Nicholas McCarthy talked of two ambitions when he was very young – to be a chef or a concert pianist. He chose the latter and now with a highly acclaimed album riding up the classical charts he has proven that ambition, determination and hard work are the real keys to success. But, Nicholas is no ordinary young man. He was born without a right hand and, as a consequence, plays the piano using only his left hand. Close your eyes and listen
Can you discern a difference? I thought not.
Nicholas’s parents backed him to do whatever he believed he could do. But there were teachers of course, who cast doubts and tried to steer him towards pursuits that involved less ambidextrous skills. That would have ruled out both his early dreams –chef or concert pianist. How wrong would that have been? But, Nicholas stuck steadfastly to his ambition and in 2012 became the first left-hand-only pianist to graduate from the Royal College of Music in its 130-year history. Nicholas was guided by his own passions rather than the words of discouragement he must surely have faced.
How easy to allow the condition to govern the ambition. There are millions of people around the world who are either born with, or acquire, a condition others see as self-limiting. Yet, again and again we see proof that what might be an obstacle becomes a spur to greatness. Many of our highest achievers are what they are, precisely because learning to manage their condition gives them an added edge – extra steel, higher motivation, additional insights and uniquely learned tools. Great Olympian, Steve Redgrave decided that “diabetes had to live with me, not me live with it”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was crippled by polio and spent much of his life in a wheelchair, was elected US president four times. “ He said:
“ The only limit to our realisation of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.”
Beethoven continued to compose music after he became totally deaf and many of his greatest musical attainments were during that period in his life.
There is such an important message here that I want to shout it from the rooftops. I am lucky that I get a chance to speak on this topic all over the country. The limits to our beliefs often come from well-meaning loved ones and professional advisors afraid of risks. But, it is ultimately our internal dialogue that determines our destiny. The greatest risk is to deny ourselves the opportunity to stretch forward and reach beyond what we are comfortable with.
I meet so many people on my travels who have held and then given up on a dream. ‘not enough time,’ ‘too late,’ ‘too old’ ‘The children came along’ …
Stop saying it and read about those many people who have transcended what others see as limits and have found their greatness. Nicholas McCarthy, Beethoven, Franklin D Roosevelt and Steve Redgrave are but a few among their number.