But I don’t have 10,000 hours to spare


A memory from Facebook emerged this morning, dating back eleven years ago to a day that I remember well.

On that day, I played a game of golf with my brother-in-law at The Kittocks in St Andrews Bay. Though I was a keen golfer, I was not very good and had not played for quite some time. Recognising this, David, my sporting brother-in-law offered me a shot a hole to even things out.

David is an excellent player, likely playing off scratch these days. Sadly, my game that day was far from good. I hacked my way around the course, growing more and more irritable with each hole. Though the occasional decent shot provided some solace, I was not enjoying the experience, and I recall swearing profusely at my clubs.

I remember David keeping his distance as my frustration grew, probably because he didn’t want my mood to spoil his round. Being a good golfer, he wanted to enjoy the experience. By the end, I couldn’t wait to reach the 19th hole for a pint.

So why bring up this story now?

Every year on its anniversary, I look back on that day thanks to Facebook, and I realise what an idiot I was. I wasn’t a skilled golfer, so what was I expecting when I confidently strode onto the first tee? I hadn’t played or practiced for months; was I honestly expecting to just shoot par? Was I simply expecting to be good?

This embarrassing day became a profound lesson in my life: If you want to excel at something, you must learn it properly and practice. There’s nothing particularly novel about this realisation, but it became a mantra for me. I understood that I wouldn’t be good at anything new from the outset, so patience was key.

If I attempt something new, like mastering a new software, I recognise that it will take time to improve and eventually become proficient. Hopefully, it won’t require the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success,’ but certainly a significant portion of time.

So, as you settle into that new job, embark on a new fitness regime, or pick up a musical instrument for the first time, remember to have patience with yourself. Persevere and practice, and you’ll eventually reach your goals.

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