Some years ago, I learned how to accomplish any task. While hiking in northern England, I stayed at a youth hostel that required guests to do one job before departure. Each job took ten minutes, and the sprawling hostel was remarkably neat and clean by checkout. I can’t spend hours cleaning my house, but I always have 10 minutes. Same premise for how to eat an elephant–one bite at a time.
A friend from New Mexico sent an email today: “Gladwell just posted an update after seeing some misinterpretations about what he wrote. In summary, this article says that the rule applies to “cognitively demanding fields.” The article also says those who achieve the highest levels of expertise in such fields must have some “natural aptitude” in the first place, but talent alone doesn’t get you there. If it’s a complex field, you also have to put in your 10,000 hours. This should help motivate some naturally talented people who might feel a little discouraged after only putting in 5,000 hours. COMPLEXITY AND THE TEN-THOUSAND-HOUR RULE
I know about Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) and the 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert. I agree with what he said, and experienced it myself by putting in the time and becoming that expert. I was surrounded by people who also put in the time for their own areas of expertise. Nothing that will ever hit the evening news as anyone who has the education, works daily in a demanding job, acquires the knowledge and skills to do their job, and still holds that job after five years will be an expert and as others fall away, the top of their field. I’m less eager to become an expert now when no one pays me for the time.
But wait. What if I only wanted to do something I enjoy reasonably well? How long would that take?
My brother introduced me to Josh Kaufman’s TED talk on how to become reasonably skillful in 20 hours: The First 20 Hours – How to Learn Anything . I heartily recommend it. It opened my eyes to possibilities.
In the talk Kaufman presents the steps he uses in the First 20 Hours:
- Deconstruct the skill
- Learn enough to self-correct
- Remove barriers to practice
- Practice for at least 20 hours
A friend in Cambodia recommended an app for doing pushups. I love it. I watched the video showing the proper form. Found a good spot in the living room to do it. I repeat a mantra to ensure I’m maintaining good form: Straight line. Chin down. Right pace. I follow the app for the number of reps for each set. I use the rest intervals to empty the dishwasher, sweep a floor, do my bills, de-clutter.
I’m currently in Week Five and at 140 pushups. I look forward to every session. My goal is to reach 250 pushups and do these three times per week as part of strength training.
Other possibilities, other goals? Hold a conversation in Spanish. Meditate for 15 minutes without distraction. Play the Bodhran.
If it takes only 20 hours, I can eat an elephant a bite at a time.