10,000 Hours

Remember the quote that is associated with Thomas Edison, that success is only 1% inspiration and and 99% perspiration? Apparently he spoke from experience, trying umpteen times before he finally developed a working light bulb, apart from working on other inventions.

History is replete with stories of try and try until you finally succeed. However, it has only been in recent years that social scientists have established roughly how much time 99% perspiration actually takes. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states that the estimated time a person needs to rehearse/practise/play around before you can master a certain skill (that you like or that you have a certain affinity for) is 10,000 hours. The many examples he gives ranges from sports stars (who train since childhood) to Bill Gates (who was was fascinated with computers in high school and who spent fanatical hours learning and practising computing as a teenager and a young adult, before he developed Microsoft with his equally computer-mad friends).

Granted that there are many possible contributing factors to success in life, besides the amount of time one puts in to master a skill base. Gladwell himself explores some of these other elements in Outliers.  But for me, the notion of 10,000 hours alone is quite, quite sobering.

Reflecting back on my own life, I can see how this 10,000 hours concept rings true in the amount of time I’ve had to invest to achieve some degree of facility/insight/ability to imbibe the key principles of my various interests. There were at times I felt compelled to do certain things, even though I did not understand why I was doing what I was doing. In hindsight, I can know see how even these experiences have dovetailed into what I am today: a writer, storyteller, theatre practitioner, voice teacher, coach.

But in order to get here… Man, what a lot of time/water/effort under the bridge… I am still developing, evolving – so where will I be after spending another 10,000 hours on whatever skill set I wish to focus on? Yet at the same time, I am aware that I am now middle-aged. So how much time do I really have left to master anything? How much time do I have left to develop other new interests and widen my perspective on life? How do I choose on what to focus on, within whatever time I have left on this earth? How will I know that I have made the right choices? Where will I get the time and energy to really start and complete writing my first novel, amidst all the other things that I have to do to function as a normal human being? Sigh…

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