It usually does require talent, effort and opportunity to become world class and many who have reached this level appear to have stepped up on the shoulders of others (parents, mentors, coaches) who have already navigated the pathways and were thus able to give the next generation a head start. I can understand why, as a plurally gifted individual with a lot of potential (still), who would have been willing to put in effort if appropriately motivated, you mourn that you haven’t received such an opportunity.
Thank you for understanding!!
I suspect that a lot of advice here comes from the wisdom of hindsight, of ways that mature individuals have navigated different pathways to other successes which we now feel are equally, if not more, fulfilling, but are not regarded, at least not by the general public, as ‘world class’.
I sometimes wonder how much of this is a coping strategy of some kind. Putting it in those terms can bring about a visceral response denying it in some people, but what I mean is that you can't constantly live in deep dissatisfaction with the current state of your life, so sooner or later, your mind will come up with strategies to mitigate the pain, and your conscious brain may come up with rationalizations that are motivated by that goal. You may not realize that your thinking in such situations is clearly biased and motivated by that desire. I feel like spirituality is often one such outlet, for example, which makes people come to false epiphanies and then everything "suddenly makes sense" when in reality, it's a nested chain of rationalizations which become hazier as you go down to the point where you start believing it's reality -- I have often observed this in people's thinking, and I feel intelligent people are more prone than others to fall for this sort of line of thought, because it seems apparently very logical at the surface, and so you can quite easily think yourself into believing that it is reality and completely miss the questionable assumptions that implicitly underpin it.
I'm not sure how to express this, but I think while I do understand what you mean when you say that mature individuals, having navigated various pathways to personal success, come to such realizations in hindsight. It is similar to what my family tells me, that once your 40s and 50s, you start to realize what actually matters in life. But I am skeptical, and wonder if this is an illusion, a coping strategy to make yourself feel better. For example, mentorship and building infrastructure for the next generation tends to feel very satisfying at that age for a lot of people, and it makes them feel they are making an impact. However, you have to wonder -- teaching/mentorship and infrastructure has always existed in the past for those motivated to seek it. And I get it, in this instance, altruism feels good, and feeling good can be considered an end in itself and it is certainly better for your mental health than chasing something unattainable or regretting the past, but I am a bit cynical about the true motivation behind such beliefs.
I don’t think the teen version of me would have appreciated my current values as someone who would now prefer to be at a dinner table conversing with jacks and jills of all trades who have led productive lives, rather than with monomaniacs (not that all world class achievers are necessarily such).
Interestingly, I've found that world class achievers very often aren't monomaniacs, but there are certain traits like perfectionism which they have pretty often. Since it goes along with general intellectual ability, they tend to have a lot of ideas and opinions of the world around them. But others who cannot emulate that level of talent often end up working themselves and obsessing to the point where they become monomaniacs. I have found that high achievers tend to generally have more diversity of thought, but often get trapped into certain modes of thinking, so it is indeed interesting to meet someone who is thoughtful but isn't trapped by those lines of thought.
For both maths and music, some of my experiences may be relevant to yours. One of my parents led a carefree childhood and excelled at many sports (including selection into a school aged national team as an amateur) but regretted their lack of opportunity to learn music and so started me at a very young age. I was obedient and diligent, so with an early formal start, appeared precociously ‘talented’. However, as Indigo alluded, the regimented discipline my music teachers tried to enforce completely drowned my personal enjoyment and interest in music, such that after investing some ten years in practice and preparation for AMEB exams, when my parents allowed me to discontinue formal lessons in favour of spending my time on school studies, I stopped playing altogether. In contrast, I loved maths but received parental encouragement only so far as to achieve high marks at school. I borrowed books with Olympiad problems and worked through them myself and, like you, made it to the level of national finalist solely on my own steam. From what I observed of the backgrounds of other finalists, I believe I might have gotten further if I had been given support and earlier opportunities, so I am no stranger to the thoughts and feelings you’ve expressed.
I suppose one of the things I'm frustrated by is that it's much more difficult to get by in music on your own steam than math. I know several people who studied pretty seriously for six months or a year and got into national/international math Olympiads. I suppose it requires talent, but even with talent, you will not see comparable achievements when it comes to musical instruments. I do understand the flip side, where kids end up taking lessons and lose interest. There isn't an easy solution -- a good teacher will try to ensure that kids don't lose interest, but getting such a teacher is a roll of the dice. Nowadays, I don't think the way most piano teachers teach is good for overall musical development, and I think they are steeped in conventional thinking, and this is something high-level teachers have agreed with me on. That said, I feel like pretty much all teaching at the school level tends to do is kill your interest in something, and so back in school, I tried to learn whatever I wanted on my own so that I could keep it interesting. But this is not the case with good teachers/mentors who know how to keep that spark alive and tailor their teaching, but such teachers are relatively uncommon.
The pianist in first place, who was clearly classically trained and played a well known, technically difficult, piece to perfection, bounded up to DS afterwards and asked him where he got the ‘awesome arrangement’ of the popular piece he played, hoping to download the manuscript. When he understood that the piece was DS’s own arrangement, he expressed surprise. The other youngster’s performance skills could potentially become world class if he continues to apply himself, but he was quite apparently impressed with the skills of a ‘Jack of all trades’.
I know exactly what you mean, because I've been in very similar situations myself. Classically trained pianists often overestimate how difficult it is to arrange or improvise music haha, I've even impressed university students with my improvisations because it's just a skill they haven't trained for and are sort of envious of!