One day I sat watching Elmo with my toddler. In this episode they had a two headed monster who was giving directions to someone trying to get around in New York City. But when they got to giving directions to Carnegie Hall, the directions given were "practice, practice, practice".
We might assume that this is funny, and the slight message could have easily been missed. But in order for someone to make it to the stages of Carnegie Hall, it's not talent, it's skill. If you have been following me, you know that I place talent and skill in two different categories. Talent we have naturally, skill we have from hours and hours of "practice, practice, practice".
This post is written for those of us who are desiring to excel in a field that we believe we are not competent in. But for the person who is new to a particular activity or task, competence never comes as a result of being talented, becoming a master of a particular task comes from repeatedly doing this activity until it becomes effortless. "Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good" Malcolm Gladwell. Not only do you spend time practicing, you practice with a desire to identify and correct your mistakes. This is extremely important, what's the sense in repeatedly doing the wrong thing over and over.
In the book Outliers by author Malcolm Gladwell, he looks at various people or groups who have truly mastered their craft. He writes "the student who ends up the best in their class (musically) begin to practice more than anyone else 16 hours/ week by age 14. They are practicing purposefully and single minded playing their instruments with the intent to get better. The elite had over 10,000 hours of practice". Can you imagine that, to truly become a master, it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice. It is said that 10,000 hours of practice is equivalent to ten years of performing a task. That may explain why many employers ask for ten years of work experience.
There in lies the key to perfecting a craft. Being the under dog can be extremely discouraging. However, knowing that you are the underdog should motivate you to action. Action isn't merely putting in a few hours here and there, but intentionally and obsessively spending hours and hours working on and mastering our craft. That distinguishes those who become masters and those who remain average.
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