The 10,000 Hour Rule: Persistence and Patience!

This “rule” is pretty cool.  I think I first heard about it from Malcolm Gladwell in one of his books. Essentially, it suggests that to achieve the level of mastery in any field, be it music, coaching, writing, etc., you need to invest around 10,000 hours in training and practice.  So, if you want to be a world class cello player like Yo-Yo Ma, it’s really not that hard to do; simply start playing the cello for 8 hours a day for the next 3 years and 5 months and you’ll be good.  Actually you’ll be way more than good – you’ll be a master!  It is simply a matter of time.

When I think about this 10,000 hour rule, that Mr. Gladwell derived from studying the achievements of many great musicians and various performers and even businessmen, my mind gets a little more blown away each time.  To think that mastery in any field is just simply a matter of putting in the time, 10,000 hours worth of it – wow.  Who would have thought it could be so easy?  Patience really is a virtue that pays immense dividends.

The tricky part for me comes in deciding what is worth 10,000 hours of my time.  What is a skill that I think is absolutely worth mastering such that I would be willing to invest 10,000 hours of my time?  If not investing 8 hours a day for the next 3 years, then maybe I’ll invest just 6 hours a day for the next 4.5 years, or perhaps just 3 hours a day for the next 9 years?  Eh…if I can decide on something that I truly and completely believe in, the 3 hours a day seems like a weak investment, and  it would probably be better to go all-in with the 8.  Then again, thankfully we are all given the opportunity to explore various skills and change our direction any time we feel is appropriate.

So, is there anything I think is worth investing 8 hours of my day in for the next 3 years and 5 months?  I’d like to think the answer is meditation, yet it’s hard to imagine doing that for 8 hours a day.  Besides, the Dalai Lama only does it for 6, or so I’ve heard.  The good thing about meditation, as I just remembered, is that it can be a lot more than sitting silently and breathing.  Really, any activity we do can be turned into a meditation, even writing this article.  Dictionary.com defines meditation as, “continued or extended thought, reflection; contemplation.”  Writing this article definitely counts then –  woot woot! Already up to a total of 2 hours for the day.

I consider meditation a worthy 10,000 hour pursuit because it essentially entails mastery over the mind.  From my experience, I’ve come to understand how essential our mind is in determining our quality of life.  As Viktor Frankl enlightened us all once upon a time after surviving the concentration camps of the Nazis, we have the freedom to choose our attitude given any situation.  This freedom, however, necessitates that we have control over our mind.  Ultimately, we do have control over the mind, yet “the monkey mind” tends to swing from branch to branch and gets distracted, so it’s in the best interest of us all to train our minds and master our ability to choose our attitude given any situation.  Like Viktor Frankl, if I had the mental capacity to choose happiness in a situation like the Holocaust, well then I’d be happy in what externally would appear like one of the worst situations known to man.  Isn’t that such a wonderful ability we all have?  The power to choose our attitude!

One of the many good things about pursuing mastery in meditation as my 10,000 hour pursuit is that meditation comes in a variety forms.  You can pretty much do anything you want and meditate, so long as you are choosing to hone your focus.  Almost any form of exercise can be a meditation, speaking, reading, writing, laughing, breathing, singing, dancing, teaching – it all is meditation given you are striving for clarity and focus.  Now it sounds like one’s entire life can be a meditation, except for maybe sleep.  In that case I should readjust my mastery projections by calculating an investment of anywhere from 12 to 20 hours a day depending on how much I snooze.  Hooray!  Now mastery should only take me somewhere between 1.4-2.3 years.  And that’s not even counting the time I’ve already invested in the process…

Okay – so maybe I won’t actually achieve the status of world class meditator in 2.3 years, but that’s not the point.  The point is that whatever we want to master, we can.  It is simply a matter of investing the time.  All good things come with time.  Just put in the effort, act persistently, and you will achieve the level you are seeking.

It just hit me that perhaps achieving a level of world class mastery in a field is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly good.  The point remains, if you want to get better at anything, whether it be controlling your emotions or controlling your car, practice, practice, practice!  Invest the time and let yourself grow.  The magic wand we all can wave is the wand of choice.  Wave the wand to choose your direction, invest the time in pursuing whatever you believe is good for you, and get crankin’ 😉

And remember – Patience is a Virtue!

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