The Travesty of Second Nature
That something is referred to as second implies the existence of a first—the superior. So that, when it comes to one’s nature, what room is there for a second? Will this be necessary because one is unhappy with the true nature and for that reason is in need of a second? In my effort to answer a question that recently reached me by email, I turned to the Marriam-Webster dictionary to see what it has to say about the second nature idea. What I found was barely unexpected:
“something you can do easily or without much thought because you have done it many times before”
A rather trite phrase comes to mind very quickly; practice makes perfect. A very appealing idea and a common prescription by most motivational speakers. But practice in something you abhor is incredibly painful and requires an unreal helping of emotional labour. This affects the will to engage in the first place and one finds himself practicing in agony. Concentration develops a heavy appetite for effort and very often the subject is reluctant to engage in practice in the practice that is to make perfect. Feedback also challenges the will by painting negative mental images of “I am not good at this”, or “I can never be good at this”. This is the result when the target nature that is to be second is in conflict with the true nature as is often the case. For no true nature will like to lose its place to second. This is conflict of the highest order.
The case however, is different when the subject is allowing his true nature to be trained towards its perfection. Practice in itself becomes an enjoyable experience ensuring that one is practicing more than others. Feedback is fantastic and it fuels confidence which returns more practice. The result is the very elusive cycle of performance.
After all, the titans of performance have already taught us that one must be more of what one already is to make peak performance a possibility. I.e. what you already are is a clue to what you must perfect through regular engagement. The high performer functions by his competitive advantage (his true nature). No second nature is as good as true nature and hence; he who functions by a second nature will at best be second only to others but to himself.
Peak performance is effortlessness and it comes from deep within when one has all conditions right. It is a simple matter of understanding and accepting what it is you are built for and functioning by it. On the football field, it is not so difficult to identify those who are naturally gifted and those who play with effort because they have learnt and practiced with hard work. I could give you two examples from Spain but I’d rather not. The idea of second nature is a tragedy to be avoided at all cost if one wishes to be their best.