Rarely does an entertainer’s death have such a broad impact as did Robin William’s. People of all ages were both surprised and deeply touched by his passing. No one denies his comedic genius or his incredible acting talent. His talents were extraordinary.
But along those same lines, not many people truly appreciate what it took on his part to achieve such high levels of both creative, comedic genius and the ability to project that genius in a way that would touch people in very special ways.
Reading and listening to people talk about the genius and talents of Robin Williams reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein I heard as a teenager and never forgot. In his later years many people approached Einstein in an effort to determine the sources of his genius. One friend, a physician by the name of Hans Musan, one time asked Einstein to trace his family tree in order to determine the source of his intellectual talent.
Einstein replied: “As far as my forebears and ancestors go, no one alive knows much about them and if they had any special talents they were hidden from me. Moreover, I know quite certainly that I, myself, have no special gifts. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance have brought me my ideas.”
The part about curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance is the part that played in my mind every time I heard people recount stories of Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters spending endless hours working to perfect their comedy together. If anyone characterized dogged endurance in the context of refining his gifts, it was Robin Williams. People who saw Williams stand up and improvise for two hours at a stretch often wrongly concluded he was born with this ability to improvise, when in fact, it was a gift developed through hours of practice.
We can all benefit from being incessantly curious, obsessed with defining and achieving excellence in our craft, and never failing to endure doggedly in an effort to breathe life into the fullness of the gift potential God has given each of us. We’re all born with potential to do different things, but it is up to us to follow the examples of Robin Williams and Albert Einstein to develop that potential to its fullest.