blog #5 - Mastery, 10,000 hours
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Holidays are always the best time to read, think and catch up with oneself. There's something about being in a new place that rejuvenates your creative thinking and ability to view things differently.
4 years ago, whilst on holiday, I read 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed. A book detailing the myth of talent and the power of practice. Whilst emphasising that talent, focus and passion are key components of success in any field, Syed challenges the myths we hold about prodigies, debunking the excuses we put in the way for not achieving our goals such as genetic make up and social background. It was the first book that made me believe applied hard work and purposeful practice into any field I wished to pursue would be the key distinction of my achievements.
The evidence in the book appeared pretty conclusive. Syed gave examples of individuals who have achieved 'world-class' status in their fields; some of my greatest inspirations: Mozart, Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams. Whist talent and love for what they do undoubtedly played its part, there was one thing that linked them all - 10,000 hours worth of purposeful applied practice prior to achieving world class status.
Whilst Mozart was dubbed a child prodigy, he begun practicing the piano at the age of 4 years old driven by the desire to catch up (and perhaps outplay) his older sister Maria Anna. Practicing around 6-9 hours a day Mozart managed to clock up an impressive 10,000 hours before age 10, after which he wrote his first masterpiece.
I'm fascinated with the psychology behind success and achievement. I've also read Mastery by Robert Greene who offers further overwhelming evidence that in order to achieve top-level performance 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice is needed.
Last year, as a curiosity of mine, I decided to attempt purposeful practice within my own field of creative practice. Like anything you're starting out for the first time, it's baby steps. Due to the nature of practice I've learnt time is essentially you're most valuable asset.
My priority last year was not purposeful practice per-se, but to begin formulating a daily ritual where I could sit down and get work done. Focus, discipline and conscientiousness were all factors of my personality that I knew I had to improve on.
I did some quick maths (overestimating as every human does) and decided I wanted to attempt world-class status of creative practice in 10 years time. For that I would need to need to abide by the famous 10,000 hour mark.
10,000 hours/10 years = 1,000 hour per year
1,000 hours/12 months = 83.3 hours per month
83.3 hours/4 weeks = 20 hours a week
So that was the aim, 20 hours purposeful practice every week for 10 years of my life. I'd be at world-class creative status by 38 - sounds amazing. A couple things to take into account though...
Sitting down to work as an act of habit was a new skill in itself for me. I have a full time 9-5 job. I have a girlfriend, friends, family and other achievements to fulfil (community work, gym etc.)
I wanted to be strict with myself. I didn't include hourly morning admin where I'd do art/personal growth related things such as sending emails, adding contacts, searching for opportunities etc. I also didn't factor in reading time during my commute to work, usually 1.5 hours a day - strictly speaking they are art/personal growth related so applicable to my practice, but not purposeful.
It was always going to be tough, and whilst I can't say I reliably clocked up every single hour, here's my achievement for last year - 340 hours.
I've signed it because, for me, it's an art piece in itself. I've decided to make my journey of self-improvement in all fields part of my creative work. That way I'm 'art-making' all the time, almost as a performance art piece (check out Tehching Hsieh's - One Year Performance). I also want my art to motivate people in some ways, so maybe this is my best piece yet, in terms of authenticity of subject matter.
Onto 2019 - let's see if I can beat myself. I'll keep you posted with progress throughout the year!
Thanks for reading,