Life has been a whirlwind lately. I’ve decided to teach a class in Sport & Exercise Psychology at St Olaf College this spring (good, local school here in MN) and I was there on Monday doing a mock lecture for some of their students and faculty.
My topic was self-talk, specifically related to skill acquisition and performance. It’s one of the foundational pillars of sport psychology…and LIFE…for that matter.
There was Q & A afterwards and one of the kids asked me whether it really takes 10,000 hours to become great at something.
For those of you unaware, Malcolm Gladwell popularized this number in his book Outliers, basically stating that if you want to master and become world class in anything, it takes about 10,000 hours to do it.
“Yeah, pretty much. BUT…”
More important than the semi-arbitrary number of 10,000 hours is your focused concentration and level of persistence in pursuing something.
When you repeatedly do something, specific neural pathways are formed. The more you do it (right or wrong), the easier it becomes to do it in the future. You’re greasing the wheels, so to speak.
What strengthens these neural pathways faster than anything? STRUGGLE.
Yes, it’s true. Going through the motions and quitting when something gets hard isn’t the answer.
I don’t talk about it a lot but I spent most of my grade school in speech therapy because of a horrible stutter. I would have rather someone hang me by my toenails than speak in front of a group. Overcoming this and getting comfortable talking in front of people was not an easy experience for me.
Advocating struggle may not be a popular slogan but when we have to struggle through something is when we learn the most. If something feels weird, awkward, uncomfortable, or just plain HARD, is when we make the greatest progress.
Choose the easiest way, or choose the best way. Is it worth taking one step back short-term to take two steps forward long-term?
Yes, in my humble opinion.
Greatness and mastery come on the other side of struggle.
So, whether you’re a triathlete trying to ingrain a better technique, a salesperson learning a different process or a fitness enthusiast trying a new workout program, embrace the struggle. Don’t do what most people do, which is to give up before you get the point where things genuinely start to feel better…and easier. It’s worth the price.
Go WRECK the day,
P.S. “Wrecking the day” is a good thing 🙂