If you’re anything like me, a recovering perfectionist, you get really annoyed when you can’t do something well, naturally. I remember it back in school. I was a natural academic but not naturally athletic. I would get very annoyed and frustrated when I couldn’t play baseball in gym class or shoot hoops flawlessly like the jocks. Who knows why, but many of us have this idea that was carried with us throughout school and adulthood, that most skills come naturally and if they don’t, that there’s something inherently wrong with us. I’d accredit this idea to our upbringing by parents who expected perfection and rewarded us based on this “accomplishment” system…but I digress. We think skills, even those we are gifted with, come to us naturally, as if it doesn’t take hours of sweat and toil to make us “great”.
We all have some natural skill or aptitude in something; stunning business acumen, sports, or music. And many times we feel that that innate natural ability is all that will carry us into success. But we forget a huge component to making it to that genius or success level in our talent. Practice.
It seems so boring yet so rehearsed. Practice. You heard it in school, over and over, “practice makes perfect”. Is there actually something to that phrase or is it just bologna? According to Malcolm Gladwell, there’s a magic number to reaching the mastery level in any skill. 10,000 hours. It takes 10,000 hours of practice doing something to become an expert. 10,000 hours of speaking, writing, singing, marketing…etc. And I think we forget this main ingredient when we pursue our natural gifts. Because they are so natural to us, we feel almost as if becoming “great” in it should just come, well, naturally. But that’s very deceiving. Just because something comes natural to us, doesn’t mean it doesn’t or won’t require practice. It seems so obvious that effort would be a necessary ingredient for success but it’s so easily overlooked, probably because it’s so simple… not easy, but simple.
I remember as a new working person in the professional world, being yet again annoyed that I wasn’t at the level of my superiors. But yet again, it’s practice, it’s time. Of course those that have been in the business world for twenty years have an edge over someone who has been alive twenty years… it seems so clear that it takes time and rehearsal to hone in on our skills to achieve mastery.
So if you are gifted want to be a “great” writer, write. You want to be a great business person, put in the time prospecting. Don’t get discouraged that it takes time, that it requires practice. That’s why we had band practice, track practice, etc. We even called it “practice” in school, and I don’t think that was a mistake.
Keep practicing, don’t despise the process. When we see the greatness of others exhibited, we don’t see the hours of toil, of failure, we only see the end product. But it took them also, 10,000 hours…
Put in the time to become a master.