Acceptable talent (multiplied by) acceptable work ethic = nothing
Peerless talent x iffy work ethic = Axl Rose, Latrell Sprewell, Paul Chambers, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Acceptable talent x peerless work ethic = Dave Grohl, Larry Bird, Charlie Haden, John Le Carré
Peerless talent x peerless work ethic = Jimmy Page, Michael Jordan, John Coltrane, Samuel Johnson
I’m a tad higher on work ethic than on talent, perhaps, but neither is sufficiently noteworthy to budge the needle on the scale.
Weirdly, or perhaps not so weirdly, the two jazz albums I am most likely to spin at the drop of a hat — Miles’ Kind of Blue and Trane’s Blue Train — both feature Paul Chambers’ bass work.
And Jack reminds you that there’s a third factor, perhaps harder to quantify:
Adversity builds character, which builds excellence. If you struggle your entire life, you won’t give up when it’s time to struggle for your art. A miserable childhood produces restlessness and discontent, which taken together are the pilot light without which talent doesn’t burn brightly enough to be noticed. You’ve heard all of that. It might even be true.
The problem today is that too many of us consider our minor inconveniences and frustrations to be True Adversity. I know I do.