I often think of myself as a jack of all trades, but a master of none. I don’t consider myself a real hacker since I spend much of my spare time volunteering. I am not really an expert people person since my day job is about computers and I certainly won’t be starting my own dojo anytime soon.
For quite some time, I was quite satisfied with this state of affairs because I loved trying new things and experiencing the vast range of possible human experiences. At the least, it has kept me busy and engaged.
Lately though, I have been doubting my perspective. If I wanted to make a difference… a real difference, what kind of mastery would I actually need to do it? Could I even achieve the mastery levels of Bruce Lee or Louis Pasteur or Ghandi? Or am I not talented enough?
Fortunately, talent doesn’t appear to be the main obstacle according to this article from Scientific American.
Here is one excerpt from the article:
“The one thing that all expertise theorists agree on is that it takes enormous effort to build these structures in the mind. Simon coined a psychological law of his own, the 10-year rule, which states that it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field. Even child prodigies, such as Gauss in mathematics, Mozart in music and Bobby Fischer in chess, must have made an equivalent effort, perhaps by starting earlier and working harder than others.”
I wonder… for what would I be willing to dedicate ten years of my life? Here in Canada, I feel fortunate to have a choice in the direction of my life. If I wanted, I could have it! Given of course that I would be willing to work hard at it.
The article continues to say that it isn’t about ten years of any kind of study… it is ten years of “effortful study”.
“…what matters is not experience per se but “effortful study,” which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one’s competence. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time. It is interesting to note that time spent playing chess, even in tournaments, appears to contribute less than such study to a player’s progress; the main training value of such games is to point up weaknesses for future study. Even the novice engages in effortful study at first, which is why beginners so often improve rapidly in playing golf, say, or in driving a car. But having reached an acceptable performance–for instance, keeping up with one’s golf buddies or passing a driver’s exam–most people relax. Their performance then becomes automatic and therefore impervious to further improvement. In contrast, experts-in-training keep the lid of their mind’s box open all the time, so that they can inspect, criticize and augment its contents and thereby approach the standard set by leaders in their fields.”
It is little wonder then that few people achieve this high level of discipline. Furthermore, becoming an expert at something physical is one thing. What about becoming an expert in our own thinking? What kinds of ways can we push the envelope on our own thinking and test that against reality?
What about you? What is your dream for “making a difference”? How will you become push yourself to the limit of your capacities?