and the fact that I was yapping about my kid too much. But hey, it seems to have worked out, so sweet!! :-)

You’re such a kind guy Jens, and you seem to make me smile all the time with such words.

Have a great rest of your week.

Marcus

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Marcia Hoeck April 28, 2011 at

I love to see people work at things and get better at them. There are degrees to everything, and not every one of us is going to be the best writer or baseball player or whatever — but continuing to work at something you want to do is rewarding in itself.

I just spent 8 days with my 86-year-old mother who is trying like heck to get the hang of her new iPad. There are many things that flummox her about it, and when she gets too frustrated with it, she just turns it off. But in a few hours she’s back at it again, sending email, listening to 1040′s music on iTunes, checking out tonight’s TV listings, or researching medical conditions (the last two I helped her get better at while I was there).

Lots of times the email doesn’t go out right, she gets the Elvis Presley song instead of Ella Fitzgerald, and gets thoroughly lost in google — but she continues to learn. I’m so proud of her for even trying when most of her friends don’t know how to operate a computer let alone an iPad. At an age when persistence and learning are often let go by the wayside, she pushes herself to learn something new.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? Continued learning and stretching, the fascination with it, the reward we get from having pushed ourselves. The journey is its own reward.

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Marcus Sheridan April 28, 2011 at

Marcia!!!! I LOVED this story, and I’m so glad you took the time to share it. Your mother is the embodiment of everything the ‘older’ generation should be in terms of embracing technology. Maybe I should get her at my next conference when a bunch of 40 and 50 something business owners are telling me they’re too old to learn the internet and social media!

You’re awesome Marcia, and I really appreciate this.

Marcus

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Cousin Matt May 4, 2011 at

This is my favorite blog post you have ever written. I am so impressed by Coach Tina.

You should note that she respected Gladwell’s ideas by getting them started on their 10000 hours of practice!

Also, when Joey was 9, you were trying to beat him up as he read his comic books (and, let’s be honest, probably succeeding more often than not). :)

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Marcus Sheridan May 4, 2011 at

LOL Cuz! :-) This is true, I was probably shoving Joey’s face in the sand or something while Grammy wasn’t looking ;-) Glad you like the article though bud…oh, and btw, I need to give you a shout, my NY thing is the week of the 23-27, so I’ll be talking to you soon about that. Hope you’re well. :-)

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Brad Harmon @ Big Feet Marketing May 12, 2011 at

Great story, Marcus. I hadn’t heard of that type of game before. It illustrates your point very well. No, I’m not a natural born writer. I struggle to throw off my corporate accounting way of communicating with every post.

I do think that some people are natural story tellers which aides helps one’s writing significantly, but I agree with you that writing is a craft that is learned. I’ve learned that all the great writers have two things in common. First, they are avid and voracious readers. Second, they are always writing.

The more ideas you put into your mind combined with the repetition of transcribing your thoughts into the written word seem to the key to great writing. Sounds like you are well on your way to becoming a natural writer. ;)

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