What are you logging your 10,000 hours on?

I’m on vacation this week and taking a break from the internets. These are scheduled posts. Forgive me for not responding in the comments until next week.

I finally pulled out Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers last Saturday and made my way through the first half of it. It’s definitely not a new book, but I still keep hearing about it and so I decided to pick it up.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book, he talks at length about how (generally speaking) 10,000 hours of practice will bring you near to being a master in the area of practice.

Although the 10,000 hour rule is getting some negative press lately (see here, here, and here) the general idea is still helpful. Here’s why:

  • It gives us a minimum goal (ie: a lot of work) to help us aim for
  • Helps us see what we’re maybe wasting our time on
  • Reminds us of our youth

Let me explain. As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help but try to estimate how many hours I have spent writing.

1h, every day = 27.4 years
2h, every day = 13.6 years

Writing is obviously a hard one to  gauge. I can write so much faster and more efficiently than I could as a teenager. I counted hours spent blogging (12 years, people!), an undergrad degree in arts (lots of essays), and three novels. It’s definitely not a perfectly accurate number, but I think it’s close to 5,000 hours over 12 years.

You’re logging hours

Most of us are 20somethings, which means that most of us still have time to work really hard at something and become good. Sure, it would be more like a second career, where our “prime” is in our 40s, but people! this is still good news! It means we can still do cool things. If you’re anything like me, you have probably wondered if you’re going to make something of yourself, like, ever. If you haven’t “made it” already, then is it even still possible?

So what are you logging your hours on? Video games? The gym? A bunch of things, but nothing really seriously? Consider picking that one thing. Start logging hours.

Give up or Keep going?


I’m on vacation this week and taking a break from the internets. These are scheduled posts. Forgive me for not responding in the comments until next week.

I think about this question every time I make pastry. I am so bad it it. The process looks something like this:

  • This time will be different
  • See? It’s going well!
  • Ugh. Stop tearing and separating.
  • OK. Moment of truth. The part where I transfer it to the pie plate.

That last part, is where my blood starts to boil up, adrenaline shoots through my body. A string of rather vulgar swearwords come to mind and sometimes I even say them. Out loud. Because I’m just that angry at myself and the blasted pie crust that it just wont do what I want it to. Despite all the practice, I just can’t make it work. (Sure, I might be using non-traditional flours like spelt and gluten free stuff. Yes, that does make it harder. I have confirmed this as I watched my mother-in-law — the Patron Saint of Pretty Pies — struggle to make the spelt/gluten free crust work for her).

Penelope wishes she had quit:

“I was a figure skater growing up. I skated three days a week at 5am and most days after school as well. But I couldn’t do double-rotation jumps. I’m simply too large. I am tall and big-boned. I am too heavy to rotate in the air twice, even as a very skinny fifth-grader. I wish someone had told me to stop focusing on figure skating because it would never work for me. I wish someone had helped me find what I’d be great at.”

So how do I know whether in this case Practice-Makes-Perfect or Girlfriend,-Give-Up-and-Spend-Your-Time-on-Things-You’ll-Actually-Improve-On?

A Few Principles:

  1. Is your ambition leading you to neglect valuable parts of your life? I haven’t gotten to the point where I have a singular focus on making pie crust. I am not neglecting my family or values so that I can get this frigging crust to submit. It is possible that this could happen in other areas of our lives. Certain goals require a huge time commitment.  That’s not necessarily bad. But if it is negatively affecting things you really value, that might be your cue to quit.
  2. Are you afraid of success? Do you want to quit because you’re afraid of the unknown associated with success? Your life might change a lot if you get published. What if you do become a hugely successful lawyer and speaker? What then? That can be scary.
  3. Consider your commitment. Why did you say you would do this thing? Who did you commit to doing it with? What does breaking the commitment mean for you and them? If you have a physical injury that prevents you from continuing, that’s one thing. It’s another if you’re just being flaky.
  4. Do you (like me) struggle to finish everything you start? Maybe you’ve never really figured out how to coach/motivate yourself into finishing something. You’re easily distracted and can always find something newer, trendier or more interesting (for a time) to focus on. This one is a big one I’m trying to learn.
  5. Does the payoff of quitting outweigh the investment you’ve put in? You’ve put a lot of money and time into achieving your goal and you’re considering giving it all up. Sometimes it’s good to quit but we fall subject to commitment bias and think “I can’t quit now, look how much I’ve invested!” Sometimes we should give up anyways. Sometimes we should keep going. If you have invested a lot and still want to quit, consider why that is? (Is it fear of success? Reality sinking in that you just aren’t capable like you thought you were?)

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I have thought my response was common sense, only to have people think I made the wrong choice. We don’t all want the exact same things from life, and we’re not all going to approach everything the same way.

How do you decide whether to quit or keep going?

[Guest Post] The Secret of Adulthood: Do the Work


Geek Yoga: Source

karinI’m on vacation this week and next so I have some guest posts lined up. This one is by my friend Karin. We were accidental roommates at a conference one year and we immediately fell in friend love as we talked about blogging and using twitter. It was 2009 and twitter was a whole lot less cool back then. This post was originally posted on her own blog Everyday Karin. She lives in Orlando, Florida. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter.


One of the most difficult yet freeing realizations of adulthood is that there is no magic wand. There’s no rich uncle. There is no Santa Claus.

If you really want something to happen, you are going to have to do the work of making it happen. And that is both difficult and freeing. Difficult, because somebody has to do the work and now that somebody is you, not the Fairy Godmother. But freeing, because now you don’t have to wait on that someday or someone. You can begin today.

Before I get too esoteric, allow me to explain.

I’ve written about my struggle to be consistent with running. Much of that has to do with the fact that running is pound-the-pavement, hot-asphalt hard. But it’s also because I compare myself with my friends who are far better runners than me. I wait for the perfect running conditions, convincing myself that will help me improve. But as long as there are large dogs and snakes on the loose, perfect running conditions there will not be. There is no magic wand. But I digress.

Today as I wobbled in yoga while everyone around me was graceful and beautiful and serene I thought, “maybe I’m not such a bad runner after all.” And I almost left, right in the middle of class. But that’s when it hit me. You practice yoga. You keep running. The difference in wobbling and steadiness is not because they are thinner than me or stronger than me or prettier than me. The difference is those girls have been practicing longer than me.

I used to think you were born a Michelangelo or Steve Jobs. But now I am starting to think you can become one. That there’s not a genius gene, but that God creates each of us with ability to achieve greatness. And a key to greatness is simply discipline. Day after day, doing the work. Feet to pavement. (Or yoga mat).

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