The world needs more sprezzatura

Raphael's portrait of Castiglione

According to Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529), the term “sprezzatura” that he introduces in his classic work, The Book of the Courtier, is defined as “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.” He adds that it demonstrates the ability of the courtier to display “an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them.”

Sprezzatura has also been described “as a form of defensive irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance.” The word has entered the English language as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it: “studied carelessness.”

So what?

Those familiar with the research conducted by Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University are already aware of what is now generally referred to as “The 10,000 Hour Rule.” Actually, it’s a guideline to superior performance during a process that requires (on average) 10,000 hours of rigorous iterative practice under expert and relentlessly demanding supervision.

The world already has too many do-nothing self-promoters whose only claim to fame is their ability to attract attention.

The world needs more people who are willing and able to complete the demanding process that superior performance requires…and do so with style, grace, and élan. Not false modesty but genuine humility. We need the expertise they offer and will welcome their “easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions” without posturing, bluster, and bravado.

Yes indeed, the world needs more sprezzatura.



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