MAKE THE TIME
A few years ago I read a clever Tweet by a pro cyclist who had ridden over 1100 hours that year. He wrote, "If I believe Gladwell, in nine more seasons I'll be there." The 10,000 hour concept might be right but it could also be "disproven" by gifted individuals who progress easily and rapidly, or by those who practice more mindfully than others. Where we stand in relation to our potential and the speed of our development demands constant attention: we ask ourselves where we are on the trajectory. When will that final, third stage flame out and give us its last burst of speed? And will it be enough?
Around that same time I was watching and marveling at someone's progress. It wasn't rapid but it was consistent. Each year built on the previous years, every current lift was influenced by every previous lift. His knowledge accumulated. His experience compiled. And as it did his belief in himself—and therefore his potential—grew.
I think we miss this point too easily: our physical potential is utterly tied to our psychology. But it is easy to blame slow or nonexistent progress on physical deficiency:
My legs are too short.
My legs are too long.
My hands are small.
My VO2 Max is low.
I'm too heavy.
I'm too light.
But I watched that guy go from pretending he believed in his ability to achieve a goal to truly believing in it and then to surpassing it. His potential is open-ended primarily because he believes it is so. Sure, his skeleton can only support so much weight. His heart can only tolerate so much stress. But his current limits are remarkable because they were unimaginable a few years ago.
He has done the work. The work has changed him. Which could mean our work with him is done. He may not need us now. If we did our work well then he is able to forge ahead on his own.
That said there is always more work. The next client had to utterly change in order to become what she signed a contract to do. I laughed a little when I signed that contract because I was the only one whose signature meant I understood what was about to happen. In most of these cases actors sign on the line to become someone and some thing they do not understand. It's cool, of course. I dig the hubris even when it is rooted in ignorance. Great things come of such commitments. Incredible human performance can derive from having said, "Yes." But the bottom line is that most won't fulfill the contract in the way they imagined when they uncapped the pen.
When we decide to change, when—from one day to the next—we choose a new path in life we usually do so without regard for what we have done up to this point, how the consequences of our actions have affected us, and how we have been influenced the people and conditions around us. It would be marvelous if we could grow and change independent of our environment and our peers but we can't. The Non-Prophet project provides a physical and intellectual environment to help facilitate change, even our own. Without the strength and clarity of this environment it would be difficult if not impossible to nourish those who seek a goal they have seen but do not understand.
I know I can change myself if I choose to and if I assign adequate value to such change. I know that—by will alone—I can change others under certain circumstances, when all forces are aligned. But the critical variable is time. How long do I have?
It's the same for you, how long have you given yourself? If you aren't willing to build year upon year, if you want it all now or tomorrow then you will be disappointed. You will blame the means for falling short instead of taking responsibility for having started too late. You can't be any different now because you spent years arriving where you are. It will take years to learn the language of the new you, and to learn how the new you moves, what he or she is capable of doing. You have to practice. And practice believing in what you can become. Layering effort upon effort, stacking lesson on top of experience, surrounding yourself with people who inspire and also tally the account will eventually reshape you.
So the question is, do you have enough time? Do you have 10,000 hours?
If you don't then what are you willing to settle for?