Monday, May 31, 2010

Ten thousand hours

"… ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert — in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is the equivalent to roughly three hours per day, or twenty hours per week, of practice over ten years. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people don’t seem to get anywhere when they practice, and why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It sees that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

- Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music

It’s hard to defend yourself
against critical relatives, high-achieving friends
when your mouth is always full to bursting
with many-flavoured side projects, film clippings
and music notes dribbling down your chin.
Life’s too short not to order the works, even if
the resulting burger dislocates your jaw.

It’s hard to live with the heat
of peers so strong and focused like magnifying glasses.
I long to be consumed, devoured, to wake suddenly
like Robert Louis Stevenson and write feverishly
for three days, burn it up, and write it all again.

There is fever here too; I am a ravenous bee
suckling a world of flowers. These fragmented
pieces scattered haphazardly, taking over my
living room are not failures -- they are seeds
waiting ten thousand hours to bloom.

Sorry if this poem sounds kind of "boo-hoo, poor me." I'm just a little frustrated because I spent all yesterday working on one particular side project that I'm pretty focused on right now, and it's going really slowly because there are a bunch of technical setbacks. You know the feeling, I'm sure.

Photo by Alvesgaspar

        Can you think of a time when you went crazy with a project and just worked obsessively on it for a period of time (even if it wasn't a particularly long period)? Alternatively, can you think of a time when you worked steadily on a project, taking small, regular bites at it over a long period of time (if you're the kind of person who works like this, I bow down to you)?


Claudia said...

I am definitely the first kind of person. And I read that quote in Outliers, hehe.

I don't know what awaits me either.

Dorkmaster Flek said...

Probably the time I built that DDR pad. I pretty much worked nonstop on that for about a month, building and tweaking the final build. Usually though, this involves playing video games to completion instead of actually accomplishing something useful. :)

Katie said...

Rushing through projects seems like the only way to get things done for me. When I use to paint I use to devote a chunk of days to completing them. Even when it was truly frustrating I still loved it. Of course, maybe I'd still be painting if I had dragged my great ideas out a little longer.

I too envy the people who can work at enjoyable projects slowly. They would probably make much better artists.

Mary said...

I'm not going to answer the question because I don't feel like it at the moment. Just wanted to say I really admire your ability to do all your side projects. Very few people actually take an interest in something and then DO something with it because they're too busy, too lazy or just don't think it'll lead anywhere. But you just go ahead and do it. You have your job that brings in the dough, and then you have your little side projects that keep you busy and you're truly interested in them. I wouldn't worry about anyone else and their professionalism. They might make a lot of money and have a "career", but they're probably pretty bored.

shannon teresa said...

I've been having problems commenting on your blog! It's been driving me nuts, an error msg kept popping up. But now I am @ work and this cp works so maybe it's more you than me. OKAY problem solved I think