Clark was a self-made man in the making. He had once read a book on how to play poker correctly, and upon finishing that book he read a book on how to play poker even better. He was able to both finish and accept these books and it did in fact make him a better poker player. He knew this because he began playing more poker and he realized that he was getting better and not only that but getting quite good. It felt good to be good at something but it felt particularly good to know why you were so good at it. Third it felt most good to know that you could become good at just about anything because just a little over everything had at least one book on how to get good at it.
Clark was now excited and ready to get good at just about whatever, eager yes but he was also hesitant. He had not been made completely sure of himself. Yes he was good at poker because he had read about poker. He knew it was this because he had not once ever been good at poker before reading about how to be good at it, after which he was very good at it exactly according to how he read that he should be.
The thing that troubled Clark was that maybe he was just naturally good at poker. Perhaps it had only been a dormant talent he always possessed, only to be brought out by a coincidence of reading choice. To most people this would not seem a bad thing, to have a natural talent for playing poker. For Clark however, this natural talent would mean that he had reached the end of his potential and that really he could not learn how to do just anything by reading a book meant to make you good at it.
In order to try out this thinking he returned to the book shop and purchased a book on how to be good at billiards. Clark chose this book because he was not good at billiards. He had tried very hard for so long he felt that it was definitive that he was not good at billiards and never had been, and that by all his arrows he never would be.
His thinking was that if he could get good at billiards after reading how to get good at it, he would be very impressed with himself, and more importantly he would be greater assured in the power of simple effort. So Clark read his new book and he took it in the same way as he had the book about poker. He read it in the evening and in the morning, and he even sat in on the passenger seat of his car while he was at work, mostly thinking about getting himself back to reading it. It felt exciting to be getting good at something new and it felt good to be excited and good to be getting good, or at least to be getting better.
Once he had finished the book he was of course very eager to try out what he had learned, which was a great deal. He was filled with a great deal of knowing and it was only a question now of whether he were also be capable of doing. Knowing and doing are different and sometimes they do not get along, sometimes very violently they disagree.
He went to where the people went to play billiards and he played and played very well. After several evenings at the house of billiards he was widely considered to be the best that there was in the town, and by accounts of several who were themselves from other towns he was better than anyone there as well.
He was so good that all of the ones who had considered and been considered themselves good before were not even angry to have Clark there playing his billiards. It was but more or less they were honored that he would choose their town to play his excellent billiards.
Clark was a new man to each town but to himself he was exactly the same, it was only that this same Clark within him had been made better, better at billiards at least. He would look in the mirror and state that Clark himself had been made better. Again the most exciting thing was knowing that there was more to get good at and that it was really so very easy because reading really isn’t very hard compared with the reward of knowing that you will be so much better at whatever you wish to read about. But still there was the original fear that perhaps he was not as generally good and capable as he would like to believe, perhaps he was only naturally good at poker and billiards and again he had simply surfaced two of his very few natural abilities. After all, poker and billiards were not altogether that different so perhaps he had even surfaced only one ability, and perhaps his only one.
He decided that he would try something very different, he would get a book on how to get good at something that he was both not good at and which was nothing like either poker or billiards. He went again to the bookstore with absolutely no idea in his mind as to which subject he would be taking on this next time, that was an exciting feeling, but of course it was also quite nervous.
There were many topics to choose from. It seemed that there had been a person to write a book on how to get good at just about anything. This meant that for everything that was, there was someone who was good at it, very good in fact. Clark did not like this idea. He did not like it because he did not want to be himself a person who would be good at just one thing. He imagined himself after many years of playing very good poker or billiards and having grown exhausted with himself and his talent he would have nothing left to do except write down what he knew on how to be good. By that time it would no longer matter if just anyone could be as good as him anyway, for when you are only good at one thing you typically are very angry when you find another person who is good at the same, especially as good.
Clark liked to think that every person who had ever written on how to do anything really well was simply a case of wasted potential. That only if they had applied themselves to trying to learn more things as well as the one they eventually wrote their book about, they would have been much better as people. Bob liked to think this because it was how he saw himself, someone whose mastery over everything was only a simple question of trying a bit hard. He would only see it fit when he had the acquired skill to write every book on the bookshelf of how to get good books.
As Clark would have it that the world was the difference between effort and a lack of effort and that basically beyond our effort and maybe our predisposition to effort we were all quite identical. A world that was separated by talent and lack of talent was a depressing thought for Clark, talent might be an exciting thought for those with little effort, but for those willing to put in unlimited amounts of effort like Clark was, talent was a barrier that stood in the face of everything he believed. But luckily for Clark, he believed what he believed, and that was in the importance of effort, especially over talent.
Clark considered the titles in front of him. There were still the familiar books on how to get good at just about anything. Some books told you how to get good at cooking and some told you how to get good at speaking the languages of other nations that Clark had never heard of before. Some books taught you how to identify just about every bird in your own region and then some more books were there to identify birds well beyond that if you were up for the travelling. These were all well and good things to become good with and Clark examined them knowing that he would eventually return to them and find out everything about foreign languages and their foreign birds.
Right at the time though Clark wanted to learn something specific, even though he had not specified it yet. His aim was to thrust away every limitation he had so far believed in in front of the mirror. This meant he would have to pick something which he could test very concretely and immediately see the results of his effort. It would also have to be something that he had been particularly terrible at before, which to his mind would be a good indicator that he had no natural talent for it or for anything remotely like it. Finally and satisfied he chose a book on how to get good at pleasing women in conversation.