When someone is really good at something I often hear people say, “wow, they are so talented.” We hear that phrase all the time. You could be describing a singer, actor, training partner or co worker. It’s just a blanket statement people use to describe someone when they are really good at something and they are not.
However, the idea of being “talented” is not as legit as you might think. No one is born into this world knowing how to do anything. Think about it. Everything we know had to be learned from having to walk, read, write and ultimately live. There is nothing intrinsically talented about any of it. Instead, let’s move to the idea that with a normal brain, most people can be good at anything they want given time and the right kind of practice.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that even if you tried to play golf you’d never been as good as Tiger Woods or that you’ll never sing like Celine Dion or dance like Michael Jackson. Really? Let’s see. Did you know that Tiger woods dad had him start golfing at age 3? He used to take giant cymbols and crash them against his son’s ears when he was putting just to teach him to block out the noise so he can develop focus and concentration. Of course you wouldn’t be surprised that Michael Jackson’s Dad Joe was notorious for making his kids work and train like the slaves of Egypt. You think Michael came out of the womb dancing like that? I think not. Celine Dion also started to sing at a very young age and was groomed from early on to sing and work in show business. All of their “talent” appears like gifts given from beyond but let me tell you that these people put in the standard 10,000 hours.
They say that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on anything. You also have to practice correctly. Practicing the same Jiujitsu move incorrectly won’t help you. It takes time and the RIGHT kind of practice. When people say that they stink at something or aren’t “talented” that is just a way to say that they haven’t done the 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of the subject matter. Most people quit way too early. They quit at hour 1 or 5 or 10 or 30 but if they hit hour 5,000 they would see that they are on their way.
This philosophy really changed the way I view my own potential. It basically means that at any given point in my life I can decide to become the master of whatever I want. I actually ended up testing this philosophy with West coast swing dancing. I have put in over six years of Jiujitsu by now so I won’t use that as an example but I will talk about dancing.
I saw people dancing West Coast swing a few years ago and it looked really fun. It looked hard but fun. I decided I wanted to learn but wasn’t sure if I could. I’m 43, it looked too difficult and I felt overwhelmed by the prospect. Could I ever learn to dance that well? I wasn’t so sure.
I decided that I would take one lesson per week and see what happened. Every Friday at 1pm for the past couple years I have had a running dance lesson. I almost never miss a class and I went from taking my very first dance step in swing to actually dancing fluidly two years later. I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened but step by step with methodical attention, one hour per week and practice I did it. Now, I entered my first west coast competition and did horrible. I was graded a C but let’s see what happens a year from now if I keep chipping away. I know I will be better if I just log in the time (and correct practice).
On the same hand, things work the opposite way as well. I remember complaining to my friend Nicole that my progress in Jiujitsu is just so slow. “It’s taking me forever to learn and I don’t have the time to train more than twice a week,” I told her. She gently pointed out to me that that is actually not true. I do have time to train more than twice a week but I make choices not to do so.
I opt to put my time into Chess and dancing and that is not wrong, by any means, but it means that because my time is spread thin and the 10,000 hours will take longer to achieve. Honestly, I am ok with that. I love to dance and play chess. I do not want to cut back and give them up but I just need understand that my hours will clock more slowly than other people. I also realize that people are progressing faster than me not because they are more talented but because they put in more time and more practice, the right kind.
In the end, I am basically of the belief that if you decided today or at any age that you wanted to to learn to paint, or draw, learn an instrument or learn Jiujitsu you absolutely could. You just need to set aside 10,000 hours and the right kind of practice to become the master.