Golf immortal Arnold Palmer recalls a lesson about overconfidence: It was the final
hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very
satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an
old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand
and said, "Congratulations." I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did,
I knew I had lost my focus.
On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trop, then put it over the edge of the
green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters. You don't forget a mistake like that; you
just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again. I haven't in
the 30 years since.
Carol Mann, The 19th Hole, (Longmeadow), quoted in
Nothing that is valuable is achieved without effort. Fritz Kreisler, the famous
violinist, testified to this point when he said, "Narrow is the road that leads to
the life of a violinist. Hour after hour, day after day and week after week, for years, I
lived with my violin. There were so many things that I wanted to do that I had to leave
undone; there were so many places I wanted to go that I had to miss if I was to master the
violin. The road that I traveled was a narrow road and the way was hard."
"When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song,"
tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. "He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice.
Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I
also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a
teacher or a singer?' "'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two
chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.' "I chose
one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional
appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether
it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it.
Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair."
A weakness of all human beings, " Henry Ford said, "is trying to do too many
things at once. That scatters effort and destroys direction. It makes for haste, and haste
makes waste. So we do things all the wrong ways possible before we come to the right one.
Then we think it is the best way because it works, and it was the only way left that we
could see. Every now and then I wake up in the morning headed toward that finality, with a
dozen things I want to do. I know I can't do them all at once." When asked what he
did about that, Ford replied, "I go out and trot around the house. While I'm running
off the excess energy that wants to do too much, my mind clears and I see what can be done
and should be done first."
Bits & Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 18.