“The emerging picture… is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything. … No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.” – Daniel Levitin, nuerologist.
Right now (December 29, 2017 at 9:31AM), I’m whizzing through Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. As engaging of a book as it is proving to be, I had to take a minute to write this post, which just hit me as a great way to start off 2018. So, I must ask you a few questions: What have you been made an expert at? What are you becoming an expert at? What are you making yourself an expert at? How do these answers help you achieve your dreams?
What have you been made an expert in?
Looking at the lead quote of this post and believing it to be true, I was forced to look back at my life and ask “What have I truly put 10,000 hours towards?” Now, being that I enjoy math, I decided to write it out (how often as adults do we take time to do that anymore?) and I came to a pretty solid conclusion: we’ve all become experts twice over at listening to teachers, assuming we’re in class 7-hours a day 5 days a week for 180 days each year between kindergarten and bachelor’s degree. Now, let’s say that, as an adult, you spend 40 hours a week on a job you don’t care about with 2 weeks of vacation time, 1 week of sick leave, and 1 week of holiday time each year. After five years in that position, you’ve become an expert (we’ll round up the 9,600 hours that takes by assuming you put in some OT over the years). Ok. So, by 30, the average person is likely an expert at being a student and working for someone else.
What are you becoming an expert in?
You work 40 hours each week. Cool story. I understand. I work at least 40 hours a week too. Sleep is important. I understand. I get between 5 and 8 hours per night too (closer to 8 during the winter). Assuming you spend 2 hours a day traveling, you still have 78 hours. 78 hours!? Even if you spend half of that time doing nonsense (which is necessary at times), you have a full work week’s worth of time to grind it out. So, while you’re spending your five years making a salary at a job you don’t really care about, you could be sleeping enough, exercising enough, praying/meditating and STILL have time to spend 40 hours a week on perfecting that which you really want to be awesome at. Or, you could cut that 5 year time frame in half and by properly allocating your free time. But, instead, we spend our time becoming experts at texting, purposeless Instagramming, and TV subscription services like Netflix or Hulu.
What are you making yourself an expert in?
You love writing. How many hours a week are you developing your writing skills? You enjoy art but are you creating art daily? You want to be a motivational speaker but you haven’t been honing your speaking skills in the shower every morning and listening to speakers in the gym every evening. You’re making yourself an expert at mediocrity and that, my friends, is not what you want to do. Being an expert at basketball doesn’t mean you’re playing basketball every second of the day. Yes, most of it is the practical work out but also means you’re studying your own film, discussing strategy, and objectively studying those who are better than you. The same is true of writing, creating music, or leading effectively. Being an expert isn’t found only in the action but also in the development. No violinist comes into greatness without learning to read music. The development of that skill is a part of his/her 10,000 hours. How are you developing yourself professionally/creatively?
How can these answers help you achieve your dreams?
Today, take a look at where you are. And ask yourself on this first day of 2018 where you want to be in 2023. Or 2021, if you maximize your time. If I could choose to A) unhappily make $500,000 a year for the next 20 years by working an exhausting 60 hours a week or B) unhappily make $80,000 a year by working 40 hours a week and putting 40 hours toward developing a skillset that will lead me to happily making $200,000 per year five years from now, I’m choosing B. The problem is, many of us aren’t willing to make that sacrifice. We take the right now as opposed to the long term. In both situations, you’re working a job a job that is unfulfilling but the question is how long will you be living an unfulfilled life and is the money really worth the emptiness that you will undoubtedly look to fill in unhealthy ways?
Today is the day that you decide what to become an expert at.
Make becoming an expert a priority.