How does someone become a great artist, athlete or academic? What makes someone great in a specific arena? Is it the result of the innate abilities they were born with? This is the idea that some people are simply more talented or gifted than others in a specific field? Perhaps it’s a matter of practice. Given enough time and practice, any of us could be a world class athlete or musician? Or is it a combination of taking your talent and adding training (Malcolm Gladwell suggests 10,000 hours is the key in his book Outliers), and this combination will make you into an elite in whatever field you pursue?
In a unique experiment, professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, David Lubinski, has been conducting a study called “The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth” where he has observed the lives of students who, by the age of thirteen, had scored in the top one per cent of mathematical-reasoning ability. These children were then selected to take part in an enriched educational environment.
What Lubinski has observed for forty years with these students is that intellectual gifting alone is not enough to guarantee success in life. Work ethic and practice were factors connected with success. But there was something else.
Environment. Future. Opportunity.
In her New Yorker Magazine article, “Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect”, Maria Konnikova writes,
“Opportunity must be there. Genes are great, but they need to have the right environment in which to flourish. You don’t just give birth to a “genius,” whether an academic or an athletic or an artistic one. You also give her the right environment, train her, encourage her, support her, challenge her, respond to her individuality.”
Who we surround ourselves with matters. The environment we either find ourselves in or cultivate are significant to helping us become all that we can be. The best environments have the capacity to enhance our life.
The church is supposed to be one such environment. The writer of the book of Hebrews penned these words, “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 24-25). This is an activistic community. It spurs one another on, it comes together, and it encourages one another. It is a community which is helping one another be all that they are called to be and do what they have been called to do.
If you want to help another grow in greatness, invest in community. Together we can create an environment which spurs one another on toward love and great deeds.