10k Hours and the Quest to Create

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I am so cognizant of times. At times, it is my blessing and my curse. Especially when I think about my past, present, and future, and the seemingly squandered blessings I’ve had.

This quarter of study in my English 1 class, we have been looking at what it means to aim for success. We have done this through several mediums, starting with the epic tale of Odysseus in his quest to return home, and then through the eyes of several articles that were curated to present several views on success. One article was from the perspective of an Indian father defending the intelligence of his kindergarten-age son who had been labeled a ”slow learner” by his white teacher. The father eloquently described the education that huis son had received culturally that rivaled any Western education that he might learn in school, but also told the teacher that his son needed time to acclimate. In that article, success was seen relative to culture. Another article focused on the art of choosing, whereby we recognize the power that every choice plays in whether we ever achieve the success that we want to achieve in life. The most recent article, however, is the one that I am really thinking about right now.

This article, from a book called The Outliers: Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, focused in on the second chapter entitled ”10,000 Hours. Mr. Gladwell posits, in this chapter, that research has shown that it requires 10,000 hours of practice for the brain to become world-class level at anything. Psychological research of violinists at a Berlin, Germany academy of music showed that elite violinists in a group, over the course of their lives, practiced at or over 10,000 hours. Good violinists practiced between 4-8000 hours. Those who would only go on to become music teachers in schools barely reached 2000 hours over a lifetime. 10,000 hours.

I’ve read this chapter before, last year. For some reason it really hits me hard right now. As a 41 year old man, I often find myself reeling. Having been called a man of many talents. I am realizing now that I have become the cliche. I am the Jack of All talents, but the master of none. I sing. I play guitar. I write. I photograph. I preach. I try to encourage. I teach. So many things, but if I were to honestly look out over my life, I doubt that I have spent enough time on any of those things to even be considered good. I often go weeks, if not months, without touching my guitar, or writing a poem, much less a journal, story, or song. Having tried to start a photography business and not having clients regularly, sometimes I can go weeks without touching my camera, depending on how busy life is. Not being regularly involved in music, I sometimes don’t really stretch my voice for weeks on end. It is a weird thought to wonder if I have squandered what I have been gifted, and this is me finally acknowledging that I do have many gifts. Including the “gift” of indecision.

I’ve wasted time, yes. But squandered? No. When I think more about it, the time has not been wasted either. God wastes nothing. There is still time, and I think this is where you come into the discussion. There is still time for you as well. In my case, I think I have to make a decision to not get discouraged. I have to make the decision to create because God had made me a creator. I have to make the decision to just do what makes my soul sing, regardless of who every sees or reads anything. And then I have to be consistent and just explore every avenue that stretches before me. The goal is not to be seen, but rather to know that I am faithfully fulfilling my charge from my Creator….that WE are faithfully fulfilling our charge from the Creator.

In reading “Called to Create” by Jordan Raynor (which I STILL haven’t finished yet despite it only being about 200 pages), I am digesting the fact that often my creation has been with a selfish purpose, but Jordan says often that creation has to be something that we do in honor of our Creator in service to others. Our talents aren’t for us. Our gifts aren’t for us. They are evidence of God’s goodness and love for others to see His light. And everytime that we choose to create and honor God, every small decision counts. Nothing falls by the wayside.

You have to make some of those same decisions. If you are feeling stuck, like I am, small choices help. Small creations. Small movements. Small moments. Small journal entries. A small chorus instead of a complete song. A small stanza instead of a complete poem. Think of them like collecting change in a jar. I have never been patient enough to watch them add up, but I want to be.

You know, we may never get to 10,000 hours, but success is still within our grasps. Let’s define what it looks like, and plan for a way to reach it. Whether that looks like 2000, 4000, 6000, or 8,000.

It is time to make use of the hours. Time is on our side.

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