Development of Expertise

It’s Never Too Late to Play the Cello

“I revived the passion I always felt when I started playing again.” – Vera Jiji

Vera Jiji’s beloved cello, tucked away in the back of her closet, remained untouched, almost forgotten, for over 40 years. It’s been like a second life for her.


From the The New York Times

“It’s Never Too Late” is a new series that tells the stories of people who decide to pursue their dreams on their own terms.

By Alix Strauss, The New York Times

In 1940, at age 12, Vera Jiji found her first passion: the cello. She learned to love playing the orchestra instrument at the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan. “I didn’t pick the cello. They assigned it to me because I had a good ear and long fingers,” said the Bronx native, now 93. “I loved it. It’s a beautiful instrument that can sound like a human voice. It looked like a female body, with hips, breasts and a waist. Holding it and playing it was a very intimate experience.”

As an adult, though, she stopped playing the instrument. She became a professor and a fixture at Brooklyn College teaching English classes. She married twice and had four
children. Her beloved cello, her mother’s high school graduation present, sat tucked
away in the back of her clothing closet. It remained untouched, almost forgotten, for
about 40 years. She picked up her cello again only after retiring at 62.

“I revived the passion I always felt when I started playing again,” she said. Since then,
it has been like a second life.

Read the entire article in the New York Times


About Passion

An excerpt from How To Become The Best at Anything, Chapter 1, Passion and Interest

“What is your passion? What are you passionate about? Are you passionate about a sport, say basketball, or surfing? Tennis anyone? How about art, or music. Perhaps you’re zeroed in on an academic field such as biology, or economics. Maybe you have a passion for exploring, with an eye on the Himalayas.

Don’t have a passion, then what are you interested in? Interest and achievement go hand in hand. It is easier to achieve in a domain if you have a strong interest or passion.

I have achieved a much higher level of expertise in something that I am passionate about, than in something I only have a strong interest.”


“If you have an interest in something, it can grow into something more than an interest. It may grow into a passion as you pursue your interest. Usually an interest is just that, an interest, it will help motivate you to achieve in that particular domain up to a point. You might become very good at your interest, although you need to be passionate about something to become the best.

You need to have a passion for whatever it is you are trying to become the best. It will help motivate you to persist in your deliberate practice to reach your goal (more on deliberate practice later).

Passion will help you get up and out and practice. Passion will keep you going through adversity. In the introduction I briefly described my passions and interests. I devoted more time and resources to my passions than my interests.

Your passion will be your motivation along your path to becoming the best at whatever you choose.

So again, what are you passionate about?

While passion is essential to becoming the best, you need more than passion. You need much more. This book will help you along your path to becoming the best that you want to be.”