The power of relentless repetition
Some times, the simplest things are those we most often forget – such as the power of voluntarily bludgeoning our minds and bodies with information and practice until something becomes second nature. Yes, practice does indeed make perfect.
The magic number
The world is full of experts, and they all have something in common. They’ve been repeating. Remove every other variable from the equation of becoming an expert, and with the exception of some highly uncommon – well, exceptions, every single human being who is an expert at something has been repeating it. Relentlessly so, in fact, until it has been hammered into their minds and bodies for a sufficient periode of time to make it second nature.
Malcom Gladwell argues in his book ‘Outliers’ that across various fields of expertise, there is one signifying trait: the best practitioners in the world have spent 10,000 hours to reach a threshold where they join the global elite. Who knows for certain- it might be more, or it might be less depending on the talent of the practitioner and the nature of what is being practiced.
Regardless, it’s an interesting excercise to put that number into perspective. If we divide 10,000 hours by, say, 280 workdays and again by 9 hours, we get a time span of approximately four years. Assuming someone is capable – and not to forget, sufficiently passionate – of practicing his or her chosen subject of interest as part of their professional career, that means you could potentially compete on a global level after just four years of working.
Taking the number for what it is – a simplified statistical derivative stemming from a very complex field of study – one can hardly blame anyone for leaping at the notion of simply working in the same position for on average four years will mean you’re an expert. On a global level, at that. Still, most of us will realize that there’s more to it than that, yet the fact remains that there are some things we have been practicing at for inordinate amounts of time.
What exactly have you been repeating?
Chances are that if you’ve been repeating something for a very long time, you have either had to do so or have very strongly wanted to do so, as humans generally tend to quietly dispose of all recurring yet non-vital tasks for the benefit of having plain, simple fun instead. Just ask yourself when you last found yourself whistling while doing chores – which, incidentally, is a rather ripe opportunity for a learning experience about perspective – and you’ll understand what I’m referring to.
Me? I’ve played the accordion for more hours than I like to admit (particularly when around members of the opposite sex). Same goes for the cornet. And watching TV, writing professionally, sleeping (at which I am, judging by spousal remarks, a global champion), reviewing consumer electronics, doing chores and surfing the Internet.
Of these things, more than one represent a personal interest for which I’ve been sufficiently passionate to make me repeat doing it for untold hours. And, although I don’t plan on becoming the world’s best accordion player any time soon, I can still recognize the value of the investment I have made in something which may or may not be convertible on a financial scale – yet gives me great personal satisfaction.
What do you want to be repeating?
Perhaps the most important question of all, however, is to ask yourself what you think you would be passionate about to repeat for 10,000 hours – or more. Now there’s a challenge.