10,000 hours, that’s what experts, like Malcolm Gladwell, say it takes to master a subject. Whether it’s chess, cooking, or public speaking it takes that long to truly master your craft. Daunting, huh?
That’s a ton of hours, if you really think about it. For instance, let’s say you have a ton of time and can devote 20 hours per week to your craft. It would still take you about 10 years to become a master. Oh gee, is that all? Piece of cake. (I figure I’ve got about 6k hours left to become a “master” at writing, and probably 9k hours left to becoming a public speaking master.)
To be honest, it’s a pretty obscure goal. I mean, sure there’s a sense of accomplishment to saying “I’ve written for 10,000 hours!” but after your friends congratulate you and then roll their eyes, there’s not much left. It’s not as if there’s some certificate of completion or doctoral degree to be awarded. So perhaps it’s more useful to set a more tangible goal, like who you want to be, and then choose the goal.
In Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed (a must read, btw) he quotes grand master of chess, Jonathan Rowson, “When it comes to ambition it is crucial to distinguish between ‘wanting’ something and ‘choosing’ it.” If you decide for instance, that you want to become a best-selling author, you may not only not become one, but you will then suffer the disappointment and regret of falling short of this goal. However, if you choose to become a best-selling author, then you will then “reveal your choice through your behavior and your determination,” as Rowson says, “Every action says ‘This is who I am’.”
Of course this is not new news; we’ve heard this philosophy of positive visualization before in books like The Secret. Particularly poignant though is the idea of choice when it comes to who you will be. There’s something especially powerful and frightening about choosing one’s destiny. There are a lot of “what if’s” in life, and it can be petrifying to take the reins and say “this is who I will be.” Ironically enough, there is also something equally terrifying about not choosing, effectively letting the chips fall where they may, possibly never living up to your own potential.
How can you choose to be who you want, knowing there’s a possibility you may fail? Life is both implicitly simple and dangerously complex. It has certain “rules;” for instance, you can say that you will be a flower, but you will never actually metamorph into a petalled perennial. Yet someone can grow up in poverty, living in a van and then, with determination, become one of the funniest, wealthiest comedians in Hollywood (yep that’s Jim Carrey) . So how do you know if it is possible to be the person you want to be? In essence, are you thinking unrealistically that you want to be a flower? This the point at which some logic is thrown out the window and you move into the realm of possibility. Is it possible, in some way, despite the challenges you face, to become what you want to become?
Where is the possibility in your life? I know you’ve got a million excuses for not being “where you want to be.” I’ve had them too and still wrestle with them. But at every crossroad you make a decision to either move closer to who you want to be or further away. It may not be an easy journey, but it may be a possible one.
Contrary to what many success gurus say, you very likely will not start making six figures 3 months after you decide to choose your dream. God knows I haven’t had that experience and honestly, I’d be a shitty person if I had. There is beauty in the hard work and chaos that goes along with fighting for your dream. Sometimes the universe just aligns with your goals and it is an unbelievable ease. Other times the universe tests your resolve.
In order to live in the Possibility zone, it takes faith. You have to start having faith in the possibility that you can achieve your dream – YOU, not someone else. You can have 100 people who believe in you (and boy does that feel great), but if you, at your core, secretly do not, then you’re in for trouble. Sure you may even make it to your goal, bolstered by the love and support of others. Believe you me I am not downplaying that support. I would be nowhere without the help of my support system. However, unless you learn to have faith in yourself you will always be seeking out the acceptance of others, which is just plain draining.
On my desk, I keep a framed little artwork piece with a quote from St. Theresa, it’s an absolutely beautiful quote and this line is just perfect: “May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith,” Just soak in that for a bit.
Think of the unending possibilities for you if you can have even a start of faith, in yourself and choose. You aren’t on this earth for nothing, choose who you are.
And of course, I couldn’t write this post without a shout out to Incubus’ Make Yourself:
*Read Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed to see what that foundation is.