Back in April of 2015, I posted about what it takes to be world class. That post was about world class athletes and what it takes to get to the top.. Recently, I watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix about the PGA and the upstart LIV Golf Tour. Also watched a documentary about the ATP Tennis Tour. Both documentaries gave an intimate look what it takes to be successful. Definitely worth the watch. The intensity of these athletes was very visible and the sacrifices that are made to get to that level are astounding. They don’t take the elevator to the top- they take the stairs, as they like to say.
Like many of us, I have seen world class athletes in action. I have seen several World Cup ski races as well as golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, baseball and football, and the one thing that is consistent with all of those athletes and all of those sports is drive, determination, dedication, and passion. If you don’t have those, you are not successful.
World Class is a term that is not limited to athletics though. Recently, Pete and Sandi Hilton, and Janet and I were invited by Chris and Annette Wu to be their guests at the Pittsburgh Symphony presentation of works of Beethoven and Wagner at Heinz Hall. Chris is one of the principal violinists for the orchestra and is currently on sabbatical until May. It was interesting to sit next to Chris in what was a rare chance for him to see his orchestra perform without him. Chris has been with the symphony for 35 years and has performed all over the world. He is on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon among other achievements and is truly what I would call a world class musician. To hear him play is mesmerizing as he performs regularly at our church and at other local venues. He sent us a musical Christmas card that was particularly moving as you watched him play with intensity, passion, dedication and determination- all of the above mentioned qualities of being world class.
But being world class sometimes involves some of the darker segments of personality as seen with volatile athletes. You don’t see that in the symphony world. It seems that their passion, determination and drive is bottled into their practice and performances on the stage. It was interesting to hear Chris give me some insight to the world of the symphony orchestra. I asked, for instance, how many practices does it take to prepare for a concert? He said usually about four and I was amazed. He said,” Pat- you have to understand that we all come to the performance like a football team. We all know the plays, we just have to practice them together a little bit before the performance.” Imagine what is swirling around in Chris Wu’s brain if he knows all the plays to all of the performances of the PSO? That is amazingly world class in my mind. Chris is truly worldly as well in that with all of his experience and worldwide travels, who he interacts with, and his general sphere of influence, he has amazing practical knowledge. We all went to dinner at the Yuzu Kitchen in downtown Pittsburgh and Chris did all of the ordering. He knows the restaurant, he knows the food, and we were perfectly happy to have him “orchestrate” the pre-concert dinner. Great restaurant and happy to have a guy who knew how to get around.
But what is truly outstanding to me is that there is another part of being world class. That is being a world class person. Chris dedicates a lot of his time and resources to charitable causes and also his church, as well as other churches in the area. He is not selfish with his talent and cheerfully spends time with lots of causes and people. His wife Annette says that he has sacrificed a lot with performances with the symphony on weekends and with his touring schedule. But he is always considerate of his family and will think about that for his future plans. He loves performing but also loves his wife and family and has to achieve a balance after 35 years of playing with the PSO. He will figure that out, but in the meantime, we will all enjoy him performing wherever it is.
Character is another piece of the puzzle of being world class. Watching those documentaries shows you who has character and who does not. Some people say you have to be tough and step on a lot of toes to get to the top. You smash racquets, throw clubs, and passionately make your way through life thinking of only getting to the top. There are no thrown violins or cellos in the symphony world, but there is passion for sure. It all depends on the person as to how that passion plays out. Chris and Annette are strong Christians along with their kids and it shows that passion, determination and drive can be blended with values to make a truly world class person. Google Chris and hear some of his performances and see him live if you can. You will be as amazed as I always am. You may not have the talent that Chris has, or Mikaela Shiffrin has, or Raphael Nadal has, but you can certainly be a world class person with values. Thanks for reading.